eleuthera

My Favorite Quiet Beaches

On Saturday, I went toВ RockawayВ to get my beach time for the week. As much as I love being by the ocean, I’ll admit that I was feeling a little weary of crowds.

Most NYC-area beaches—Rockaway, Jones, Robert Moses, Long Beach, Coney Island—are pretty packed on the weekends. And for good reason! Everyone wants to get away, even if only for a few hours.

I do love seeing so many people escaping the city and enjoying the sand and surf. But the overall experience isn’t all that relaxing. You’re surrounded by others—and their conversations and music—at all times. While there, it’s hard to feel calm and peaceful when you can barely hear the waves over all the din.

I’ve been lucky to travel to beaches that have been both beautiful and deserted. This weekend, I was thinking about them and wishing I could transport myself back to:

Water Cay, Eleuthera, Bahamas

Last year, Mal, Peter, and two friends and I rented a house on Eleuthera. We stayed in a sparsely populated part of the island, and our house was set on a gorgeous, private beach:

Cotton Bay, Eleuthera

Each day we got to enjoy the soft sand and blue waters without seeing a soul.

OurВ rental also gave us access to the owner’s boat and a captain who could take us out. Of course, we had to take advantage of that! Our captain, Sidney, took us toВ Water Cay, a tiny islandВ off Eleuthera’s Caribbean coast. It was absolutely deserted, with calm, clear water and fine white sand.

Water Cay, Eleuthera

It was easily one of the most spectacular beaches I’ve seen in my life.

 

Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

Mal and I went to Big Corn Island in August 2009. The island, and its sister, Little Corn, are located about 40-miles off the coast of Nicaragua, in the Caribbean. They’re known for being remote and relatively undiscovered by tourists. At the time, that certainly proved true.

We flew to the island on a tiny prop plane, and as we descended, I could barely spot any signs of life. Big CornВ looked deserted. And once we got out of the plane, weВ saw that it basically was.

To be honest, I felt a bit uneasy at just how isolated the island felt. There had been a spate of armed robberies against travelers on the islands, right before we arrived. The first night, our hotelВ was a ghost town—just two or three other rooms were occupied. And the phones and internet were down. The sun set at 6 p.m. and plunged the island into pitch darkness.

But during the daytime, I was able to forget my misgivings a little, thanks to this amazing beach we had to ourselves:

Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

In case you’re wondering, I felt much safer on Big Corn, as the days passed. A small documentary film crew arrived at our hotel from the mainland, as did a few more Nicaraguan travelers. Mal and I had a great time chatting with them—it was just enough people to make the hotel feel less like a horror-movie-waiting-to-happen, but not nearly enough to make the place feel crowded. And the island was just so wild and beautiful, it was impossible not to feel affection for it.

 

Long Beach Island, NJ

New Jersey?! Yes, that’s correct! We rented a house on LBI in early June, before summer season really started—which meant that every day, the beaches looked like this:

setting up on the beach

Sure, LBI doesn’t haveВ fine white sand and crystal-clear water. But it was still a nice, deserted beach that we had all to ourselves for days. I’m so nostalgic for that!

What’s your favorite quiet beach?

A Few Days on Eleuthera

water cay

Recently, Mal, Peter, and our friends, Virginia and Doug, and I went to Eleuthera, one of the Bahamas’ “Out Islands.” True to that designation, Eleuthera felt wonderfully removed from everything. There were no cruise ships or mega resorts. We saw barely any other people during our time there—and, better yet, even fewer tourists. And since the island is so sparsely populated, most of the beaches we visited were pristine, and we had them to ourselves. And you know how much I love wild, isolated beaches!

Some highlights:

Our Cotton Bay Rental

Eleuthera is a long, skinny string bean of an island. It’s approximately 110 miles in length and two miles wide. Initially, I leaned toward staying in central Eleuthera, where Governor’s Harbour, the island’s largest town, is located. Most vacation rentals are there, and many, like this one, are gorgeous. Plus, the pink sand beaches of Harbour Island, which I’d written about, are not far away.

Despite those appealing factors, we ended up rentingВ Sanderling, a house in Cotton Bay, on the southern part of the island. Unlike the Governor’s Harbour options, this place was on the beach. (As opposed to a few minutes’ walk away—I know, so far.) All the bedrooms had private bathrooms.В Plus, there were no other rentals in Cotton Bay, and we wanted to be around as few other people as possible. And, best of all, the rental fee included a cook, who’d received rave reviews. Um, not having to prepare meals for a group every day? Sold!

