If you’re a boater based in the United States, you might never have considered the possibility of taking your vessel into international waters. Believe it or not, it’s much easier than you think. While many boaters will take exclusive getaways to the Bahamas and rent a vessel from one of the many local boat clubs and rental services, boating there yourself gives you exclusive access to can’t-miss locations and experiences. Boating in the Bahamas might seem like a bucket-list endeavor, but we promise, once you take the plunge, you’ll be going back again and again.
While most travelers get to the Bahamas by flying into Nassau, the capital city of the island nation, it might surprise you to find out that you can get there by boat. The westernmost part of the Bahamas is only 50 miles east of Miami, making it a relatively quick trip for a capable captain.
Historically, vacationers relied on large fishing vessels, yachts and sailboats to make the journey. However, these days, boats ranging from 25-30 feet can easily make the short trip from Miami to the Bimini islands. Some experienced captains even take smaller 19 and 20 foot jet boats, though that often calls for a rough ride. The waters between Florida and the islands are often harsh, with a strong cross-current caused by the jet stream. Larger, V-Bottom boats like motor yachts, large center consoles, and cabin cruisers tend to handle the trip better than smaller boats because they can withstand the forces of wind and waves as they make the crossing.
Each boat will make the 50-mile journey to Bimini in its own time. However, anticipate about 2 hours for a boat with a cruising speed of 25 knots. Always book extra time when traveling, as shifting marine conditions can add time to your journey. However, just getting to the Bimini is one thing. It’s another 130 miles between Bimini and Nassau, the Bahamas’ capital island. Make sure to carefully plot your itinerary, so you know exactly where you can reach on a tank of fuel to avoid any mishaps.
If you’re looking to make your first trip to international waters, you can do so by traveling with others. Many boaters drive to the Bahamas together during boat “flings.” These gatherings mean that you always have someone nearby in case something goes awry during your travels. While it’s always best to travel in a group, make sure you’re prepared for the worst when you head into international waters. Make sure you have plenty of life vests, a long-range VHF radio, and a sturdy anchor to keep you in one spot so you can wait for help if you need it. Also, go prepared with plenty of clothes, food and water on board, in case you have to wait for help to arrive.
For those who want to fly into the Bahamas and rent a boat when they land, there are plenty of options and boat clubs to choose from. Many of the larger islands like Andros, Grand Bahama, Great Abaco and Nassau have boat clubs located in major marinas that include everything from chartered yachts to small fishing vessels and sailboats. However you want to experience the Bahamas by boat, there’s an option for you to travel in comfort.
When you’re boating from Florida to the Bahamas, you need to bring a few pieces of paperwork with you. First, since you’ll be traveling to another country, make sure you and everyone aboard your vessel brings their passport. Next,obtain a Bahamas immigration card. You can download paperwork for this card online and complete it ahead of your journey. Finally, expect to pay some entry fees which give you permission to boat within the Bahamas’ national waters. Entry fees can also include fishing permits and departure taxes for those on board the vessel.
The Bahamas have many official ports of entry across the islands. The ports closest to the United States are located in Bimini and can be found in several popular marinas, where boaters can spend the night or refuel before continuing onto other islands on their itinerary. However, there are official ports of entry on almost every district in the Bahamas, including New Providence, Grand Bahama, Andros and more. Plan to have your first stop in one of these ports of entry, so you can get your Bahamas vacation started right away.
With over 700 islands, there’s plenty to do and see in the Bahamas. Each island, from New Providence to Great Inagua, all have their own rich history and attractions. However, there are several amazing beaches and reefs that you absolutely don’t want to miss. Here’s how to plan your ideal Bahamas boating adventure.
Most people who set sail for the Bahamas start their journey in Bimini, since they’re the closest islands to the United States. The Bimini islands have plenty of docks available where you can fill your gas tank and get a bite to eat before continuing on your journey. If you choose to stay, you don’t want to miss the Sapona, a shipwreck of a WWI concrete boat that now serves as an offshore reef, perfect for snorkeling and seeing some local wildlife.
After leaving Bimini, you can really start your island-hopping adventure. From Bimini, you can head northeast to Grand Bahama, or due east to Great Harbour Cay. These islands are within 90 miles of Bimini and are a great stop over while exploring the Bahamas. They offer plenty of amenities. Great Harbour Cay, in particular, is an up-and-coming tourist location that is getting more and more attention, since it’s central to the Andros Islands and New Providence.
The capital of the Bahamas, Nassau, is located on the island of New Providence and is only 60 miles from Great Harbour Cay. Nassau is a hot-spot for tourists and features many select hotels. However, most boaters use Nassau as a way to get to one of the most exclusive boating locations in the Bahamas, Rose Island. This pristine island has limited full-time residents, making it perfect for boaters. It’s quiet, with gorgeous beaches that you don’t want to miss.
Finally, before you think you’ve seen all the Bahamas has to offer, you don’t want to miss the Exumas. This series of islands and cays features over 365 different destinations, meaning you can visit a different island every day and still have more to discover. Some of the most talked-about islands are located in the remote Exumas, including Pig Beach on Big Major Cay, which is populated with friendly, swimming pigs that are happy to join you for a dip in the water.
While many people visit the Bahamas to enjoy pristine beaches, the real way to get your fill of the islands is to do so on a boat. The Bahamas are perfect for boaters, since you really need a boat of your own to access many of the remote cays, reefs and beaches that make this island nation truly unique.
