“There is only one word for this,” said my 7 year old as we turned the corner onto Lighthouse Beach, “beauty.” Eleuthera is stunningly beautiful– crystal clear aqua water, white sand beaches, reefs brimming with ocean life, brightly colored Bahamian towns– and wonderfully undeveloped. Unlike some of its sister islands in the Bahamas, Eleuthera’s lure is its simplicity. There is virtually no commercialism (unless you count the fishermen coming to the docks around 2:00 in the afternoon to sell fish for that evenings dinner) or contrived attractions– a blessing for those of us who will travel far to avoid rides, lines and gift shops.
The absence of mini-golf, however, does not mean that there is nothing to do with kids in Eleuthera. On the contrary, we found plenty of adventure on this 100-mile long island…from snorkeling with gorgeous schools of fish to jumping into the 600-foot deep landlocked “Ocean Hole.” My husband and I even hit Surfer’s Beach for a morning of surf (though I did a lot more paddling and turtle rolling than actual surfing). Here are my top 10 picks for exploring Eleuthera with kids.
- Snorkeling. The water in Eleuthera is breathtakingly clear. The reefs are abundant and close to shore, and the sand below is pinkish-white, makes for really incredible snorkeling. The house we rented had great snorkeling right out the back door. In the first couple of days, we saw sting rays, swam with a school of Palometa, and dove down to see a sea turtle– all within about 20 yards of the beach. We quickly learned to throw our snorkeling gear into the car wherever we went, as there are new reefs and beaches to explore around every corner.
- Surfing. Eleuthera is one of the only islands in the Bahamas that boasts a decent surf break. Surfer’s Beach in Gregory Town is a left break that had waist high waves the day we were there. The waves break over a deep water reef, which made me a bit nervous (how deep is deep?), but which I never touched. We hooked up with a surf guide, Tom from Bahamas Adventures, to give us some local knowledge and tips. He rented us a few boards for the day and showed us where to avoid the “teeth” that dot the beach. The waves were too big for the kids, but there’s a little shack on the beach offering a nice, shady place to watch and Tom’s wife, Liz, came along to hang with the boys while they played in the waves.
- Sea Glass Collecting. My oldest son collects sea glass, and was super excited to discover that Surfer’s Beach has more sea glass than he could carry. He found dozens of common colors (white, green and brown) and some very rare colors, including cobalt blue, yellow and light purple. There are also lots of beautiful shells and the hunt kept the boys busy for quite a while.
- Ocean Hole. We decided to head south for one day to hit Ocean Hole. Ocean Hole is a 600-foot deep landlocked hole full of friendly fish that claims to have healing waters. The hole is believed to connect to both the Atlantic and Carribean oceans through underground tunnels. The fish are very used to being fed, so they swim right up to and all around you– a thrill for the boys. Both kids said Ocean Hole was one of the top experiences of our trip.
- Lighthouse Beach. After Ocean Hole, we continued south all the way to the very tip of the island to Lighthouse Beach. The road to the beach is pretty rough and there is nothing down there, so we were very glad to have a cooler full of food and snacks. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure it was going to be worth the drive since there are beautiful beaches everywhere you look, but our trip to Lighthouse Beach ended up being my favorite day of the week. Words just cannot describe how gorgeous this beach is. We set up a little spot under the shade of the palm trees and went snorkeling, boogie boarding and exploring from there.
- Spear Fishing. While we were at Lighthouse Beach, we met Jimmy, a local guide who takes people out spear fishing for lobster. If we had known about Jimmy in advance, we definitely would have tried to take the boys out spear fishing. Something for the list next time.
- Glass Window Bridge. Back north, just above Gregory Town, is the Glass Window Bridge. The man-made bridge that is there today replaced a natural bridge that was destroyed by a hurricane. Eleuthera is only about 1-mile wide, and the Glass Window Bridge is the narrowest point of the island, affording pretty cool views of the deep blue of the Atlantic contrasted with the clear aqua of the Carribean water. Low tide is the best time to visit Glass Window Bridge, as rouge waves are really dangerous. There are some cool tidal pools to explore and cliffs to climb around too.
- Pool Hopping. We quickly discovered that most places with a pool with let you take a dip if you’re having lunch or dinner. After a long day of exploring the island and swimming in the ocean, a grouper sandwich, conch fritters and a cold mojito poolside was just about perfect. Our two favorites were the Rainbow Inn in Rainbow Bay and Sky Beach Club in Governor’s Harbor. The lovely family that owns the Rainbow Inn also encouraged us to walk down to the beach and use their kayaks and snorkeling equipment.
- Deep Sea Fishing. Our highly anticipated day of deep sea fishing was cancelled due to choppy water, but on a calmer day I think it would have been spectacular. The diversity of sea life we saw just off the beach was impressive, and I can only imagine what we would have seen and caught off the coast.
- Kayaking. Our house had two sea kayaks, one of which was perfectly sized for the boys. The water is so clear that you can explore the reef from above as well as below, which was great for my youngest who wasn’t comfortable swimming too far out. The boys had a blast riding the little waves into the beach, and my husband took a glorious long paddle one morning. Many of the houses we looked into included kayaks (some with glass bottoms).
For me, the beauty of Eleuthera is not only in the natural surroundings, but also in the time and space we created to connect as a family. There was no schedule that could not be changed, and plenty of afternoons to match our pace to the unhurried rhythm of the island. In between dips in the ocean and exploring the island, we played Jenga and watched old Indiana Jones movies, took long siestas, and read in the cool shade of the palm trees. The word “paradise” comes to mind. In case you’re inspired, I’ll be posting tips for planning a trip soon!