Beginner’s Guide to Eleuthera, The Bahamas

I went to the Bahamas three times the year before the pandemic, which forced me into a 10-month break from island life. As the quarantine and social distancing measures wore on, I missed Eleuthera more each day. With over 100 miles and 150 beaches to explore, “fear of missing out” became less of a “fear” and more of a reality.

With the pandemic finally fading away, I refuse to take an island hiatus that long ever again. In fact, I’ve already been back twice more!

If you’re desperate for an island vacation, unfamiliar with Eleuthera and wondering why I’m so obsessed with the island, this “Beginner’s Guide to Eleuthera” is for you. Now, let me douse your mind in pure Bahamian sunshine and prepare you for the adventure of a lifetime!


Traveling to Eleuthera

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is “how to get to Eleuthera.” In my Harbour Island guide, I explain how to travel to ELH, which is the airport in North Eleuthera. It’s one of three airports on Eleuthera and the easiest to fly into. Here are the standard airlines that will take you to ELH:

You can also take Silver Airways, Pineapple Air and Bahamas Air to GHB from Nassau. GHB is the airport near Governor’s Harbour, which is more convenient if you intend to stay in Governor’s Harbour or south Eleuthera.

Finally, there is the southernmost airport in Rock Sound (RSD). Like GHB, it’s easiest to get to by connecting in Nassau first, then taking Bahamas Air or Pineapple Air across. 

You can also charter private planes to any of these airports through companies like Tryp, Maker’s Air and Southern Air Charter

Pro Tip: In my experience, as someone who lives in the U.S., the cheapest way to fly to Eleuthera is by flying to Fort Lauderdale and taking Silver Airways across to ELH. However, it’s not always the most headache-free. Silver is known for delays and canceling flights that aren’t full. However, they’ve always gotten me there, so I can’t complain too much. 


Getting Around Eleuthera

Car Rental in Eleuthera, Bahamas
Jeep from Cadet Rentals at the Glass Window Bridge

Eleuthera is over 100 miles long, so you’ll need a capable vehicle! There are several rental companies on the island, but I usually rent from a kind woman named Sue Knowles. If you would like her email address, please email me or reach out to me on Instagram.

Otherwise, look into Big Daddy’s Car Rentals or Cadet Car Rentals

Car rentals are typically between $80-120 per day plus delivery, depending on where they need to drop the car off for you. Rentals are not cheap, but they are absolutely essential!


What to Do in Eleuthera, The Bahamas

Eleuthera has its own phrase – “Eleuthera, it’s not for everyone.” It’s hilarious to me because I completely understand why that’s the phrase but I also think anyone who dislikes Eleuthera is crazy. On some level, I think people who dislike Eleuthera actually dislike having to acknowledge that the place they’re vacationing in is made up of real people with real hardships and economic issues. This ain’t Disneyland, folks – it’s a remote island in the Bahamas. If you prefer the latest modern amenities, busy restaurants, luxury shopping malls and vehicles without mechanical issues, I recommend looking into Paradise Island. 

The rest of us reclusive yet adventurous souls will be living it up on the pristine beaches of Eleuthera. If you are one of us, read on. 

150 Untouched Beaches

Eleuthera is known for its many “elusive” beaches, including world-famous Lighthouse Beach, Twin Coves Beach, Double Bay Beach, French Leave Beach and so many others. This variety is one of the many reasons I love Eleuthera – I know that as long as I live I’ll never see every inch of the island.

There are many beaches listed on TripAdvisor, but I highly recommend buying The Beach Book: Eleuthera (which goes out of print often, so prices range between $49 and $130) and The Elusive Beaches of Eleuthera book. Ordinarily, I’m not a huge travel guide fan, but these books are worth it because they list so many beaches and explain how to find them.

A couple of things to be aware of with these books: First, the photographs don’t do the island any justice! Second, the reference points in The Elusive Beaches of Eleuthera book are a bit dated. For instance, it uses “The Duck Inn” as a reference point, but it no longer exists.

If you can’t get your hands on the books, you can also look for a detailed map of the island. You can check Amazon or Norma’s Gift Shop in Governor’s Harbour for a map. 

Pro Tip: If you use the Google Maps app, you can download the local map to your phone to ensure you’re able to use the app without cellular data. The maps do expire every few days, so be sure to download your map when you arrive (versus days in advance).

Many of the beaches, including Lighthouse Point and Twin Coves Beach require some “offroading” to find. Be sure you rent an SUV! (Don’t worry about 4×4. Word has it even the vehicles labeled “4X4” aren’t because the 4X4 systems are too difficult to maintain on the island.) 

