About a month after the wedding, we spent a week in the Bahamas for our honeymoon. Which means yes, I’m almost two years behind writing this. I was just going to forget about it completely until I started looking back at the pictures and had so much fun reliving the trip, I had to share them with you!
Call me crazy, but I didn’t know the Bahamas were a bunch of separate islands. I mean I knew they were islands of course…but I didn’t know there were 700 of them! We were staying in Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island, which is the northernmost of the islands. My parents have a timeshare, so we used that to stay at the Ocean Reef Yacht Club and Resort. We rented a car (make sure you drive on the left hand side!), hit the grocery store and moved ourselves in for the week. The resort had a few local cats hanging around, so naturally I felt right at home.
After we got settled into our place we ventured down to Port Lucaya. This is the area with a lot of the big resorts (though not that many, Freeport isn’t that crowded), a local marketplace and tons of food. Any time we weren’t sure where to eat we would just walk around down here and would always find something. Our first meal was at Iries which is traditional Caribbean food and part of the Grand Lucayan Hotel. I’ll preface this here, but I’m not a big seafood fan, which is not great while you’re on an island. I’m trying! It’s just not really my thing. Matt though was of course excited about all the fresh fish and
forced me let me try a bite of his…and it really wasn’t too bad! He said it was one of the best fish he’s ever eaten. With the live music and being just steps away from the beach, Iries was the perfect spot to get us in the Bahamian vacation mode.
We hopped in the car and headed to the east end of the island to Lucayan National Park. There are tours you can take, but seeing as the park is fairly small we paid our $5 entrance fee and took a look around ourselves. There is a large underground cave system on the island with ladders and boardwalks throughout so you can explore them. A James Bond movie was even filmed in one of them! Watch out for the bats though…once I noticed the ceiling was moving because of them I was ready to get out of there.
It wasn’t a strenuous walk at all, but this was when we really realized just how hot and humid it was. Coming from Louisiana we thought we would be prepared, but boy were we wrong. At least when you got too hot though, you were never far away from some water to cool you off. Across the street from the caves is a long boardwalk through marsh and mangroves. Supposedly there are some VERY friendly raccoons that like to come out and greet visitors, but sadly we didn’t see any (I love raccoons. Do you follow Pumpkin The Raccoon on instagram?!).
Once you get to the end of the boardwalk you reach, what I’m convinced, is the most beautiful beach in the entire world. Gold Rock Beach. Perfect white sand, shallow clear turquoise water and hardly any other visitors. Maybe it is the 45 minute drive from town that deters people, but I would make that drive every day to see that beach. It was gorgeous! I’m not good at recognizing scenery from movies, but if you are you might notice this is where Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3 were filmed. I can’t say I blame them!
The other amazing thing about these beaches is how far you can walk out from shore. I grew up going to the Washington and Oregon coast, where there was a sign listing the deaths from rip currents that calendar year (not kidding). Needless to say as much as I love the ocean, I’ve always been cautious around it. It took a little while for me to realize these Bahamian beaches were not like my childhood beaches, and you could walk and swim for at least 200 yards with nothing to worry about. So much fun!
One restaurant everyone had recommended was Flying Fish, however it is pretty small requiring advanced reservations and is also a bit pricey. We were excited to learn about their “casual Sunday” dinners served outside on the floating docks and it was perfect! The food was great, their was more live music, and we had a beautiful sunset view over the marina.
Happy 4th of July! Yep, we spent our American holiday in the Bahamas. Don’t worry, we still celebrated in usual fashion, with golf and beer. Well…Matt golfed. I drank beer and reread Harry Potter in the golf cart.
We again wandered down to the Lucaya Marketplace to eat and found Santorini, a Mediterranean restaurant. This seems like a good time to mention I am not very patient…especially when I’m hot and hungry. In both Louisiana and especially the Bahamas I had a very hard time being patient when it came to my food. Staff everywhere was very friendly, but also verrryyyy slow. I’m just not cut out for island living I guess, because I was getting real hangry real quick at Santorini. Once I got a few fries and a gyro in me though, I calmed right back down.
