Eleuthera refers both to a single island in the archipelagic state of The Commonwealth of the Bahamas and to its associated group of smaller islands.Eleuthera forms a part of the Great Bahama Bank. The island of Eleuthera incorporates the smaller Harbour Island. "Eleuthera" derives from the feminine Greek adjective ἐλεύθερος (eleutheros), meaning "free".Known in the 17th century as Cigateo, it lies 80 km (50 miles) east of Nassau. It is long and thin—180 km (110 miles) long and in places little more than 1.6 km (1.0 mile) wide. Its eastern side faces the Atlantic Ocean, and its western side faces the Great Bahama Bank. The topography of the island varies from wide rolling pink sand beaches to large outcrops of ancient coral reefs, and its population is approximately 11,000. The principle economy of the island is tourism.
Geography and wildlife
The name Eleuthera refers both to the single Bahamian island and is also used to refer to its associated chain of small islands, which include Harbour Island, Windermere Island Man Island and Current Island.Eleuthera forms part of the Great Bahama Bank on its western edge and its eastern coastline faces the Atlantic Ocean. The main island lies 80 km (50 miles) east of Nassau. It is a long and thin island; 180 km (110 miles) long and little more than 1.6 km (1.0 mile) wide at its narrowest. The island has an estimated area of 457.4 square-kilometers, and presents 336 km (210 miles) of coastline.
The topography of the island varies, including wide rolling pink sand beaches, large outcrops of ancient coral reefs, caves and other geological features. The island features, among other flora and fauna, 13 catalogued species of native amphibian and reptile species, three of which were listed as endangered in 2000. The main island is home to a 25 acre nature preserve; the Leon Levy Native Plant Reserve, which includes an environmental education centre. The waters around Eleuthera contain an abundance of Sharks and Rays, which is attributed by the local Cape Eleuthera Institute to the banning of long-line fishing in local waters.
In 2000, the official census taken by the Government of the Bahamas recorded a population of 7,999 persons on the island. In 2010, the official census recorded the population as 8,202 spread across 2,718 separate households. The 2010 census stated that population density of the island was 57.6 persons, per square mile. As of 2017 it was stated that the population of the islands were approximately 11,000.
Economy and Settlements
Settlements on the island include (north to south) the Bluff, Upper and Lower Bogue, Current, Gregory Town, Alice Town, James Cistern, Governor's Harbour, North and South Palmetto Point, Savannah Sound, Winding Bay, Tarpum Bay, Rock Sound, Greencastle, Deep Creek, Delancy Town, Waterford, Wemyss Bight, John Millars, Millar's and Bannerman Town.
The largest of the settlements are Governor's Harbour (the administrative capital), Rock Sound, Tarpum Bay, Harbour Island with its unusual pink sandy beaches and Spanish Wells. The largest settlements in terms of population in Eleuthera are Dunmore Town, Spanish Wells and Rock Sound.
There is an annual Pineapple Festival in Gregory Town. Eleuthera is a destination for those interested in Bahamian history and nature, and neighboring Harbour Island and Spanish Wells offer further tourism experiences. Natural attractions include the Glass Window Bridge, Hatchet Bay caves and Surfer's Beach in the north, and Ocean Hole and Lighthouse Beach at the south end. Preacher's Cave on the north end was home to the Eleutherian Adventurers in the mid-17th century, and recent excavations have uncovered Arawak remains at the site. As of 2000, per capita GDP for the island was: $5756 Bahamian, with a chief human economic activity being tourism, and 6% of population being involved in fishing, agriculture, or mining.
Transportation - Get In
Eleuthera has 3 airports: North Eleuthera (ELH), Governors Harbour (GHB), and Rock Sound (RSD). All airports are small, open-air and convenient. ELH and GHB have onsite bars and ELH has an onsite restaurant.
