Free to Be You
“The sea,” says Christopher Paolini, “defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.” When you arrive on Eleutheran soil, firm and red in some locations, sandy white in others, you’ll get the feeling that Eleuthera, Bahamas is an island that refuses to be defined; it patiently waits for you to recognise your own and its own unfathomable depths.
Eleuthera is a Greek word for ‘free’, and on this slender island that is 110 miles long and less than a mile wide at some points, freedom is a cherished way of life. After the Spanish colonisers eradicated its original inhabitants - the Lucayans - Eleuthera remained unpopulated until the arrival of the Eleutherian Adventurers, a band of Puritan Pilgrims who left Bermuda in their ongoing search for religious and political freedom.
Abandoning their wrecked ship off the north tip of Eleuthera, known as the Devil’s Backbone, they came ashore at Preacher’s Cave bringing enslaved and free Africans, as well as the conflicts that those seeking freedom in new lands often cannot escape. You can visit the massive cave in the North before you drive South and cross the famed ‘Glass Window Bridge’, where clear shallow seas kiss the deep ocean in a dramatic rendezvous.
When conditions proved too inhospitable, many of the Eleutheran Adventurers returned to Bermuda; those remaining settled in Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, two very unique and idiosyncratic offshore islands to the North of Eleuthera.
Today Eleuthera is a haven to locals and visitors alike. From American industrialists such as Arthur Vining Davis, and Henry J. Kaiser, to actors Robert De Niro, and famed musicians Loretta Lynn, Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, to freedom seeking surfers from all over the world who come to ride the waves on Surfer’s Beach, many have found in Eleuthera a place in which they can just be.
If you’re here in June, be sure to come to Gregory Town’s Pineapple Festival and taste the golden pineapples that gave Dole Food Company their start. Drive south to Hatchet Bay and explore the Hatchet Bay Caves that offer a spiritual experience to anyone with a flashlight and sense of adventure. Buy sweet mangos from a roadside stand in James Cistern, and make sure to stop in at Governor’s Harbour where every afternoon fishermen arrive with stories and fresh catches of crawfish and grouper and conch. Uncover the healing power of Bahamian plants at the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, a 25-acre expanse of protected flora and fauna, the first national park of its kind.
Or follow the Queen’s Highway further south to Tarpum Bay and visit Apple Hole Farm’s deli, where they sell sheep and chicken souse –Bahamian staples– and cool freshly squeezed lemonade. And if you keep going, you might stop in at the Island School – an innovative marine-based research program for high school students. If you are headed that far south, you will regret not visiting Lighthouse Beach, unquestionably one of the best beaches in the Bahamas.
Explore the jagged cliffs of Eleuthera’s iron shore or the mansions on Eleuthera’s east coast, where the Atlantic ocean dashes up against miles of wide pink sand beaches; gather shells in secluded coves and inlets in the calm shallows along Eleuthera’s western coast. Buy a beer in Palmetto Point at a local sports bar where you can catch up on local gossip; or eat at one of the many lunch and dinner spots in Governor’s Harbour where you’ll also find live music by local bands.
And when the sun is setting, and you’re full of the day’s catch, you feel the hum of the day like the rose and coral of the sunset inside you, then you know you’ve really arrived, you’re in Eleuthera now, remembering how to just be you.