The Bahamas have incredibly unique fishing opportunities, which are perfect for anglers of all abilities. Marlin, sailfish, tuna and mahi-mahi are all native to the warm waters around the Bahamas, which means you can get a thrilling adventure next time you head offshore. It’s important to note that longline fishing is illegal in the Bahamas, and you can be fined if you have longline equipment on your boat. Anglers should also pay attention to fishing seasons, as the Bahamian government is incredibly strict with fishing regulations to preserve their natural resources.
Island hopping provides a unique opportunity to see the best and most remote parts of the Bahamas. While there are ferries that often go between major islands, it’s impossible for most tourists to reach the far-flung islands of the Exumas, or remote cays. That means that boaters can reach brilliant snorkeling locations and pristine swimming spots.
One of the most popular swimming locations in the Bahamas is Pig Beach, located on Big Major Cay in the Exumas. Big Major Cay doesn’t have any inhabitants except for the pigs, which come in a range of colors. Regular tourism has made them friendly and eager to swim with people, so much so that they’re famous for it. There are plenty of tips for the best Pig Beach experience, which usually involves visiting early in the morning when the pigs are most active. That means that it might be best to stay on your boat overnight, so you can maximize your time with them.
The warm water of the Bahamas is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. Each island has its own unique population of resident marine life, including sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, tropical fish, and more. If you choose to go island-hopping, make sure to add snorkeling gear to your equipment, so you can see the kind of marine life that you’d never be able to see back home. One must-see location is the blue holes around the Andros islands. Blue holes are actually crystal-clear pockets of fresh water that seep from underground aquifers. They become nutrient-dense areas in the ocean where schools of fish congregate, making them interesting and unique snorkeling locations.
One of the chief concerns for anyone boating to or in the Bahamas is ensuring that the weather is favorable for the journey. The Bahamas are often plagued by the Atlantic hurricane season, which means that it can be dangerous to visit in the summer and fall. Atlantic hurricane season runs between June 1 and November 30, and dominates much of the summer months in the northern hemisphere. If you do choose to make a trip to the Bahamas during this time of year, pay attention to reports from the National Hurricane Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.) Usually, hurricane reports give boaters enough time to either secure their vessels, or make a return trip to Florida, so they can keep themselves safe in the shadow of extreme weather.
In 2019, there was a reported fatal shark attack in the Bahamas. While fatal shark attacks are rare everywhere, this can be a concern for some individuals who are looking to go snorkeling, swimming, or participate in watersports among the islands. To reduce your chance of an incident with wildlife, have a spotter when you swim, and leave the water if you’re bleeding from a cut or scrape.
Overall, the biggest concern for most individuals visiting the Bahamas is crime. Tourists flying in and out of Nassau and staying at the major resorts like Sandals or Atlantis Paradise Island rarely have to worry about crime because the resorts employ strict security measures to ensure that their guests are safe. However, some parts of Nassau and Grand Bahama have an increased crime risk. This can include anything from fraud committed by taxi drivers, to assault or other types of violence. If you’re traveling across the islands, stay in well-populated areas, around resorts and beaches, and stay alert. You can also reach out to the US Embassy for crime updates, so you’re aware of what’s going on during your stay.
Historically, only large yachts and sailboats made their way from Florida to the Bahamas, making it an exclusive vacation spot for the wealthy. However, these days, boaters with small 19-foot jet boats cross the jet stream and head for Bimini for a holiday they won’t forget. While smaller vessels can make the 48-mile journey from Miami to Bimini, it can be a rough and dangerous ride if the weather turns. Instead, some of the best boat types for traveling through the Bahamas are large blue-water vessels that are made for offshore travel.
Catamarans are some of the most common boats you’ll see in the Bahamas. These vessels have many benefits over traditional powerboats. First, since they don’t rely on gasoline to get around, you can easily avoid congested marinas and gas docks and instead take a more direct route to your island of choice. Catamarans are often faster than traditional sailboats, meaning they can get you across The Bahamas, from Bimini to the Exumas, in no time at all.
If you want a boat that does all the Bahamas have to offer, from chartered fishing trips to exciting island-hopping, consider a large center console as your vessel of choice. Center consoles have come a long way in recent years, and can provide a fast and comfortable ride through rough offshore conditions. Get to Bimini in no time, and spend your holiday checking out exclusive accommodations on each island. Some larger center consoles have facilities on board, like small cabins and galleys. However, you can also enjoy luxurious on-land accommodations at local marinas, giving you a true taste of the Bahamian lifestyle.
Motor yachts are perfect for the boater who wants to enjoy the Bahamas in luxury. While most marinas have amenities for visitors to stay at, living aboard your motor yacht means you can bring luxury wherever you go. Instead of relying on on-land amenities, you can easily anchor off the coast of remote islands. Motor yachts can easily cruise the open waters around the Bahamas and can even withstand some of the northern winds that can create turbulent waters around the islands. For the most comfortable and safe way to tour the Bahamas, a motor yacht is the way to go.
Finally, for an accessible boat that’s as comfortable as a motor yacht, without the ultra-luxurious price tag, consider a trawler yacht. Large trawlers travel at a comfortable, efficient pace, meaning they maximize their fuel on board for long-haul adventures. Whether you want to island-hop your way through the Bahamas, or anchor out near one of the exclusive, uninhabited islands of the Exumas, a trawler can bring you to your dream island destination so you can start your vacation as soon as possible.
However you want to explore the Bahamas, we have the perfect boat for you! Start planning your Bahamian vacation and take a look at our available boats today at Moreboats.com.
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