While searching online for a true quiet island getaway, I happened across Long Island, Bahamas, a small island eighty miles long and only three miles wide, aptly named "Long Island," one of the southern most out islands in the Bahamas.
As I began to read about the lack of tourism, the beautiful stretched out and secluded beaches on both the Atlantic and the Caribbean sides of the island, I found myself already beginning to relax and envisioned myself strolling down an incredibly beautiful beach for hours without a care in the world…
Continuing my education, I began to soak up the laid back way of life. I felt a major urge to get myself to this island and the sooner, the better.
Like a dream come true, as I begin to write this, I am sitting on the porch of a wonderful, romantic cottage, The Whistling Duck, located south of Clarence Town.
Our small 20 seats or so plane landed at Deadman's Cay Airport (Cay is pronounced "key" in the Bahamas) at the southern end of the island. We were greeted by Nancy, the caretaker for the owners or our private cottage, who drove us to The Whistling Duck.
She was friendly, had a hearty Bahamian laugh, and offered to help us with anything (including a rental car which we took advantage of our second day). She said she was a phone call away if we had any questions.
On our flight from Nassau to Deadman's Cay, we found ourselves already wondering what might be the best thing about what we would end up calling "The Other Long Island"…
It certainly could be the incredible water. There are the most beautiful hues of Caribbean and Atlantic blues from clear to light blue to aqua to turquoise to deep bluish-purple to varying oceanic shades of green, I have ever seen.
Then again it might be the amazingly secluded beaches with soft sands, good shell hunting and the constant soothing rhythm of crashing waves. Wait, it's probably that Long Island has the most down to earth, friendly people on the planet.
If you have a craving for quiet adventure, there are many small roads angling off the single north and south main road, Queen's Highway. Every one of the small, mainly dirt or sand "car paths" must lead to a new head shaking "Wow!" view and experience.
No, actually it's got to be the water sports from snorkeling, diving, sailing, boating, fishing, to kayaking.
In hindsight, the best thing about The Other Long Island may be one of the sights or activities that we didn't get to, such as caving or who knows what!
The most appealing aspect could be a combination of any of the above, or maybe it's simply completely relaxing, being away from all the stress of work and city life.
This island takes your imagination back in time to what the Bahamas used to be like. Amenities are few. The food is great. Supplies are limited but available if you find out where and when to go. Bahamian and U.S. dollars are interchangeable. The people are warm, always seem to have a welcoming smile planted on their friendly faces and more than hospitable and helpful.
The Whistling Duck cottage was everything it had looked to be on the website and more. Our fowl feather namesake cottage had a perfect covered front porch with a double wicker swing, gas barbecue grill and two teak and canvas chairs to sit and soak up the views of the Atlantic and the harbor at Clarence Town.
We quickly discovered this was the perfect spot to sip morning coffee or tea, read to our hearts content, or simply relax.
There is another deck off the bedroom, complete with two chaise lounges and an outdoor shower, the one I used all week. Ceiling fans in the living room, kitchen area and the bedroom help keep the interior comfortable with constant man-made breezes.
There is a gazebo at the water's edge where we hung out absorbing the water's sights and sounds and spent time reading throughout the week. Nice bath and beach towels are included. A kayak is available for a small deposit. Laundry facilities are located at the Flying Fish Marina if needed. For an additional fee you can have Nancy clean the cottage each day.
Two bikes were included with the cottage and provided exercise and transportation for our first days' adventure on the island to check out Clarence Town.
We filled our backpack with supplies from one of the two small stores and befriended a small boy, Horace, at the True Value food and sundry store. Horace seemed truly intrigued by my silver and blue Asics running shoes, shown by the awe in his big eyes when he reached down to touch them.
We quickly discovered that a car was a must if we really wanted to explore the island. Riding eighty miles on bikes one way to get to the northern tip of our quiet island getaway was simply too much.
By the way, be sure to take enough cash as some of the rental car operators do not accept credit cards. (If you think gas is expensive in the U.S., check out the $6.10 per gallon in the Bahamas, and this is in 2008!).
The tourist map of Long Island is like a cartoon and makes it look like all the roads on the island are paved. If you have an adventuresome spirit, don't be surprised when taking one of the many off-shooting roads from Queen's Highway to suddenly find yourself on a small, rocky, car-width path that looks like it is going nowhere.
Rest assured that slow going and patience will pay off with breathtaking rewards as the startling, beautiful ocean views provide stimulating visual overload, especially on the Caribbean side of the island.
Throughout our first week of July visit, there was a constant breeze. The various bird species were gaily singing each morning. We fairly quickly found out why the cottage was named The Whistling Duck! There is indeed such a flying feather friend on the island!