Sanderling wasn’t swank and modern; the one-story, yellow house was built in 1959. But it was comfortably furnished, bright, airy and well-kept. Coconut trees grew on the property…

sanderling

…and a small dock out front led to a calm cove. From there, we (well, everyone but me) launched kayaks and paddled them into the ocean. Another night, we went swimming—and later found out that’s prohibited because sharks lurk there, once the sun sets! Luckily, we made it out with all of our limbs intact.

cove

The front patio had a few lounge chairs and a small table…

front porch

…and the porch, right behind it, had an additional seating area, where we played several hilarious rounds ofВ Cards Against Humanity—helped by cocktails made with Ole Nassau, a Bahamian rum.

The dining table is where we ate all the meals Ruth, the cook, prepared for us. She was lovely and her food was delicious—lots of fresh fish and veggies. Plus, Ruth hadВ worked at Sanderling for 22 years and told us about the family that owned it, as well as bits and pieces of local news and history.

sanderling porch

From the front porch, you could see through to the ocean side of the house…

sanderling

…where we spent most of our free time, just reading, relaxing and enjoying the view.

back porch

And—this was my favorite part—a short staircase led down to our very own private beach, which was beautiful and spotless.

private beach

sanderling beach

While I couldn’t have been happier with our rental, I did feel a little sad seeing how the surrounding neighborhood had deteriorated. Cotton Bay was once a fancy resort community. In 1959, Juan Trippe, founder of Pan Am, opened the exclusive Cotton Bay Club and golf course. However, after the airline went bust and hurricanes ravaged the island, the resort was abandoned. Ownership changed hands a few times, and the current owner has let it fall into disrepair. The hotel is covered in brush, and golf course looks like Jurassic Park.

cotton bay golf course

The single road winding through Cotton Bay is full of giant potholes. Half the houses are well-kept and the rest are run-down. (Despite that, we never felt unsafe.) Ruth told us that she’d like more tourism to boost the area’s economy, but not so much that it erodes the area’s peaceful setting or strains its natural resources. I couldn’t agree more.

* * *

Water Cay

Our rental came with one more amazing perk that we didn’t even know about until we got there: the use of the owner’s deep sea fishing boat and a captain!

The guys were instantly ready to fish. Given my history of seasickness in nearly every country I visited, I was a little hesitant. But once Sydney, the captain, mentioned that we’d stop at a small island to hang out and go snorkeling, as well, I was game. Besides, I figured that I’m an old pro at leaning out the back, “feeding the fish,” then getting on with a trip!

So the next morning, we boarded our boat, the Shady Lady…

shady lady

…and got on our way.

leaving the harbor

For about 20 minutes, I felt great! I was thrilled to be bouncing over the waves, watching the water turn deep blue. But once the fishing part started, things went downhill. Deep sea fishing, I learned, involves lots of slowly motoring around, trying to get fish to bite. And if a boat isn’t moving fast, I’m not feeling too well. Plus, the smell of fuel was getting to me.

I was trying to keep my breakfast down, when we got our first bite. In fact, I was so intently staring at the horizon that I didn’t even hear Sydney yell for someone to reel it in. Luckily, Peter jumped into the chair and pulled in a giant mahi. (Which I, unfortunately, didn’t get a photo of, for obvious reasons—the one below is the best I could do, in my compromised state!)

peter deep sea fishing

Sydney speared the fish, which then splattered blood all over the deck. Between that, the nausea and the fumes, I nearly lost it. Mal was feeling just as bad, as well. I don’t know who made the executive decision to take a break from fishing, but someone secured the poles and we were moving at a faster clip.

Eventually we reached paradise.

IMG_1949

I happily jumped off the boat…

jumping in

…and headed to shore.

water cay

This was the highlight of my trip. We’d landed at a deserted island with a spectacular beach—one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. The sand was perfectly round, soft white grains, and the water was amazingly clear and calm. (The only beach that might top it is Australia’sВ Whitehaven Beach.)

water cay

I found out, from Sydney, that we were on Water Cay, a tiny island that’s one-third of Schooner Cays, off the coast of Cape Eleuthera, on the island’s Caribbean side.

water cay

We snorkeled around the Shady Lady, but the only fish I saw was a barracuda—which I seem to encounter on every trip!

shady lady at water cay

And we took lots of photos.

water cay

I could have stayed forever.

But eventually, we swam back to the boat and returned to the open water. We fished long enough for Doug to catch another mahi—but not so long that I got sick—then headed back to Cotton Bay…where Ruth cooked up some of that mahi for lunch. (And lunch and dinner the day after, too!)

mahi

* * *

Governor’s Harbour Fish Fry

After our deep sea fishing excursion, we took naps, then drove an hour north to Governor’s Harbour’s Friday fish fry. (Along the way, we had trouble with our car’s radiator. Everyone who passed stopped and offered help. In what seemed like a crazy coincidence, the owner of the car rental place happened to be driving by—even though we were miles away from his town—and fixed the car. But, as Ruth later told, us, that’s Eleuthera!)

