Great Exuma Island, Georgetown, Bahamas
Written by Missy Johnston
Great Exuma Island is one of the southern-most islands in the Exuma Island chain. Located on Great Exuma Island is the town of Georgetown which is the center of the southern Exuma Islands, making Georgetown a yacht charter destination. Home to around 2500 year around residents, and with a great deep water harbor, Georgetown has a busy yacht harbor, and is a good location to visit when on a Bahamian yacht charter of the Exuma Islands. The deep harbor, Elizabeth Harbour, was a favorite with pirates in the 1600’s, who hid in Great Exuma Island repairing and careening their vessels on nearby cays ringed with the shallow water needed to careen a vessel on the beach. Towards the end of the 1700’s, Loyalist plantation owners from Virginia and the Carolinas fled to Great Exuma and Little Exuma Islands to rebuild their cotton plantation economy after the American Revolutionary War. Georgetown was named after King George III, to whom the Loyalists remained faithful. Today, Elizabeth Harbour is a favorite harbor in yachting as one of the largest natural harbors in the world, with beautiful water in lovely shades of blue and green.
In Georgetown, visit the Straw Market, a market place of different stalls all manned by local ladies. There are true crafts, and also the normal tourist items. If tourist souvenirs are not of interest, pick through the merchandise displayed in the various stalls to find true crafts such as baskets hand woven using coconut palm fronds. The ladies may even show you how the coconut palm fronds are cleaned to become basket weaving material. There are several restaurants and bars and also the little store, Sandpiper Arts and Crafts, with wares created by local artists, but also products made elsewhere in the Bahamas such as Abaco Neem products made from local Abaco Neem oil. The Government Building is attractive with architecture based on the Government Building in Nassau. There are several beautiful beaches. Nearby are Little Exuma and Stocking Islands, which should also be visited when on a private yacht charter in the southern Exuma Islands of the Bahamas.
Part of both Little Exuma and Great Exuma Islands is Moria Harbour Cay National Park established in 2002 and encompassing 13,440 acres. Within the park area, felt to be an important part of the ecosystem between Great and Little Exuma islands, are pristine beaches, sand dunes, mangrove creeks and sea grass beds, and within the park a huge variety of birds can be found nesting.
Little Exuma and Great Exuma Islands are joined by a small bridge making Little Exuma Island possible to visit by land. Scenes from two Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed on the southern end of the island. On Little Exuma are the overgrown ruins of The Hermitage Estate near William’s Town, once a 970-acre cotton plantation established by a Loyalist family after the American Revolution. Today, on the grounds, still stands the Cotton House, the oldest building in The Exuma Islands which was originally built in the 1750s when the cotton industry was alive and well on the island for a brief period. Also to be seen today is a portion of the main house, three tombs, and ruins of slave quarters. The nearby salt pond, felt to be one of the finest natural salt lakes in The Exumas, was worked for salt to be exported to Canada and the United States. The beautiful Tropic of Cancer Beach, the longest beach on the Little Exuma Island, also known as Pelican Beach with white powder sand, is the location in the Bahamas where the Tropic of Cancer Meridian crosses.
Easily reachable by charter yacht from Elizabeth Harbour, Stocking Island is considered to have some of the finest white powder sand beaches in The Bahamas. Around the perimeter and within the island are blue holes, coral gardens and undersea caves which are great to explore either by snorkeling or scuba diving. If exploring by scuba diving, it is best to do so with an experienced local dive company as the blue holes are unique tidal blue holes, with a current pulling one in or spitting one out which requires appropriate timing of when to dive. The Island also has Stromatolites, found on beaches on the Atlantic side of the island, said to be the oldest known macro-fossils on the planet.
The Chat and Chill is a big draw on Stocking Island, which was opened in 1998 originally as a location for live-aboards to gather for great food and even Sunday church. Today, the Chat and Chill is the main social spot on Stocking Island, with a restaurant, beach boutique, volleyball net, and waterside conch salad shack. Every Sunday, year around, the Chat and Chill hosts a popular pig roast with beach volleyball; making for a fun afternoon for every charterer on every charter yacht around.
As always, snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, and fishing, including bonefishing are all superb in this southern area of the Exuma Islands. One can just jump into the water in various locations right from your charter yacht in the midst of beautiful coral gardens.
Great Exuma Island with Georgetown, Little Exuma and Stocking Islands, are all in close proximity and on a crewed yacht charter one could spend several days exploring and enjoying all there is to do and see.
What to Do and See on Great Exuma Island, Bahamas
Georgetown: Wander the streets of Georgetown to see the Government Building, visit the Straw Market and the Sandpiper Arts and Crafts store, along with the several restaurants and bars. Georgetown is the largest town in the Exuma Islands, with the largest deep water harbor in which visiting charter yachts can be safely anchored.
Sandals Emerald Bay Resort: Outside of Georgetown on a mile long secluded beach, this adults only resort is located in a 500 acre compound. The resort includes 11 restaurants, 3 pools, a spa and award winning golf course.
Moria Harbour Cay National Park: Including land and sea on both Great Exuma and Little Exuma Islands, enjoy this protected area for the hiking trails, and natural life to be seen, especially birds.
Hermitage Plantation Ruins: Located on Little Exuma, these plantation ruins are in the wild, however very overgrown, so best to visit wearing good sturdy shoes.
Chat and Chill: Popular restaurant on Stocking island, especially for the pig roasts that happen every Sunday year around from 12:00noon to 7:00pm, easily reachable by and welcoming to every charterer on every charter yacht.