Fifty miles due east off the coast of Miami, the islands of Bimini emerge from the turquoise-green sea.
This tiny dash of the Bahamas, only 10 square miles in all, consists of two islands, North and South Bimini, and a few uninhabited cays. Its proximity to the blue waters of the warm and swiftly moving Gulf Stream current and the big game fish it attracts—bluefin tuna, sailfish and blue marlin—have drawn sports fishermen here since the 1920s, none more famous than Ernest Hemingway. He spent three consecutive fishing seasons in Bimini from 1935 to 1937, crossing the Gulf Stream from Key West aboard his fishing boat Pilar.
In Bimini, Hemingway spent his days deep sea fishing (it was here that he revolutionized the method and set records for reeling in giant tuna intact and unmolested by the sharks), drinking heavily inside dark, cool bars and provoking the occasional dockside brawl.Through the years, anglers and adventurers have come to the remote, rough-and-tumble Bimini for much of the same.
Once only accessible by private yacht, seaplane, or small prop plane, Bimini is poised for unprecedented tourism with the new Resorts World Bimini development and its Bimini SuperFast cruise ship, sailing roundtrip daily from the Port of Miami.
The 669-foot, 10-deck vessel (about half the size of a typical Norwegian Cruise Line ship) can accommodate 1,500 guests (the plan is to keep passenger counts between 400 and 500 for comfort) with 180 private cabins. It’s equipped with bars, restaurants, and a live-action casino to keep passengers entertained while whisking them to Bimini in about two and a half hours.
Billing itself as the first cruise destination resort, the ship disembarks passengers to Resorts World Bimini, a 750-acre development located at the northern edge of North Bimini Island.
The resort and ship are part of The Genting Group’s portfolio. If the name rings a bell, they’re the Malaysian global resort and casino group worth $45 billion who purchased the Miami Herald building in 2011.
Originally built in 2007 as Bimini Bay Resort, the property is equipped with 480 privately owned vacation cottages, ranging in size from studios to four bedrooms. Since taking over in late summer this year, The Genting Group has big plans for the development. They’ve already erected a 10,000 square-foot casino, and a 350-room ultra modern luxury hotel is set to open before the end of the year.
With these developments, Resorts World Bimini provides a variety of ways to experience Bimini like never before, including daytrip excursions and overnight stay packages. There’s also an all night party cruise into international waters without disembarking in Bimini.
A skinny island at only 700-feet wide and seven-miles long, it’s relatively easy to get the lay of the land of North Bimini. Rent an electric golf cart with seating for eight from Resorts World Bimini and set off to explore the two-lane Kings Highway.
You’ll encounter a colorful and ramshackle town of clapboard and cement houses, some in disrepair, others halted in construction. There are conch shacks, like Joe’s and Stuart’s, set against the tranquil bay serving fresh conch salad straight from the ocean. Painted signage on buildings include don’t-worry-be-happy sayings, like “Smile More” and the ubiquitous “Just Say Please Say Thanks” with the Nike swoosh, the apparent Biminite riff on “Just Do It.”
You’ll reach Bailey Town first where the Bimini Museum may or may not be open. A little further down the road in Alice Town, a small straw market shills tourist souvenirs, like tie-dye Kalik beer t-shirts shredded with fringe. A slew of bars line the road as you continue south—Big John’s, Island House, and End of the World Saloon/Sand Bar. At the end of the road, a tiny cemetery climbs up a bluff, and on the other side you’ll find the rocky coral edge of the island and the rusted bright orange hull of a long marooned vessel offset by the foamy aquamarine sea.
Where To Eat
Aside from the conch salad, Bimini has a couple of must try delicacies specific to the island. Make your first stop at Edith’s Pizza just outside the Resorts World Bimini gates. The setting is open air and right on the bay. Feast on Edith’s famous and delicious lobster pizza made with ooey-gooey cheese and sweet Bimini bread dough. Start with an order of conch fritters and cracked conch, and if you’re with a big group, opt for the BBQ chicken and conch pizza, too—and keep the Bahama Mamas coming.
The other specialty is Bimini bread, spoken of with much affection and reverence by the locals. Stop by A Taste of Heaven bakery on The Kings Highway to sample a loaf of the light, slightly sweet and definitely addictive white bread, or opt for a sweet roll coated in guava cream.
What To Do
It would be a shame to visit Bimini’s islands in the stream and not get offshore. If you’re not an angler, consider snorkeling with Bimini Undersea, located onsite at Resorts World Bimini. Set out for a morning trip aboard a small center console boat with captain and guide to an offshore reef and to the World War I SS Sapona wreck, which ran aground during a hurricane in 1926. Swim amongst grand triggerfish, puffer fish and blacktip sharks, and keep your eyes peeled on the sandy bottom for stingrays and an abundance of conch shells.
Make time for a little rest and relaxation at the resort’s sandy beach or venture out to the secluded Radio Beach farther south. The resort also boasts two swimming pools, tennis courts, a fitness center and open-air shopping. Dinner at its newly constructed fine dining restaurant Sabor is a must, serving fresh Caribbean fare.
A night in Bimini deserves a nightcap in Alice Town. Venture out to End of the World Saloon/Sand Bar where locals and tourists alike sip rum and play dominoes inside this barely lit shack with sand floors, walls scrawled with signatures and heavy reggae music blaring from a boom box. The bar opens up to the harbor with an outdoor patio overlooking a few boat slips, and nearby Browns Marina can be found where Hemingway once docked Pilar.
While a commercial flight from Fort Lauderdale gets you to the South Island in less than a half hour, the Bimini SuperFast gets you to the North Island at a fraction of the price. Day trips start at $99, one-way fares for overnight stays range from $59 to $99 and accommodation packages start at $159 per person, according to their website.
While the ship departs the Port of Miami at 9 a.m. daily, you should plan to arrive by 7:30 a.m. for check-in and security clearance. Don’t forget your passport. When the ship reaches Bimini, it anchors offshore and disembarks passengers onto a series of two-deck catamaran tenders to the resort’s shore. Future plans involve building a dock at the resort that can accommodate a vessel of this size, but in the meantime this “harbor tour” adds an additional hour of travel, getting you on land around 12:30 p.m to go through customs.
The return trip departs Bimini at 3:30 p.m. and arrives in Miami around 7 p.m. Allow time to disembark and go through customs once back in the U.S.
While unnecessary for the short sojourn, private cabins are available starting at $40. There’s ample comfortable seating in the common areas of the ship, both
in doors and out. You can also check your luggage for a fee of $25 per bag. To avoid the extra charge, pack light—you don’t need much in Bimini—and carry a duffle rather than a small roller board suitcase. An over the shoulder bag is easier to maneuver up and down stairs during the cruising process.
For more information and to book, click here or call 888-930-8688.