Bimini in the Bahamas is becoming a destination for many cruise lines since the Resort World Cruise Port opened in the summer of 2021. The huge dock can accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world. Bimini has welcomed guests, including Ernest Hemmingway and Dr. Martin Luther King, for many years. The island is often overlooked for its more populated neighboring islands and even with the arrival of cruise ships, it still has a hidden gem feel to it. Other than Resort World, the rest of the island is like a step back in time and you can easily imagine what drew Hemmingway to it.
On a visit to Bimini, you can expect to discover quaint towns that still hold their charm. There are miles of beautiful white sand beaches, and it is a diver’s paradise. You’ll find historical landmarks and plenty of opportunities to experience the local culture whether it is noshing on conch at one of the rustic stands or shopping at the Bimini Craft Center.
I was on a Press Trip to learn about the Holland America Rotterdam, but I arranged and paid for my day on Bimini Island.
1. Resorts World Tram
I arrived on Holland America Rotterdam and in no time was taking a long stroll down the dock. When you get off your ship, you will see a sign reading: “Walkway to Kayak Beach, Fisherman’s Village, golf cart rental, and taxi to town.” You will also see the complimentary Resorts World Bimini Tram. It can, however, be confusing when you come off the ship. You are asked if you booked a tour, and they direct you to the tram, but it is free for everyone. I walked the pier to stretch my legs but with the heat, it can feel challenging. After a long day, our guide dropped us off to catch the tram back to the ship.
Pro Tip: There is a golf cart rental place at the end of the dock off to the right. Cart can be rented for $60 cash.
2. Fisherman’s Village And Kayak Beach
Located at the end of the dock, you’ll find a few businesses and the lovely Kayak Beach. As the name suggests, you can rent watercraft here. I thought it was lovely and a great place to get some sun not too far from the ship.
3. Bimini Island Tours
I highly recommend booking a tour with Bimini Island Tours. This is a one-man show with guide Cleveland Maxwell Rolle Jr. — but you can call him Max. This tour was the highlight of my trip and Max was a joy. He is a Bahamahost certified with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investment, and Aviation as well as a certified Eco Tour Guide with the Bahamas National Trust. We met as strangers but left as family, literally; I think Max is related to half the people on the island.
I tend to explore on my own, but in this case, my experience would have been totally different. I was able to see so much more. This is a sleepy island and many of the businesses open at a more leisurely pace. Max planned our itinerary and made sure that someone met us at each stop. Having a local Biminite really made a difference in getting to meet so many interesting people with such great stories. I truly had an authentic Bahamian experience.
These are the places and people I met during my tour with Bimini Island Tours. Because Max is a private guide, he can tailor your trip to what you would like to see and experience. Max communicated by email, set up the perfect day, and sent me a final itinerary for my approval.
4. Resorts World
My tour with Max started with a driving tour of Resorts World. This is a great option if you just want a day at the beach. You can book a package with your cruise, or simply take the tram and pay at the desk. The beach club is Virgin Cruise Lines “private beach” when their ships are in port. At other times, it is run by Resorts World and open to the public. It is a beautiful beach with two pools for a resort experience. You can also splurge on a cabana. The property has a casino as well. It is a pretty resort with not much local about it. I chose to spend my time supporting the local businesses.
5. Nate’s Bakery
One of the things I appreciated most on this tour was the opportunity to visit small local businesses. Nate Hanna has been baking bread since the 1970s. He started his own store after the death of his mother who started the business. When you walk in the door, Nate welcomes you with his big, bold personality and the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the air. He started the business following in the footsteps of his late mother who ran a successful bakery. Her photo is prominently displayed in the shop. Nate bakes fresh Bimini bread every day. The classic recipe is a sweet rich bread made with generous amounts of sugar and coconut milk. It is so tasty especially when baked with all the love and care Nate pours into it.
