Discovering the Out Islands of the Bahamas is like stepping into a hidden paradise, a world away from the bustling centers and crowded beaches. Nestled southeast of Florida, this archipelago of known as the Family Islands, offers an authentic and untouched experience.
Each island, from Andros to Eleuthera and Exuma, presents its own captivating allure, boasting vibrant coral reefs, stunning pink sand beaches, lush vegetation, and remarkable wildlife. Immerse yourself in the simplicity of island living, where time slows down, and the ocean becomes the focal point of life. From swimming with pigs in Exuma to exploring blue holes in Andros, the Out Islands beckon travelers seeking genuine Bahamian adventures.
Discover a world where nature reigns supreme and the motto “It’s better in the Bahamas” comes to life.
Overview of Out Islands
The Out Islands, often referred to as the Family Islands, are a collection of over 700 islands and 2,000 cays, located just southeast of Florida. This expansive archipelago is a showcase of the Bahamas’ genuine natural beauty and charm. Untouched by heavy tourism, each of these islands exudes a unique, rustic allure that offers a more laid-back, intimate experience than the bustling centers like Nassau.
Comprising islands such as Andros, Abaco, Bimini, Eleuthera, and Exuma, the Out Islands are a treasure trove of vibrant coral reefs, stunning beachfronts, lush vegetation, and remarkable wildlife. From the blue holes of Andros and the striking pink sand beaches of Harbour Island, to the mesmerizing Exuma Cays, the Out Islands extend an invitation to travelers seeking authentic and unspoiled Bahamian experiences.
Travelers often refer to these islands as the ‘real’ Bahamas, a place where time slows down, and life revolves around the ocean. Each island presents unique cultural nuances, intriguing historical tales, and a leisurely lifestyle that seduces even the most city-hardened visitor. While exploring the Out Islands, you will discover a world that cherishes the simplicity of island living, truly embodying the Bahamian motto, “It’s better in the Bahamas.”
The Out Islands of the Bahamas are a haven for nature enthusiasts, boasting an array of captivating sights that will delight the senses. Dive into the world’s third-largest barrier reef in Andros, where vibrant coral formations and marine life await. Experience the magic of swimming with pigs on the shores of Exuma or witness the awe-inspiring meeting of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea at the Glass Window Bridge in Eleuthera.
These remarkable sights offer an opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and create memories that will last a lifetime. If you’re a nature enthusiast, the Out Islands of the Bahamas offer a panoply of visual feasts.
World’s Third-Largest Barrier Reef in Andros
Andros, the largest of the Out Islands in the Bahamas, boasts the world’s third-largest barrier reef, making it a paradise for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. The vibrant and diverse marine life thriving within the reef offers a mesmerizing underwater experience. Exploring the coral formations, encountering colorful fish, and spotting other fascinating creatures like sea turtles and rays are just some of the highlights of diving in this incredible location.
Additionally, Andros is not limited to underwater adventures; it also features expansive pine forests and numerous blue holes, captivating subaquatic caves that attract divers from around the globe. Exploring the depths of these mystical caves is a thrilling and unforgettable experience for adventurers.
Swimming Pigs of Exuma
Exuma, another captivating island in the Bahamas, is renowned for its crystalline waters and a unique attraction that has captured the world’s imagination—the swimming pigs of Pig Beach. Located on Big Major Cay, this idyllic beach is home to a group of friendly pigs and piglets that have become accustomed to taking refreshing dips in the sea.
Visitors can interact with these adorable creatures, swim alongside them, and capture incredible photographs of this enchanting sight. The playful nature of the swimming pigs and the picturesque surroundings of Pig Beach create a truly unforgettable experience.
The Glass Window Bridge in Eleuthera
One of the most captivating sights in Eleuthera is the Glass Window Bridge, a natural wonder that showcases the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. As you stand on the bridge, you’ll witness a stark contrast between the deep blue waters of the Atlantic and the tranquil turquoise hues of the Caribbean.
This narrow strip of rock, just a few feet wide, provides a striking visual display as the powerful waves crash against one side while the calm waters gently lap against the other. The mesmerizing view from the Glass Window Bridge is a testament to the raw beauty and dynamic forces of nature.
Thunderball Grotto in Staniel Cay
For fans of the James Bond movies and underwater exploration, a visit to Thunderball Grotto near Staniel Cay is a must. Made famous by the film “Thunderball,” this natural cave system offers a mesmerizing snorkeling experience. As you swim through the entrance, you’ll be greeted by a kaleidoscope of colorful fish and vibrant coral formations that thrive within the grotto.
The natural sunlight streaming through the openings in the cave’s ceiling creates a magical atmosphere, illuminating the underwater world and showcasing its beauty. Snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto is an adventure that allows you to immerse yourself in a scene straight out of a blockbuster movie.
Breathtaking Pink Sand Beaches of Harbour Island
Harbour Island, located in the Out Islands of the Bahamas, is home to one of nature’s most breathtaking phenomena—the pink sand beaches. Stretching over three miles, these pristine shores boast sand with a rosy hue, creating a dreamlike atmosphere. The unique pink color of the sand is a result of microscopic coral and shell fragments that have been washed ashore over thousands of years.
