The Bahama playground for the rich and famous
By Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong
Ask just about anyone about Bimini and they will probably say they’ve heard of it but have no idea where it is. Some may know it is in the Bahamas but have no details beyond that. We learned quite a lot about Bimini during our recent visit. These two tiny Bahamian islands have a unique culture, bountiful history, visitors both famous and infamous, and a new focus as a casino hotspot for the rich and famous.
Bimini consists of the two main islands named North Bimini Island and South Bimini Island as well as numerous cays or keys. Just 50 miles off of Florida’s eastern coast, Bimini is the closest Bahamian island to the United States.
Bimini’s history contains an impressive list of both the famous and infamous.
The Lucayan natives who inhabited the islands named them Bimini which means two islands. Within just 50 years after the European explorers arrive in the 1490’s, the Lucayans had all been enslaved and relocated to other islands to work as plantation slaves.
Pirates Henry Morgan and Edward Teach, also known as the infamous Blackbeard, used Bimini as a base of operations.
Bootleggers used Bimini to smuggle rum into the U.S.A. It is said that Bill “The Real” McCoy and Al Capone made millions of dollars through rum running.
Ernest Hemingway spent three summers in Bimini.
His Royal Highness Prince Edward, The Duke of Windsor and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt held meetings in Bimini while Edward was Governor of The Bahamas.
Prince Wilhelm of Sweden enjoyed fishing in Bimini.
Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr., Lucille Ball, Lauren Bacall, Martin Luther King Jr., Johnny Cash, Don Johnson, Jimmy Buffett and Walter Peyton all vacationed in Bimini.
American Labor leader Jimmy Hoffa visited Bimini. The Bimini Museum displays his Bahamas Immigration card and states that visitors “often ask if he is still here.”
More recently, Mariah Carey rented a villa at Resorts World Bimini for a getaway.
The Silence of the Lambs
The final scene of the film “The Silence of The Lambs” was filmed on North Bimini. We walked to the site and took photos, of course. Standing there, it is easy to recall Hannibal Lecter saying the words, “I do wish we could chat longer, but I’m having an old friend for dinner. Bye.”
“The Hilton resort welcomes all guests. LGBT visitors are very comfortable here. When going into town LGBT guests should remember to be respectful of local beliefs and customs,” Michelle Malcolm, Resorts World Bimini’s Public Affairs Director told us.
The U.S. Department of State offers this advice for LGBT travelers, “There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in The Bahamas,” and “Remember that you are subject to the laws and the judicial process of the country you’re visiting. Avoid excessive physical displays of affection in public, particularly in more conservative countries or regions.”
WHERE TO STAY
Resorts World Bimini
We chose to stay at the Resorts World Bimini. The Hilton at Resorts World Bimini sits on 750 beautiful acres of prime waterfront real estate. The Hilton at Resorts World Bimini has a modern and uncluttered décor and very friendly staff.
In addition to the 300+ guest rooms and suites in The Hilton at Resorts World Bimini, there are 148, one to three bedroom, fully equipped villas for rent. The villas are perfect for a family friendly stay. Guests can bring their own groceries, cook in the villas and save money. Private Island Home rentals begin at $1400 per night. These four bedroom homes offer guests the asset of docking their boats in back.
Michelle Malcolm, Resorts World Bimini’s Public Affair’s Director told us, “We often have special events at Fishermen’s Village like foam parties and private parties. We are busiest during the Summer months. Most of our guests come from Florida for a short getaway. Our Glass Pavilion can hold up to 300 people. It is very popular for weddings. Our marina is the largest in the Bahamas with 200 slips. On a busy weekend, there are so many yachts, it is hard to find an empty slip. We have boats up to 200 feet.”
There are a number of attractive dining options at Resort World Bimini.
Fishermen’s Village offers Amicci’s Pizzeria & Gelateria, and the Healing Hole Rum Bar.
The Aqua Bar & Grill is located at the Infinity Pool which offers a gorgeous view of the ship near the Three Sister’s Rocks made famous in many professional model photography shoots.
Near the Sabor Pool, there is Sabor Seafood and Steakhouse restaurant and the Sabor Swim Up Bar. The Sabor Pool offers free cabanas.
Inside the casino is the RW Hemingway’s Restaurant which also offers a breakfast buffet.
The Paradise Bar & Grill is located at Paradise Beach. Guests can enjoy a beautiful beach, casual dining, cabana and watersport rentals and bands on weekends.
We enjoyed two breakfast burritos, a cup of coffee and a diet soda at Amicci’s on-site restaurant in Fishermen’s Village. The bill came to $39.22.
For dinner one evening, we tried the Sabor Seafood and Steakhouse restaurant near the Casino. This poolside restaurant has a very upscale décor and menu. The food is both delicious and plated appealingly. We thoroughly enjoyed our ribeye steak and pork chop dinners. Our bill came to $143.00.
Resorts World Bimini Casino is “a 10,000 square foot live action casino that features popular table games including blackjack, baccarat, roulette, craps, 169 slot machines and a Spor
ts Book – the only one east of Las Vegas. With floor to ceiling windows, it is the first casino in the world to have panoramic water views, and has a full indoor-outdoor restaurant that sits directly on the mega-yacht marina.”
Because the casino is located just feet from the marina, guests can sail almost right up to the casino doors.
