Hidden among the more than 700 Bahamian Islands, Long Island is a quick charmer. With technicolor blue waters and lush greenery, this island offers the seclusion and utter beauty few islands these days can offer. The 80-mile oasis is just a 45-minute plane ride from Nassau. Here’s the best way to enjoy this hidden paradise.
What to eat
Conch fritters, conch salad with fruit, traditional conch salad, conch salad with a kick, steamed conch – an introduction to the favorite local dish will happen quick. Sure, there’s plenty of fresh fish plucked right out of the sea, but in Long Island, you eat conch. Stay long enough and you’ll become a connoisseur.
Where to eat
The Diva’s Spot
Sometimes dining isn’t always about the food. Though rest assured, the fresh seafood is fantastic. An evening at The Diva’s Spot in McKanns on Queens Highway is the very essence of Caribbean hospitality. The unassuming outdoor restaurant sits right next to the water with wooden benches and tables to eat. The small bar faces the kitchen and is the best seat in the house.
Whether she’s chopping onions or frying up conch fritters Mrs. Tryphena Bowe-Knowles is always in full command. Hugging patrons or ordering others about her kitchen, it’s all a wonderful show. And after you’ve had your fill of conch, fish and hometown spirits (try the Diva’s Kiss), if you’re lucky, Mrs. Tryphena (as everyone calls her) will sit right next to you and share stories about her life as night settles.
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday (hours fluctuate)
Max’s Conch Bar & Grill
You can tell how much people love a place by the stuff they leave behind. The bar at Max’s Conch Bar & Grill is filled with hats, t-shirts, license plates and other random knick-knacks that are more charming than corny. The roadside establishment located on the Deadman’s Cay Settlement in McKanns has ample seating and offers an array of dishes like jerk chicken or pork, fried shrimp, pepper steak and of course, conch (this one packs a punch). There’s plenty to sip on as well, though you can’t go wrong with a rum punch.
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11am – 9 pm
What to do
Dean’s Blue Hole
The second-deepest blue hole in the world doesn’t garner much fanfare on the island. Just a simple wooden sign with blue paint signals the road to Dean’s Blue Hole.
The expansive dark blue abyss that reaches 203 meters (666 feet) sparks wonder with a dash of fear and the water is so clear you don’t really need goggles to see the fish that boldly swim right up to you – but you should put on the goggles. Scuba diving is allowed and best done with a buddy.
There are no long lines, no expansive parking lot, no entrance fees – premium access for all.
Top tip: The drop off is quick and can be unexpected. Be mindful with youngsters and non-swimmers. Contact the Long Island Tourist Office for any questions or information about the blue hole.
The Bahamas’ largest cave system has a history that dates back to the Lucayan Indians who called the caves home in 500 AD. Located a few hundred feet off Queen’s Highway, Hamilton Cave is very much alive with five species of bats, lizards, soda crabs (some dangling from cave ceilings), crickets and roaches.
Thick tree roots hang from cave openings and slick stalactites continue to form from the steady drip of saltwater in the cave. You’ll need a guide to venture inside and Leonard Cartwright is the man you call. The native Bahamian has been leading tours for 37 years and somehow still enjoys every trek into the cave.
Hours: 8am-5pm, year-round; To book appointments call (242) 472-1796
Price: $15 adults, $8 children
Who to meet
Nothing brings a smile to Judith Rigby’s face quite like boasting about her infrequent trips to the doctor. The secret lies in the expertly maintained gardens around her Judee’s Blissful Creations shop. Known locally and throughout the Caribbean as ‘bush medicine’, Rigby has an encyclopedic knowledge of the plants that cure what ails.
There is a collection of plants for purchase in her colorful store, along with handmade crafts made from seashells, glass, sand and whatever else the island has to offer up. The sweet, yet tart tamarind balls and lemongrass lemonade are crowd-pleasers. Watch out for the ‘bush juice’.
Address: Apple Pond Drive, Lower Deadman’s Cay
Hours: Call or email to set up a time (242) 357-1081; email@example.com
Where to stay
There are 13 hotels, along with a growing number of privately owned rental properties, scattered throughout Long Island. The accommodations range from high-end resorts like the Cape Santa Maria Resort, Gems at Paradise and Winter Haven Inn to more economic options like the Country Cove Inn. Many of the hotels also provide bookings for water activities or boating excursions.
Choose between a rental car or taxi service to get around Long Island. Each should be set up before reaching the island in order to arrange pickup at the airport.
There are two airports on the island – Stella Maris and Deadman’s Cay. Pick the airport closest to your lodgings. Southern Air Charter has twice-daily flights from Nassau.