Most boaters, and especially those who also love fishing, recognize the name of Bimini. This entrancing chain of western islands in The Bahamas has given its name to the sun top with which most small open boats are equipped. A Bimini top is essential equipment if one is to spend a lazy day trolling the waters around these magical islands looking for fish to catch - whether it’s the lightning-fast bonefish and permit that inhabit the flats or the big game fish that feed in the deeper waters of the Gulf Stream, just offshore.
While Bimini can claim chic properties and exciting on-land attractions to rival any other region of The Bahamas, its teeming waters remain a foremost reason to visit for divers, snorkellers, boaters, and fishing enthusiasts. Indeed, seeing Bimini by boat may just be the definitive way to experience the destination. Below, we delve into everything you’ll need to know about the Bimini boating experience: how to get there, where to moor, and a few tips for successful fishing.
Getting to Bimini by boat is an easy run, as the islands are less than 50 miles east of South Florida. In June and July, Boating Flings - the “Bahamian equivalent of a road trip” - see organized flotillas of up to 30 powerboats, with a minimum length of 22 feet, leave Fort Lauderdale for the crossing. Departures are on Thursdays, with the return on Sundays. One boat leads the way with everyone following in a long line and an expert at the back to sweep up any who go astray or have problems.
For those who prefer to make their own way, be prepared for a smooth trip, with varying degrees of chop when crossing the Gulf Stream. Even if you’re planning to go it alone, it’s wise to travel with a couple of other boaters. Boaters understand there’s always safety in numbers. In Fort Lauderdale and Miami marinas, one can usually find someone preparing to make the trip and willing to be a boating buddy.
'The Gulf Stream is a powerful current that sweeps north between the continental coastline and the islands at a constant speed between two and three knots. It’s this ocean river which attracts multitudes of bait fish, on which the big fish feed, attracting fishermen and women from all over the world. The first sign that one is in Bimini after the crossing is the appearance of fishing boats of every size.
The reward of travelling by boat is that one gets an intimate experience of paradise, mooring inches away from crystal clear waters, pristine white sand beaches and mesmerizing reefs teeming with tropical fish.
Baleària Caribbean is a European ferry company which has recently started a fast boat service from Fort Lauderdale to Bimini. The boats take several hundred passengers in air-conditioned comfort, travelling at up to 30 knots for a quick passage to Alice Town. Options allow passengers to book a day trip, with several hours to do as they please on Bimini, or a boat and resort package with stays ranging from a weekend to a week. One-way and return trips can be planned for the passenger’s convenience. This is a great way for visitors to get a boating experience from South Florida to Bimini.
Whether your own boat is best suited for day trips, is a mega yacht, or anything in between, Bimini has three excellent marinas for every size and budget. Bimini is also often the first stop on a cruise south through The Islands of The Bahamas. Whether sailing or powerboating, captains are responsible for making sure all the proper paperwork is completed, license fees paid and boats properly provisioned. With substantial open water crossings between islands, it’s recommended that boats be equipped with enough food, fuel and water for a full week. In high season, marinas can run low on fuel. With bank machines in short supply, it’s also advisable to be prepared to pay in cash.
Bimini Bay Marina, which includes both Fisherman’s Village and Mega Marinas, is located in front of the Hilton at Resorts World Bimini, with new floating docks in a well-protected lagoon, taking yachts up to 200 feet in length. This is also an official port of entry into The Bahamas, with Customs and Immigration offices conveniently situated in the marina.
Bimini Big Game Club is a short walk to Alice Town, offering an outstanding resort experience with an excellent marina and full-service PADI dive shop.
Bimini Cove Resort and Marina has a fully protected deep-water marina for boats and yachts up to 100 feet. Floating docks are fully equipped and offer eight feet of draft at low tide. For those who arrive after dark, the marina entrance is well marked with port and starboard lights. It’s also the closest marina to the islands’ prime fishing grounds and dive sites.
As one might expect from a region dubbed by some as “The Sportfishing Capital of the World”, fishing is the lifeblood of Bimini - both for locals and visitors. Shark, marlin, barracuda, and bluefin all dart through the deep waters here, providing a challenge to even the most experienced anglers. There are entire properties in Bimini (like The Bimini Big Game Club) that cater to sport fishers and the aquatically adventurous. The islands are rife with charter services: whether you’d prefer to captain your own vessel or just ride along, fishing is accessible to everyone in Bimini.
The best bet for anglers new to the waters of South, East or North Bimini is to engage an expert who knows where the best fishing is located for the time of year. Guides will come with a boat best suited for the waters one has chosen, although some of the shallow flats can be fly-fished wearing waist-high waders. There’s no shortage of experienced guides. The only question in choosing your skipper is what sort of experience one is seeking: reef, flats or blue water fishing and everything in between. One doesn’t have to be a seasoned angler to enjoy fishing in the islands: all you need is a good guide. Similarly, families will find ample opportunities to embark on diving safaris, organized through the concierge service of the various properties or the operators who usually line the quiet shorelines.
The gentle seas of Bimini - and the bounty they hide - await. Learn more about The Bahamas at https://www.bahamas.com/.