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How to Get to Eleuthera | 3 Best Ways

tips, Travel - Bret S. - November 25, 2021

how to get to eleuthera

Going to Eleuthera, Harbour Island or Spanish Wells: Travel tips for Bahamas Family Islands

Do you want to know how to get to Eleuthera? The Family Islands may not be on everybody’s bucket list. They don’t have crowds, casinos, non-stop partying, golf or motorized watersports. What they do have is peace, quiet, friendly people, beautiful natural attractions and hundreds of miles of deserted beaches. Some Bahamian islands cater to the tourist crowds, but what makes this trio of neighboring islands so special is that all of that pomp is mostly non-existent. Instead, you’ll find quaint vacation rentals, nostalgic settlements, tropical jungle, old fashioned pineapple farms and miles of untouched beaches. Here’s how to get to Eleuthera.

how to get to eleuthera

Lighthouse Beach is on the of the island’s best beaches

Arriving by commercial air

The easiest way to reach Eleuthera is aboard a commercial plane. There are three airports on the island, North Eleuthera (ELH), which caters to the northern settlements plus Harbour Island and Spanish Wells, Governor’s Harbour (GHB) in the center of the island, and Rock Sound (RSD), which caters to southern settlements plus Cape Eleuthera. Non-stop flights from the United States are available from Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Direct flights into all three Eleuthera airports are also available via Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) in Nassau, Bahamas.

American Airlines flies direct from Charlotte (CLT) on a limited basis and more frequently from Miami (MIA). Delta flies via Atlanta (ATL). United, via it’s Silver Airways subsidiary, and Aztec Air both fly from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) although Aztec leaves from the smaller Fort Lauderdale Executive airport located at 5151 E. Perimeter Road. Most of the US based flights land in North Eleuthera, but you can find some flights into Governor’s Harbour.

Flying on one of the Bahamian owned carriers offers the most flight options into all three airports. Bahamas Air flies out of Fort Lauderdale with a connection in Nassau while Pineapple Air, Southern Air Charter and Bahamas Air all fly out of Nassau on a daily basis.

Regardless of where you leave from you have plenty of options to choose. Eleuthera is a little more than 250 miles from Florida, which makes it possible to fly there in just over an hour while Nassau is a short 30 minute hop.

Choosing your airport

Eleuthera is a long, narrow island that stretches over 100 miles from north to south although it is only 2 miles wide in most spots. The island’s settlements are up to 15 miles apart, which makes it important to consider which airport is the most convenient to where you are staying on the island. Fear not, though! If you find better airfares into an alternate airport then by all means choose that airport. It just means you might have a longer and more scenic drive to your vacation rental.

  • North Eleuthera International Airport (ELH) is at the northernmost tip of Eleuthera island and has the most direct flights from the US. It’s the closest airport to Harbour Island and Spanish Wells both of which require a water taxi ride to reach. ELH is the closest airport for the settlements of Current, Upper and Lower Bogue, Whale Point, Gregory Town, Alice Town and Rainbow Bay.
  • Governor’s Harbour International Airport (GHB) is centrally located near the middle of the island and about eight miles north of Governor’s Harbour, the capital of Eleuthera. GHB is convenient for the settlements of Rainbow Bay, James Cistern, Governor’s Harbour, North and South Palmetto Point, Double Bay, Ten Bay, Savannah Sound and Windermere Island.
  • Rock Sound International Airport (RSD) is the southernmost airport on the island. Options for direct flights from the US don’t exist, but you can get a flight from Nassau. RSD is the nearest airport to Tarpum Bay, Rock Sound, Green Castle, Waterford, Deep Creek and Cape Eleuthera.

Using ferry service

High speed ferry service is available between Nassau and Harbour Island, Spanish Wells and several locations on Eleuthera as well as several other islands in the Bahamas. While this choice seems carefree and romantic, it often proves to be very inconvenient due to scheduling, which does not line up very nicely with the arrival of flights from the US. Plus, there is no cost savings as the cost is equivalent to that of a flight. For those reasons, unless you are already vacationing on Nassau and wish to have an excursion to one of the Family Islands, there is very little reason to choose the ferry.

