When you hear the term “Girls’ Getaway” you might immediately envision a day at the spa, a mani/pedi or a day of shopping and lunching. But I recently experienced a long weekend adventure to Grand Bahama Island (www.bahamas.com/bahamas/grand-bahama-island) that turned a simple getaway into a “Great Escape”.
The second most popular tourist destination in the Bahamas (after Nassau), and the fifth largest of the 700 islands of the Bahamas, Grand Bahama Island is home to the city of Freeport. The island is not large, at 17½ miles wide and 96 miles long, with only a handful of true waterfront hotels, and most of its relatively modest tourist traffic emsnates from cruise ships, which call into port on an almost daily basis.
The flight to Freeport from Toronto is less than three hours, and it is a quick 20-minute cab ride to our first stop, at the Grand Lucayan Resort (www.grandlucayan.com), which features a beautiful pool/outdoor bar area leading down to the 7.5 acres of sandy beach, which flank it. The 10-story “high-rise” tower curves around to envelope the pool and bar area. With restaurants on site (including the Junkanoo-themed Iries), there is no need to take the five-minute walk over to the Straw Market area, but you’ll want to, in order to discover other outdoor bars, restaurants, an array of gold and jewellery wholesalers, as well as some souvenirs to take home to the kids. (Remember the kids? I don’t either.) Across the street, and just as accessible to the market is the Pelican Bay Resort (www.pelicanbayhotel.com) which has a slight European feel to it, and offers suites with kitchenettes which might have you thinking about bringing the family on your next visit (try to suppress it). The Sabor restaurant within the Pelican Bay Resort is canal-side, and situated next to the picturesque lap pool and hot tub. Sabor is a convenient poolside bar during the daytime hours, and a great spot for boat- and people-watching.
Breaking away from the serenity of the resort hotels, we decided to get our adventure on, and took an excursion with a Jeep Adventure Tour (www.grandbahamanaturetours.com) . “We’re all adults,” our guide Joanne advised us, “And just remember – what happens in the Jeep party, ends up on YouTube.” For only $79, we were treated to a five-hour Jeep ride – oh yes, we drove, on the wrong side of the road – and travelled through the six eco-systems, which the Grand Bahamas proudly calls home. From underwater caves to Gold Rock Beach (rated the fifth most beautiful beach in the world), to pine forests and stretches of timber, the change in eco-systems and terrain is as sudden as it is beautiful.
Joanne was happy to share with us the sometimes disturbing but fascinating history of the Lucayan native people, and also introduced us to three tiny raccoons, which we hand. At one point, a manta ray jumped out of the water as we drove by, and we were advised that they do this “either to give birth, or to escape a predator.” As Moms, we wondered if this wasn’t basically the same thing.
“We like to keep things simple”, explained Joanne, pointing out a red-winged blackbird they liked to call a Red Winged Blackbird, a white swamp flower, called a White Swamp Flower…and the curly tailed lizard? You know it.
Basically simple but simply beautiful is the Garden of the Groves, (www.thegardenofthegroves.com) which features local botanical treasures, a thinking “Labyrinth”, waterfalls, fountains, a chapel, local shops, a plethora of cacti and an outside bar and café perched on the side of a turtle pond. A must see on any visitor’s trip to the island. “The Groves” refers to Wallace and Georgina Groves, who founded the town of Freeport. The park was built and dedicated to them in 1973 and remains the Bahamas’ premiere nature experience.
Not content with dedicating all of our horsepower to the automotive kind, the next day we found ourselves perched astride the beautiful horses of PineTree Stables (www.pinetree-stables.com). The only horseback riding business on the island, Linda Buchanan (otherwise known as “The Horse Lady”) was our equine expert, guiding us through the forests and paths leading down to the beach. As we rode through a pine forest, Linda asked me if I could hear a sound. While I instantly realized the sound I thought I was hearing couldn’t possibly be the hum of the 401, she explained it was the wind, rushing above us, as we rode protected through the trees. There is usually a wind blowing in The Bahamas, or a “breeze” as they always refer to it, and events are referenced to the last hurricane. (Hurricane season ended in November, so we were fine.) FYI – riding a horse into the ocean’s surf is miles away (both physically and metaphorically) from driving your mini-van through the drive-thru lanes. An amazing experience for only $99 a person.
As “Forward, onward, upward together” is the motto of the Bahamas, we decided to make a move and on our third day we travelled away from the relatively busy town of Port Lucayan to the tip of the island to stay at the exclusive Old Bahamas Bay resort (www.oldbahamabay.com). A popular port for yachts and sport fishermen, we took in the views of the white sandy beaches, while eating conch fritters and (for research purposes only) trying out the local Kalik beer. At this time of the year, the resort was extremely quiet, which was the perfect tonic for busy women (and I suppose men) looking to detox. After the coconut crusted French toast was declared the best meal of my colleagues’ life, we picked up our Bahama Mamas and toasted to ourselves, the Mamas in the Bahamas, and went back to enjoying the perfect beach retreat, our only big decisions of the day whether to sit beachside or poolside; shaken or stirred.
One of our guides had told us that if you are to ask a Bahamian man “How are you?” His answer will always be “I be here”. I think that translates to “If I’m here, I’m better.” And when it comes to the Grand Bahamas, I’d certainly agree with that. GL
This article first appeared in The Good Life and can be found at this link: http://www.goodlifemississauga.com/112-gl-2012/bahama.html