ELH has the most flights arriving and departing. ELH is a short taxi ride and water taxi ride to Harbour Island. Most car rental places on the island will gladly pick you up at ELH and drive to another town on the island. ELH is 15 to 20 minutes north of Gregory Town.
GHB is the centrally-located airport, located just south of the town of James Cistern and a 10 to 15 minute drive to Governor's Harbour, the largest town on Eleuthera.
Continental flies into ELH from Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) and Miami (MIA). Twin Air flies from Ft. Lauderdale into all 3 airports on Eleuthera. It's about an hour's flight from Miami or Fort Lauderdale to Eleuthera. You can fly from Nassau to Eleuthera on Southern Air, Pineapple Air, or Bahamas Air; the flight is less than 30 minutes from Nassau.
Bahamas Ferries. The ferry docks on Eleuthera at Governor's Harbour, Spanish Wells and neighboring Harbour Island. To get to and from Eleuthera and Harbour Island or Spanish Wells, you take a water taxi and a cab ride to reach your destination.
Transportation - Get around
Eleuthera has no public transport system. There are taxis and car rentals. It's generally best to rent a car to explore Eleuthera. Hitchhiking is popular and locals are generally helpful and friendly. Bicycling is increasingly popular, but see notes below.
In 2010, the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, a lush, 25-acre sanctuary, opened as Eleuthera’s first National Park. Created jointly by the Leon Levy Foundation and the Bahamas National Trust, the Preserve is home to more than 171 species of indigenous plants and has become a popular destination for local teachers and schoolchildren, as well as tourists.
Eleuthera is 110 miles long, and delightful to explore. Be prepared: Eleuthera's gas prices are $1-2 higher than the U.S. Car rental costs are based on a per day basis and never involve extra fees. In most cases, you don't sign papers. No car rental chain companies exist on Eleuthera -- you rent from locals who may keep a fleet of rental cars in their yards. Some entrepreneurs combine their car rental companies with a gas station or with a taxi company. As you drive around (on the LEFT-HAND side of the road), you will need a good map or good local knowledge.
Eleuthera with its rolling hills (and three killers around Gregory Town) is the most challenging island of the Bahamas. The main road, Queen's Highway, the only option for road bikes) should not be ridden by beginners. For more casual riders, mountain bikes are fine; a hybrid is an ideal compromise. There are no bike shops and serious riders usually bring their own, but several resorts and individuals rent mountain bikes or hybrids. Refer to other pages on Eleuthera for details.
Bicycling is a growing sport and Eleuthera hosts the Cancer Society "Ride for Hope," with 50-75-100 mile competitions, every April. The Queen's Highway is well paved (watch out for road repairs north of Governor's Harbour airport). Drivers are generally courteous, giving bikes a wide berth, but use a rearview mirror and wear a helmet. The greater danger lies ahead: cars pulling out to pass who may not see you coming at them. Be alert when you see an oncoming car closely following another. Another problem: being chased local dogs ("pot-cakes"). Lately there haven't been many, but be on the lookout south of Tarpum Bay and around Gregory Town.
Harbour Island To reach Harbour Island, one can take a water taxi (~$5) from the main island of Eleuthera. Harbour Island has the highest concentration of hotels; many of them upscale. Harbour Island is more densely populated than Eleuthera. The 3 mile beach on Harbour Island features pink sand and clear waters and has often been cited by various travel magazines as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
The islands first settlers are believed to have originated from the main continent of the Americas. This included the original population of Taino, or Arawaks. Following increasing Spanish visits after the discovery of the area by Christopher Colombus the local population either perished were diseased or arestated to have been deported by the Spanish to work in the mines of Hispaniola, where they died out by 1550 . An intact wooden duho or ritual seat that was made by the Taino people was found on the island of Eleuthera in the nineteenth century and is now in the collections of the British Museum. The island in its early history was known as Cigateo, but this name changed following subsequent European settlement.