In days of yore, the mail boat, a large freighter that carried mail between islands, was an option for passengers, too. However, the mailboat no longer transports passengers to Eleuthera, Harbour Island or Spanish Wells.

Water taxi service

To reach Harbour Island and Spanish Wells you must take a water taxi from mainland Eleuthera. This short boat ride takes about 5 minutes each way and costs approximatly $6 to $8 per passenger depending on where you are dropped off. The water taxi for Harbour Island can be found at Three Island Dock, which is 1 mile north of ELH. The water taxi for Spanish Wells departs from Gene’s Bay Dock, an 8 mile ride from ELH. The boats depart roughly every 15 to 30 minutes or when they fill up. Each boat can usually handle 10 to 15 passengers plus luggage. Reservations are not required. It’s simply first come, first served.

Arriving by private plane

Private pilots have always had an advantage when traveling to Eleuthera. The convenience of being able to come and go as one pleases is incentive enough to get a pilot’s license. If one is lucky enough to have their own plane then flying into one of the airports is a breeze. You will need to follow the procedures outlined by the Bahamas Civil Aviation authority, which can be found here.

If you are traveling with 4 or more people then the cost and convenience of a private charter may well be worth it especially if you can make it to Nassau on a commercial flight.

Here are some private charter companies. Contact them individually to find out the size of their planes and the cost of the flights.

how to get to harbour island

  1. Performance Air Charter 
  2. Bahamas Hoppers
  3. Makers Air
  4. Air Flight Charters
  5. Golden Wings
  6. Monarch Air

The FBO’s that serve Eleuthera are White Crown Aviation out of ELH (MYEH) and Odyssey Aviation out of Governor’s Harbour (MYEM) and Rock Sound (MYER).

Arriving by private boat

It is certainly possible to make the crossing from Florida or Nassau via boat if the conditions are right. There are some general rules that need to be followed to enter legally. There aren’t a lot of boat facilities on these islands so it’s important to plan properly. Dock, gas and/or repair services are limited especially on Eleuthera where Hatchet Bay, Governor’s Harbour, Davis Harbour and Cape Eleuthera are your options. Spanish Wells and Harbour Island cater to boaters and yachtsmen so offer a more complete set of services.

To operate in Bahamian waters, a cruising permit is required for all foreign, private, non-commercial pleasure boats and occupants. All visiting boaters must clear Customs and Immigration at the nearest designated Port of Entry. As you enter each port you must fly the yellow quarantine flag and notify Customs of your arrival. Only the captain is permitted to leave the boat until your vessel has been cleared. Customs and Immigration officials will come to your vessel. Everyone on board must have proof of citizenship. U.S. citizens must present a passport. Upon your arrival in the Bahamas, you will be asked to fill out an Immigration Arrival/Departure Card, which you will keep until your departure.

Boaters and sailors traveling to Eleuthera, Harbour Island or Spanish Wells can enter the country at numerous ports scattered throughout the islands. All boaters entering The Bahamas are required to pay an entry fee. Depending on the size of the boat and the duration of your stay that cost ranges from $300 to $2,000 annually.

Below is a list of docks and marinas on Harbour Island, Spanish Wells, and Eleuthera.

Harbour Island

  • Harbour Island Public Dock
  • Harbour Island Marina
  • Romora Bay Marina
  • Valentines Marina

Spanish Wells

  • R&B Boatyard
  • Spanish Wells Public Dock
  • Spanish Wells Yacht Haven Marina

Central Eleuthera

  • Hatchet Bay Inlet
  • French Leave Eleuthera Marina
  • Governor’s Harbour Public Dock

South Eleuthera

  • Cape Eleuthera Marina
  • Davis Harbor Marina

Customs and immigration

Whether you enter the Bahamas in Nassau or Eleuthera, that is where you will clear customs and immigration. Your passport will be checked and your luggage may be inspected to ensure that you are not bringing items into the country without paying import VAT (value added tax) on them. If you clear customs and immigration in Nassau then you will not have to do so again when entering Eleuthera. However, if you are flying directly from the United Stated into Eleuthera then you will clear customs and immigration there.

