Photos by Richard Hallman
I’m staring out the window of a 10-12-passenger tour van traveling south for almost 2 hours. By the looks of it, it seems like we are on the road to nowhere. Gliding down a one-lane street with nothing around but tropical trees and a warm ray of sunlight streaming through the window and onto my skin, I try to relax and remind myself that I’m on vacation in a place I’ve never been before. Upbeat reggae music is playing low on the van’s radio as the tour guide, a native Bahamian, ensures that where we are headed is well worth the long drive. “Lighthouse Beach is the most beautiful beach in the world,” he claims. “That’s a bold statement, sir,” I responded. I thought to myself, “With all the extraordinary beaches in the world, there’s no way this beach, on the tiny island of Eleuthera, is the most beautiful.” Little did I know – he was right.
The island of Eleuthera belongs to the Bahamas, and is located 50 miles east of Nassau. It is long and thin – at 110 miles long and in places, a little more than 1 mile wide. With a population of about 8,000 people, Eleuthera is quiet, private, and untouched in its natural Caribbean state. When I first landed at the Lynden Pindling International Airport, Nassau’s largest airport, I wasn’t sure what to expect when boarding my Southern Air flight to the tiny Eleuthera landing strip. During the short flight, I knew I was in for an extraordinary experience as I looked down to the majestic island surrounded by aquamarine Caribbean water. The Eleuthera airport is no bigger than a standard single family home, but consists of a staff willing and able to assist from the moment I stepped off the plane.
The most important aspect of traveling to an island for a peaceful and private getaway is choosing the perfect lodging accommodations. Since Eleuthera is still widely unheard of to the general population, there aren’t many hotels, and there probably never will be to keep its private island feel. However, there are several condominiums and vacation homes available to rent by the week. Pulling up to my condominium felt like a dream come true – my own private home in paradise. Located on Queen’s Highway in Governor’s Harbour, The Buttonwood Reserve consists of eight condominiums built atop a 45-foot ridge. Its elevated stage makes for incredible views out over both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The spacious condominiums at Buttonwood Reserve offer 1,200 square feet of interior living space, 400 square feet of ocean-view decks and a golf cart garage. The master bedrooms feature magnificent panoramic views of the Caribbean, king-sized bed, and are equipped with an en-suite full bath. Master bedrooms also have a private door leading to the deck with stunning views, perfect for honeymooners or couples seeking a romantic getaway.
The best part about staying at The Buttonwood Reserve is that I felt like royalty – I never wanted to leave my condo. However, there’s a lot of the island to discover and luckily, each condo offers a golf cart and bicycles to guests for easy transportation to and from the Caribbean Seaside to the Atlantic Ocean with private, three-mile pink-sand beaches. On a day I just wanted to stay on the Buttonwood Reserve property, I enjoyed a resort-style pool just steps from my front door. Barbeque grills and large kitchens are available for guests to host their own cookouts and dinner parties. To dine out, Buttonwood Reserve is situated near several of the island’s most popular restaurants, including Pascale’s Seafood Restaurant and Pool Bar at Sky Beach Club, The Deck, and Rainbow Inn.
From dune buggy excursions, to exploring marine life on a boat tour, Eleuthera is an ecotourism wonderland waiting to be explored and enjoyed. I’m a native Floridian and have spent more than enough time in and around the ocean, however, when Fishbone Tours’ Captain Julius “Bubba” Rankine took us out on his boat into the perfect, crystal clear Caribbean water, I can assure you that I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was so mystical that I couldn’t resist jumping off the boat right into the water. Along the journey with Captain Julius, the tour included viewing starfish, snorkeling, reef fishing, reef snorkeling, mangrove hunt, and picking out our own conch from a conch garden, which we turned into fresh conch salad on board as an afternoon snack.There’s plenty of beach that surrounds the island, but as the tour guide stated, there is no other beach in the world as beautiful as Eleuthera’s very own Lighthouse Beach. Both of the two most beautiful Bahamas beaches, Lighthouse Beach and adjacent Lighthouse Bay are located at the southern most tip of Eleuthera. Also known as Lighthouse Point Eleuthera. Lighthouse Point Bay’s majestic rocks and cliffs sit atop pink sands and crystal blue waters that appear to be too beautiful to be real. Climb up the rocks for the best views or lay on the sand at the shoreline to soak in this tropical oasis.
Whether you’ve traveled to Eleuthera before, or never heard of it, I could confidently say that there is no other place like it in the world. Especially for those planning a wedding, honeymoon, or just a romantic getaway, Eleuthera is an ideal destination because of its privacy, intimacy and natural, untouched beauty. There are no shopping centers on Eleuthera, no crowds, and no traffic. The Queen’s Highway is Eleuthera’s only paved road and is a two-lane country road on which you can drive for miles without seeing another car. Needless to say, there is little need for a map, and on an island less than a mile wide for long stretches, you’re never far from the beach. Drift away to an island of rolling green hills, sleepy villages, and 60 miles of deserted beaches.