From swimming with pigs to sipping a Goombay Smash, here are the top 5 things to do in Exuma, Bahamas.
Explore the Cays by Boat
The 365 spectacular islands and cays of the Exumas are best appreciated from the water, but even if you can't cruise the expansive island chain on your own boat, you can still easily charter a skiff by the day. Start in Barraterre and head northwest, stopping at any heavenly sandbar or uninhabited cay you like, but making sure to shore up at a few of the highlights: Drop anchor near Big Majors Cay and take a dip with the infamous swimming pigs; Dock at Staniel Cay Yacht Club for some cracked conch at the grill; Snorkel through the hollowed-out sea cave at Thunderball Grotto - site of the famous 007 film, Thunderball; Then chill out with a cold beer at Compass Cay.
One-day rentals of 15-foot Boston Whalers from $120 per day at MWS Boats; 20-foot power catamarans from $260 per day. Guided tours with Captain Smith from $300 (negotiable by time frame and number of persons). Charters with Captain Smith: 242-464-1720; www.bahamas.comwww.mwsboats.com
Tropic of Cancer Beach
Just south of Rolle Town on Great Exuma, the one-lane, end-of-the-road bridge known as "The Ferry" will guide you to quiet Little Exuma, home to what is arguably the Exumas' loveliest beach accessible by car. There aren't many amenities nearby and you aren't likely to find any beachside vendors hawking drinks or souvenirs here, but if seclusion is your thing, plan to spread out a beach towel and stay a while. When you're ready for a snack, break out your picnic lunch or cruise up the road to Santana's Grill in Williams Town for a cocktail and some of the best conch fritters around. www.bahamas.com
Hop a quick ferry from George Town over to Stocking Island, a sandy five-mile stretch of land just a mile across Elizabeth Harbour from mainland Great Exuma. The island is home to the Peace and Plenty Beach Club, a private beach and grill available free of charge to guests of the laid-back Peace and Plenty Resort, and the property operates twice-daily ferries that run about $10 for non-guests. Also on the island, the spirited Chat 'n' Chill beach bar and grill serves up specials like barbecue ribs, conch burgers and their knock-your-socks-off specialty cocktail, the Goombay Smash. Owner Kenneth Bowe - known among the locals as KB - serves up an amazing pig roast on Sundays if your schedule allows for it. Whatever day of the week, the area also boasts fantastic snorkeling and diving spots for the water-sports lover. The whole of Stocking Island is accessible only by boat, but the Chat 'n' Chill operates a ferry from Government Dock if you need a lift.
Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
Eco- and water-sports-lovers can't miss this 176-square-mile nature preserve that encompasses more than 20 miles of cays between Conch Cut and Wax Cay Cut. Drop anchor at the park's headquarters on Warderick Wells and pick up a map, information guides and a couple souvenirs; then head out on a nature hike or throw on your fins for a snorkel around the protected waters offshore. Managed by the Bahamas National Trust, the region has been a no-take zone since 1985, so coral and marine life in the park is among the most spectacular in all of the Bahamas. Divers can explore reefs made of stromatolites, the oldest living creatures on the planet - estimated to be 2,000 years old. www.bnt.bs/parks_exuma.php
George Town Fish Fry
Serious foodies and casual diners alike can find an authentic Bahamian meal at Fish Fry, the tangle of tiny pavilions and shacks located along the shore a few miles outside of George Town. There are no official "hours of operation," but most of the vendors are open nightly for dinner, with business winding down along with the crowds of locals by around 11 pm. Grab a bite of fresh fish, cracked conch or even pizza, then kick back with a beer or join the locals for a game of dominoes at one of the outdoor picnic tables. Whatever your pleasure, you're likely to find more than just a tasty meal at the Fish Fry.Prices vary by vendor; most are cash-only. www.bahamas.com