The fish fry was smaller than I expected it to be. A wooden shack near the water served food and drinks, and a DJ played music in the streets. Though it felt touristy, there were just as many, if not more, locals there. (Maybe it seemed that way because this was the first time we’d seen other groups of travelers!)

fish fry

At the stand, you had a choice of a whole fried fish (or BBQ chicken) and sides, like rice and peas, mac and cheese and potato salad.

fish fry

The fry’s signature drink is the “Rum Bubba,” a (very potent!) bright red punch spiked with lots of its namesake alcohol.

rum bubbas

The food was delicious! We each got one of these plates and devoured everything with our hands—the only way to eat a meal like that, by the beach.

fried fish

We also had conch salad. The conch man pulled the mollusk from its shell…

fresh conch

…and chopped it, along with onion, tomatoes, celery and an insanely potent pepper.

conch salad

I like spicy food, but I’ll be honest—I only had one bite! The pepper immediately spread across my tongue, and I spent the next few minutes guzzling my Rum Bubba!

conch salad

We hung around for a little, taking in the scene, chatting with other fish fry goers, and listening to the DJ. Then we hopped back in the car and drove an hour south, back to Cotton Bay.

* * *

Sammy’s Place

Besides the fish fry, we ate out one other time. Sammy’s Place is one of the few restaurants on the southern part of the island.

sammy's place

It’s a nondescript place a few blocks off the main road.

sammy's place

The lunch menu offers staples like sandwiches and burgers, along with Bahamian comfort food, like fried conch, conch fritters and mac and cheese. I enjoyed every bite of my meal, accompanied by a Kalik beer.

fried conch

* * *

Lighthouse Beach

Due to distance and time, we never made it to Harbour Island’s pink sands. But on our last day, we visited Lighthouse Beach, another pink(ish) beach at Eleuthera’s southern tip.

Lighthouse Beach is accessible via a rough, badly potholed two-mile “road.”

lighthouse beach

The bumpy ride was well-worth it, though.

lighthouse beach

Like pretty much everywhere else we went on the island, the gorgeous beach was nearly deserted; we saw only two other people.

We immediately went for a dip in the clear, calm water.

lighthouse beach

Afterwards, we walked up a small hill to enjoy the view…

lighthouse beach

…and reach two other parts of the beach.

lighthouse beach

lighthouse beach

We couldn’t resist taking photos on the weathered rocks that jutted out onto the sand.

lighthouse beach

We stayed at Lighthouse Beach until the sun started setting. I had to drag myself away from it—and from Eleuthera, itself, when it came time to fly back home, the next morning.

lighthouse beach

Off to Eleuthera!

glass window bridge

I’m not gonna lie—I’ve been counting down for a couple weeks!

This whole year, thus far, has been pretty insane. As you might have guessed from my earlier entries, I’ve desperately been trying to survive the Long Slog. To do so, my masterВ plan mostly consisted of performing in the spring dance showcase and running the half marathon relay. Those two events (and the weeks rehearsing/training for them!) were fun and exciting. But when I signed up for them, I’d conveniently forgotten that I was still getting adjusted to my new gig (which I’m loving, by the way)—and working on a huge project that launched right after the ballet show and before the race.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a few days of relaxing and recharging—especially with summer plans on deck and more work projects revving up. A few days of lounging in the sun, in a gorgeous place, is what I need, right now. (Seriously, how stunning is the photo above? That’s Eleuthera’s Glass Window Bridge, with the deep, blue Atlantic to the right and the soothing Caribbean to the left. Can’t wait to get there!)

(Photo via Pinterest)

Eleuthera Recommendations?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was exploring Cat Island (the one in the Bahamas, not in Japan!) as a possible vacation option. В Since then, I’ve changed course—just a little!—and decided to go to Eleuthera, instead. Mal, Peter, two friends and I are headed there in two weeks.

As one of our friends put it: “I’m so excited, I could cry!”

I could, as well! I am very much looking forward to a few days of chillaxin’ on gorgeous beaches, eating lots of fresh seafood and sipping rum cocktails.

We’re likely staying in south Eleuthera (and hopefully visiting Lighthouse Beach, below), and spending a day around Governor’s Harbour, in the central part of the island.

lighthouse beach

If you have any recommendations about what to see/do/eat, please share—I’d love to hear your tips!

(Photo via Discover-Eleuthera-Bahamas.com)