Activities Attire Boating Covid Dining Features Fishing Getting There Groceries Liquor Lodging
Map Marina/Fuel Medical Restaurants Services Shopping Telephones/WiFi Transportation Weather
© 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014,
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 Ernie Martin
Introduction. This is intended for first-time visitors to Great Harbour Cay ("GHC"), an idyllic island with beautiful beaches. It was prompted by the dearth of information on the Internet. Some of it is factual, some of it is my opinion, and therefore biased. All errors are mine. Because this is a work in progress, suggestions are encouraged. Telephone numbers for many of the entities appear in the "Telephones" section (bottom of page); the numbers that do not start with 367 are cell phones and virtually everyone has WhatsApp. The "Search" or "Edit / Find" feature of your Internet browser is a useful tool to find things on this page (like "beer", "clothing", "ice", "WiFi" or "mechanic").
Overview. Only an hour from Miami (and pronounced Great Harbour Key), GHC has what Travel and Leisure calls one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is a secluded out-island 6.7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, which had its heyday in the 1960's, after being developed as a luxury resort and attracting such vacationers as Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Brigitte Bardot. Ten years later the development stopped and over the years some of the resort's opulent facilities deteriorated; however, key infrastructure elements (e.g., airport runway, electrical power, telephone service, marina) are in good condition and well maintained. Today the island is a quiet, simple paradise. In addition to its beautiful beaches (click to enlarge the beach picture), it has great fishing, a well-protected marina, and wonderful people (about 500 live on the island). There is very little shopping. Bring plenty of cash (both U.S. and Bahamian currency circulate) because only a few merchants accept credit cards. To enter, U.S. citizens and residents only need whatever documents they would need to re-enter the U.S.
* Covid *. If you're fully vaccinated, all you need is to show proof. If not fully vaccinated you need to adhere to certain Covid procedures before entering The Bahamas, which include PCR testing (details here) and you should also check to see what the requirements are to return to the U.S., which may require a Covid test; they are available on the island with same-day results; call the Marina for more information or Lorelle.
Getting There by Air. Air travel to GHC can be expensive. The less expensive way is to go via Nassau. The 1-hour Miami-Nassau flight cost $180 - $400 round trip depending on time of year and if bought sufficiently in advance. You take a morning flight from Miami and then an afternoon flight to GHC; on your return you MAY be able take the afternoon flight to Nassau connecting to one of the late afternoon flights to Miami, which depart 6 - 6:40 PM, but the connection time is very risky and it's safer to take the morning flight from GHC connecting to a noon flight to Miami. Two companies provide these inter-island flights, with round-trip prices ranging from $130 to $175; more info in the first footnote at the bottom of the page*. This leads to a total cost of $310 - $575 round trip.
A 1-hour charter flight from South Florida can get you to GHC earlier in the day and you can depart later in the afternoon, allowing you up to 2 more days on the island compared to going via Nassau. It may also allow more weight, useful if you take food/drinks, as most people do**. The downside is that it's more expensive, sometimes twice as much -- if you do a full charter (6 or more people) it often costs $400 or more per person each way. It's even more expensive, and harder to obtain, if you only need 1 - 2 seats. Tropic Ocean Airways now has service from Ft. Lauderdale to/from the island on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays. Makers Air and Air Charter Miami (Markus) can often accomodate individual passengers, especially if they are flexible on travel dates. Other FAA-Certified Air Carriers that can provide charters from South Florida (and can occasionally accomodate individual passengers) are Treasure Air (Don Moss), Noble Air (Curtis), LuxAir (George Toledo), or Tropic Air. (Telephone numbers at bottom of page.) For private aircraft, the airport has a jet-sized runway.
Getting There by Boat. It's an easy voyage by boat from Florida, with minimal risk of reefs. Larger boats take a course that passes north of Bimini to the west end of the Stirrup Cays just north of GHC, then straight to the marina. Smaller boats (e.g., up to 30 feet) coming from Miami can take a direct course passing south of Bimini along a line of latitude 25o 40.5'N; at 30 knots it's under 5 hours. For more info see the blue box on the boating page.
Features. The largest of the Berry Islands in The Bahamas, GHC's features can be seen in the satellite figure below (a more detailed, zoomable picture with cars visible may be seen on Google Earth). The airport is near its southern end. Virtually the entire east coast is beach and that is where most of the non-Bahamians have their vacation homes. The "Village" (officially Bullock's Harbour) is where most of the locals live and where you find most of the shops (well, sort of). A secure hurricane hole, near the center of the island and accessed from the west, offers excellent protection for boats, as well as a marina and fuel dock. Caves near the northern end of the island (click for pictures) and a south-to-north drive by the island's highest point (see satellite figure) are worthwhile.
