Planning a Trip to Eleuthera, Bahamas

Eleuthera is one of the nearly 700 islands in the Bahamas archipelago. It is a wonderful place to vacation if you want to experience a slice of real island life, away from big resorts and their crowds. Since it’s less built up, planning your vacation requires a little more legwork, but the payoff is worth it. Plus, you can have lots of fun making jokes about visiting urethra. (It’s actually pronounced “el oo thur ah”, but the joke is funny at least once.)

Eleuthera is long and skinny, like a spaghetti noodle someone dropped in the sea.

Eleuthera Island Layout

There are three islands in this area: Harbour Island, Spanish Wells, and Eleuthera itself. Eleuthera is long, skinny island. There is one main road called the Queen’s highway, which runs the length of the island. Don’t let the name fool you, this highway is really a two lane road that accommodates a max speed of about 45mph, so don’t expect to get anywhere quickly. That’s okay; when you’re here you’re on island time anyway.

We were all on edge driving on the wrong side of the road!

Eleuthera used to be a British colony so traffic drives on the left side of the road. The rental cars have handy stickers on the windshield to remind you to “keep left.” We stayed just north of Savannah Sound and it took about an hour and a half to get from the North Eleuthera airport to our airbnb, which was 49 miles away. Oof.

Harbour Island

Harbor Island is a small island near North Eleuthera. This island has the most hotels and is considered more “boutique” – aka, posh. You can get to the island via a short water taxi ride from Eleuthera and once on the island, you can rent a golf cart to get around.

The beaches are pink sand and will be some of the only ones (but not the only ones) with amenities such as restaurants, beach chairs, and restrooms. You can find plenty of pink sand beaches off of Harbour Island as well.

Harbour Island (photo courtesy of countrylife.co.uk)

Spanish Wells

Spanish Wells is also a small island that you can get to via water taxi from Eleuthera. It used to be (still is?) a fishing enclave and is just now getting some tourism so is not as built up as Harbour Island.

The fishing village of Spanish Wells (photo courtesy of southernboating.com)

Getting To Eleuthera

The main airport is North Eleuthera Airport (ELH). American Airlines and Delta fly in here from the United States. Even though this is the main airport, it is super small. You’ll deplane directly onto the tarmac and customs looks like a booth at the county fair.

North Eleuthera Airport
North Eleuthera airport is the “big” airport on the island.

It takes about ten steps to walk through the airport and out the door. If you’re hungry or thirsty when you land, there are a few little restaurants across the street from the airport that sell cold drinks and food.

There are several cute places across the street from ELH to grab food and drinks.

There is another, smaller airport in Governor’s Harbor, near the center of the island. It is serviced by Silver Airways and Pineapple air which are smaller airplanes that mostly come in from the other islands. In my opinion, this one is much more conveniently located but we didn’t have the option of coming through unless we spent a layover in Nassau, which would have been an even bigger pain than the long drive from ELH.

Our airbnb at Ten Bay beach was slightly far from the airport.

Our airbnb on Ten Bay beach was amazing but it was an hour and a half drive to and from North Eleuthera airport which was not an ideal start to the vacation. Next time we go we may choose to stay somewhere a bit further north, near Governor’s Harbor or Gregory Town as there were plenty of beaches there that looked quite nice.

Getting Around

You will definitely need a rental car on Eleuthera. Services like Uber and Lyft are non-existent and taxis are hard to come by. Things are spread out enough that it would be impossible to walk. Although regular cars are available to rent, I highly recommend getting an SUV. Lots of the roads are rough, especially ones heading to some of the beaches.

SUVs are better for navigating the beach roads, like this one heading to French Leave beach.

Rental Cars

You won’t find any big name rental car companies on Eleuthera. There are some small car rental companies and then some very small ones. They are all pretty informal.

We rented from Neville at Nu-Look Car Rental and they were very easy to work with. I highly recommend them. The rental SUV was nice by island standards and it ran well. We gave Neville our flight information and he met us at the airport with our car. We ducked into a small, bare shack with a single desk covered in a game of dominoes. There, he ran our credit card and we signed a one page rental contract. It was greatly preferable to the drawn out rental process I’m used to.

Currency

The official currency is Bahamian dollars but you can pay in USD with no problem at all. Credit cards were accepted almost everywhere and in fact, Coco Cream ice cream shop in Governor’s Harbor didn’t take cash at all.

