I couldn’t pronounce it when I first read the name of the Bahamian island on a map, and to be honest I still really can’t pronounce it very well. But I don’t need to be able to say it properly in order to share with you what makes Eleuthera a great place to visit.
I was on the island as the guest of Bahamas Tourism and I was excited to explore what was a new island for me. Eleuthera is one of the 16 or so populated islands of the Bahamas, a nation that in total has more than 700 islands, atolls and other sandy bits of paradise. The pencil-thin island is two miles wide and features miles of pink and white sand beaches. In Greek Eleuthera means freedom, a perfect name for a relaxed place accepting of just about everyone. These facts though were just black words on the computer screen when I first read them and I quickly learned firsthand why this long, narrow island is one of the Bahamas’ best kept secrets.
As the small plane approached the airport in North Eleuthera I looked out the window and saw the rich blue color of the waters surrounding the island. Turqoise, dark blue and other hues of water surrounded the beaches and I could see the white sand poking out of the ocean into the warm sun. When I left Washington, DC earlier that day it was 17 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing; I couldn’t believe the difference a few short hours can make.
The main island of Eleuthera is long and narrow and bigger than I expected. To drive from end to end would take about three hours or so. But that wasn’t my first stop and where we ended up that day gave me the first reason to love this part of the Bahamas.
Harbour Island – It’s funny to consider that a Bahamian out-island has out islands of its own, but that’s what tiny Harbour Island truly is. A short and easy water taxi ride from the airport, Harbour Island is a tropical flashback to a slower time. The island is about three miles long and frankly is the quintessential image of a tropical escape. The 18th century homes lining the main streets reminded me of colonial life on the islands and I couldn’t help but wonder if those first European inhabitants knew that they were living in paradise. I’ve been to a lot of nice islands, but for whatever reason I fell in love with Harbour Island. The pace of life, the kindness of the locals and of course the scenery all combined to create the perfect place to just relax. Most of the people drive around in golf carts and the biggest traffic concern is waiting for the chickens to cross the road. Life is just different here. I certainly didn’t have to rough it though, the rich and famous have discovered the island too and great restaurants and shops all cater to their interests. The best thing I did wasn’t eat or drink though, it was exploring on my own with my trusty golf cart. Driving past million-dollar estates I found a dirt road that seemingly led to nowhere. After exploring though I found one of the loveliest spots on the planet, unknown to just about everyone else and it quickly became my secret corner of the island. That’s what I loved most about Harbour Island, the fact I didn’t feel like a number or just another tourist; I felt like I belonged and that more than anything endeared it to me forever.
Beautiful but not touristy – The size and scale of Eleuthera may be larger than Harbour Island, but it’s no less tranquil. Driving an hour south to Governor’s Harbour, we passed tiny villages that seemed long forgotten and old cattle stations in various states of rust and disrepair. What I didn’t see were endless resorts, Brew Thrus and there wasn’t a Senor Frog’s within sight. Unlike some other parts of the world, mass and rampant tourist commercialism hasn’t reached Eleuthera and it was a great thing to see. Talking to a local hotel owner he said, “We want more tourists sure, but not TOO many.” That’s a common refrain and I understood it better after spending some time there. Looking out across the blue waters and beaches lined by palm trees I was in paradise, no doubt, but a quiet paradise. Some folks have found it but they’re discrete about it and it’s not uncommon to sit down on a bar stool next to the rich and famous and never know it. This is a place to escape for everyone no matter your station in life and it’s nice to know that such a place still exists in this frenetic world.
Island life – People travel to places like the Bahamas to get away from it all, to relax and decompress. Just like anywhere else though the individual islands of the Bahamas are each different and definitely have their own personalities. Eleuthera is that slow paced paradise so many of us are looking for. No cruise ships stop there and shopping is not a big concern. Instead being laid back is a virtue and not taking anything too seriously is a requirement. The practice of enjoying relaxed living on an island may not be for everyone, but for me traveling to Eleuthera was a perfect respite, a welcome and rare occurrence to chill out, take things slow and not worry too much about anything at all. Well except for my tan, that was kind of important.
Have you found any other areas of quiet paradise in your travels? Do you have any questions about what it’s like to be on Eleuthera?