The Bimini Cays, 75 km (45 mi) east of Miami and Florida, mark the highest point of a submarine ridge that emerges from the turquoise water at North Bimini, and runs the length of the island along the Gulf Stream. Here, in complete contrast to the sandy slopes of the bay side where most people live, there’s only a narrow coastal ledge before the ocean floor drops into a sudden deep. This is the fishing capital of the Bahamas, the site of world record catches of marlin, sailfish, giant tuna, swordfish, wahoo and bonefish.
The big game fish bring divers as well as hunters to Alice Town, the commercial center of North Bimini and the cays. It’s bisected by the King’s Highway, the main drag lined by Government buildings, hotels, restaurants, stop-at-nothing bars, shops, tattoo parlours, the Straw Market, resorts and marinas. This concentration of amenities leaves Bimini’s most beautiful beach empty: Queen’s Highway, on the island’s west, stretches past the endless sands of Radio Beach, Blister Beach and Spook Hill.
Divers head for the bonanza of colorful fish on Rainbow Reef or the Bimini Barge wreck in 28 m (90 ft) of crystal-clear water; and the shallows of North Bimini’s enclosed bay also provide a rare opportunity to explore the extraordinary marine life of proliferating Red Mangroves.
Bimini’s reputation for fishing and adventure was cemented by the American laureate Ernest Hemingway. The combination of lush tropical mangroves and the crashing spume of the open ocean proved an irresistible lure – and inspired both The Old Man and The Sea’ and ‘Islands In The Stream’. You’ll feel the same visceral attraction to Bimini’s primal appeal.
Population: 1,800 (2005)
When to go: Year-round. The fishing tournament season runs from March to September.
How to get there: By scheduled air to S Bimini, from Nassau or Florida; by weekly mailboat to Alice Town (N) or Cat Cay (S), from Nassau.
Highlights: Bottom fishing in the marshes and mangroves of South Bimini.
The dockside scales where the big game fish get publicly weighed. Diving/snorkelling at Little Caverns. The heritage bar-crawl known as ‘Hemingway’s Hideaways’.
The Bimini Museum in Alice Town, with mementos of the town’s notoriety as a liquor depot for Prohibition-era rum-runners.
You should know: Visitors may rent only mopeds, bicycles, or golf carts – and you must drive on the left, because British rules apply.