Walking along the shoreline, feeling the soft powder-like sand beneath your toes, and witnessing the striking contrast between the pink sands and the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean is a truly unforgettable experience. Harbour Island’s pink sand beaches are a true testament to the incredible beauty that can be found in nature.
Dean’s Blue Hole in Long Island
For those seeking unique natural wonders, Long Island offers an extraordinary sight—the Dean’s Blue Hole. This underwater sinkhole is the world’s deepest known saltwater blue hole, reaching a staggering depth of 663 feet (202 meters). Its mesmerizing deep blue color and crystal-clear waters create a captivating spectacle.
Snorkelers and divers can explore the depths of this abyss, encountering an array of marine life and stunning coral formations. The Dean’s Blue Hole is not only a magnet for diving enthusiasts but also a site where international freediving competitions take place, attracting athletes from around the globe who challenge themselves to reach incredible depths without the use of breathing apparatus.
Fort Charlotte in New Providence
For history buffs and architectural enthusiasts, a visit to Fort Charlotte in New Providence is a must. This imposing fortress, constructed in the late 18th century, stands as a testament to the Bahamas’ colonial past. Named after Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, the fort offers a glimpse into the country’s military history.
Exploring the fort’s intricate underground passageways, dark dungeons, and artillery rooms provides insight into the challenges faced by early settlers. From the ramparts, visitors are treated to panoramic views of Nassau’s harbor and the surrounding landscape. Fort Charlotte is not only a historical site but also a cultural landmark that showcases the architectural prowess of the time.
Exploring the Out Islands is as much a journey for your taste buds as it is for your spirit. Bahamian cuisine is a delectable mix of seafood, tropical fruits, and spices. In Andros, you must sample the island’s blue crab, a local delicacy often prepared in soups or as a main course. Andros is also known for its guava duff, a dessert that wraps guava fruit in dough before boiling, resulting in a sweet treat that’s hard to resist.
In Abaco, you’ll find traditional Bahamian dishes influenced by Loyalist settlers, including the popular Bahamian staple, ‘Peas ‘n Rice.’ The dish, a delightful blend of pigeon peas, rice, bacon, celery, and spices, is an absolute must-try. Additionally, Abaco’s local bakeries are famous for pineapple pastries and coconut tarts.
The Exumas are renowned for their conch salad, a refreshing mix of raw conch, lime juice, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, often prepared right before your eyes. For the more adventurous eaters, ‘conch pistol,’ said to be the Bahamian equivalent to an aphrodisiac, could provide an intriguing gastronomic experience.
Other Local Cuisines from the Out Islands
- In Eleuthera, indulge in the island’s famous pineapple dishes, such as pineapple pie or pineapple upside-down cake, showcasing the region’s abundant tropical fruit.
- In Bimini, try the mouthwatering Bimini bread, a freshly baked loaf made with coconut and often enjoyed with butter or honey.
- Cat Island offers a unique delicacy called “souse,” a flavorful broth made from boiled pig’s feet, chicken, or sheep’s tongue, seasoned with lime juice, onions, and spices.
- In Long Island, don’t miss out on trying the traditional “rock lobster” dish, where succulent lobster tail is grilled or fried to perfection, served alongside native side dishes.
- Acklins Island is famous for its mouthwatering “cracked conch” dish, featuring tenderized conch meat breaded and fried to a golden crisp, served with tangy dipping sauces.
- The Berry Islands are known for their delicious “grouper fingers,” a delectable appetizer made from bite-sized pieces of grouper fillets, lightly breaded and deep-fried until crispy.
- San Salvador is home to the “guava duff,” a sweet dessert similar to the one in Andros, but with a unique twist, often served with a warm butter rum sauce for added richness.
- In Grand Bahama Island, you can savor the flavors of “bahamian-style conch fritters,” a popular appetizer made with minced conch, onions, bell peppers, and spices, deep-fried to a golden brown and served with a tangy dipping sauce.
- In the charming island of Harbour Island, try the famous “lobster salad,” made with freshly caught lobster meat, diced vegetables, and a zesty dressing, creating a refreshing and savory dish.
- In the secluded island of Cat Cay, indulge in “spicy land crab,” a delicacy prepared with succulent land crab meat seasoned with fiery spices, creating a flavorful and satisfying meal.
- In Mayaguana, taste the traditional “boiled fish,” a hearty dish made with locally caught fish, simmered with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and spices, resulting in a rich and comforting meal.
- In the serene paradise of the Ragged Islands, treat yourself to “coconut shrimp,” featuring succulent shrimp coated in a crispy coconut batter, fried until golden, and served with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce.
- In Rum Cay, discover the unique “rum cake,” a decadent dessert infused with rum and rich flavors, often enjoyed as a delightful finale to a Bahamian feast.
