Eleuthera Bound

Downsizing for a Dream


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Getting to the Out Islands

The Bahamas is a country made up of hundreds of islands and cays (pronounced “keys”) in the Bermuda Triangle region of the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida and north of Cuba. The center of population is on two main islands, New Providence, with the capital city of Nassau, and Grand Bahama Island. The rest are referred to as the “Out Islands” or “Family Islands.”

What many of us love about the Out Islands is the slower pace, and the quiet, natural beauty. There are not a lot of people, and it does not feel touristy. Booking flights to the Out Islands explains part of the reason there are not a lot of tourists. It can take some work to get there, but trust me, the payoff is huge.

Tickets to Paradise:

  1. Once you’ve settled on your island of choice, research what airports are available. Keep in mind, some may be private or closed. A couple of links that may be helpful are THIS from wikipedia, showing airports by island, and THIS from Skyscanner, showing Bahamas airports with direct flights from the U.S. If lucky, you’ll find a great deal on a flight directly to your destination. If not, no worries, go to step 2. For Eleuthera, you’ve got three airport options: North Eleuthera, Governor’s Harbor, and Rock Sound. For Long Island, you have two: Deadman’s Cay, and Stella Maris.
  2. Get a flight to Nassau. These are surprisingly plentiful, and good deals can be found. Our first Bahamas trip happened while looking for cheap flights to Las Vegas so we could see the Grand Canyon. Flights for Nassau kept popping up at a cost well below tickets to Las Vegas. We’ve been going to Eleuthera ever since.
  3. From Nassau, look for connecting flights to the Out Islands. The carriers will vary by island, and you can post questions on the Trip Advisor Out Island Forum,if you’re having trouble finding carriers. Make sure to leave a couple of hours between arriving in Nassau and departing on the domestic flight so you can clear customs and get to the domestic terminal. THIS video is very helpful if you are going straight on to your Out Islands flight from the international terminal.

Helpful links:

Bahamasair  

Southern Air

Pineapple Air 

4. Stay a night in Nassau, if necessary. This is not uncommon, as it’s not always possible to match incoming flights to Nassau to outgoing flights to the Out Islands. Nassau is very easy to get around and there are many options for one night’s lodging. Our favorite is Orange Hill, because it’s off the beaten path, but near a nice beach. This spring, we’re excited to try Baha Sea Backpackers.

West of Eleuthera


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The Spring Break That Changed Everything

In Michigan, its very common for people with the financial means to take a break from the long winter for a sunnier, warmer place each spring. The steady stream of cars headed to Florida the first week of every April causes traffic jams around Atlanta and gives snowbirds incentive to drive all night long, checking Facebook posts giving traffic reports from friends further down the road.

We had never been those people. Our children had never been to Disney, Sea World, or any of the sandy beaches of the Southern U.S.  After the urging of a friend, we finally planned a trip to San Francisco. It was so fun that we decided to combine everyone’s birthday and Christmas gifts the next year to finance a trip to Costa Rica.

We were hooked. The third year, while looking for affordable flights, I was taunted by a great deal to Nassau. Our daughter, Hana, had always wanted to swim in clear, turquoise water and our son, Jesse, had taken surfing lessons in Costa Rica, so this was a perfect plan.

It WAS a perfect plan…except that conditions on Nassau are not good for surfing. With extra research, I learned the place for surfing in the Bahamas is on the Family Island (or Out Island) of Eleuthera.  The connecting flight would be an extra $600 for all four of us, but I found a 3 bedroom vacation rental in Gregory Town for only $112 a night, making the trip affordable. We didn’t know exactly what was ahead, but were excited to find out.

Making the connection in Nassau, we were thrilled to walk out onto the runway to board a propeller plane for our flight to Governor’s Harbor.  The plane was older, but felt nostalgic, like boarding an old school bus.  A group of school children were on the same flight, adding to the realization that we were in a totally new kind of place.

Our first week in Eleuthera was amazing! The worries of not knowing how we were going to find our rental car contact, and then our house, fell away as we learned that life is quiet, slow, and personal here.  As directed, we asked for “Stanton Cooper” upon walking out the airport.  He appeared immediately and walked us out to our burgundy Impala.  He filled out the receipt with our credit card number on it, we stuck it in the glove compartment as instructed, adding it to the pile of previous receipts. With instructions to keep on the left hand side, a dash board of warning lights blinking, and no working seat belts, we were off.

The week that followed was epic.  We snorkeled in the harbor in front of our apartment, and were stopped mid-swim when a resident hollered that a shark was nearby.  When we got back to the edge of the water, she followed up with “Please swim any of our beautiful beaches, just not here today.”

We drove up and down the Queen’s highway, and sandy two tracks, with the windows wide open, and static-filled tunes from the A.M. radio.  We discovered where we could get groceries, found beautiful and completely empty beaches, discovered a love for conch and grouper fingers.  Hana and I, watching people file into church for Easter services, put on the best clothes we had and joined in at the last minute.  Walking in town, days later, a gentleman brought it to our attention with a smile, that he had seen us in church.

Except for camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we had never experienced so much time without the clutter of traffic, advertisements, and other aspects of mass-consumerism. It was a magical week of the simple life I remembered from growing up in rural Michigan. People in Eleuthera still wave when you drive by.  When the water plant is down, waiting for  a part, neighbors help neighbors, and share what they have. Everyone was friendly, even to us outsiders. It’s the kind of thing that never left my heart from childhood and, here, I can share the same with my children.