For more information, visit http://www.rwbimini.com/
Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina
The Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina was founded in the 1930’s as an elegant dinner club but has become known as a destination for “top of class sportsmen and their families.” The resort offers watersports, sport fishing and world class diving.
For more information, visit www.biggameclubbimini.com
Sea Crest Hotel and Marina
The Sea Crest Hotel is located in the center of Alice Town in North Bimini. Their website boasts “air conditioning, compact refrigerators and cable TV in all rooms.” The nearest beach is only a few steps away. All rooms have bay and/or ocean views.
For more information, visit http://www.seacrestbimini.com/seacrest%20frame.htm
Bimini Sands Resort & Marina
Bimini Sands Resort & Marina sits “on a private white sandy beach and all condos are Marina Front or Ocean Front.” The resort has 215 one, two and three bedroom condos with full kitchens, washer, dryer, hair dryers, microwave, coffee makers, TV, patios, toiletries.
For boaters, the resort offers a 75 slip marina with 30/50 amp, diesel and gas fuel, water and slips for up to 100 foot yachts.
Bimini Sands Resort has an ocean front pool and marina pool, restaurants and bars located on property, free airport shuttle and free water shuttle that departs daily to North Bimini for shopping, museums, local attractions and the Casino.
For more information, visit www.thebiminisands.com
HOW TO GET AROUND
The Bimini Tram provides transportation throughout North Bimini from Alice Town to Porgy Bay. It operates daily, between 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Fare is $3 for adults and $1 for children.
Scheduled ferry service is available between North and South Bimini from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The fare is $2 each way. Look for the Bimini Government Dock in both Alice Town and South Bimini.
Taxis can be hailed on the street and golf carts can be rented around the island.
The Bimini Museum is located on North Bimini in Alice Town on King’s Highway across from the Bimini Craft Center. The museum was started by the Bimini Historical Society to preserve the island’s history. There are pictures, stories, artifacts and relics “that commemorate those who contributed to the development of Bimini, in addition to memorabilia of Bimini’s most famous former resident, Ernest Hemingway.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose visit to the island in 1968 had a significant impact on its people. The bronze bust of his image is displayed at the Bimini Craft Center in Alice Town.
Everyone enjoys a Caribbean Straw Market. Local vendors have stalls at the Bimini Craft Center in Alice Town and sell a variety of straw creations and other handmade crafts. It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Bimini might be small at only 7 miles long but it’s got great beaches especially on the west side of North Bimini. Radio Beach, Blister Beach and Spook Hill Beach are three continuous beaches stretching from Alice Town to Bailey Town. Tiki Hut Beach is popular on South Bimini and there are numerous secluded beaches on the Cays to the south. Beachcombers often find whole conch shells, colorful sea glass and hermit crabs the size of baseballs.
Conch shells everywhere on North Bimini islands because they are a local food staple. Walking along the streets past local eateries, you will view conch graveyards where shells are stacked 6 feet high and 30 feet long.
Bimini Nature Trail
The Bimini Nature Trail on South Bimini Island allows you to see Bimini’s plants and animals in their natural environment.
Shark Lab Tour
The Shark Lab Tour includes a boat ride to South Bimini Island from North Bimini. The friendly and entertaining staff share shark research information and allow guests to pet a shark. The tour staff picked coconuts for us to drink milk from and offered us Bahama Bread.
We visited the local Fountain of Youth well. Every participant took a sip. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll on the South Bimini Nature trail learning about local plants and animals and visiting ruins. Make sure you apply generous amounts of mosquito repellent. Our driver joked that a swarm of mosquitoes once lifted him off the ground.
Be sure to sample a local canned beverage named Bahama Goombay. It is delightful.
For a good laugh, ask the guides to teach you the “One cent, five cent, ten cent, dollar” song and dance.
For more information, visit http://www.biminisharklab.com/opportunities/publictours
The Healing Hole
The Healing Hole pond earned its name because of the healing properties reported by those who swim in it. Accessible by boat only, it is a natural fresh-water spring that pumps up lithium and sulfur inside a salt water swamp in the mangroves of Bonefish Creek.
The Bimini Wall or Bimini Road
The Bimini Road or Bimini Wall is one-half mile of underwater limestone blocks. Some believe they are a remnant of the legendary Lost City of Atlantis.
TRAVELING TO BIMINI
As of January 10, 2016, Resorts World Bimini ended their three-times-a-week ferry service to Bimini from Miami.
Cape Air – https://www.capeair.com/where_we_fly/caribbean.html
Silver Airways – www.silverairways.com
Tropic Ocean Airways – www.flytropic.com
Since Bimini is just 50 miles from Florida, many local charter boats offer trips on a regular basis from both Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Of course, if you have your own yacht, there are plenty of slips and marinas awaiting your arrival.
The North and South Bimini Islands are a unique blend of old-Bahamas towns and upscale resorts. The turquoise waters are stunning and the beaches are beautiful. We enjoyed our visit and may return someday to explore more of what these often overlooked islands have to offer.
Article and photos by Steven Skelley & Thomas Routzong. Copyright 2016 Sunny Harbor Publishing. Contact Us: PO Box 560318, Rockledge, FL 32956. Phone: 321-446-7552. Email: SunnyHarborPublishing@yahoo.com
Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong are a happily married couple who love to travel. They write and photograph to help others see the world and see it in a new way. They have authored multiple travel and positive-themed books. You can learn more about Thomas and Steven at www.SunnyHarborPublishing.org and www.GayTravelersMagazine.com Read more…