When planning a family vacation to the Bahamas, most people think about Nassau — but Bimini is about to change that. With legendary fishing, stingray excursions and white-sand beaches, Bimini is becoming the sweetheart of the Caribbean, a playground for Miami millionaires who dock their yachts in the marina and families who want a quick tropical weekend getaway.
And yet, Bimini is still relatively unknown with most Americans. In fact, the first question I had when I heard about Bimini was, “Where is that?” Turns out Bimini is closer to the U.S. than I thought: just 50 miles east of Miami. And it's actually a chain that's made up of two main islands, North Bimini and South Bimini — plus some smaller cays. I recently took a vacation with my family to North Bimini.
Here's what you need to know about this quiet yet charming spot that is considered the gateway to the Bahamas.
There are many direct flights into Bimini from various destinations around the U.S. There’s also a two-hour ferry that operates up to six times a week from Miami. We decided to travel the coolest way possible — by seaplane. Flytropic offers a 35-minute flight from Fort Lauderdale. I was a bit worried about boarding the propeller plane, which sat only eight people. My children, on the other hand, were super excited to get on a plane that lands in the water. The turquoise waters splashing onto the runway was one of their favorite memories of the trip.
Until recently, this sleeper island only had a few small fishing lodges. Then in 2016, Hilton at Resorts World came in and bet on Bimini with a sprawling 750-acre beachside resort offering 305 rooms, 18 luxury suites, multiple restaurants and a boutique casino. The resort fronts the largest marina in the Bahamas.
The modern rooms are decorated with neutrals, browns and tans, leaving the views of the vibrant blue water to provide a pop of color. The bathrooms are modern, with walk-in showers and glass doors. The first-floor luxury suites are impressive, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto a pool spanning the side of the building.
There are three swimming pools, including a rooftop infinity pool whose panoramic water views make for amazing vacation selfies.
The hotel has really stepped up the dining game with chef Georg Paullusen at the helm. We sampled his original, authentic dishes at the Tides restaurant in the center of the lobby, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. My daughter had an incredible French toast made with the local sweet Bimini bread. I couldn’t get enough of the fresh Cobb salad and the roasted chicken. There’s also an incredible sushi restaurant and a beachside restaurant called Luna. How many places can you think of where you can order a meal and then play a quick game of volleyball on the beach before it's served?
Bimini used to be a vacation hot spot back in the day, so you can easily turn your vacation into a history lesson for the kids. Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Bimini for its big-game fishing; it’s where he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Islands in the Stream. Martin Luther King also saw Bimini as a relaxing place to unwind and enjoy bonefishing in the mangroves. It was in Bimini that he wrote his Nobel Prize acceptance speech and his “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” address. Be sure to check out the busts of Dr. King in Alice Town, as well as in the mangroves.
The proximity of the warm Gulf Stream waters just a mile offshore has made Bimini the fishing capital of the world and a destination for big-time anglers catching tuna, wahoo and dolphin. My husband is an avid fisherman and even packed his own rods. He didn’t have to go far: Every morning at 7 a.m., he and the kids sat just outside our balcony, fishing right off the dock. They caught yellow tail snapper, grunts and porgies. Small or large fishing charters are also available.
Bimini is a peaceful, relaxing island with charming people at every turn, so it’s a must to get out and explore. Our first evening, we walked a little under a mile to get a pizza at Edith's, a locally famous spot. Just halfway there, a local woman in her own golf cart pulled up alongside us, asking, “Where are you going? I’ll drive you.” This gesture of kindness is a small example of the small-town feeling you get in Bimini.
Golf carts can be rented at the hotel: Some locals refer to them as the “Bahamian Tesla.” We ended renting a bright red golf cart, and the kids absolutely loved it, but we really didn’t have to — there are plenty of taxis and shuttles available to take you around.
One of the reasons we couldn’t wait to go to Bimini was to check out its food scene. We spent most of our days zipping around the island in our golf cart. One day, we had breakfast at CJ’s seaside shack, located along the white sands of Radio Beach. We sat at a picnic table eating omelettes, pancakes and sipping coconut water straight out of the shell. At Nate’s Bakery, we noshed on guava and sweet Bimini bread. For lunch, it was all about the fritters at Joe’s Conch Shack in Bailey Town, where the seafood is the freshest you will ever have (the proof is in the mound of conch shells piled high in the ocean behind the shack).
The island offers plenty of excursions, from swimming with dolphins and sharks to snorkeling, kayaking and scuba diving.
One of the most magical day trips we took was a snorkeling expedition that included swimming with stingrays and exploring a shipwreck. The shell of the SS Sapona, which was wrecked in the 1920’s, is like a scene out of Pirates of the Caribbean. And the crystal-clear waters make for the perfect snorkeling grounds — you can spot yellowtail snapper, groupers and queen angel fish. While we snorkeled, our guide dove around the shipwreck, collecting piles of conch.
Next stop was Honeymoon Harbor, an uninhabited island where we anchored the boat and saw gentle stingrays swarming around the shores. We fed them chum as they swam around our ankles. Feeding a stingray is quite a thrill: It feels like a little vacuum cleaner is sucking the food out of of the palm of your hand. We then laid on the beach and played in the waves as the guides set up a tabletop grill and made us a delicious lunch of fried lobster and conch salad. It's no wonder this was my children's all-time favorite vacation.
by Carey Reilly