If you’re going to Lighthouse Beach, be prepared for a harrowing drive if it’s been raining as the “puddles” are huge and sometimes deep. Otherwise, it’s just a slow, bumpy ride but nothing too scary (but be aware – you cannot turn around on parts of the road since it’s so narrow). Finally, take LOTS of water, snacks, or a full-blown picnic. Oh, and some toilet paper might be nice, just in case.

Pro Tip: The best thing you can do to make navigating the island easy is to rent a WiFi hotspot from MyIslandWifi.com. They’re not cheap and they have limited quantities, but having unlimited internet access while you’re in the backwoods of the island trying to find some unmarked beach is extremely reassuring.

The Spanish Wells Fishing Boat and a Queen Tigger Fish in the Bahamas
Spanish Wells Fishing – Captain Ryan, my mom & me (left) My dad holding a Queen Tigger fish (right)

Fishing & Boat Tours

When I go visit the swimming pigs or reef fishing in the Eleuthera area, I always go with Spanish Wells Fishing. To go out with SWF and Captain Ryan, you need to drive up to the Jean’s Bay Ferry Dock, which faces Spanish Wells from North Eleuthera. Ryan will pick you up in a boat there for a day full of sea creatures, sand bars, and/or fishing. All of his trips are fully customizable, so you can do and see whatever you want!

If you’re not interested in driving up to North Eleuthera, you can also look for tour guides that operate out of Governor’s Harbour or South Eleuthera, though they are harder to find. Visit TripAdvisor for more information on tours and fishing options around Eleuthera or look through my top choices. 

My Top Tour Guide Recommendations in Eleuthera

Glass Window Bridge, Eleuthera, Bahamas
The Glass Window Bridge in Eleuthera, the Bahamas

Glass Window Bridge

The Glass Window Bridge, also known as the narrowest point on earth, connects North Eleuthera to the rest of the island. It sits high above the ocean, with the Caribbean Sea (Exuma Sound) on one side and the deep blue Atlantic on the other. The contrasting water is incredible to see and even more staggering from the air. Don’t forget to bring your drone for photos like these! 

(P.S. This place is extremely dangerous when the water is rough! People have literally been washed over the edge trying to get a glimpse at the two sides. Please avoid climbing on the rocks and DO NOT drive across when the water is high/rough. XO, Your Mom.)

Queen’s Bath

The Queen’s Bath is just beyond the Glass Window Bridge (if you’re headed south from ELH). 

These natural “baths” are created when the ocean is at low tide, making it the perfect spot for a sunny dip away from the waves. However, this spot – much like Glass Window Bridge – can be quite dangerous if you visit when the tide is higher or the water is rough. Please remember that when you’re in Eleuthera, you’re an airlift away from a major hospital!

Stargazing

As cheesy as it sounds, I implore you to actively stargaze while you are visiting Eleuthera. There’s virtually no light pollution in the out islands, so you can see EVERYTHING – the milky way, shooting stars and satellites are all yours to enjoy. Nothing will make you feel smaller!


Shopping in Eleuthera

Norma’s Gift Shop

Norma’s is THE gift shop in Eleuthera. If you want Eleuthera t-shirts and souvenirs, or find yourself needing new sandals or swimwear on your trip, this is the place to go! They have a large selection of items and the store is very centrally located. You can find Norma’s in Governor’s Harbour, right across the street from the convenience store and Da Perk coffee shop, next to the police station. 

(My mom thinks the police station is hilarious because it has a wooden sign and a police mini-bike parked out front. She couldn’t get enough of it.)

Bahama Hand Prints

Bahama Hand Prints, which is quickly becoming an iconic brand in the Bahamas, has three locations. Luckily for you, one of them is in Governor’s Harbour, just across from Norma’s Gift Shop. When you’re driving into town from the North, you can’t miss seeing their whimsical sign. 

They stock a range of high-end men and womenswear, including button-down shirts, sundresses and swim shorts, as well as home decor and hand-designed fabrics. They also have adorable beach bags and pouches to help you keep your vacation items organized and stylish. 

I highly recommend popping into Bahama Hand Prints to pick up some fashionable items you’ll be eager to show off when you head back home!


Groceries and Dining in Eleuthera, The Bahamas

The Island Farm

The Eleuthera Island Farm is a family-owned farm and farmer’s market located 5-10 minutes south of Governor’s Harbour on the right-hand side. The small, open-air market has a selection of fresh-picked veggies and fruit – many of which you may not know about! You can find Bahamian red and green mangoes, passion fruit, quinep, soursop and more. It’s a great place to pick up fresh ingredients, homemade seasoning blends, jams, beer, wine and liquor to take back to your rental house. 

