This is the second in a series of blogs offering 5 more of the best Eleuthera vacation rental tips. It will focus on what I consider the second most important aspect of your selection – TRAVEL TIME! We will reveal the 5 tips that you need to consider to understand how travel time will affect the quality of your vacation. We’ll also link to a few properties, where appropriate, that exemplify these choices. Click on this link to read the first blog in this series that talks about the 3 secrets of choosing the best island LOCATION for your vacation rental.
Now that you’ve narrowed down your selection to a region and side of the island you prefer, it’s time to consider where you’ll be in relation to things that you are going to need on your vacation. The island is long and narrow and the settlements are very spread out with sometimes more than 10 miles between them. You don’t want to spend a majority of your time traipsing back and forth to run errands and driving long distances to visit restaurants and beaches if you don’t have to. (Click here to pick up your copy of The Beach Book, Eleuthera, Bahamas edition. It’s a must have if you are planning on seeing the best beaches on the island.) What are some of the things you are likely to need during your vacation and where should you stay on the island to reduce your time on the road?
Eleuthera vacation rental tips – Tip #1 (ATMs)
First time visitors to the island are usually surprised by how spread out everything is and how remote many of the settlements and vacation rental communities are. The gap between settlements can be as few as 6 miles or as many as 20. With the speed limit in the settlements set at 15mph (if there aren’t any speed bumps) and the maximum highway speed only 45mph you probably have already resigned yourself to the fact that you will be doing a fair amount of driving and spending valuable vacation time just getting around. But, with gas being expensive and vacation time at a premium, you need to think about how much time you truly want to be spending on the road. Is there a way to choose a location on Eleuthera that will reduce your travel time while maximizing your vacation time?
Strangely enough, the first thing you need to think about is money, and I don’t mean the amount of money that you’ve budgeted for your trip. How are you going to get money once you’re on Eleuthera? There are only 3 ATM’s on the island, two in Governor’s Harbour and one in Rock Sound – a settlement that is 28 miles south of Governor’s. Credit cards aren’t widely accepted on the island and where they are, they usually charge a 5% service fee. What this all means is that unless you are bringing all the cash you are going to need with you then you are going to need to withdraw cash from one of the ATMs at least once and maybe several times depending on how long you are staying. How often do you plan on going to the cash machine?
You can see where I’m going with this. If you are going to be eating out, going on tours, visiting Harbour Island and Spanish Wells, or spending any money at all then you are either going to need to bring oodles of cash with you or you are going to have to hit the ATM at least every couple of days. For this reason alone it may make sense to stay in or around Governor’s Harbour. The other strategy to consider is that instead of making a special trip to the ATM whenever you need cash you just regularly stop when you are in the vicinity of one, or whenever you are passing through on your way to see another part of the island.
Tip #1 – If you are going to be withdrawing cash every couple of days then strongly consider staying centrally on the island and near to Governor’s Harbour. If you aren’t staying centrally then have a plan to stop at the ATM whenever you pass through Governor’s or Rock Sound as you explore the rest of the island.
Click this link to see a number of rental properties that are close to or in Governor’s Harbour.
Eleuthera vacation rental tips – Tip #2 (Supplies)
Before I get into my second tip you have to understand a bit about the roads on Eleuthera. There are no street lights. There are very few dividing lines. Queen’s Highway can be hilly and twisty, and some of the settlements have devastating speed bumps that seem to spring up whenever you least expect them. Bahamians also tend to drive fast and they often leave their high beams on at night. The roads can be bumpy and have deep potholes that are big enough to blow out a tire. Finally, tourists have a nagging propensity to drive on the right even though in the Bahamas you MUST drive on the left. All of these factors make daytime driving difficult and night driving treacherous.
Your second major consideration when choosing a location to stay in the island, which factors in night driving, is the frequency with which you will need to purchase essentials such as food, beverages, alcohol, and gas. How often will you eat out? Will you attend the Friday night Fish Fry? Will any of these trips be done after dark? All of the aforementioned necessities are located in the settlements. If you are not located near a settlement, or in the case of the Fish Fry, near Governor’s Harbour, then you are going to be spending a half an hour to an hour driving back and forth to get supplies and dine out. This adds up if you have to do it every day.
Tip #2 – Plan to pick up your initial purchase of groceries and beverages on the day you arrive. Subsequent trips to get gas and purchase additional supplies can be coordinated with a restaurant meal. Bring a cooler with you to keep frozen items cold while you enjoy lunch or supper out, then head home with your supplies. Try to stay near a settlement, if possible. If you can’t stay near a major settlement (Gregory Town, Governor’s Harbour, Tarpum Bay, Rock Sound) then make sure you know where the smaller markets are in the nearest settlement. You can find good products in the smaller settlements if you know where to go.
Tip #2a – The four major grocery stores on the island are located in Bluff (North Eleuthera Supply a.k.a. Burchie’s), Governor’s Harbour (Eleuthera Supply and Burrow’s) and Rock Sound (The Market Place).
Eleuthera vacation rental tips – Tip #3 (Beaches)
Eleuthera is known for it’s numerous exquisite beaches. With 100 of miles of eastern and western coastline to explore you can find every type of beach imaginable. From small romantic wisps of pink sand that you’ll have all to yourself to massively long majestic shorelines and dunes that are so picturesque that you have to pinch yourself to see if you’re dreaming. If you’re going to be exploring, and it’s likely you are, then you need to carefully plan your beach excursions otherwise you’re going to spend hours on the road.
