For most Americans, a trip to the Bahamas requires semi-extensive itinerary planning and at least one flight, maybe two. But for Miami residents and ambitious visitors, the archipelago of almost 700 islands — officially known as the Commonwealth of the Bahamas — is close enough for a day trip. Ferry tickets from Miami or Fort Lauderdale are available for a couple hundred dollars (sometimes even less), and flights abound. So grab your passport and swap a Saturday in sweatpants for a Caribbean adventure. Below, a few ideas on how to make the most of your trip to Bimini, New Providence or Grand Bahama. And if you decide to extend your stay past sundown, we’ve got some ideas for where to lay your head.
Bimini consists of two main islands, North Bimini and South Bimini — and at just 50 miles off the coast of Florida, it’s the closest to the Sunshine State. The Balearia Caribbean ferry to Bimini leaves from Fort Lauderdale, with tickets about $200 to $300 roundtrip. The beauty of this particular boat is that while you can head over in the morning and return later that day, you can also book your return trip within the next seven days. It’s a quick and easy change.
Booking with Balearia also gives you the chance to add on a day pass for access to Resorts World Bimini (a Hilton, if you’re looking to use or earn points), with a ground-floor lagoon pool and an adults-only infinity pool on the rooftop. If you’re in a more adventurous mood, consider water activities like kayaking, paddle boating and jet skiing, available for an additional cost. You’ll find a casino, 10 restaurants and the fisherman’s village marketplace all within this complex, which has probably changed slightly since Hemingway posted up on Bimini to write The Old Man and The Sea. Impress your date with that literary trivia knowledge before settling into a lounge chair on Bimini Beach.
The Hemingway Guide to Miami and Key WestDining, fishing, drinking and cavorting in Papa’s footsteps
Balearia offers plenty of ferries to Nassau, but New Providence is just a 45-minute flight. Check airlines including United and American; the local BahamasAir offers two or three direct flights to Nassau (the capital of the country and the biggest city on New Providence) every day out of Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Organizing flight times can be tricky, so you might want to mix ‘n’ match with a ferry trip.
Once you’re in New Providence, the options for exploration abound. The 1,000-acre resort complex of Baha Mar houses Grand Hyatt, SLS Baha Mar and Rosewood — and with countless restaurants, plenty of spas, golf, tennis, shopping and a massive casino, there’s plenty to do even without booking a hotel room. But do note that the beach and pools at each of these resorts are reserved for guests only.
Then again, if you do opt for an overnight stay, you’ll have access to pools and beach areas at all three resorts — but only Rosewood guests get access to their Rosewood-branded pool and beach setup. Another unique offering is the BREEF (Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation) partnership, through which guests can book a half-day experience to learn the basics of snorkeling, how to identify coral and fish species, and more about the preservation of this endangered ecosystem.
It’s a slightly longer ride out to Grand Bahama — closer to three or four hours by ferry — but the additional travel time means access to a more remote area of the islands. As the northernmost island of the Bahamas, Grand Bahama took longer to get popular. But in recent years Freeport has become a destination in itself, particularly Deadman’s Reef for snorkeling. Gray Line Miami is the operator to use if you’re planning on a quick day trip with no overnight, as they schedule boats that afford travelers free time from noon to 6:30 PM in Freeport. Between shopping at Port Lucaya Marketplace, exploring the underwater world of Lucayan National Park and visiting historic sites like Cooper’s Castle, you’ll run out of time before you run out of things to do. And you’ll find gambling, restaurants and bars galore, including the popular Bahamian Brewery, if a simple pint in the sunlight is what your day off requires.
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