The ice cream at Coco Cream was really good, like not even for an island or anything. Just actually, good.

It’s still a good idea to bring some cash with you though because there were instances where it was the only option or the most convenient option.

Food and Drink on Eleuthera

Food on the island is pricey.

Groceries

Grocery stores, like the car rental companies, range from small to teeny weeny. The small ones have a decent enough selection to eat fairly well, although not gourmet.

There is one market called Bacchus Fine Foods in Governor’s Harbor which is touted as a great place to find fancier food – and it is. However, that is all you will find there.

Bacchus Fine Foods is a specialty food store, definitely not a place to grab all your groceries.

It has a decent selection of expensive wine, and a small selection of very, very expensive imported foods like smoked salmon and soft cheeses like brie and burrata. It’s definitely not a grocery store where you can one-stop shop.

Bacchus Fine Foods also has a cute little bar area outside if you want to grab a snack and a drink.

Near Savannah Sound, where we were staying, there is Midway Cost Cutter, which has a fair selection and a very friendly staff.

Midway Cost Cutter is one of the larger grocery stores. It’s small by US standards, but has all the basics.

Just north of it, in South Palmetto Point, is Island Farm market. It is an outdoor farmer’s market with a very good selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. You can also get some decent cheeses and beer and liquor which is nice because they don’t sell beer or liquor at the normal grocery stores.

Island Farm market is open air and quaint and also has a great selection!
Fresh fruits, veggies, and alcohol are available at the Island Farm.

Island Farm market also sells homemade hot sauces and salsas. We tried several and they were all extremely good, especially the “Smoking Hot Hot Sauce” which was smoky and very spicy. Four of us went through several bottles of it during our 8 day stay.

Alcohol

You’ll have to go to a liquor store for liquor and beer but you can usually find a liquor store near a grocery store. Liquor stores will have a full selection of beers, liquor, wine, and seltzers. I recommend grabbing a case or two of Kalik beer (pronounced kind of like “click”), which is the official beer of the Bahamas and the perfect refreshment while lazing on the beach.

Drink Kalik beer in Eleutera, Bahamas.
Drinking original Kalik because Kalik light actually has more calories…who ever heard of such a thing??

Dining Out

Groceries are expensive but restaurants will break the bank. We ate out twice, once at the Buccaneer Club in Governor’s Harbor and once at La Bougainvillea just south of Governor’s Harbor.

The Buccaneer Club in Governor's Harbor, Eleuthera.
The Buccaneer Club in Governor’s Harbor, Eleuthera.
$40 average entrĂ©e price at the Buccaneer club – for lunch!!

At the Buccaneer Club the four of us had beers and snacks: stone crab claws, french fries x 2, onion rings. Our final bill was an eye popping $150 USD. Granted, stone crab claws aren’t really ever a budget selection.

Were these stone crab claws worth $56? When hungry: definitely; When bill comes: no way

We had a proper lunch at La Bougainvillea (on a different day, we’re not animals), which is a restaurant attached to a boutique hotel of the same name. The food was okay, but not spectacular. Even for a slightly more upscale lunch, the $350 bill for 4 people still felt like a kick in the gut.

Ready for lunch at La Bougainvillea in Governor’s Harbor.
The firecracker shrimp was super tasty.
The conch fritters were good, but like, Applebee’s good.

On the plus side, lunch patrons can swim at the hotel pool if they bring their own towel. A leisurely fourteen hour swim may have made the lunch price worth it, but we left pretty soon after eating because a big storm was rolling in.

La Bougainvillea Hotel on Eleuthera, Bahamas
La Bougainvillea Hotel pool is available to lunch patrons, but bring your own towel!

La Bougainvillea was expensive, but it is a nice restaurant geared towards visitors, so we knew what we were signing up for.

But What About Eleuthera Beaches?

Of course, there is a lot more to know about Eleuthera but this covers some of the basics. My next post is about the beaches we experienced, and a little about the ones we wanted to go to but didn’t.

There are several pink sand beaches on the Atlantic side of Eleuthera.

One of the positives of a long, skinny island is that there are a TON of beaches. On the other hand, a long, skinny island takes quite a while to traverse and it’s just not possible to get to all of the beaches if you plan on staying long enough to enjoy any of them. One thing I learned though, is that not all Eleuthera beaches are created equal. We definitely found a favorite!

Ten Bay Beach on Eleuthera, Bahamas
Eleuthera has many coves that boast super wide beaches and calm waters.

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