Loving Eleuthera

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]It only takes a few days to feel like a local in Eleuthera. It happens this way. On day one you visit a few of the island’s attractions, stop for lunch, and maybe pick up a case of local Kalik beer. Then, as you travel around the island in the days that follow, you begin seeing some of the same faces again, and the next thing you know you¹re on a first name basis with about half a dozen people.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]It’s easy to slip into the local rhythm on Eleuthera, a long slender Bahamian island with great beaches and celebrity appeal. The island is small– 110 miles long by 2.5 miles at the widest point — and the population is just 11,165 ­ a mix of Bahamian-born and ex pats most of whom work in the tourism industry. Unlike Nassau with its high-rise hotels, most of the accommodation is in the island’s 250 private homes, beach side cottages and grand estates, so you feel as if you’re part of a community rather than in a tourist ghetto. Many homes are equipped with kitchens so you can cook your own meals, which further adds to the feeling of living like a local.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]“Hi Sterling,” I greeted the young fisherman who was selling the day’s catch at the water’s edge in Governor’s Harbour, down the hill from Squires Estate­ where I was staying. I’d met him the day before while photographing the brilliant sunset for which Eleuthera is known, and we got chatting about local politics and his career-defining tattoos which include images of tuna, marlin and other fish on his arms and legs.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]Squires Estates, in the middle of the island, turned out to be a good choice. A collection of traditionally furnished homes set amidst tropical vegetation including noni, star fruit, calabash and pomegranate trees, it was quiet and comfortable. It was also a short walk to two grocery stores and nearby Cupid’s Cay with its historic Anglican Church and Haynes Library (1897).

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]Half our group stayed at Squires, while the other half stayed a 15-minute drive away at Buttonwood – a brand new two-floor condo with modern furnishings and views of both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Guests can use the kayaks, bikes, visit a nearby pond that’s a good place for bird watching, and take a golf cart to one of two nearby beaches including a three-mile-long pink-sand beach that’s often deserted.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve

The first place we visited was the excellent Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve which protects 25 acres of coppice and mangrove forest and whose mission is to conserve indigenous species and research Bahamian bush medicine. Explore on your own, or, as we did, arrange in advance for a guided tour with manager Mark Daniels and botanist Ethan Freid. The trail is an easy walk and meanders passed a pleasant water feature, over a boardwalk among red mangroves, and through various gardens of healing plants before reaching a lookout tower.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]The next night at the weekly Friday fish fry in Governor’s Harbour, I saw our guides from the preserve again. “Hey!” I said, surprised to see someone I knew. They were busy offering samples of bush tea made from some of the native plants on the island.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]The action at the fish fry centered around a clapboard stand selling food and beer near the water’s edge, and a DJ spinning tunes on the road where a few people were dancing, including a woman who smiled at me and waved. It was Robin, the Canadian wife of Julius “Bubba” Rankine who runs Fishbone Tours.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]We had a fun time out on the water with Julius the previous day on an excursion that included a visit to a “Conch Garden,” where we waded in knee deep water amidst the red mangroves, and selected a few prime conchs that Julius later made into a refreshing salad. We also posed for photos with giant maroon-coloured starfish we found in the water; encountered several fast swimming Green turtles (and brought one 50 lb specimen up on the boat, which Julius measured for research purposes before releasing); and stopped at a crystal clear water beach for a barbecue lunch, including a lobster and some of the small fish Julius caught earlier in the day.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]Celebrities