The one activity we had planned in advance for this trip was a day of reef fishing with Lil B Fishing. While normal fishing requires you to bait your own hook and take your fish off the line (both things I refuse to do) chartered fishing tours do all the gross work for you! I also get motion sickness pretty easily, so I hoped this shallow reef fishing would treat me better than a deep sea excursion. I thought wrong. That’s ok though, with a lifetime of practice I know how to handle myself when this happens. I may have been the first to throw up…but I was also the first to catch a fish! Captain Les was very proud of my puke and rally skills.
Captain Les and his son helped the 5 of us on the boat catch well over 2 dozen fish. When you’re catching that many, it makes the day go by fast. And it’s a lot more fun! We were catching a lot of snappers and trigger fish, and even a barracuda! They then fileted and packaged up the fish for us, so we could all take some back with us (naturally, I gave most of my share away to the other group). It was such a fun day and a great experience, I can’t recommend Lil B Fishing enough.
If you’ve ever spent a day out on a boat in the sun, you know how exhausting that can be. We were ready for an early dinner and to relax the rest of the night. For dinner we tried Sabor, an Asian-fusion restaurant part of Pelican Bay Hotel (which looked like a pretty cool spot, for future reference). I’m a sucker for spicy pad Thai and after a bowl of that I was set. Sabor also had quite the extensive cocktail menu. One of my favorites of the week was the Goombay Smash (more on Goombay later…). It had rum, pineapple and lime juice. Super sweet and tropical-y and could probably get you into trouble quickly.
Of course we had been going to the beach every day, but we hadn’t yet been snorkeling which is an absolute must in a place like this. I was a little disappointed by the lack of colorful fish when I snorkeled in Hawaii, so I couldn’t wait to see what sort of tropical Caribbean creatures were around. The other couple fishing with us told us about Paradise Cove and it was the best advice we were given. They have rentals for snorkeling, kayaking, stand up paddle boards, noodles for kids wanting to just swim, not to mention changing rooms, restrooms and a restaurant/bar. And it is all on the most beautiful beach and cove!
The fact the reef is called Dead Man’s Reef wasn’t exactly comforting, but we were ready to get going. You have to listen to a short presentation, you know, like don’t touch the turtles and don’t step on the coral, and then off we went! Maybe it’s the fact Matt is almost a foot taller than me or (more likely) he’s a more comfortable swimmer than I am, but this cove was much more his speed. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but there were more waves than I’d ever snorkeled in and I couldn’t touch the ground in most places. There were some rocks sheltering the cove but people snorkeled out around those and into the open ocean…no thanks! We stayed in the (somewhat) calm area.
We seriously debated getting some waterproof phone cover things off Amazon to take snorkeling, but neither of us trusted them enough to put our phones underwater in a foreign country. So alas, no pictures. But we saw so many different kinds of fish, tons of sea turtles of all sizes (my favorite!) and Matt even saw a stingray! If I could have understood his sign language and figured out it was right behind me I would have too…but the hand signals and pointing went right over my head.
Once we were done playing in the water we’d worked up quite an appetite, so we had lunch at the beach restaurant. One of the most traditional Bahamian foods is conch. You know, like the big conch shells? The one they use in Lord of the Flies?
(Piggy’s got the conch! anyone? anyone…)
I’ve already told you I don’t like seafood much, so you’ll be surprised to hear that I actually really enjoyed the conch fritters! Maybe it was the sun and dehydration or maybe it’s the fact anything breaded and deep fried is delicious, but either way they are a must if you ever get the chance. Sort of like a crab cake, but with conch and a spicy fry sauce-esque sauce. It was here I also found my favorite beer in the entire world, the Sands Pink Radler. Yes it’s a pink beer so it’s probably not much of a beer at all, but I loved it! I’ve tried every other grapefruit beer I’ve seen but none come close to this. Guess I just have to go back…
We stopped at Pier One while we were over on this side of the island, as multiple people had told us this spot is a must. It is right next to where the cruise ships come to port and it was fun to sit and watch them all come in. What they are famous for though is the sharks. Yep, there are sharks in the water we just swam in. They do nightly feedings for the sharks but sadly we were a bit too early. It sounds like quite the fun experience!
