Where: West End, Grand Bahama
When: November combine still favourable weather with smaller crowds, and the Street Festival is unmissable
Happenings: Fresh seafood dishes, tropical nature walks and kayaking, and watching the sunset
Where It’s At
For a real flavour of Bahamian life, head 14 miles west of Freeport to West End. This area still shows signs of hurricane damage which hit it hard in 2004, but the resilient local population are rebuilding, and they are as cheerful and hospitable as ever. Eight Mile Rock in West End is the largest settlement outside of Freeport on the island, and here you can escape the touristy hustle and bustle and chill out.
History of Eight Mile Rock
Eight Mile Rock takes its name from the eight miles of solid rock along its shoreline. The town is a string of settlements with a total population of 14,000; each settlement is named after the family who first arrived and settled in the mid-nineteenth century and these families still make this their home today. The families were originally descended from slaves, probably brought from the neighbouring Turks and Caicos islands, who were freed from the lumbering industry on Pine Ridge.
When to Go
Grand Bahama island is an all year round destination with clear warm water and gentle sea breezes. The rainy season hits the island between May and November and you’ll be joined by the crowds for the peak tourist season from mid-December to mid-April. Hurricane season actually runs from June to November, but the most active month is September. The cusp months of April and November are best for weather while avoiding the crowds.
Sample delicious conch salad with homemade bread and don’t miss the fried fish sold on Thursday nights by locals who add their own flavours, but don’t expect to get through all the delicious foods in one night.
Take a nature kayak trip deep into the mangroves and stop off to take a nature walk and study some of the island’s flora and fauna. Kayak Nature Tours are a local trek company with very knowledgeable guides who know the best spots to encounter some of the friendliest raccoons you’ll ever meet, as well as varied birdlife and tropical vegetation. The best nature trail walk on the island is the track that was originally the main transport artillery between Freeport in the east and Eight Mile Rock in West End. Since the new highway has been built the track has been re-inhabited by numerous species of birds, butterflies, and plants. Amongst the undergrowth you’ll come across the ruins of the Hermitage – remnants of the oldest building on the island.
Sunset Village was recently set up as an indigenous cultural attraction. Here you can enjoy a meal sitting on the veranda of one of 25 stylish multi-coloured buildings whilst viewing the evening’s entertainment – the famous orange sky sunset of the Bahamas. If you like your entertainment to be a little more lively then make sure you’re in town for the Street Festivalheld in November. You can enjoy gospel groups, rake n’ scrape bands, Junkanoo groups, and there’s fun for all the family with children’s activities local arts, crafts, and cuisine.
Where to Eat
Sports Bar, Bayshore Rd, West End
If you want to escape your mega resort and get a taste of real local Bahamian life, why not drop in at this little beach front bar and try a local beer and a conch salad or a plate of conch fritters. You may not see many tourists, especially after the 2004 hurricanes did their worst to this sleepy fishing village, but you will experience the very best in Bahamian hospitality and the freshest seafood. Next door is the battered Star Hotel, the island’s oldest hotel which since 1946 has opened its doors to the likes of everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Kayak Nature Tours
Telephone: 001 866 440 4542 / 001 (242) 373 2485
Fax: 001 (242) 374-4670
Take a magical kayak tour through the mangrove swamps and experience some of the islands typical flora and fauna. Also available are nature walks with expert guides who can take you to discover secluded beaches far away from the resorts, or days out on mountain bikes that can reveal another side to the island. A small locally run business well worth supporting.
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
P.O. Box N-3701
Telephone: 001 242 302 2000
Fax: 001 242 302 2098
By Faye Welborn