In Nassau, to speed up the process for those connecting to Family Islands flights, there is a line to the left of the main immigration line that can be used. It is much shorter and faster, and is often necessary to avoid missing your connecting flight. You will then go downstairs, collect your bags and clear customs. You will then need to walk to the domestic terminal, which is approximately 5 minutes away, to get your connecting flight. You will need to check in with the airline, check your bags and go through security screening. It’s important to allow enough time for all of that to happen and at least an hour and a half is suggested, especially if you are claiming and re-checking luggage.

If you arrive into Eleuthera from the US then you will follow the same process, but it will be a bit less chaotic because there will be fewer passengers. Be patient as it takes time to screen each arriving passenger and bag. If you have items that you are importing then please make sure to make note of them and bring receipts so that you can pay VAT and speed up your departure from the airport. Arriving passengers are allowed a $100 allowance on items that can be imported VAT free.

Getting around the island

Don’t let anyone tell you that a golf cart or scooter is a viable method of transport on Eleuthera. If you find an article that tells you that you can be assured that they have NEVER been to Eleuthera. If anyone tells you that a bicycle is a perfectly good way to get around then quickly close that article as it’s simply not true.

As previously mentioned, Eleuthera is a long island and the settlements are miles apart. The roads have few dividing lines and street lights. They can often be in disrepair in places with large potholes making night time driving treacherous. Bahamians tend to drive fast and use their high beams constantly at night. It’s simply not safe to drive in anything other than a car or SUV. You can expect to pay anywhere from $65 to $90 per day for a vehicle rental. There are no Hertz or Avis rentals on the island. All of the rentals are handled by local businessmen who own a fleet of vehicle rentals that are usually older in age. They prefer to receive cash as payment although some have started to take credit cards.

Taxi service is  an option, but one way fares can often exceed the cost of renting a vehicle for the day. Also, be aware that the taxi drivers generally operate out of one of the airports. If you are relying on taxis to get around then you will have to pre-arrange all of your trips to make sure that your driver is available. Otherwise, prepare for a long wait.

On Harbour Island and Spanish Wells golf carts are the only method of transport for visitors and that’s half the fun of staying on those islands. The carts are equipped with lights and storage areas for luggage.  Rental rates are equivalent to a car rental on Eleuthera and are dependent on the size of the golf cart and how long you will be renting it for.

Just always remember to DRIVE ON THE LEFT whichever island you are on!!!!

how to get to spanish wells

 

Summary

As you would expect of an island, plane or boat are the two methods to get there. The choice comes down to whether you take a private vessel or a commercial one. For the lowest rates, best schedules, and most options, commercial flights are your preferred choice. Coming by private plane or boat gives you the most convenience, but with some obvious added cost. Commercial ferries have the most difficult schedules without offering any real cost benefit. The best way to get to Eleuthera is commercial plane!

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Learn where to stay in Eleuthera, Bahamas to have 1 of your best vacations

tips, Travel - Bret S. - May 18, 2021

Not sure where to stay in Eleuthera, Bahamas? Let’s see if we can help you decide.

What makes Eleuthera a tricky place to choose what part of the island to stay on is because of its 100 mile length. There is a lot to see and do on Eleuthera and most first timers don’t want to miss a thing. Those of us who have been visiting for years know to take it slow because you can’t just cram it all in on one visit, but that doesn’t stop some folks from trying. Use this information to help you narrow down your selection.

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10 Essential Tips Packing for The Bahamas | What to wear and bring to Eleuthera for your #1 best vacation

LifeStyle, tips, Travel - Bret S. - April 1, 2021

packing for the bahamas

The most important advice I give to anyone who is packing for the Bahamas is to pack half as much as you think you’ll need. You’re going to spend the majority of your time on the beach or in the water. You don’t need much more than a swimsuit and what accompanies it for the majority of your island time, so pack a few items you can mix and match with swimwear.

