Follow backroads and highways to Grand Bahama Island off the beaten path adventures in the East End — the quietest, most authentic old Bahamian part of the island — to experience Bahamas beyond Freeport and Lucaya.
From the airport you can hire a driver to take you to the East End. To decompress even faster, rent a car and and bypass the Freeport and Lucaya metro area by taking the Queen’s Highway to Grand Bahama Highway. (Remember to drive on the left.) Go right on Fortune Bay Drive, then left on East Sunrise Highway and left on Casuarina Road, and you’ll be on your way to the natural, authentic side of Grand Bahama Island.
From McLean’s Town, the island’s easternmost outpost, you can board a boat to offshore escapes, including Sweeting’s Cay and Deep Water Cay.
Stop along the way at Lucayan National Park in the morning, before the tour buses arrive. Explore the Lucayan Indian Burial Cave, Bat Cave and the trails through estuary environment to Gold Rock Beach.
Stop in High Rock for lunch at Bishop’s Beach Club & Bar on the beach or inside. Cruise ship excursions sometimes come here, so if you see a crowd, head on down the road. Old-island fishing settlements pop up sporadically along a pine tree-lined road where it’s rare to encounter another vehicle even during high season. Short drives off the main road lead to unspoiled white-sand beaches where it’s equally as rare to find other people.
If you are low on gas, be sure to stop in Bevans Town, which claims the only gas station east of Lucaya. The pumps may look rusted and ancient, but they work, and you can grab a true Bahamian snack of “chicken in da bag” at Smitty’s One Stop inside.
The road dead-ends at McLean’s Town, which stays quiet except for Columbus Day (known as National Heroes Day in the Bahamas) weekend, when the Conch Cracking Festival draws native ex-pats home and visitors from Freeport, the USA and beyond.
From McLean’s Town you can catch a short ferry to Sweeting’s Cay, a small fishing settlement on its own island. Stop for lunch or a Bahama Mama cocktail at Sea Gull Restaurant, Bar and Disco, which hovers over the water with a slight lean.
The ultimate escape is Deep Water Cay, also on an island all its own – 2.5 miles long. It attracts bonefishermen and divers, but accommodates all vacationers with great food, beaches, a pool, golf carts for getting around, kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, water taxi service and accommodations from rooms to rental houses.
Plan on staying in some of the small Bahamian-owned cottages and fishing lodges that are totally the antithesis of Freeport-Lucaya resorts.
East End Lodge in McLean’s Town too caters to anglers stalking the elusive bonefish, a.k.a. “ghost fish.”
Pelican Point offers a couple of low-key places for lodgers to stay including the sweet little cottages at Pelican Point Beach Lodge and homes and cottages you can rent from the locals. Firefly Bonefishing features beachfront villas and close proximity to EJ’s Bayside Café, serving true Bahamian cuisine.