It’s not hard to pick the best places to sail in the Bahamas. Why? Well…because the Bahamas are downright lovely. That’s why! On top of that, the country is a veritable haven for those who like to do their exploring on the water, but then that’s probably what you’d expect of a nation made up of 3,000 islets spread between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
In this guide, we’ll aim to whittle down all the finest boating spots that the Bahamas have up their sleeve to just seven. The result makes for pretty enticing reading for captains dreaming of the tropics…
Yep, our list of the best places to sail in the Bahamas comes with old-school pirate haunts where you can swig rum in the company of Blackbeard’s ghost, paradise cays with pink-hued beachfronts, and whole island groups that are hidden between coral reefs, lush mangroves, and rock gardens.
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To any veteran sailors of this corner of the Caribbean, it will hardly come as a surprise that it’s Exuma that tops our list of the best places to sail in the Bahamas. A clutch 365 islets and coral cays, there’s enough here to make one pitstop every day of the year if you wanted. The whole lot dots the seas of the central Bahamas, spreading roughly 110 miles from end to end.
There’s lots to get through but the ideal launch point is the only place with any real regular human population: Great Exuma. That’s home to the district capital of George Town and the main anchorages to boot. Stick around some time before unfurling the mainsail. You’ll get to see the powdery white of Tropic of Cancer Beach and dine in zesty Carib eateries like the Rusty Anchor.
After that, the whole group is your oyster. Stocking Island to the north has wisps of long, ivory beaches where there’s hardly ever another soul in sight. Saddleback Cay is the home of Half Moon Beach, one of the most celebrated in the country. Leaf Cay has shores trodden by giant iguanas. Tempted yet?
Despite its name, Grand Bahama isn’t actually the largest of the Bahama chain. It is the farthest north, though, and that makes it something of a doozy for US yachters. The reason? The great Sunshine State of Florida lies just across the strait from here. Mhmm…It’s less than 66 miles sailing as the crow flies from West Palm Beach to West Point.
The closeness of the stars and stripes has helped Grand Bahama become something of a vacation favorite in these parts. It’s positively riddled with championship golf courses and sleek five-star resorts. It’s also got one of the largest cruise ports in the Caribbean (look for it just east of fantastically named Wild Goose Town), so it’s a good option for would-be sailors who prefer the big ships to their own yachts.
The southwest coast is really where the action is at. That’s threaded by the long sliver of sand that is Bahama Beach and bends into equally lovely Xanadu Beach. Don’t expect these places to be empty. They rarely are, especially during the main October to March sailing season. You can go north or east to free yourself from crowds, though, out to the mangrove swamps or even the little cays of Sweetings and Lightbourne.
Green Turtle Cay
A zigzag of land that weaves its way around the edge of the great Atlantic Ocean north of the Abaco islands, Green Turtle Cay is an outlier of the Bahamas that’s great for sailors looking to explore the very extremities of the country. It’s got no airport, so H2O is the only passage over, and that shows since the beaches are usually pleasantly deserted and there’s only patches of modern development to be seen (something like 450 people live here permanently).
However, the Robinson Crusoe vibes are quickly tempered by what’s an undeniable jet-setter vibe on land. Uber-stylish hotels like the Bluff House Beach Resort and the Green Turtle Club come with their very own in-house marinas for you to moor up at, not to mention private beaches and access to prestigious golf courses.
For many, the piece de resistance of a visit here are the pigs of appropriately named Pig Beach. They inhabit a small stretch of land off of No Name Cay, a short sail south of Green Turtle Cay itself. No one really knows how they got there. Some say it was a ploy to draw in visitors. Others think they came from the hold of an old pirate wreck. Either way, they’re downright cute – there’s no denying that!
Great Guana Cay
Spreading seven miles from end to end in the midst of the Abaco Islands of the northern Bahamas, Great Guana Cay is actually just shy of aforementioned Green Turtle Cay. But it’s quite different. For a start, the whole island is only home to 150 people, so it’s generally quiet and uber-relaxed. It’s also longer and thinner, with wisps of untouched white sand running down its whole Atlantic side.
Mooring in the north usually means booking into the Bakers Bay Golf and Ocean Club. That’s a prestigious resort with its own 18 holes of prime gaming for those with the clubs on board. From there, sail south to Orchid Bay Yacht Club and Marina, which is a fine jump-off point for reaching the fish-sizzling shacks of the east coast (check out Nippers Beach Bar & Grill for one of the finest!).
New Providence is nothing short of legendary in the world of seafaring. It was here, some 300 years ago, that the formidable pirates of the Caribbean set up their base for raids across all of Central America. The main town of Nassau quickly became a haunt for buccaneers of all stripes, attracting legends like Calico Jack and Blackbeard.
Sailors of today need not worry. The cannons and frigates of the swashbuckling age have long since disappeared. They’ve now been replaced by pool-ready coast hotels and water parks, by inviting brewhouses and rum distilleries. Oh, and the marinas are some of the largest in the country, spanning the wharfs of Arawak Cay all the way to Paradise Island.
Sailing in New Providence offers a great balance between amenities, accessibility, and adventure. On by far the most built-up isle in the country, it should be a cinch to sort your charter in these parts. Then, you can sail the tried-and-tested channels between sands like Cabbage Beach and Goodman’s. Or you can go further afield, out to protected Athol Island or the Clifton Heritage National Park to name just two suggestions.
There are few islands in the world that can evoke such gasps of wonder as Eleuthera. A great dog-leg that swings around in a C-shape through the northern Bahamas, it’s a place that continually makes the covers of luxury travel mags and whatnot. The reason? Rare, pink-tinged beaches that run for mile upon mile upon mile.
Sailors love it because there’s no need to cross empty straits of water at all. You simply cruise down the east coast and it’s a whole adventure in a single package. Most itineraries begin in Spanish Wells before moving south to Governor’s Harbour and then south again to Cape Eleuthera. Other charters also sail across from the harbors of Nassau, which is just to the west.
You’ll often moor up on the eastern shoreline and then spend the day exploring the western half of the island. That’s where the legendary sugar sands await, along with surfer beaches and seafood shacks that peer over the reefs of the open Atlantic expanse.
If you’re looking for a fun day sail that’s also a bit of a challenge, then Rum Cay could be just what the charter company ordered. It’s out on the far reaches of the archipelago but is a fair challenge for accomplished skippers who can crank up the knots after leaving many an anchorage in the region.
What awaits is another onetime haunt of pirates and swashbucklers, with a ringing of pristine coral gardens and prime dive sites that only a few have ever conquered.
There’s also world-class sport fishing on offer. The waters to the north teem with tuna and wahoo. There are marlins to the east. And there are amazing shipwrecks sunk on the seabed, including one that dates back to the era of the Crimean War! Back on land, the beaches are basically empty, especially if you trace the big, wave-washed bays on the Atlantic-facing side.
The best places to sail in the Bahamas – our conclusion
We think the best places to sail in the Bahamas include the main island of New Providence and its city of Nassau, which is a bustling mix of rum bars and pirate-history museums, but also more far-flung islands like Rum Cay, where you’ll encounter deep ocean waters on the edge of the Atlantic and pristine coral reef ecosystems. Between them, the likes of gorgeous Eleuthera and the luxury enclave of Green Turtle Cay are also worth a mention.