The hummingbirds were busy flitting from flower to flower during the day. My better half unknowingly imitated a flower one afternoon while wearing a bright yellow top and had to gently wave to get a hummingbird to leave her alone.
The humidity was very high and sweatily noticeable. The combination of being in the shade and the breeze was very nice and the best place to be unless we were in the water. Working out on the front deck each morning got me drenched within minutes. The ocean view definitely kept me inspired!
On day two, Nancy dropped off the rental car we had arranged the day before and we set out on our first driving adventure. Using the tourist map, we headed south to Hard Bargain, one of some thirty plus townships up and down the island.
We entertained ourselves by pretending to figure out how Hard Bargain got its name and came up with numerous possibilities. Turning east on a small gravel road, we headed toward the Caribbean side of the island and ended up by the abandoned salt fields of the Diamond Crystal Salt Company.
In the days before refrigeration, salt was used to preserve meats and fish for ships setting out to sea and had been a huge business. We thought we were lost when we rounded a curve in the road and simultaneously gasped at the incredible, stunning spectrum of light blue Caribbean waters. This may have been the most beautiful vision of ocean water either one of us has ever seen!
Following the sand and gravel road, we returned to Queen's Highway (a fairly small, two lane blacktop road which runs almost the entire north-south length of the island) and headed north. For the most part, the drive is not very exciting. There are occasional ocean views on one side or the other. Taking almost any side road will likely lead to beautiful ocean views, a deserted beach, and a new adventure.
Wanting to check out the Stella Maris Resort, built in the 1960's, we found ourselves standing on a hill in the middle of the resort where we could see the deep almost purple-blue waters of the Atlantic looking one way and the stellar, azure blue rainbow waters of the Caribbean by simply turning our heads 180 degrees, which was quite astonishing.
The Stella Maris Resort is large and is the only place on the island with tennis courts. We noticed several for sale signs in the front of a few of the homes located within the resort, and found ourselves wishfully wondering… Sigh.
Lunching at the resort overlooking the beach, we found the food and service were okay but could use some quality improvement. We did not get to see what are apparently some of the best plantation ruins on the island, which are located on the resort property.
We had hoped to make it all the way to the northern tip of the island to see one of the other two resorts, Cape Santa Maria and the Christopher Columbus Monument, but decided we were running out of time. We will make sure we see both on our next visit.
Wonderfully, the remainder of the week we had no plans whatsoever and each morning casually decided what we would do for the next few hours. No stress, no phones, no technology, no traffic, no rushing around. Simply the constant caressing breezes and soothing sounds of the Atlantic waves to relax us, stimulate our senses and soothe our souls.
We enjoyed taking long walks on Lochabar Beach. We quickly realized that getting to the beach from the gazebo was much easier at low tide, which had to be lower than high tide by at least three to four feet.
We found numerous small conch shells and two large conchs with the most beautiful deep pink on the inside, sand dollars, and lots of smaller shells throughout the week.
Walking to the right for about thirty minutes on Lochabar Beach, we rounded the bend and encountered a huge blue hole. Blue holes immediately plummet from the surrounding shallow sandy waters to fairly extreme depths.
One of our coolest adventures was to see the deepest blue hole in the world. Dean's Blue Hole is located at Long Island and goes to a depth of around 660 feet! We were told that the second largest known underwater cavern in the world is at the bottom of Dean's Blue Hole.
We had a wonderful picnic here one afternoon, just the two of us. I was rather nervous contemplating snorkeling out into Dean's Blue Hole and I decided it must have been the extreme unknown of what lies in the depths below. Locals dive from the low cliffs on the backside of the hole and swim in its waters all the time.
My better and much prettier half, had no issues swimming out into the middle of Dean's Blue Hole… and loves giving me trouble about being a chicken to this day!
The third morning, I called Nancy to find out where to get fresh fish, thinking there had to be plenty in the Bahamas. She mentioned Nick the fisherman and gave us his number. I left a message and he called us back a few hours later.
Nick the fisherman said he had grouper and red snapper he had caught the day before. It turned out Nick, his wife and six children lived at the end of our sandy, gravel road. It took five minutes to walk up the hill to his house where we were met by a welcoming version of man's best friend, who ran up to us wagging his tail excitedly and definitely got our petting attention.
There was a fair amount of miscellaneous underwater sonar equipment and three fishing boats in the yard. It was evident this family spent a lot of time by, in, on or under the water.
Nick greeted us warmly and invited us in.
There were attention-grabbing shark jaws mounted on the wall in order from small and harmless looking, to, "no way you want to encounter one of these in the water," holy sh_ _! large jawed, teeth filled specimens.
Nick shared a little about how they ended up on Long Island. We learned he was from Nassau. Nick and his wife Fiona have four boys and two girls.
