1. Conception Island – Best beach award – spectacular white, I emphasis white, fine sandy beach - out of this World! This island is a Land & Sea Park and protected by the Bahamian government, so hopefully it will stay deserted and pristine for future generations to enjoy. The beach is over a mile in length on the anchorage side and a great running beach with the softest, finest sand. The snorkeling is also some of the best here, even if you cannot spear fish, you can focus on observing the colossal coral and schools of fish. On the ocean side, the beach is also amazing, but up high on a plateau garbage and sea grass washes up on the beach after big storms. If you like dumpster diving, this is the place to go, you get to enjoy a beautiful beach and who knows what you may find washed up on shore.
2. Point Nelson Marina, Rum Cay – This wins the best marina award. Not only is it cheap ($1 per foot), but it is the friendliest marina we’ve encountered. Given, we haven’t stayed in many marinas, this is an adventurous marina in itself. You must enter at high tide because the channel entrance to the dock is no more than 5 feet at high tide and 20 feet wide! The owner, Bobby, throws potluck dinners at the clubhouse practically every night consisting of gourmet fish, fresh bread and the like. You get the feeling at the dock that everyone is one big family happy family. A great place to spend a couple days, meet fun people, and share dinners. If you’re planning to go in to a marina this is the place to stop. Also, it a hotspot for fishing and Bobby can facilitate skydiving, kiteboarding, and surfing.
5. Jumentos - The Jumentos win the awards for best diving, most secluded, best color blue and prettiest beaches. This string of islands lie south of the Exumas and are among one of the most secluded. Only the daring make the trip south, navigating through the many non-charted coral heads scattering the banks and anchoring in the rolling, unprotected anchorages. We found some of the best diving here along the cays and at the blue hole 3-miles west off Water Cay. The anchorages we enjoyed were at Water Cay, Flamingo Cay and Jamaica Cay. The color and clarity of the water is overwhelming, a deep blue that most people never encounter. Spearfishing is excellent here, the Jumentos are known as the fishing grounds for the Bahamas – watch out for the sharks when the fisherman are cleaning fish off their boat in the anchorage!
6. Stocking Island, Georgetown, Exumas – This is definitely the best shelling beach, located on the ocean side, if you are looking for little colorful shells. It is also one of the most beautiful beaches in the Bahamas and has an amazing running beach, but the anchorage is crowded with cruisers and the snorkeling on the inside is nothing to write home about. It is home to the famous Chat ‘n Chill bar, however, which serves the $5 cheeseburger (a steal in the Bahamas) with or without a shirt, shoes, or pants for that matter!
7. Landrail Point, Crooked Island – Some of the friendliest people in the Out Islands (also known as Family Islands) live at Landrail Point, which is the settlement south of Pittstown. When we stayed here, we ended up sailing back two other times because we enjoyed the people and the town so much. We were invited out to Gibson’s #2 Restaurant, owned and run by Willie Gibson, three nights in a row, taken out on spearfishing excursions with the locals, loaned bikes to ride through town, offered rides and pick ups from the airport, able to use free internet and the list goes on. Crooked Island, is an island of less than 350 people total, so people really are family when they call it a Family Island. Landrail Point also has some of the bluest, clearest water in the Bahamas, dropping off 2000 feet in a quarter mile from the beach, the stark contrast in blues is amazing to see with the naked eye and makes for great photos, capturing multiple colors of blue in one shot. This is also one of the best spots for deep sea sport fishing.
8. Castle Island (at the south end of Acklins Island) – This wins both the most secluded and one of the best beaches award. There’s a beautiful lighthouse and a beach that wraps around the corner and continues for another mile and a half – my favorite type of beach is the one that wraps around the corner! If it weren’t for the rolling anchorage (there is not much protection at this anchorage), then we would have stayed several more days here. It’s also great fishing grounds and a good spot to look for washed up shells – we found a beautiful helmet shell on the beach here. There’s also a shipwreck off the beach that can be snorkeled.