When it comes to packing for Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells there are a few things to consider.  Here are some  things to know that form the basis of my packing-for-the-Bahamas recommendations.

    1. This is a tropical vacation. It’s likely going to be hot and you will be out in the sun most of the day.
    2. While it’s likely to be warm or hot you have to consider that it could also be windy or rainy depending on the time of year.
    3. The Family Islands are unfortunately home to biting insects including no-see-ums (sand flies) and mosquitoes (wings with teeth).
    4. The islands are very, very casual and you’ll be out of place dressing up too much, but dressing down is never a problem.
    5. ATMs are few and far between, and credit cards are not widely accepted.
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THE BEST 15 Things to Do on Eleuthera

adventures, beaches, happenings, tips, Travel - Bret S. - February 7, 2021

15 best things to do on eleuthera

Eleuthera has always been known for it beaches, but there are lots of other things to do on Eleuthera besides visiting beaches. What may have started as a beach vacation may very well end up being the adventure vacation you’ve been looking for and that is what I’ve always loved about the island and its surrounding neighbors. You’re never going to run out of things to do.

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The 5 Best Tips to Choose a Vacation Rental Property on Eleuthera

lodging, tips, Travel - Bret S. - January 21, 2021

5 tips to choose a vacation rental

5 Tips to Choose a Vacation Rental Property

This is the third and final blog offering the 5 best tips to choose a vacation rental property on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. It will focus on what I consider one of the most significant factors in the quality of your overall vacation – HOUSE SELECTION! Click on this link to read the first blog in this series that discusses the 3 secrets for choosing the best island LOCATION for your vacation rental. Click on this link to read the second blog in the series that explains the importance of TRAVEL TIME as it relates to selecting a property on the islands.

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3 of the best Eleuthera Lodging House Rental options

lodging, tips, Travel - Bret S. - January 7, 2021

indigo seas rainbow bay eleuthera bahamas lodging house rental

Eleuthera Lodging House Rental Tips

When visiting Eleuthera you have several lodging options. Unlike many major tourist destinations the lodging choice of preference on Eleuthera is a house rental. While there are several small boutique hotels, motels and condo style resorts, there are just a few of them compared to the number of houses available for rent and they tend to be either high end or budget oriented limiting their appeal to many Eleuthera vacationers.

Most visitors choose house rentals on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells due to their superior locations, abundance of amenities, added space and comfort, privacy and attractive pricing. Simply by cooking several meals at your house rental you will save enough money to do fun things on vacation or splurge a little more when you do eat out. The small resorts up and down the island are considered a good choice for those who prefer to vacation in a more social setting. You won’t find any large hotels nor household brands such as Hilton or Wyndham although one of the boutique resorts is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection.

Read on to see various lodging and house rental options or read this blog first, which will give you some ideas on how to pick your lodging on Eleuthera.

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Click to see Indigo Seas in Rainbow Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas. This is the property featured in our cover image for this article.

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The top 3 secrets to pick a vacation rental on Eleuthera revealed

lodging, tips, Travel - Bret S. - November 16, 2020

3 secrets to pick a vacation rental on Eleuthera

This is the first in a series of blogs about how to pick a vacation rental on Eleuthera. It will focus on the most important aspect of your selection – LOCATION! We will reveal the 3 secrets that you need to know to make a great selection. We’ll also link to a few properties that give you an idea of what we mean when we offer these tips. For some general tips on selecting a vacation rental, check out this blog.

You’ve been shopping for a tropical vacation for some time now. You’ve finally narrowed your choice to the islands of The Bahamas and have further narrowed your island choice to Eleuthera because you want privacy, great secluded beaches and a very laid-back casual vacation. How do you narrow your selection down even more?

tips to pick a vacation rental

The Glass Window Bridge – one of the major natural attractions on Eleuthera


How to Pick a Vacation Rental on Eleuthera – Secret Tip #1

If you have chosen your house and then hope it’s in the right location then you’ve gotten it bass ackwards, as they say. If you’ve gone to the trouble of carefully selecting the best island for your vacation then you need to go the extra mile and choose the right location on the island, too. There are several important things to consider.