Eleuthera seems to be a magnet for celebrities. On the boat, Julius pointed out the beach that Lady Diana once visited and the house on Windermere Island that Mariah Carey recently purchased.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]Another celebrity with a home on the island is singer Lenny Kravitz, who’s been known to perform once or twice a year at the Rainbow Inn Seafood & Steak-House, where I had my favourite meal (though admittedly we didn’t eat out all that much). The generously-portioned “seafood platter for two” included ­ lobster, calamari, garlic shrimp, conch fritters, and too many other things to list. Everything was cooked to perfection and served with grilled veggies and a trio of dipping sauces. Worth the $68 (come hungry) and the tranquil ambiance from the screened-in patio.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]I don’t know where Danny Glover dined, but I do know he went to Tippy’s bar the day we arrived, because a lot of people on the island were talking about it the next day.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]Our drives around the island included stops at an eclectic souvenir shop in Gregory Town, home to the annual pineapple festival (the island was once a major pineapple producer); the Glass Window Bridge – a nature-created attraction; Mavis Emily’s roadside handicrafts (necklaces and straw handbags); and the Rock Sound Ocean Hole – fabled to be a bottomless blue hole, visited by Jacques Cousteau. At the southern end of the island we rented dune buggies and drove to what many call the most beautiful beach on Eleuthera ­ Lighthouse Beach.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]If you’re renting a car on the island, it pays to be extra vigilant. Driving is on the left side of the road, and to confuse matters, the steering wheel is occasionally on the right hand side. The speed limit is 45mph, but almost everyone goes much faster.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]Harbour Island

On the last day, I was content to have a local in the driver’s seat. While two of my traveling pals took the rental car to French Leave beach where George Clooney had been spotted the day before filming a movie, I decided to hitchhike to Harbour Island on my own. Since I don’t drive and there’s no public transport I was pleased to learn in the Lonely Planet guidebook to the Bahamas that hitching was a normal way to get around.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]There were few cars on the road and it took several rides to get to my destination. One driver who gave me a lift was a local musician and another was a young man named Victor, whose job involved transporting cars to various destinations around the island.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Once there I could walk everywhere because the island ­ which Travel & Leisure Magazine once rated the prettiest in the Caribbean – is only three miles long by a quarter mile wide.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]At Three Islands Dock I hopped on a boat ($5) for the quick ride to Harbour Island two miles away and got off in Dunmore (pop 1,500), the main town. It’s a charming place with New England architecture along the waterfront and a row of lunch stalls across the street (where you can get a meal for under $10), and golf carts -the main form of transport – zipping to and fro! A plaque explained that Dunmore is one of the oldest settlements in The Bahamas and was once the capital of the country.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]I watched the birds on the sand at low tide; peeked inside three churches including the most notable – St. John¹s Anglican, which is said to be the oldest church in The Bahamas; found a quirky collection of license plates from around the world on display at the corner of Dunmore and Clarence Streets; and dipped my toes in the water at gorgeous Pink Sand Beach – a long, wide stretch of fine grained sand.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]It was challenging to get back to Governor’s Harbour. After several small lifts and lots of waiting, I got one of the longest rides with a man named Spence who drives cabs for a living (I vowed to use his service if I ever returned to the island). We picked up another woman on the way who was going to work.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]I arrived just in time for the sunset. Unlike the previous night when the sky was streaked in hues of yellows and blues, this time there were wide swaths of crimson pink and burnt orange above Cupid’s Cay, and a sailboat in the foreground which provided the perfect silhouette. I waved to Sterling, the fisherman, and checked out the day¹s catch — snapper and crayfish.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]Back at Squires Estates I met up with two friends from our group that I hadn’t seen since the previous afternoon.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]“We had car troubles,” relayed Christine.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]“A guy named Victor came to help,” she explained. “He says he knows you.”

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]“There was also a lady in a restaurant last night who says she met you in a car going to Governor’s Harbour,” added Christine.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]Like I said, it only takes a few days in Eleuthera to feel like you belong.

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IF YOU GO:

 

For tourism information check Bahamas.com

For more on Eleuthera Vacation Rentals check eleutheravacationrentals.net

For Spence Bethel’s taxi service call 242-470-5153 in Eleuthera.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image source=”external_link” external_img_size=”350×350″ alignment=”center” custom_src=”http://www.thetravelsociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Screen-shot-2014-02-13-at-4.44.36-PM1.png”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image source=”external_link” external_img_size=”350×350″ alignment=”center” custom_src=”http://www.thetravelsociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Screen-shot-2014-02-13-at-4.41.20-PM.png”][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]