Tippy’s Bar & Grill

Tippy’s is the coolest beach bar in all of Eleuthera! Located up-the-hill and around-the-corner from Governor’s Harbour, Tippy’s is a beach-front paradise for an afternoon of cold Kaliks and pina coladas. The last time we visited, we played cards on the deck for hours, went back to the house, and came back for dinner! Their lobster is the best I’ve had in all of the Bahamas (and I’ve had my fair share of spiny lobsters). 

The Buccaneer Club

I’m not sure how we missed the Buccaneer Club on our first two trips. It’s located on the hill in Governor’s Harbour (on the way to French Leave Beach). It’s a great place for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We were pleasantly surprised by their delicious, authentically Bahamian food and reasonable prices. If you want peas and rice, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, and fried goodness, this is the place!

Be sure to stop into their gift shop for an “It’s Better in The Bahamas” t-shirt and a scoop of fresh coconut ice cream, too. I had to swing by for another scoop just before we left the island. It’s that good!

La Bougainvillea

La Bougainvillea far exceeded my expectations. We ate here twice on a recent trip and absolutely loved it! The food was fresh and delicious and they have a solid wine selection. My husband even said they had the best conch fritters of anyplace we visited. (He’s a bit of a fritter connoisseur.) Plus, you absolutely cannot beat the beach-front views their restaurant offers. Next time, we may even consider staying in their gorgeous hotel.

Bacchus Fine Foods

If you drive out to Pineapple Fields Resort, Tippy’s or La Bougainvillea, you’ll pass Bacchus Fine Foods on the righthand side of the road. It’s very close to Governors Harbour and certainly worth a visit – especially if you’re gluten-free! They have an excellent selection of wine, cheeses, meats, crackers, and gluten-free baking ingredients and snacks. Eleuthera (and the entire Bahamas) can be tough for gluten-free eaters like myself, but Bacchus Fine Foods makes it easier! In addition to grocery items, Bacchus also offers dine-in and take-away items like charcuterie boards, omlettes, and lattes.

The Fish Fry

On Friday nights, locals and tourists gather in Governor’s Harbour to enjoy loud music, cold Kalik, and an array of Bahamian fare as the sun sets on Cupid’s Cay. You’ll find freshly-caught fried fish, barbecued chicken, peas and rice, Bahamian mac and cheese (seriously, the best thing on earth), coleslaw and more. You can even find homemade cakes and pies sold by street vendors near the “dance floor” – which is really just the street in front of the food stand. If you’re ready to absorb all that Bahamian culture has to offer, this event is absolutely worth planning your trip around! 

Pineapples and magazines on display at Da Perk coffee shop

Da Perk Coffee Shop

Picking up coffee from a proper coffee shop is something I love to do at home. Getting to visit a coffee shop steps from the water in Governor’s Harbour is even better! Da Perk (best name ever, right?) is right across the street from Norma’s Gift Shop. They have a full range of coffee beverages – hot and cold – as well as a small selection of pastries to help you get the day started. Definitely worth a visit when you’re in town and eager for a caffeine boost!

The Cove Resort (Temporarily Closed)

We didn’t have a chance to stop at The Cove Resort but I always drool when I see photos! The Cove is located in North Eleuthera, near Gregory Town. It’s not far from the North Eleuthera Airport and would be a great place to stay for people interested in being near Harbour Island and Spanish Wells for day trips. 

They have two restaurants, the Freedom restaurant and sushi bar and the Gregory Town Grill, and one bar called the Point Bar, which begins serving cocktails at 5:00 p.m. The resort is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, but I highly recommend stopping by when they open back up (or booking a stay at their idyllic property). 

French Leave Resort

The French Leave Resort is located in central Eleuthera, just outside of Governor’s Harbour. The property is gorgeous and provides guests with access to the beautiful French Leave Beach (which you can also visit on your own). The French Leave’s restaurant, which is perfectly located on the water’s edge overlooking Cupid’s Cay, is called 1648. The restaurant offers thoughtful – and somewhat expensive – menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s the ideal spot to catch one of those iconic Governors Harbour sunsets!

My husband walking along the Bougainvillea flowers near the Buccaneer Club in Governors Harbour, Eleuthera

A common question: Is Eleuthera safe?

There’s an Eleuthera group on Facebook and one of the first questions newcomers ask is whether or not Eleuthera is safe. One of my favorite answers I’ve seen is “Eleuthera is safer than wherever you’re coming from.” And, it’s true! I live in a middle-class neighborhood in Dallas and I feel safer in Eleuthera.

While there is some crime in Eleuthera, it’s 99% petty theft. As with most places, it’s important to keep your doors and windows locked at night and avoid leaving valuables unattended. (e.g., don’t get careless and leave your beach bag yards from wherever you’re swimming.)