Near the southern end of GHC, just north of Haines Cay, is a shallow area which the Cuban-Americans (many of whom have houses on the island) call the "Bajito" (pronouced bahitoh). Roughly a square mile in size, this sand bank comes out of the water at low tide and is a treasure trove of sand-dollars and shells for children of all ages (click for picture). Because from a satellite GHC and Haines Cay appear to be a single island, separated only by narrow Shark's Creek, the satellite figure above has been edited to show more separation (click to see unedited picture).
Note also Cistern Cay, which lies very close to GHC to the west. Also shown are the Stirrup Cays to the north. The remainder of the Berry Islands, offering great boating destinations, lie to the south (click here for map of the Berry Islands).
Weather. Daytime weather is typically sunny and temperatures are moderate (80s in the summer and 70s in the winter are the norm). For an in-depth forecast which gives you the next five days at a glance but allows you to get hour-by-hour for the next 3 days and daily for the whole month click here.
Attire. Clothing is informal, with T-shirt, shorts and sandals welcome everywhere; bathing suits (no top, no shoes) are OK only on the beach or the boat.
Activities. This is a quiet, laid-back place. Aside from excellent fishing and some great boating, it's a place to rest, enjoy a good book on the beautiful beach, pick sand-dollars at the "Bajito" or nurse a tropical drink (here are my recipes for Margaritas and Pina Coladas, perfected on the island). Games range from golfing on the 9-hole course to Mexican Train dominoes.
Fishing. Snapper, grouper and most other fish abound in the waters off GHC. Lobsters also abound and some are huge (see picture below). Deep-drop fishing with electric reels is popular. Only Hawaiian slings may be used to spear fish and bait is not sold on the island, so bring your own. Salt-water fly-fishing in the flats west of the Ambergris Cays (the small cays at the south of the satellite figure above) is superb, Percy Darville -- a renown master -- is available to take you out, and the Soul Fly Lodge specializes in fly-fishing packages. It's easy, even at a moment's notice, to get locals to clean the fish for you, in exchange for the heads, the spoils and a small tip. See the precautions in the "Boating" section below. (This section would be longer if I fished, or if my fishermen friends gave me valuable data instead of boasting of their catch or the size of their fish.)
Boating. You can rent boats from Herbert, the fisherman, and from Elorn at Happy People in the marina. Whether rented or your own boat, it's essential to have up-to-date marine charts in order to safely navigate the many shallows; generally, deep ocean lies to the east of the island, shallower water to the west (the Bahama Bank).
Although GHC itself has a limited number of attractions (only the caves and the "Bajito" spring to mind), there are lots of things to do and see in boating day trips to the surrounding Berry Islands. My Boating Page has information, directions and GPS routes to many of these locations, including the enigmatic Blue Hole (which some believe is a "must" stop for anyone visiting GHC), Flo's, the Ambergris Cays, diving reefs and the fishing mecca "Tongue of the Ocean", and has information on a wonderful guided outing with someone who will dive for fish and lobster, take you to a deserted island, and cook up a feast.
Lodging. A small boutique hotel, Soul Fly Lodge, has recently opened on the main road about a mile north of the airport, where the old Carriearl Hotel used to be. It's closed June to September. Room rates are listed in their website and it has a lovely restaurant. The beach is just a stone throw away, or you can just sit by the 50' swimming pool and enjoy a rum punch from the outdoor bar. It accepts Mastercard and Visa without a surcharge. There is also a small hotel next to the Marina which caters principally to Bahamians.
Airbnb often lists condos, villas and homes for rent. Other visitors stay at the Beach Villas, right on the beach (click for picture), or the Townhouses. The latter, directly opposite the marina, are interesting because each has its own dock and each is on stilts, hanging over the water; smaller boats fit entirely or partially under the house and larger boats on the private dock (you can see this by enlarging the picture below). A couple of years ago Beach Villas started at about $150 per day for the one-bedroom units (more for larger units), and Townhouses (which are larger) started at about $200 per day; contact Anthony Williams (GHCWilliams@hotmail.com or phone below) or Cindy. In addition to these choices, new Gilligan's Island bungalows are available across the street from the Beach Villas at $100 - 150 per night a couple of years ago depending on size. Finally, full-size homes are generally available for rentals of seven days or more; contact Lauren Higgs at Coldwell Banker.