The island of Eleuthera is 100 miles long and 2 miles wide. It’s rental houses are located north (Current, Whale Point, Gaulding Cay, Oleander Gardens, Gregory Town, Alice Town, Rainbow Bay and James Cistern), central (Governor’s Harbour from GHB airport south to the capital settlement, North and South Palmetto Points, Double Bay, Ten Bay, Little Bay, Savannah Sound and Windermere Island) and south (Tarpum Bay, Winding Bay, Rock Sound, Jack’s Bay, Cotton Bay and Cape Eleuthera in the deep south). That’s a lot of ground to cover if you are going to explore. If you plan on just staying put for a week then this choice matters much less, but there are still some things you should know.

eleuthera map pick a vacation rental

Most first timers to the island choose a central location in or around Governor’s Harbour. Why? Because this gives them the best opportunity to explore both north and south while having no more than an hour’s drive in each direction. The center of the island is also more populated so offers more choices in terms of grocery shopping, restaurants and other vacation essentials. In general, it’s simply much more convenient to pick a vacation rental in or near the center of the island if you haven’t experienced Eleuthera before.

The farther north and the farther south you go the more remote and private things get. For example, the northernmost settlement of Current has very little around it in terms of places to dine or shop. (Check out this awesome Current vacation rental called Getaway if you love privacy). The same can be said for Cape Eleuthera in the south.

As you move towards the middle of the island you have more choices. The major northern settlements are Gregory Town and James Cistern. The major southern settlements are Rock Sound and Tarpum Bay. As you consider various vacation rental options consider how far they are from these major settlements. Staying in or around the settlements will greatly reduce travel times. The other settlements and communities I previously mentioned are mostly residential. That means you’ll have to drive farther to find things you might need such as groceries, restaurants, bars and entertainment. The tradeoff is that the communities tend to be quieter and more private.

In my opinion, the main decision point comes down to where you want to spend most of your time. If you want to see the whole island then choose central. If you want a shorter drive to the northern attractions – Glass Window Bridge, Preacher’s Cave, Sapphire Hole, The Hatchet Bay Caves, The Cliffs, The Queen’s Baths, The Cow and Bull, Current Cut, and the nearby family islands of Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, then staying farther north is a better choice. If you want to see the southern attractions – Lighthouse Beach, The Ocean Hole, The Boiling Hole, The Cathedral Caves, The Island School, and the Cape Eleuthera Institute, then the south is a better choice. The north has more natural attractions. The south has better diving and snorkeling. Additionally, the farther south you go, the more likely you are to find completely deserted beaches.

How to Pick a Vacation Rental on Eleuthera – Secret Tip #2

Because the island is so narrow, an important consideration when you pick a vacation rental is which side of the island to stay on. This doesn’t mean you can’t hop from one side of the island to the other very easily, but you do want to choose the side that you’ll want to spend the majority of your time on. That being said, there is a big difference in the water quality between the east coast (Atlantic Ocean and a.k.a. ‘the Atlantic side’) and the west coast (Great Exuma Bight and a.k.a. ‘the Caribbean side’). There are also some areas that face more northerly, such as part of the settlement of Current, and one community, Whale Point, that fronts the bay between Harbour Island and Eleuthera. Several properties can also be found along the southern coast in Cape Eleuthera. For this discussion, however, we will focus on the differences between the Atlantic and Caribbean sides.

What you have to consider is what type of water you prefer. If you have small children then you’ll definitely want to favor the Caribbean side due to how shallow and calm the water is under normal conditions. Here are some excellent vacation rental properties on the west coast in Ten Bay that have pictures showing what the water is like. All bets are off when the wind blows from the west, but that isn’t the usual prevailing wind on the island. Beaches on the west coast tend to be shorter and narrower, and the water stays shallow for 50′ offshore and sometimes even more depending on the tide. The color of the water on this side of the island is a crystal clear aqua that almost seems to glow in the sun. Finally, because the water is shallower, it tends to be warmer.