9. Pipe Creek, Exumas – Some of the most beautiful water and colors you will see are here in Pipe Creek. There is an amazing anchorage between two sandbars and at low tide it looks like the boats are stranded in a desert of white sand. The colors change from clear to light blue, turquoise, sky blue and on and on and on. And to top it off the sand is some of the softest sand in the Bahamas. At low tide, while walking on the sandbars you sink in almost a foot, which releases little air bubbles as you walk. It’s quite an amazing place, a big slice of paradise. Close by you’ll find Thunderball Grotto, an underwater cave where parts of the James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed, off Staniel Cay. Just a hop away from the cave, is Big Majors Spot, where you can feed swimming pigs, yes swimming pigs!
10. Samana Cay - If you are an adventure seeker, look no further, Samana Cay is your island. This cay is where the cascarilla bark, which makes Campari, cosmetics and medicines is harvested by locals. It’s approximately 22 miles north of Acklins Island, with a treacherous entrance and surge in the anchorage. However, once you arrive, it has amazing snorkeling, BIG fish, beautiful reef, lots of sea urchin shells and friendly friendly people working on the cay, willing to invite you over for dinner on the beach at shacks the live in for several months harvesting the bark. There is no town, no stores, no vacation homes, no locals except the 8 Bahamians from Acklins harvesting bark. This spot is one of the most secluded as well.
11. Attwood Harbor, Acklins Island - One of my favorite harbors, with green waters at low tide and a flat calm anchorage as long as the weather is not blowing out of the north through west direction. Dolphins enter the harbor, a mangrove estuary flows into the harbor on the west end and it is full of conch and bonefish, the beach is over a mile long and is in the top 5 for running, diving is spectacular on the barrier reef on the northeast side of the entrance, plus lots of lobster can be found in the shallow shelves in the northeast side of the harbor.
12. Governors Harbor, Eleuthra – This town wins the award for most picturesque town. The water is stunningly beautiful, with white sand fringing the harbor and grassy bottoms in the middle creating a drastic color changes from blue to green. The homes are colorful on the waterfront and the town is full of historical buildings from the 1600’s when the Eleuthrian Adventurers settled the island back in 1648. The island is very fertile and has an amazing assortment of plant life and tropical flowers and grasses to add to the beauty. However, the most picturesque spot in this town can be found after walking up the big hill in town, lined with beautiful Victorian houses and witnessing the view from down below. On the ocean side, there is also a stunning pink sand beach that runs for two miles and some very soft sand. It is one of the most amazing beaches to be found!!!
13. Shroud Cay, Exumas – This cay in the northern Exumas wins the best mangrove award. It has many other qualities as well, including, a spectacular Oceanside beach, beautiful colors and lots of sea life (located in the Land & Sea Park of the Exumas), but the mangrove channels running through the cay clear to the other side are what set this island aside from the rest. Dinghying through the channel to the ocean side you will encounter sea turtles, conch, sharks, fish and some of the most beautiful mangrove forests around. It’s about a mile and a half passage, but well worth the trip and to top it off you arrive at an amazingly beautiful and secluded beach on the ocean side – great place to pack a picnic and have lunch!
14. New Bight, Cat Island – New Bight settlement wins the award or at least ties the award of Friendliest People. Not only are you able to hitchhike all through the island, but people stop and offer you a ride before you even have a chance to walk 10 feet. We were introduced to Pompey the first day in town and the next night enjoyed a live Rake & Scrape performance from him and entourage. Traveling further north up the Coast of Cat Island, you will encounter some of the most beautiful and longest white sandy beaches in the Bahamas. The ocean side of the island is practically one big stretch of beach and has some amazing reef for snorkeling as well. The vibe on the whole island is laid back, even the bar at Pigeon Cay runs off the honor system, where you pour your own drink and put it on your tab.
15. Long Island – The best conch bar can be found just north of Clarence Town off the side of the road - Max’s Conch Bar. So delicious and fresh, it’s cleaned in 60-seconds before your eyes, and sitting in a bowl in front of you the next minute. Max is there cleaning the conch and visiting with the customers as well, quite the character and social butterfly. Definitely worth a stop for the ambience itself, VIP seating is across the road in foldout chairs! Close-by you can also check out the deepest salt water blue hole in the world at Dean’s Blue Hole. Beaches are beautiful and long on the ocean side. The east side of Long Island, also wins the best fishing award because this is where we caught our infamous 7 foot sailfish!