The affluent settlement of Spanish Wells occupies the nearly all of the three mile-long St George’s Cay which is connected by bridge to Russell Island to the south and by ferry to North Eleuthera.(the land to the right of the 3 island cluster) An early Spanish explorer found fresh water on St George’s; thus the origin of the settlement’s name.
Spanish Wells is famous for its prosperous fishing fleet, which supplies much of the Bahamas’ commercial crop of lobster, conch and fish. Not all the boats hunt for lobster, but those that do, supply over 80% of Red Lobster’s lobster. This means that you may have eaten Caribbean spiny lobster meat and didn’t realize it. The vessels are owned and run as co-ops, are well-maintained and provide a substantial income to each owner.
The tidy, colorful community dates back to the 17th century when the Eleutheran Adventurers left England looking for religious freedom. They didn’t find what they wanted in Bermuda and many ended up washed up on Eleuthera’s north shore, known as the Devil’s Backbone.(the reef area under the words See Chart EL 6 on the chart photo) An angel watched over them and they found a huge cave that is now called Preacher’s Cave. The cave provided shelter and enabled them to survive; talk about roughing it.
The settlement is well laid out and easy to walk; or rent one of the many golf carts which zoom around easily on the mostly flat streets. The main road runs east to west and the cross streets are numbered starting with 1st Street and ending with 30th at the western end. In the photo below you see more cars than carts parked at the shopping center; even though people have little need for a car, if they can afford one they own one.
Another road runs along the busy harbor and you can watch all sorts of boat activities: small and large ferries, the freight boats, commercial fishing boats unloading and refueling, small runabouts, cruising boats headed either to the marina or to the moorings and the fancy yachts headed to Harbor Island via Devil’s Backbone with a pilot aboard to assure they arrive in one piece.
We thoroughly enjoyed Spanish Wells; our planned 3-night stay turned into 5 and while we found many of the locals somewhat standoffish, our mooring neighbors were friendly and we credit them with making our first visit to Spanish Wells, a very special one.
We shopped, visited the museum, dined at the Shipyard which understandably sits on Shipyard Point, acquired several pounds of boneless grouper but not nearly enough lobster, walked the beach, hosted Barry and Linda of s/v Mardi Gras for happy hour and gathered on their boat with two other boats for a “storm party” the day of the weekly unavoidable cold front. You can imagine the vast quantity of photos I took and since so many are needed to show you around Spanish Wells, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves with little help from me.
Saturday was a pleasant, drier day, partly cloudy with a light cooling breeze and a top temp around 73. On Wed, Omo’o took the Bo Henghy fast ferry over to Harbor Island and gave us the scoop at the s/v Mardi Gras storm party. None of wanted to take our own boats but we’d kicked around shelling out the $46/pp for the fast ferry. Nothing we heard was awful, but we decided that hearing the story from others was good enough. Ritzy resorts; expensive, fancy restaurants, a la di da marina and a beautiful maybe pink sand beach with no treasures sums up Harbor Island. Wonderful for the yachts and the honeymooners, not worth spending nearly $100 just for the pleasure of spending more and feeling like you’re not in the Bahamas anymore.
That left us with one fun option for the day: get to Preacher’s Cave. One way to do that would be to risk life and limb by taking the dinghy up and over North Eleuthera through the reefs, or safely dinghy across to Jean’s Bay where the small ferries land on North Eleuthera. I voted for that method and did not get any quibble. The ride took all of 4 mins.
For once, our timing was perfect and after walking almost 2 of the nearly 3 mile trip, an SUV stopped to offer us a ride. Luxury seating compared to the back of a pickup truck! Four Bahamian ladies from Nassau were here for a visit, staying with their tour guide who has lived near Lower Bogue, EL for 12 years. They were headed to Preacher’s Cave- no surprise since the road doesn’t really lead anywhere else.
Looking out from the beach, the crashing waves and swell confirmed we’d make the smart choice to not even give a second thought to landing the dinghy here- not to mention trying to get off the beach.
A few minutes later we got dropped off at the fork in the road. What a fun and educational experience. When we stopped at the sapodilly (sapodilla) tree, we were offered some fresh coconut and some sky juice which is gin, coconut water and sweetened condensed milk. Served very cold. Yum. Felt invigorated by our walk (and happy it was much shorted than planned) and thrilled to see the sights and taste the tastes and best of all to have met such a terrific group of women who were eager to share and seemed happy to have us along for a while.