Pro Tip: Leave your rental car unlocked! The company you rent your car from will tell you the same thing. If you lock your car, you may have your window smashed because thieves will assume you’re hiding something valuable.

Visiting Eleuthera in 2021?

If you’re planning to go to Eleuthera in 2021, please know that the restrictions for tourists entering the Bahamas are ever-changing. For updated entry requirements and the health visa application visit travel.gov.bs. Check these requirements frequently ahead of your trip – definitely within 7 days!

I will continue updating this guide on a regular basis (especially after trips). If you need any further information, don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Instagram (@travelwithlace). I’m always happy to answer questions about travel to and within the Bahamas.

XO, Lacey

 

lacey

Lacey is an avid traveler, graphic design, marketer, photographer, foodie and beach connoisseur. She lives in the great state of Texas with her husband, Alex, and their big, goofy golden retriever, Henry.

15 Comments
  1. Lacy, as an Eleutheran living in Georgia I was excited to read your article and how you highlighted the local businesses. It popped up on my feed. Well documented. Sue is also a good friend. Happy travels. 😀

    1. Thank you, Diana! I’m glad you liked my post about your home island. It’s a beautiful and charming place! Also funny that you know Sue! Eleuthera is certainly a “small world.” Everybody knows everybody!

  2. I lived on Eleuthera in 1956 when my husband was in the navy and stationed there,I would love to see the island again,I can tell by the pictures I wouldn’t recognize any thing,we lived in Governous Harbor right by the bar. Is the pineapple plantation still done at the end of the island,owned by the Thompson brothers. I am 85 yrs old and would love to see the island. Thanks for the memory,Gloria love Toledo,Ohioi still love to travel.

    1. Gloria, I received your comment while I was in Governor’s Harbour. 🙂 I’m sure a lot has changed since 1956! There is still a pineapple farm in the North, but it’s called Lady Di’s Pineapple Farm. Not sure if that’s the same one, but it’s the most famous one these days. Hope you get to come back and visit one day soon!

  3. Lacey,
    We can’t forget the best airline to fly to Eleuthera, Delta, Flys direct from ATL to ELH. Also, Rock Sound is RSD. Great article, very informative for people that have never been!

    1. Thanks, Jeremy! I’m so glad Delta re-instated their flights from ATL to ELH. When I originally wrote this post, they had canceled the route due to COVID and I was so bummed.

  4. Hi lacy. Can you tell me if times of year matter for shelling? Is summer better than winter. Fall better than summer? We are planing a trip to Eleuthera soon, just not sure when to pick. I love when you have written, I will continue to read more. Sounds like you frequent the island. We have never been to this island. Please feel free to feed me and info that could help our planning and shelling!

    1. Hi Denee, thanks for your question! Someone just asked something very similar, so I’m repeating a bit of my answer here… Cocodimama beach and the beaches on the Caribbean (west) side near the airport have tons of little treasures. I read on another blog that the west side beaches tend to be best for shelling, in general. Others have had luck a bit further south near Tarpum Bay. I’m really not sure what season is best for shelling, but I’d guess anytime outside of hurricane season is great.

  5. Hi Lacey- I am so glad one of my friends found your guide and sent it to me. She knows that Eleuthera has been on my radar for the past 3 years. I had intended to go last year but Covid- enough said! I am happy to report my flight is booked and I am so excited to make “E” my last stop before returning to work after a well deserved sabbatical. The information you provided was on point and provided me such much needed insight. I am still currently deciding on accommodations and will be working to secure those soon. I will continue to tune in for your insight. I too reside in the metroplex but looking forward to some R&R and the slower pace of the island life.

    1. Hi Tammie! Thanks for reaching out. I’m truly don’t know much about shelling, but I will tell you that the Cocodimama beach and the beaches on the Caribbean (west) side near the airport have tons of little treasures. I read on another blog that the west side beaches tend to be best for shelling, in general. Others have had luck a bit further south near Tarpum Bay. Hope you enjoy the final days of your sabbatical and find some amazing shells!

  6. Lacey. I’m trying to plan a trip on Eleuthera. Do you know a local travel agent, concierge or someone in the know that can help me find the right fit for me.
    Thank you for your informative blog.
    Bobbi

    1. Hi Bobbi, thanks for your question. I recommend reaching out to Tatjana at http://www.floatyourboatbahamas.com. She does trip planning, concierge services and coordinates boat tours/fishing trips. Her fiance is also an Eleuthera native, so they know a ton about the best places to eat, stay, and explore on the island. You can reach her by email at info@floatyourboatbahamas.com and by phone at 310.251.7596. Good luck with your planning!

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