Eleuthera: The Isle of Freedom
I was blessed to be born within the beautiful archipelago called The Bahamas. Being from a small island is an extremely full lifestyle because culturally we are exposed to so much. We have a deep, rich heritage that stems from our earliest ancestors, the Arawaks, and flows all the way through to our modern civilization influenced by our European settlers in the 1400s. This being said, being about 500 miles from Florida, there is also a strong US influence over the Bahamas.
For those willing to look for it, there are still parts of the archipelago of The Bahamas that seems virtually untouched by the hand of generic tourism and overpopulation. These places, for the conscious traveller are the places I love to share. These place, like the island of Eleuthera, take you back to a time when life was simple and the only, beaches are untouched and locals will stop their day to ensure that a stranger feels at home.
These are the islands that I know and love.
The island of Eleuthera, which stems from the Greek word “eleutheros” meaning free, is one of the brightest jewels in the archipelago of The Bahamas. The rich history stretches longer than the 100 mile long Queen’s Highway. For the earliest settlers of the island, their freedom was escape from religious persecution. For me it was where I was fortunate enough to spend my summers with my family. Climbing trees, picking fruits fresh from the trees, wandering the streets aimlessly until the sun set with my cousins, these are the most vivid memories from my childhood and what I want to share most with you.
For American travelers, flying to Eleuthera is SO EASY. I wish everyone knew how simple it is to get here. Most major airlines - Delta, Silver, American Airlines fly directly to either the North Eleuthera Airport or the Governor’s Harbour Airport. Depending on which settlement you decide to stay in choosing your airport is very important, however, if you should experience any confusion with this the airports are only about an hour’s drive apart.
For me, home base was always the settlement of Hatchet Bay, where in the 1900s, the agricultural industry was a major economic hub for the island of Eleuthera and the country. Pineapple fields and various other fruit and vegetable farms line the Queen's Highway. Summertime also meant meetings with local farmers and haggling the prices of their fresh produce. Farms like the Hearty Mow Farmlands have become a staple in the community. Travelers and locals alike often stop at the road side stand to buy locally grown and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Northward, along this long winding road to Gregory Town, silos of times long forgotten, dramatically jut out against a blue sky. The silos were a part of Austin Levy’s ‘Hatchet Bay Plantations’. At one point, the silos supplied the booming dairy and poultry farm with feed for the livestock. Today they stand silent and abandoned and remind us of the disappointment of the once booming agricultural industry. Growing up they were the best hiding spots during a game of hide and seek and also the easiest way to scare a little cousin with an old ghost story.
In such a stark contrast to the 110 mile stretch of Eleuthera’s length, at one point, the island measures only 0.6 miles across. At this point one is able to witness one of the most breathtaking natural phenomenons. The Glass Window Bridge, which is often referred to as “narrowest place on Earth” is a bridge located North of Gregory Town. Once a natural bridge destroyed by Hurricane Andrew, it is now a man made structure that easily shows the depth of the deep dark blue Atlantic Ocean and the calm, turquoise Caribbean Sea.
Dramatic, crashing waves, wash over a large rock formation to the East of the Glass Window Bridge creating natural pools called the Queen’s Baths. The rugged Atlantic crashing onto the tide pools offer a stark contrast to the calm seas of the Caribbean side. We were tricked into believing old wives tales as children about a mythical time on the island when mermaids would swim up with the tides and lounge in the pools while the sun was high. When I was younger, my cousins and I would search the pools desperately for anything that the mermaids may have left behind in their haste to escape the human’s prying eye. Once we found a barrette, most likely leftover by an earlier visitor soaking in the pools, but it was proof enough to a seven year old that mermaids truly do exist.
The island of Eleuthera doesn’t offer flashy casinos or large shopping complexes. You won’t find any big chain hotels or large, Michelin starred restaurants. Instead, you will get 110 miles of untouched natural beauty. You will find crystal clear, turquoise water and pink, powder soft sand beaches. You will get shockingly blue skies paired with warm weather and cool summer breezes to explore this little gem of an island.
For travelers curious about a visit to Eleuthera, a few of the major settlements are Governor’s Harbour where the beautiful French Leave Resort is housed on the harbour. The settlement of Gregory Town is home to the resort The Cove which aside from breathtaking views and amazing snorkeling also takes advantage of the fresh seafood with their in house sushi bar. Renting a car here if essential because the island is so long and attractions are somewhat far apart. With only one major highway it’s extremely difficult to get lost here. There is a small island that is worth a day trip from the island of Eleuthera called Harbour Island but that is another article for another day. ;)