Most first timers try to do too much. Everyone wants to make the long trek to Lighthouse Beach. That in itself can take an entire day depending on where you are staying on the island. It’s really difficult to see all of the special beaches on just one trip when you have so much ground to cover. And, if you try to, then you’re going to spend more time driving to and fro rather than relaxing on the beach or in the water.
Many beaches can be visited without having to drive far, but the more spectacular ones do tend to be at the extreme ends of the island. In addition to them being pretty far away, the access roads to them can be extremely bumpy and rutted making the trip even more time consuming. For example, the last 2 miles of road to reach Lighthouse Beach usually takes about 30 minutes!
Tip #3 – Plan to visit no more than 2 beaches a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Choose a vacation rental that favors one geography of the island – north, central, or south and focus on visiting the beaches in that region. If you must make the pilgrimage to Lighthouse Beach then you are better off choosing a rental that is south of Governor’s Harbour. Make sure to buy a copy of The Beach Book so you don’t waste more time getting lost.
Eleuthera vacation rental tips – Tip #4 (Festivals)
Many people come to Eleuthera for the festivals. We have Junkanoo, the Pineapple Festival, Jazz Fest and various settlement Homecoming celebrations throughout the year. There are also numerous religious and national holidays where nightly celebrations occur sometimes multiple nights in a row such as over Bahamian Independence Day. Most of these events occur after dark. You need to consider how far you are willing to drive at night after these events have ended. Many celebrations also offer the opportunity for the purchase of alcoholic beverages. Keep in mind that taxis are few and far between and must be arranged in advance.
Here are some properties in Gregory Town, home of the annual June Pineapple Fest.
Tip #4 – If you are going to attend any holiday celebrations, events, parades or other such activities then you must consider staying as close to where the event is going to be held as possible. It’s dangerous to drive at night. It’s even more dangerous to drive at night after a few drinks if you have a long distance to travel. Find a house rental that is close to the action, if possible.
Eleuthera vacation rental tips – Tip #5 (Tours and Diving)
Our last consideration doesn’t apply to everyone, but as an avid scuba diver I always have to give this some thought especially when diving choices are limited. The last thing I want to do on my trip is spend several hours driving to a dive boat to then have to spend several hours on a boat going to the dive site. This will similarly apply to you if you plan on doing any of the tours or if you want to surf on the island. Surfing is done primarily at Surfer’s Beach in Gregory Town. Tours are generally run on the northern and southern tips of Eleuthera with only one well known and established tour operator, Fishbone Tours, operating out of the middle of the island in Savannah Sound. If you are going to go swimming with the pigs, do some organized snorkeling or fishing, or scuba dive then you need to consider where you’ll be in relation to where those tour boats depart from. Click here for a list of tour operators.
Scuba diving is done at the northern and southern ends of the island. The Great Exuma Wall is reached by boat from either of the southern marinas – Cape Eleuthera Marina or Davis Harbour Marina in Wemyss Bight. If you are staying in the middle of the island then it’s at least a 45 minute drive in each direction to reach the marina and even longer if you have to go all the way to the Cape to catch your boat. Diving to the north is done out of Harbour Island. You’ll have to drive to the Three Island Dock and then take a short water taxi to Harbour Island. You’ll probably need to leave an hour’s worth of time to get to the boat unless you are staying on the northern part of the island.
Here’s a vacation rental called Gone Shelling that is just south of Tarpum Bay on the southern part of the island and closer to Davis Harbour Marina than many other rental properties.
Tip #5 – If you are going to be doing a lot of diving or going on a lot of tours then your first consideration in terms of vacation rental location may just be how close you are to the dive or tour operators. It’s no fun getting up early and spending half your day on the road just to get to where the boat leaves from!
Now you have 5 more tips to help you decide on where to stay on the island. I know this can seem overwhelming because there’s a lot to consider, but it will be well worth it in the end if you plan properly. You DON’T want to spend your entire vacation on the road. So, my final tip in this blog, is to PLAN ON COMING BACK. There’s a lot to do and see on Eleuthera. It takes years if not decades to see it all. Take it easy. Don’t try to do too much. We hope to see you next year!!
Here are this blog’s tips:
- ATMs – if you’re going to be using the cash machines then stay in or around Governor’s Harbour. If not, then plan to stop at an ATM whenever you are passing by.
- Supplies – choose to stay near one of the major settlements – Gregory Town, Governor’s Harbour, Tarpum Bay, Rock Sound. The best and largest grocery stores are in Bluff, Governor’s Harbour and Rock Sound. You can pick up many essential items in the smaller markets in the smaller settlements. Plan to pick up supplies in combination with another trip such as when you are going out to eat. Do your first large shopping on the day you arrive. Be extremely careful if you have to drive after dark.
- Beaches – choose a vacation rental that favors a region – north, central, south. Visit a maximum of two beaches a day. Visit beaches in the region that you are staying in. Pick up a copy of The Beach Book.
- Festivals – use taxis if you are going to be partying. Choose to stay closer to the festival to avoid excessively long drives after dark.
- Tours and Diving – if you are planning on diving or going on excursions then choose to stay in close proximity to the tour operator, fishing guide, or dive operation.
Those 5 tips turned out to be more like twenty when you add them all up!! If you need any help choosing what part of the island to stay on please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.