Dining/Restaurants/Food. The Beach Club, right on the beach, across from the airport, is the place for great breakfasts (superb grits, with eggs and bacon) and lunches (conch fritters, bacon cheeseburgers and sandwiches are specialties). You can also take out (perfect for the boat); they are open Tuesday to Saturday 8 AM to 4 PM. For dinner there are several options. My favorite used to be the Pool Bar at the marina, but it is now closed***. The Soul Fly Lodge (mentioned earlier in Lodging) has a good restaurant named (The Carriearl Roost) with international cuisine, and a pre-dinner or post-dinner drink at the charming outdoor bar by the pool is a delight; it's open Friday and Saturday from 7 PM. Coolie Mae's restaurant in the Village is on the western coastline with a great view of sunsets; it's open Monday - Saturday but only until 7 PM so arrive no later than 6, and you can also take out. Also in the Village is a small place, Until Then, with local favorites, including a delicious lobster dinner, but I'm told it has closed. Hammerhead, on the causeway leading to the Village, is open Tuesday and Wednesday until 7 and Friday - Sunday until 8. A restaurant, Thatch Berry, recently opened at the airport with a full bar and is open 6:30 AM to 6 PM. Marthanise's place at the Marina, The Wharf Cafe, is delightful, and some say it has the best food on the island; it's open 7:30 AM to around 11-11:30 PM and reservations at 451-2116 are recommended. Hector makes pizza on Saturday nights, which can be ordered by calling him or the Marina; you can see the toppings here. Subject to availability, these people or firms can cook Bahamian style for you at your home: Renee Bridgewater, Shelly Rolle, CoolieMae and Whitewater. Herbert, the fisherman, often has fresh fish and lobster that you can buy and cook at home. (Telephone numbers at bottom of page.)
Marina/Fuel. The large marina is well kept (click on picture above to enlarge aerial view). Based on the last time I checked a couple of years ago, a slip was $1.30 per foot (boat length) per night and for boats under 60 feet electricity was $15 per day and washdown water $10 per day. Fuel is available at a separate dock west of the marina; it is also the only source of fuel for cars and trucks (driving from the airport and Beach Villas to the marina, pass the marina on your right, keep driving for about a half mile and the station road will be on your right). Gasoline was around $8 per gallon and diesel around $6.50 -- and the only accepted cards are Visa and Mastercard and carry a 5% surcharge. Fuel used to be spotty, with the station sometimes runnning out every couple of months and having to wait several days for a new shipment, but the problem has largely disappeared. If you're coming by boat, it would be wise to call the marina to check for both availability and price of fuel and slips, since prices may have changed since this was written.
Transportation. Looking at the satellite figure you can see that lots of things are within walking distance (marina, beach, airport), so a car is not a necessity. Taxi service is available from Circle-Circle (Lee Butler, phone at bottom of page) and can be called from the airport or anywhere there is a VHF marine radio (just hail "Circle, Circle" on channel 16). Bicycles can be rented at the marina (but I'm told only for their guests so call first), golf carts from Mrs. Saunders, and cars from Mr. Bastian, Mr. Ramsey and Mrs. Saunders. (Telephone numbers at bottom of page.). Drive on the left side of the road; there are some potholes so drive carefully.
Groceries. Despite its small size, GHC has several grocery stores. There are a couple in the Village and one at the marina. They are small, but one of them is likely to have what you want -- and they'll tell you who has it if they don't. Their selection is limited (for instance, cheese is available in only two varieties: American and cheddar) and prices are nearly double compared to supermarkets in the U.S. None of the stores sell ice, which must be bought from the dockmaster at the marina. Similarly, it's hard to find freshly baked Bahamian bread (only Whitewater Grocery, on your left as you approach the Village, carries it sporadically), but it can be ordered from Coolie Mae or Mrs. Pople.
Liquor. There are several liquor stores in the Village. Prices for spirits are comparable to those in the U.S., but beer is much higher than in the U.S.
Shopping. Basically none. There are a couple of shops in the Village that sell crafts (e.g., wood carvings), and both the Beach Club and Happy People sell GHC T-shirts, hats and visors. The latter, with two stores at the marina, also sells crafts and some hardware items. There is a hardware store in the Village.
Services. Surprisingly, given the island's small size, you can get just about any work or service on the island -- well, the legal ones anyway. Coolie Mae can cook for you to take out. Several people can provide cleaning and cooking at your place; the best, Alsada, is generally not available but she can recommend someone. If you need a mechanic, call Victor, Emerson or "Blue" for car repairs, and for boat repairs call Victor or ask for "Junior" at the marina. If you don't find it here, just ask around (Elorn at Happy People is always helpful); that's what I did when a seam on my bimini top started to come apart, and I got it repaired overnight.