6. Ansil’s Boat House
Meeting Mr. Ansil Saunders was one of the highlights of my trip. He had our whole group in tears when he shared his experiences meeting and serving as a guide to Dr. Martin Luther King when he visited Bimini. King found inspiration to write his Nobel Peace Prize speech during his time exploring the mangrove forests in a boat with Ansil. As a child, Ansil’s family lived next door to the house Ernest Hemmingway stayed in during his time in Bimini. In addition to his great tales, Ansil’s boats are legendary. He builds one boat a year: a 16-foot bone fisher which is a shallow draft boat made to catch bonefish. Ansil holds the world record for the largest bonefish caught.
7. The War Memorial And Heroes Park
This is just a quick stop to see the park that honors Bimini’s veterans of World War I and II as well as local heroes. The park has a lovely view of the ocean.
8. The Dolphin House
The Dolphin House is an incredible work of art created by Mr. Ashley Saunders (Ansil’s brother). He wasn’t always an artist, but an experience swimming with the wild dolphins of Bimini woke up the artistic spirit within him. You’ll find descriptions of this as a kitschy tourist attraction, but nothing could be further from the truth. Saunders is incredibly talented and built the entire home from the ground up using materials found around the island and that washed ashore. He was upcycling before it was a thing, and he has created an incredible work of art. Join him and take a tour as he explains his inspiration for every mosaic, window, and built-in piece of furniture in the home. Such a unique experience.
9. Radio Beach
We just did a quick stop here. It’s definitely the tourist beach with shops, food stands, and, most importantly, public restrooms. It is named after the radio towers nearby and was the site of the first radio and telegraph station in 1920. It is also easily accessible by golf cart if you choose to rent one instead of taking a tour.
10. Visit A Conch Shack
Conch is plentiful in Bimini, and you will see piles of shells in the water especially near the Conch Shack, where you can try Conch Salad, a local specialty. The salad is like ceviche only made with conch, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, and citrus juices. The Conch is prepared fresh each day. Behind each stand along the water, you can see fenced in areas where the conch is stored until it is harvested. At one of the stops, Max pointed out a rough-looking raft which turned out to be one Cuban refugees escaped on. There are so many to choose from, but Joe’s Conch Shack stands out.
“We put more love and care in it,” said the young lady working when asked what makes Joe’s stand out from the rest. “We cut up everything right in front of you.” So, you can see how fresh it is.
11. Bimini Craft Center
For those that love to shop, head to the Bimini Craft Center where you will find 17 booths filled with locally-made island crafts, hats, T-shirts, and other souvenirs. Located in the heart of Alice Town, you have the chance to meet friendly locals and learn about their history from interpretive signs throughout the center. Free Wi-Fi is available as well as public restrooms. Each day, a local food truck parks there, selling a variety of Bahamian food. It’s well worth the stop.
12. Ernest Hemingway Ruins
As you drive through Alice Town, you will see some ruins with a big interpretive sign highlighting Ernest Hemingway’s stay on Bimini. The island was a huge inspiration for him, and he loved sport fishing in the area. It is said that Bimini gave him the insight to write The Old Man and the Sea. Locals share tales of his infamous behavior on the island. It is also said that he was a heavy drinker and walked around with a 40-ounce bottle of rum stashed in his pocket. A boxing aficionado, Hemingway would bet $10 that someone couldn’t knock him out with one punch. He would allow the first hit and taunt them to make sure it was a hard one. The next thing the challenger knew, he was laid out with someone dumping water over him to wake him up.
13. Three Daughters Restaurant
Finish your day with a meal at Three Daughters restaurant and enjoy their specialties, either the cracked lobster or cracked conch. I asked Max where he goes to eat, and he said this was his favorite. You can eat in or get your food to go. Filled mostly with locals and the occasional tourist, the food here was fantastic. The interior is nothing fancy, but you can eat on the screened porch for an excellent view. The cracked lobster was deep-fried. I had never had it prepared this way and it was so tasty, crispy, and crunchy without being greasy. This is a family-run business with Leroy Rolle bringing fresh-caught fish and lobster right to the restaurant. On a sad note, Kim Rolle, one of the owners, was the first to die of COVID-19 on the island.
It was a great day in Bimini, and I just loved the local aspect of this trip. It felt authentic, not touristy. I highly recommend booking with Bimini Island Tours. Max is a treasure and his familiar relationships on the island truly enhanced our experience.