Bimini Islands- Highlights & Lowlights

The Islands of The Bahamas closest to Miami are The Bimini Islands. Bimini has been a destination for big game fishing for many years. Ernest Hemingway, in his 38 foot fishing boat Pilar, was one of its frequent visitors in the 1930s. It’s a common first stop for cruisers. There is a North and South Island but North Bimini is where most of the action happens. It is also where you’ll find the Immigration and Customs offices. Cruise ships stop in Bimini, there’s a nice resort and some beautiful private homes but I’m only focused what interests cruisers.

Checking In – Immigration and Customs
If this is your first stop in The Bahamas you’ll need to visit both of these offices at your earliest opportunity. You should be displaying your yellow courtesy flag on your boat’s starboard side. Remember, only the captain is supposed to leave the boat until you are checked in. The crew should remain aboard. Head first to Immigration. It’s a short walk north from The Big Game Marina. Look for the pink building on your left with the old firetruck in the parking lot. You will fill out a short form for each person aboard and they will need to see everyone’s passport. If you have pets aboard you will need an additional document which you need to obtain in advance at this website. Wellington will help you with this. Print this document and bring it with you to Immigration.

The easiest way to do this is register on the Click 2 Clear website in advance.* The office is located just as you enter the Big Game Marina. If you did Click 2 Clear it should be a very easy process. You can now take down the courtesy flag and raise the Bahamian flag in its place. If you have a flag for you home county on your boat’s stern remember the Bahamian flag should be higher than your flag as a courtesy to your host country.

*On Click 2 Clear you’ll get a PCR number. If you return to the site you’ll be asked for the number but you’ll need to enter it like this; PCR-your number. (include the letters PCR)

The Channel
Entering the channel into North Bimini can be tricky. It makes an L-shape as you head toward land and then turn to port and follow the channel markers in. Do NOT follow the magenta line you may see if using Navionics. It’s supposed to be a preferred route but sands shift there and we did run soft aground by doing just that. I also helped pull a sailboat off the rocks that had tried to cut it even shorter, in the area of the top arrow in this image. They saw a red marker and turned way too soon. Botton line, follow the channel markers unless you have some other more current info about them being moved in a storm or something like that.

Bimini channel entrance
Entering the Bimini channel. Follow the channel markers.

When you enter the channel you’ll see several marinas on your port side. Browns, Sea Crest, Blue Water, and Big Game Marinas. Big Game is the largest. There is a full hotel, restaurant and bar, swimming pool, and other amenities. It is the most expensive and on both of our stops it was nearly empty. (Blue Water was $1.25/ft. in January of 2023 and Big Game was $3.75/ft.) I don’t know anything about Browns or Sea Crest. Blue Water seems to be the most popular. Call on the radio and you’ll get help docking. JR runs the place and does a great job. Turn left before the two large pilings. Blue Water Marina has some very basic bathroom/showers, a pool (not great), fuel dock, ice, and purified water at $1.00/gallon. I should also mention that well up the channel where the anchorage is you’ll find a very fancy marina, resort and casino. Go check out the mega yachts.

If you continue up the channel past all the marinas there is plenty of protected anchorage. I also saw many boats anchored just past Big Game Marina. On the west side where the large beach is you will see a few boats anchored but I have been told it is usually not very pleasant. Also below South Bimini there is an anchorage with some protection from the north. We arrived at 2:00am so we anchored there until daylight to enter the harbor.

What’s To Eat?
Bimini is small and the choices are limited. The Big Game Marina has a very good restaurant and bar with a balcony overlooking the docks. They also have a beachside bar but it was only open occasionally. Just past Big Game is a food truck with excellent food. Down by Brown’s Marina is another good place called Big John’s. A few other options for food include a bakery, and at least one guy that brings fresh lobster tails to the marina. He just walks up and down the docks with bags of fresh lobster tails for sale at a “negotiable” price. We took advantage of this several times. They were wonderful and a nice break from beans and rice. It’s a short walk to the beach on the west side where there’s a cool beach bar and restaurant.

For groceries your choices are limited as they are in most of the smaller islands. You’ll find the basics in canned goods, cereal, etc., but fresh produce is not great or often non-existent. They import just about everything in The Bahamas and the deliveries on Bimini happen every Thursday. Get to the stores a little after noon for the best selection. Most plentiful are potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, and cabbage. The meat selection leaves much to be desired and we bought no fresh meat there. We found two liquor stores. The one just south of Blue Water had the best prices. There is one in the Big Game Marina but prices are considerably higher. We found a hardware store about a mile north of Big Game Marina. I was surprised to find a coffee maker as ours crapped out the first day we were there.

The Beach
Just a short walk from the east to west side of the island is a long stretch of beautiful beach. It was our first taste of a long beautiful white-sand beach with almost no-one else around. We’re so used to the crowded beaches and this one was the first of many we would see.

The Dolphin House
The must see attraction on Bimini is The Dolphin House. It just a block from the main road. This large house was built by a gentleman named Ashley Saunders. He’s been working on this place since 1993. I’m not sure if he built the actual structure but he has created a unique one-of-a-kind place. It’s full of found objects that he has turned into art and decoration. Tile mosaic of dolphins, flamingos, palm trees, a beacon on the roof he built during Covid as a “Beacon of Hope”. One floor is even a B&B. He is usually there working on the house and will give guided tours for a small fee. He also has a gift shop.

The Lowlights
The main road through town is very narrow with no sidewalks. It’s dusty and crowded. I suggest renting a golf cart by the hour to do any shopping. The only other negative thing we experienced in Bimini was from an outdoor bar just a short distance from the marinas. They start playing very loud music in the early afternoon and it doesn’t stop until midnight. It makes sitting outside on your boat very unpleasant. They play mostly rap-style music, with a DJ yelling over the music now and then and to the ear of a middle-aged American it is very unpleasant. But it’s OK because you’re likely not staying in Bimini long.

Time to Move On
For most cruisers Bimini is just a stop off. A place to check in, rest up and get ready to go. It caters to the fishing community and it’s not much of a sailing destination but it’s the first view of the Bahamas for many of us so that’s exciting, but there is so much more to see that your stay will probably be a short one.

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