I don’t even remember how we heard about the Wednesday Night Fish Fry, but I am so glad we did! Every week at Smith’s Point a few local vendors set up shop and basically throw a big party. There is music, food, drinks and a bonfire on the beach making it easy to socialize with locals and other tourists alike. It was so fun! Obviously the whole point of a fish fry is to eat fried fish, which isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but it was a really neat experience and a laid back way to end our evening.
We spend the morning being lazy and found a smaller less crowded beach, Silver Point Beach, just down the street. How is every beach so perfect?? These pictures don’t even really do them justice. We then decided to take a tour of the local brewery. Bahamian Brewery is a completely Bahamian owned and operated brewery and (sadly) does not export out of the Bahamas. The tour of the brewery was only $8 and included numerous samples of their different beers. Sands is their most popular light beer, essentially the Bud Light of the Bahamas, but of course my favorite was the Pink Radler. Ugh…so good! I should have bought some in their gift shop and taken it home with me.
We must have finally adjusted to Island Time because it seems like by the end up the trip we were eating meals at odd hours. Or maybe we were just eating constantly…that’s probably more like it. A late lunch/early dinner turned out to be perfect timing though, because we had the entire Italian restaurant of Giovanni’s to ourselves! Which meant excellent service and a break from the hustle and bustle of the market place. This was our best lunch in the Lucaya Marketplace. A lot of the restaurants are just cheesy tourist traps with sub par food and inflated prices, so we were pleasantly surprised when this felt like a more formal dining experience with classic, tasty, Italian dishes.
Our final Bahamian adventure was the Goombay Summer Festival. The Bahamas Independence Day is July 10th and throughout the month of July, the Ministry of Tourism puts on this festival event each Thursday to showcase Bahamian traditions, culture, music and food. Check out their website! You may see a familiar face. The event was held at Taino Beach Park and it was full of music, dancing and vendors selling local crafts and food. They also had conch shell and coconut cutting demonstrations throughout the day.
I bought a few little jars of jam to bring home, with fun tropical flavors like coconut mango. We also made sure to try a Guava Duff, a traditional Bahamian dessert, Matt had conch salad (almost like a ceviche with raw conch) and I tried a Gully Wash, the “unofficial drink of the Bahamas”.
I mostly wanted the drink for that perfect instagram pic of the palm trees and a drink in a coconut (nailed it) but I also had a friend tell me I had to try this drink if I could find it. For being such an original drink, it’s not often on restaurant menus. If you love coconut, you’d probably love this. It was coconut water, sweetened condensed milk and gin…which I admit sounds really odd. It tasted better than that combination sounds but it was very coconut-y and I didn’t love that. Oh well, like the saying goes: When in the Bahamas! Or something like that.
Reminiscing on these pictures makes me want to go back! It was such a fun relaxing vacation but had more culture and variety than your average all-inclusive resort vacay. Unfortunately, Freeport had a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew a few months after we visited. This was not the first hurricane to hit the Bahamas nor will it be the last, and it seems most Caribbean islands and their people take this in stride. However often times, the smallest and most remote islands need the most help, yet they are the hardest to get to. My friend Brooke is no stranger to hurricanes, having had to evacuate and sail their boat back to Louisiana before Irma hit this past fall. As someone who has lived in that area and has connections throughout the Caribbean sailing community, she recommends Sailors Helping as a local charity organization working on rebuilding the islands if you’re interested in donating towards relief efforts.
Or maybe better yet, just book yourself a vacation. Most of these islands rely heavily on tourism for their economy. And don’t forget, it’s better in the Bahamas!