Twenty-three years ago he came up with the idea to create a native Bahamian calendar, which the entire family now contributes to. It is sold throughout the Bahamas. The artwork is original and each month has native Bahamian tidbits including history and recipes for such things as soup and conch dishes.
We bought two copies at one of the local stores to bring back home with us. We plan to take advantage of some of the local recipes and use them for our next gourmet club dinner in the mode of a Bahamian theme dinner!
Nick started talking about a few of the ship-wrecks he had explored and showed us several items of interest such as one hundred year old antique gin bottles, four hundred year old olive jars, and more.
One of the wrecks he mentioned was a ship called the Southhampton, which prompted me to share that my godson was attending Southhampton University in southern England to get his masters in Marine Archaeology.
Five days later on our way to the airport to leave the island I noticed Nick's royal blue pick-up truck coming toward us. His wife was leaning out the window waving her arms and trying to flag us down.
We pulled over and Nick ran up to our car. He said "I have something for your god-son," and pulled out a small white pipe. He explained he had recovered the pipe from a ship that had purportedly been set ablaze by Blackbeard the Pirate. Nick thought my godson, Tim, would like it. No doubt, Tim will love it!
I have never before experienced this level of friendliness, excitement, exuberance and generosity on a vacation. What an island! Maybe we should keep it a secret. No way, this is a story to share as an example for how the world used to be, in some cases still is, and definitely the way it should be!
The Outer Edge Grill, located by the Flying Fish Marina in Clarence Town, ended up being one of our favorite spots. It is right on the water and is a wonderful place to experience a simple, local flavor for lunch or dinner or to have a drink and dreamily watch the boats, water birds and other creatures.
We had lunch at The Outer Edge Grill several times, enjoying each visit immensely. After one bite we concluded their conch fritters were most likely going to be the best on the island. Cracked conch and grilled grouper made for savory meals.
Everyone at The Outer Edge was very friendly. We enjoyed talking with Hermie and particularly with Stanlika. After my mentioning all the fried food on the island, Stan suggested to special order anywhere to have our food grilled, which was a great tidbit for the rest of our trip.
It was fun checking out the boats coming in and out of the small marina during the week. There were a few fishing boats and some rather large, luxurious vessels as well. Some of the names were Les Belles, Carcharia, Island Hope, Liquid Gold, Island Dream, and Endless Adventure. Home ports included Miami, Coral Gables, and Nassau among others.
Rowdy Boys at the Winter Haven Resort in Clarence Town is by the water on the other side of the small peninsula by the marina. The food was very good and the family that owned it was extremely friendly.
We met the grandmother Chloe and her husband, a granddaughter Justine who waited on us and one of the sons. One afternoon we offered to buy Chloe a drink. She chose a concoction called SkyJuice, consisting of gin and very sweet coconut milk. She soon began sharing some of her family history. She also shared that her son Ben had taken the owners of the yacht Les Belles (see above paragraph) deep-sea fishing. Ben had learned they had no plans and were simply planning their laid back adventure day by day. What a wonderful way to travel the sea!
Chloe and her husband had owned and operated a pineapple and banana farm, which had been destroyed by a hurricane a few years ago. She had tears in her eyes as she shared some of the hardships her family had experienced. Their three boys had argued somewhat loudly through their younger years and had been given the nickname of the 'Rowdy Boys."
Rowdy Boys Construction now builds throughout the Bahamas and had finished The Winter Haven Resort and Rowdy Boys Bar and Restaurant just over a year ago for their parents and family to run. We look forward to visiting Rowdy Boys and this family again.
The Forest Restaurant is three miles south of The Whistling Duck. We had a wonderful dinner of cracked lobster, cracked conch, peas and rice and mashed potatoes here one night. The proprietors, Dudley and Patty, were great.
One afternoon we called in to special order grilled grouper and chicken sandwiches, which were awesome by the way. When we stopped by to pick up our picnic lunch, Dudley waited on us. I shared that my stomach had been off all morning. He insisted on making me a club soda and blackberry brandy to fix me up. They were out of club soda, so he used ginger ale. I told Dudley I did not want any alcohol to no avail as he insisted I drink it straight down. I did so reluctantly and was pleasantly surprised at the taste. Thirty minutes later my stomach felt fine. Nothing like a good ol' local Bahamian medicinal beverage to fix you right up!
We stopped in a few of the small roadside stores to buy water and a handful of food items during the week. Everywhere we went the people were genuinely friendly. We had nothing but extraordinarily wonderful "encounters" with Long Island folk the entire week.
The Oasis Bakery outside of Clarence Town has wonderful home-baked breads, including whole wheat and multi-grain, cookies and decadent local desserts. You can order sandwiches for takeaway (the island term for "to go") or eat outside at the bakery. We observed it was common for small establishments to have a small bar onsite, and the Oasis was no exception.
