Cruising the Northern Exuma Islands
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Last Updated on October 5, 2022 by Amy
While Georgetown gets busy, with 400 cruising boats at a time in the peak months (Feb-April), it’s a different kind of busy from the northern Exumas, especially Georgetown. After hearing so much about it, we were excited to make our way north and check out the rest of the island chain.
Many of our friends frequently run up and down the islands – guests fly in to Staniel Cay and out of Georgetown or vis versa.
We left Georgetown on April 18th and left the Exumas on May 5th.
Big Major and Staniel Cay
Staniel Cay, and the neighboring Big Majors, is a huge attraction in the Bahamas. Staniel Cay has an airport, albeit a small one, and friends of ours were flying into Staniel Cay to visit – and kick me off the boat!
Long term readers/viewers may remember Kyle, who visited us in Fiji, New Caledonia, and Seychelles. Well, Kyle came to Starry Horizons with four more friends and had his bachelor party.
We anchored in two main places at Staniel Cay. Across from the yacht club, there’s a deeper area behind the mooring balls that is good for anchoring and is close into town, but the best place to anchor is Big Majors. There is a ton of room, even if there are a lot of superyachts, and you can dinghy on a calm day to town.
Staniel Cay was a pretty fabulous place for a bachelor party. We thought the water in Georgetown was stunning, but Staniel Cay is even more so. It’s like sailing in a pool. The island itself is not very developed. The Staniel Cay Yacht Club is pretty much the only restaurant, and the grocery stores are small and ill stocked. I boked an Airbnb for some “me time” to binge on TV and relax while the guys played tourist.
The biggest thing to do in Staniel Cay is swim with the pigs. The bachelor party went to the beach, where the pigs roam and get fed. Well…the bachelor himself got bit. After hearing how aggressive the pigs were, I decided to pass on visiting myself.
The other big attraction at Staniel Cay is Thunderball Grotto, the site of the James Bond movie. David did this with his friends, and then we came back together to do it. The current can really rip through, so be prepared, but once you get inside the cave, it’s calm and clear and stunning. We went early in the morning to miss the crowds.
Being on land myself, I was able to walk every day and explore some nearby hiking trails. Those trails took me out to the eastern ocean-side of the island. I had the trails all to myself, despite the general crowds.
I dined at Staniel Cay Yacht Club thrice. The food was good, and I recommend the famous peanut colada.
With our friends Holly and Eric on Pancho, we sailed up to Compass Cay. This island has a marina and is famous for their “pet” nurse sharks.
We did a full day on the island with Holly and Eric. We started in the morning, while the marina was still sleepy, and tied Little Dipper up to the dock. Then we started our hike out to Rachel’s Bubble Bath. The hike took us along the craggy, ocean-side shore and out to a natural swimming pool formed by the swell washing over a small cut in the rocks. Sure enough, it is very much like a bubble bath.
Then, we walked back and found this massive crowd hanging out with the nurse sharks. We asked the staff when things cleared out and resolved to come back when it was less crowded.
Sure enough, there was no one swimming when we got back around six. We had the nurse sharks all to ourselves – granted, they were tired from a long day and we didn’t exactly “cuddle” them like tourists do, but we got to swim with them and do a little bit more relaxed photo session.
Some of the yachts that were docked at the marina were having a very laid back happy hour with an upgrade – grilled lamb chops. While the marina has guest houses, I don’t think there’s a whole lot going on except for the tour boats coming in during the day to play with the nurse sharks.
Our last stop in the northern Exumas was at Shroud Cay, which was high up on my Bahamas Bucket List. Shroud Cay is unusually wide, and is the top most island of the Exumas Marina Park, but what makes it most attractive is the channels that run through the mangroves of the island. You can navigate from the anchorage on the west side to the lovely beach on the ocean side, which is protected by barrier reefs. There are tons of turtles to see along the way.
We did this trip twice, once in the dinghy with friends and once on the paddleboards, just the two of us.
Obviously there are a lot of places we missed, like the rest of the Exumas Marine Park. But, we had to move on, because my parents were flying in to visit us at North Eleuthera Island!