- In Crooked Island, savor the flavors of “souse” made from fresh goat meat or chicken, simmered with onions, garlic, peppers, and spices, resulting in a hearty and aromatic dish.
- In the picturesque island of Long Cay, try the “crab and rice” dish, featuring tender crab meat cooked with rice, tomatoes, onions, and herbs, creating a satisfying and flavorsome meal.
- In the vibrant island of New Providence, don’t miss the opportunity to taste “sky juice,” a refreshing beverage made from coconut water, sweet condensed milk, and a hint of gin, perfect for quenching your thirst on a warm day.
- In San Salvador, explore the local flavors with “stewed conch,” where tenderized conch meat is simmered in a flavorful tomato-based broth, seasoned with herbs and spices, creating a delicious and comforting dish.
- In the beautiful island of Inagua, indulge in “salted fish and grits,” a beloved breakfast dish consisting of salted codfish served with creamy grits, often accompanied by onions, peppers, and spices for an extra kick of flavor.
Each island in the Out Islands of the Bahamas has its own unique character and infrastructure, which greatly influences how you can get around and explore. Whether you’re seeking the convenience of a car rental, the leisurely pace of a golf cart, the flexibility of taxis and bicycles, or the adventure of inter-island travel, there’s a transportation option to suit your preferences. From the larger islands with sprawling attractions to the smaller ones with charming narrow lanes, the diversity of transportation methods adds to the overall allure of exploring the Out Islands.
So, before you embark on your island adventure, familiarize yourself with the various options available, and get ready to discover the beauty and tranquility of each island, one captivating mode of transport at a time.
Car Rentals for Exploring Larger Islands
When visiting larger islands such as Andros or Abaco in the Out Islands, renting a car can be a beneficial option. These islands have attractions and points of interest that are more spread out, making a car rental an ideal choice for exploring at your own pace. However, it’s important to note that in the Bahamas, driving is on the left side, following the British custom. So if you decide to rent a car, be prepared to adjust to driving on the opposite side of the road.
Golf Carts for Smaller Islands
On smaller islands like Harbour Island and Spanish Wells in Eleuthera, golf carts are the preferred method of transport. These islands have narrow lanes and a more relaxed atmosphere, making golf carts a practical and enjoyable way to navigate the charming streets. Renting a golf cart allows you to leisurely explore the island, stopping at various attractions, beaches, and local shops along the way.
Taxis, Bicycles, and Walking
Depending on the specific island you’re visiting in the Out Islands, you might find that taxis, bicycles, or walking are more suitable modes of transport. Taxis are available on most islands and can be a convenient option for shorter distances or when you prefer not to drive. Bicycles are often available for rent, providing a fun and eco-friendly way to get around on islands with well-maintained roads. And of course, walking is always a viable option, especially in smaller communities where everything is within walking distance.
Inter-Island Travel: Mail Boats and Domestic Flights
To explore different islands within the Out Islands, you have several options for inter-island travel. One popular choice is to take a mail boat, which not only transports locals and goods but also welcomes visitors. Riding a mail boat offers a more authentic experience, allowing you to enjoy the scenic views of the Bahamian waters while connecting with the local culture. Another option for reaching more remote islands is to take domestic flights or charter planes. These flights provide convenience and efficiency, enabling you to reach far-flung destinations with ease.
Embracing Island Time
While planning your transportation in the Out Islands, it’s important to keep in mind that the concept of “island time” governs the region. Schedules may not always be as rigid as you’re accustomed to, and delays or changes can occur. However, this relaxed pace is part of the charm of the Bahamas. Embrace the laid-back lifestyle, be flexible with your plans, and allow yourself to truly unwind and enjoy the experience of “slowing down” in the Out Islands.
What Is An Out Island In The Bahamas?
An Out Island in The Bahamas refers to any of the numerous islands and cays that lie beyond the major centers like Nassau. These islands, also known as the Family Islands, are characterized by their unspoiled natural beauty and offer a more serene and intimate experience compared to the bustling tourist destinations. With over 700 islands and 2,000 cays, the Out Islands showcase pristine beaches, vibrant coral reefs, lush vegetation, and a slower-paced lifestyle that captures the essence of authentic Bahamian charm.
Where are the Out Islands Bahamas?
The Out Islands of The Bahamas are located southeast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. Stretching across a vast archipelago, they are situated beyond the major population centers of Nassau and Paradise Island. The Out Islands encompass a diverse range of islands and cays, including popular destinations like Andros, Abaco, Eleuthera, and Exuma, as well as lesser-known gems that offer secluded and tranquil getaways.
How do you get to the Out Islands in The Bahamas?
To reach the Out Islands in The Bahamas, travelers have several transportation options. Domestic flights are available from the main airports in Nassau and Freeport, offering connections to various Out Islands. Additionally, mail boats, which transport both locals and visitors, provide an authentic experience and access to more remote islands. Some larger islands have airports that accommodate private charter flights. Depending on the specific island, inter-island travel can also be facilitated by ferry services, water taxis, or private boats, allowing visitors to explore the stunning diversity of the Out Islands.