Caribbean side of Eleuthera

On the Atlantic side, in contrast, the water gets deeper much faster especially along unprotected coastline. There are more waves and you are more likely to encounter rougher conditions rather than something resembling a lake. If you want to body surf  and enjoy long beach walks then you’ll definitely favor the Atlantic side. The water color is a deep, dark blue and the temperature can run a few degrees cooler. It’s also said that because the prevailing winds are from the east that you are more likely to have less problems with no-see-ums, a flying insect that bites and has spoiled many a vacation. Having a light breeze keeps them from landing and biting.

Here are some rental choices along the Atlantic coast of Eleuthera. If you pick a vacation rental in one of the protected bay communities such as Winding Bay, Jack’s Bay or Cotton Bay, the water conditions will be similar to the rest of the Atlantic coastline except the ocean will be much calmer.

Atlantic side of Eleuthera

You now have some idea of what the differences are in water quality and wind conditions on each side of the island, but making the decision boils down to personal preference. What water conditions do you prefer? Just know that regardless of what the conditions are like, you can always take a short drive over to the other side of the island. When the wind is from the west, just move to the east coast for calm conditions and vice versa. You’ll almost always be able to find more benign conditions somewhere on the island if you follow that advice. Here is a video from one of my go-to places to escape windy conditions called Papaw Bay in South Palmetto Point.

Want to Earn More Rental Income? 11 Keys to Create Great Vacation Rental Listings

How to Pick a Vacation Rental on Eleuthera – Secret Tip #3

While we’ve discussed the water quality between coasts, I think there’s an even more important consideration, which is so important that I wanted it to stand on its own, and that’s your preference between sunrises and sunsets. As we all know, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and that is even more noticeable on an island where your predominant view is likely to be an endless ocean. If you love seeing the sun splash an array of dazzling reds, oranges, purples and sometimes a splash of green as the sun dips into the ocean, you are definitely going to want to be on the Caribbean side of the island. Picture a unique oil painting being painted brushstroke by brushstroke each night; one that features an assortment of clouds, shadows, water colors and the sun being dripped across your own personal canvas, as if it were painted just for you, each and every evening. That’s what staying on the Caribbean side is like!

Caribbean sunset at Ten Bay

On the flipside, some people are early risers. They much prefer the invigoration that accompanies the first few rays of sun followed by a brisk morning beach walk and finished off with a delightful swim in the refreshing, cool ocean. If you like to see Mother Earth as she awakens from the night’s slumber then you’ll definitely appreciate being on the Atlantic side of the island.

Atlantic sunrise Davilla Eleuthera


So, there you have it, your 3 secret tips to picking the right location on the island.

Let me summarize:

  1. North, Central, South – choose central for convenience, north for proximity to northern attractions, south for proximity to Lighthouse Beach
  2. Atlantic or Caribbean side – choose Atlantic for its rugged, deep blue ocean and prevailing winds, Caribbean for its calm, shallow aqua sea
  3. Sunrise or sunset – choose Atlantic side for sunrises, Caribbean side for sunsets

Oh, and the bonus tip…if the wind is from the west go to an east coast beach and vice versa.

I hope you find these tips helpful and find the location on Eleuthera that you were dreaming about. If you need any help choosing what part of the island to stay on please contact us at support@eleutheradirect.com.

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Want to Earn More Rental Income? 11 Keys to Create Great Vacation Rental Listings

tips, Travel - Bret S. - October 14, 2020

11 tips to create a great vacation rental listing

Great vacation rental listings are created much like cooking a fine meal. Start with the right ingredients and portions. Blend them together with love and attention. Apply heat for the right amount of time. Then, sit back, indulge in the taste and watch the income pour in!

The most effective way to market your vacation rental is by listing your property on a vacation rental listing site such as VRBO, AirBnb, TripAdvisor and of course, your local regional site, such as EleutheraDirect.com. In addition, you should be using social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram as well as your own website. Business listing sites such as Google Business and Bing Places are also helpful in getting the word out. Pay-per-click ads (PPC), such as Google Adwords, can be effective, but can be quite costly especially if you are looking to buy a lot of clicks for high traffic keywords.

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