The island is believed to have been largely unoccupied until the first European settlers arrived in volume, with puritan pilgrims (who formed the previous year in London) arriving in 1648 from other parts of Bermuda.These settlers, known as the "Eleutherian Adventurers", under Captain William Sayle gave the island its current name - ἐλευθερία eleutheria which derives from the feminine form of the Greek adjective ἐλεύθερος, eleutheros, meaning "free". The difficulties of settlement ultimately left only a few of the settlers on the island, but had these Puritan pioneers succeeded in their aim, they would have created the first democracy in the Western Hemisphere, almost 130 years prior to the American Revolution.
The island was stated to have been agriculturally prosperous in the period from 1950 to 1980. This included a large crop of pineapples for exports. When the Bahamas became independent from Britain in 1973, new ownership laws changed the nature of the island economy. Since then the island has become a popular tourist destination.
In 1992 the island was severely damaged by the category 5 Hurricane Andrew; massive wind speeds hit the island and an 18 foot tidal surge inundated the coastal area. Relief efforts helped mitigate some of the damage, including a number of relief tasks that were carried out by HMS Cardiff as the vessel was operating in the area.
Things to see
- The many beautiful beaches
- The Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve
- Current Cut in North Eleuthera
- Preachers' Cave in North Eleuthera
- Glass Window Bridge in North-Eleuthera
- Queen's Bath south of Glass Window Bridge
- Surfer's Beach south of Gregory Town
- Hatchet Bay Caves south of Gregory Town
- Ocean Hole in Rock Sound, South Eleuthera
- Lighthouse Beach / Bannerman Lighthouse south of Bannerman Town
Things to do
Enjoy (walk, swim, snorkel, get a tan, or whatever you like to do on beaches) the many great beaches. The water is usually rougher (bigger waves) on the Atlantic side of the island.
Surfing near Gregory Town in North-Central Eleuthera ("Surfer's Beach").
Swim, snorkel or dive the tidal current at Current Cut (North Eleuthera). Thrilling!
Fishing is one of the biggest sports in Eleuthera. Several people have recommended Paul Petty as a good local fishing guide.
Explore the Hatchet Bay Cave... bring a friend and at least one flashlight (preferably one each - or a back-up candle and matches - you don't want to get stuck without light down there!). Bring swimming gear if you want to explore the lowest level, which is half-filled with water. There are some friendly bats in the cave, but not many.
Explore some of the other caves on the island (there are several)! A) There is one just north of Ten Bay Beach (South of South Palmetto Point) - look out for the "Bahamas Heritage" sign on Queen's Highway. This one has a huge colony of bats, you can't miss them, and you will need a flashlight here! B) There is a nice system of caves just south of Rock Sound - look out for the "Bahamas Heritage" sign opposite to a church. You don't need any flashlight here. There is a small colony of bats in one of the caves. Also, look out for the turtle in the nearby "bottomless" pond. C) Preacher's Cave, close to a nice beach at the northern end of Eleuthera, is of historic interest as "The first Bahamian settlement". No flashlights needed here. The unpaved road, taking you the 2 miles or so from Queen's Highway to the cave, is a tough drive for a normal car (although possible).
Watch the Junkanoo parade in Tarpum Bay (this is a must if you happen to be on the island during Christmas time)! Check with the locals for the exact schedule.
Feed the fishes (or swim with them) in the Ocean Hole in Rock Sound.
Take a bath in "Queen's Bath", a mile or so south of the Glass Window Bridge. But make sure to watch out for big waves!
Attend a "Friday Night's Fish Fry" in Governor's Harbour. A large percentage of all tourists on the island seems to gather here every Friday for some BBQ, drinks and loud music. Be prepared to wait for an hour or more to get your food once you have ordered.
Visit nearby Harbour Island accessible via water taxi, approximately 10 minutes from the boat dock just east of North Eleuthera Airport.