Our favorite afternoon ended up being an impromptu stop at Max's Conch Bar in Deadman's Cay. You can't miss Max's as there are international flags waving on each side of the road and a few junk cars, one of which has been spray painted with "Max's Conch Bar" on both sides.
We sauntered in for a tropical drink and lunch. We placed an order for a white wine and a tropical punch with Liz. Liz and her husband Gary own Max's. She seemed truly happy to see us and to meet us.
Sitting and sipping our thirst quenching cocktails we watched ingredients being chopped for what turned out to be fresh, homemade conch salad, by none other than Gary, who wielded a machete sized, razor-sharp knife as deftly and swiftly as anyone I have ever seen.
We knew we just had to have some of this fresh island delicacy and placed two orders. Kathy had never had conch salad before. She loved it just as much as I did and it was the best I had ever tasted.
One of us asked how Max's had come to be. Liz told us Gary had often used a spear gun when he had been a fisherman. When he missed his target he would retrieve his spear, often swimming right by sharks. His fellow diving mates thought he was crazy and nicknamed him "Mad Max" after Mel Gibson's movie. Therefore, Max's Conch Bar, named after the crazy fisherman!
People constantly came and went while we consumed our delectable lunch. We figured Max's must be one of the spots for socializing, food and drink. The decor is about as native as it gets. The round, wooden shack has numerous posters of various Kalik and other island beer girls showing off their healthy, curvaceous bodies. Shells, coral, bright colors, and checker boards with bottle caps as game pieces are scattered about in island designer fashion. The bar is even a rare internet hot spot and there is no charge for signing on.
During our last afternoon we stopped to check out the Long Island Library and Museum. We enjoyed browsing through the various albums depicting and explaining various aspects of the history, culture and traditions of the island through the years. There are examples of some of the local craftsmanship, historical news articles for the Bahamas, and even some homemade condiments for sale near the exit. It was certainly worth the $3.00 fee for the educational and fun experience.
We decided we had to return to Max's for dinner our last night on Long Island. This was without a doubt our best meal on the island. Grilled conch and marinated mutton were Liz's suggestions and they were incredible. In the Bahamas, mutton is either sheep or goat.
Mutton this night was goat, which was a first for me and it was mout-watering. Gary whipped up some mango daiquiris, made with a secret blend of five rums and fresh mango, which were absolutely the best daiquiris I have ever tasted. The four of us had a wonderful time getting to know each other a little. We talked about all sorts of topics from the Bahamas to the U.S., to drinks, to food, to family and friends, and even shared a few personal fun stories about our prior lives. We were sad to say good night, though it was almost 11 p.m.
Even though our visit was only for one week, there are seemingly endless stories we could share from our week on "The Other Long Island," truly an incredible quiet island getaway.
Though the island is laid back and peaceful, there are actually many things to do. Four activities we did not get to do were scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, snorkeling on one of the coral reefs, and touring one of the numerous island caves. These are already on our "to do" list for our next trip to the island.
During our all too brief visit, we took walks on several beaches, including Lochabar Beach, Galloway Beach, the beach by Dean's Blue Hole, and a few whose names we do not know.
Incredibly, we saw a total of two people and a dog while walking on these beaches. They were the softest sand and most scenic stretches of beach, complete with various types of rock formations, I have ever seen.
Feeling the plush sand beneath our feet and between our toes, the colors of the water, seeing sea turtles, shell hunting, the scenery up and down the coast, and the miracle of no people, made our beach experience one that could not have been more relaxing, soothing and invigorating.
If stretches of secluded, quiet beaches are one of your prerequisites, the beaches of Long Island make it one of the best romantic islands I can possibly imagine.
If you require shopping, upper end amenities, constant service, and living in the lap of luxury, you probably want to look for a Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton type resort. These are not to be found on the quiet island getaway of Long Island.
If you prefer quiet adventure travel and dream of feeling like you have gone back in time, don't care about updated or high-tech infrastructure, love beautiful desolate beaches, want to interact with real, friendly and unassuming people, and simply want to relax more than you ever thought possible, you will want to check out Long Island in the Bahamas.
Quiet and secluded are apt descriptive terms for Long Island, Bahamas. Keep this in mind if you're considering a family vacation.
I have never felt so completely relaxed and filled with such inner peace as I did while on Long Island. This sentiment was echoed by my lovely soul mate. Kathy and I can't wait to go back to "The Other Long Island," an incredibly wonderful and beautiful quiet island getaway.
Note: If you're looking for a secluded and romantic quiet island, start planning your trip to Long Island now! (See below to Book Empowered Travel!).
(The code for Deadman's Cay airport on the southern tip of Long Island, Bahamas is LGI. The code for Stella Maris airport on the northern tip of the Long Island, Bahamas is MYLS).