The Bahamas may feel like a world away from civilization’s hectic pace, but they’re actually only about 50 miles by boat from South Florida. With the right conditions going across the Gulf Stream—and a boat with engines that throw some decent power—you can leave Miami on a Friday morning and have almost an entire long weekend’s worth of time to enjoy before you have to cruise back on Sunday afternoon.
As a point of comparison, a ferry that runs from the Port of Miami to Bimini takes about two hours each way, moving at about 38 knots. Consider your own boat’s speed and the weather conditions, and adjust your departure times accordingly.
Once you’ve reached Bimini, the question becomes which part of the Bahamas to explore and enjoy. The northern Exumas are a popular location because they offer a fantastic combination of island-style resort fun and get-away-from-it-all relaxation.
Explore the Islands
To reach the northern Exumas, make your first stop from Miami the Bimini Blue Water Resort. It’s in Alice Town, the center of tourism on Bimini. You can tie up here for a spell or for a night, checking out the local bars and restaurants. Also in Alice Town is the Bimini Big Game Club, a resort that has drawn serious bluewater fishermen for decades. It’s another great place to tie up as your waypoint en route to the Exumas (and, for some people, to use as a home base for the rest of their Bahamian adventure).
A little more than 100 nautical miles from Bimini is Nassau, the capital of the entire Bahamas. You can of course find marinas and provisioning here, but it’s also the place to go and tie up if you want to enjoy a bit of gambling and waterpark-style fun. The Atlantis Resort and Casino has a marina, and paying the slip rate gets you free access to Aquaventure, a 141-acre waterpark with high-speed slides, a rolling-rapids river, swimming pools and more. For adult fun, the casino is a few steps away, offering race betting, slot machines and table games including blackjack, craps, roulette and more.
Once you’ve had your fill of that type of fun, head south into the Exumas, one of the prettiest archipelagoes in all of the Bahamas. The islands here are small, and the waters here are shallow, which means cruise ships can’t get in—and the scenery for private boats is great.
Highbourne Cay, about 35 nautical miles from Nassau, has a marina and feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of civilization. Seriously: Under “What to Do” on the Highbourne Cay website, the first suggestion is “nothing.” This place is about relaxing in quiet and calm, with sandy white beaches and aquamarine waters.
Continuing deeper into the northern Exumas, boaters have options for stops ranging from Norman’s Cay, where you can snorkel amid the remains of a sunken drug-smuggling plane; Shroud Cay, which is uninhabited and great for a swim or a kayak; and Hawksbill Cay, which not only has snorkeling and swimming areas, but also has trails on land for a walkabout.
How far south into the Exumas you go depends, of course, on how many days you have available to cruise. Keep in mind that you’ll want to head back up to Bimini to prepare for your crossing back to South Florida across the Gulf Stream, and that weather will play a role in your departure time.
That is, if you decide ever to leave the beauty of the Bahamas and return home at all.
Looking for more destinations for your weekend getaway?
- Destinations for Snorkeling & Diving in 2018
- Destinations for Sailing in 2018
- Destinations for Deep Sea Fishing
- Top 10 Fishing Destinations Bucket List