Go snorkelling at Kemps Creek, Twin Coves or the Current. Go to the Schooner Cays, off Cape Eleuthera; hire a local who takes you over to these islands for the day, and live like the former beatnik on Dobey Gillis, Gilligan, sans Skipper and MaryAnne; you might see movie stars though.
- Mate & Jenny's (Mate & Jenny's Pizza Restaurant & Bar), South Palmetto Point (Turn towards South Palmetto Point from Queen's Highway and you will have Mate & Jenny's on the right very soon), . Reasonable prices and good pizzas. A good place for a laid back dinner. The owner seems to have run the place for many decades.
- Sammy's Place (Sammy's Restaurant & Bar), Rock Sound (Follow the signs or ask the locals when in Rock Sound), . Very reasonably priced and good local food.
- The Beach House Tapas Bar & Lounge, Club Med Beach (On the Atlantic side beach next to the road between Governor's Harbour and North Palmetto Point). Great food. Live music and open air "home cinema" alternates.
- The Laughing Lizzard Café, Gregory Town (On a hillside next to the main road just north of Gregory Town). Closes at 4PM.. Good place for lunch. Tasty wraps and smoothies.
- Buccaneer Club Restaurant, Governor's Harbour. OK and reasonably priced food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.
- The Bistro at Sky Beach Club, Queen's Highway, Govenors Harbour (4 miles south of the Governors Harbour airport), . Beachside and poolside restaurant with excellent seafood and international cuisine. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Tippy's Restaurant, Banks Road (Banks road between Governor's Harbour and North Palmetto across from Pineapple Fields.), . Lunch 12:30-2:30 Dinner 6-10PM. Open air dining and a breathtaking view of Club Med beach and the Atlantic ocean. New York Times said "This is not some down-at-the-heels fish fry, but the epicenter of the islands's emerging social whirl." Reservations should be made for dinner.
- Bank's Road Deli (Part of the Pineapple Fields compound just a short stroll south of Tippy's). [www] Stop by in the morning for cappuccino and croissants on the deck. Then pick up fresh bread (baked on the premises throughout the day), cured meats, cheese, olive oil and other essentials for a picnic on the beach.
Money & Shopping
- Island Farm (Island Farm Eleuthera), Queen's Highway (.5 miles south of Palmetto Point Crossroads), . Island Farm sells sells nursery plants and landscaping materials. They are known for their fresh bread baked on the premises, fresh produce, greens and herbs, jams, jellies, dressings and pestos, honey, hot sauce, maps, postcards and souvenirs. Island Farm also offers free wi-fi service on the premises.
- Island Made Gift Shop, Queen's Highway (Downtown Gregory Town), . Nice souvenir shop. Large selection of hats, caps, T shirts, postcards, maps, and clothing.
- Rebecca's Straw Market, Queen's Highway (Downtown Gregory Town). Rebecca is an artist and local expert on flora and fauna. She has her own hot sauce: Pirate's Revenge. Pete is a character. Buy a cigar or beer and get a story.
- Fishbone Tours, Savannah Sound, Eleuthera (South of Governors Harbour), . Eleutheras best exclusive fishing tours. Come and let us take your Bahamas vacation to new heights with our Adventure Tour. It's a 6 part tour with the highlight being the 'Turtle Chase'. No one else offers it on the island! Don't let it pass you by. We also offer various fishing for the avid fisherman. Check out customer reviews on TripAdvisor and Like our page on Facebook! We are also on YouTube - you have to watch our (search) Fishbone Tours Movie
- Fishbone Tours, Savannah Sound (South of Governors Harbour - North of Rock Sound), . Eleutheras best exclusive fishing tours. Come and let us take your Bahamas vacation to new heights with our Adventure Tour. It's a 6 part tour with the highlight being the 'Turtle Chase'. No one else offers it on the island! Don't let it pass you by. We also offer various fishing for the avid fisherman. Check out customer reviews on TripAdvisor and Like our page on Facebook! We are also on YouTube - you have to watch our (search) Fishbone Tours Movie