Medical. The island has a well-equipped clinic with a defribillator. There is a full-time nurse and a doctor on the island (emergencies are flown to Nassau). An experienced French nurse ("Frenchie") who used to be with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) lives on the island and may render further assistance.
More Info. If you want additional information, please send me an e-mail at ; time permitting, I will try to answer.
Telephones/WiFi. AT&T cell phones will function in GHC, but the roaming costs are large unless you're subscribed to their International Plan of $10/day; otherwise you're advised to put your phone in Airplane Mode to avoid roaming charges. Phone numbers for most of the entities mentioned above are shown below (area code is 242 for the Bahamas). A much longer list of GHC phones, listing just about every business and tradesman can be seen here (your browser may initially show it in a reduced size, but you should be able to click on it to magnify it). There are two public (no code needed) WiFi spots on the island; one is by the airport and the other one is by the phone company office (under the radio towers). The Beach Club and the Soul Fly Lodge and its restaurant have WiFi for their patrons.
Entity Telephone Number Air Charter Miami 305-861-0077/305-282-3402 Alsada 464-4317 Anthony (House Rentals) 464-4167 Bastian, Mr. (Car Rentals) 427-5222 Beach Club 367-8108 Berry Islands Air Travel Agcy 367-8242/451-0404 "Blue" 367-8009/464-4156 Carriearl Roost Restaurant 603-969-3050@WhatsApp Cindy (Rentals) 464-4361 Clinic/Nurse #1/Nurse #2 367-8400/359-9131/367-8649 Coolie Mae 367-8730 Covid Testing (See Lorelle) Don Moss (Treasure Air) 1-305-741-0489 Doctor (See Clinic) Elorn @ Happy People 367-8117 Emerson 367-8187/464-4226 Flamingo Air at GHC 451-1050 Flo's (Chester Darville) 457-3969 Fuel Station 367-8113 Gilligan's Island 427-0298 George Toledo (LuxAir Charters) 305-599-4804/786-351-9106 Hammerhead 367-8703 Happy People 367-8117 Hector (Pizza) 451-0251 Herbert Miller (Fish, Boat Rentals) 464-4169/451-2356 Lee Butler (taxi service) 395-3730 Lorelle (Covid Testing) 451-1517 LuxAir Charters 305-599-4804 Makers Air 954-771-0330 Marina 367-8005 Marthanise's The Wharf Cafe 451-2116 Medical (See Clinic) Noble Air Charter 786-251-4345 Nurse (See Clinic) Percy Darville 367-8119 Pool Bar 367-8051 Pople, Mrs. 367-8889 Ramsey, Mr. (Car Rentals) 464-4012 Renee Bridgewater (Cooking at your home) 464-4626 Saunders, Mrs. (Car & Golf Cart Rentals) 451-0166 Shelly Rolle (Cooking at your home) 367-8307 Soul Fly Lodge 603-969-3050@WhatsApp Taxi service (Lee Butler) 395-3730 Thatch Berry Bar & Deli Restaurant 395-2397 The Wharf Cafe 451-2116 Treasure Air 305-741-0489 Tropic Air 954-267-0707 Tropic Ocean Airways 954-210-5569 Until Then 367-8164 Victor 447-8137 Whitewater 367-8057
* Flights from Flamingo Air can be booked online here or you may contact Berry Islands Air Travel Agency or Flamingo Air at GHC. The schedule of LeAir fligths is said to be more reliable and the cost is lower ($100 - $130 vs $175 for Flamingo); flights can be booked online here.
** Most visitors rent houses, villas or townhouses and take food/drinks to the island. As you'll read further down, the grocery stores are small, their selection is limited (for instance, cheese is available in only two varieties, American and cheddar, and diet sodas are difficult or impossible to find) and prices are nearly double compared to supermarkets in the U.S. Although liquor-store prices for spirits are comparable to those in the U.S., beer and wine is much higher than in the U.S. and wine selection is very limited.
*** Several items were world-class (while this is only my opinion, it's based on trying top restaurants, not only in most major U.S. cities but also in dozens of trips throughout Europe); these include conch bits and fish bits as appetizers, and cracked conch and panfried fish with capers as entrees (the fish bits have a zesty taste that puts them in a class by themselves, way better than the best fish fingers you've ever had).
Last update July 5, 2023