This article was featured in Travel Thru History.
Ashort flight from Florida’s east coast is a 700+ islands archipelago, of which only 30 are inhabited. It was the playground of the (real) pirates of the Caribbean. With stunning beaches and great fishing all year round, it is the home of the largest underwater cave system in the world. You guessed that it is the Commonwealth of The Bahamas where, beside natural beauty, one happily stumbles on hidden surprises. The Grand Bahama Sand Bar.
Walking on Mather Town Beach under a blazing Sun on Grand Bahama Island, I eagerly looked around for a place selling water or something better. But the white sand glared at me with no answer. This part of the island seemed deserted; looks like I am the only “pirate” around.
But, hold on, what is that hut over there, a couple of hundred yards away? It didn’t look like much, but who knows what may be in their cooler; Ooops, only trinkets for tourists, no cooler. But wait, there is a sign behind the shed that looks promising; with a name like The Sand Bar, it looks like my quest came to an end.
What a place! It’s a one-room sand-floor shed; never seen one like this before, and perhaps never will. You can access it from the beach or from Spanish Main Drive, either way you can’t miss it. One can’t tell where the beach stop and the floor begins; the game plan for visitors says it all: “After Play, Please Rake the Sand”; you got the drift, right?
The owners, Delon Jenkins “Jinks” Knowles and his charming wife Valerie, opened the bar in the 1990s. They are a fine couple that truly brought something special to the island that, together with warm Bahamian hospitality, is a “must stop” from or to anywhere. The Sand Bar is not large, and should not be, but in addition to the airconditioned main area, has two thatched gazebos outside with four table and seats each that overlook the beach, so there is room for everybody.
The food at the Grand Bahama Sand Bar is great with all kinds of good Caribbean seafood from the crisp blue waters right off the beach. Food is simple, reasonably priced, tasty and cooked on the premises: conch fritters, conch and fries, coconut shrimp, chicken wings, burger classics and fish or conch burgers, Greek salad and more. An excellent Bahamian beer will meet the most demanding expectations. Food is served from 11:30am to 8pm, and drinks from opening time to as long as there are folks jumpin’.
The place is full of all kind of local artists’ works for sale, hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. Among memorabilia are those of the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs. The well stocked bar offers great scotch, rum, vodka, gin, tequila and many delightful others. Beer, foreign and national, flow freely. Not least, for sport fans are three large flat screen televisions that will keep them up to date with their beloved team; screaming like banshees and toasting when they win, drink some more when their team is on the down side.
As expected tropical cocktails are a must, after all you’re on a beautiful Caribbean tropical island, right? Bartender Maxine will make you a Bahama Mama like no one else; this is not “touristy” stuff, you’ll love it. Her colleague Yolanda will get you a Gumbay Smash you never had before, and I mean smaaash!
It is highly recommended however, not to drive or ride a bicycle after the second. Why do you think there are three big speed bumps in the short street leading to and from The Sand Bar? I know, I landed on my butt in the grass with my bike, right at the curve. Now of course, you ought to be careful when drinking, even though alcohol does not make you fat, but lean…like against tables, chairs, walls and people.
The evening is of course the time when the bar comes alive, with regulars and visitors eating and drinking in a very convivial atmosphere. You never know whom you might meet there. Like the late Robin Williams who was known to make sand angels, right there on the floor.
Friday to Sunday evenings don’t miss Perry, aka Elvis, a great performer. He sings timeless oldies and lively others, that will make your evening a joy. After a week working in the office or, for the lucky ones on the boat fishing, Elvis will sooth your day and brighten up your evening beautifully, don’t miss it.
Patrons from the island, are the “anchored ones”, others coming from the four points of the compass make for a rich tapestry of personalities known and less known, and stories galore. Like the guy who claimed to have pulled out Moby Dick from the waters with a cheap sixty-buck rod…of course everybody drunk to celebrate.
In the bar you hear all kind of weird stories, like the robbery at the local police station, where thieves stole the toilet seat. Now it is just a big hole, and the cops are looking into it; weird.
There are lots of things to do on Grand Bahama and neighboring islands; fishing, scuba diving on wrecks or on a Spanish galleon, snorkeling and all kind of over and under the sea adventures that will meet the most demanding visitor. Sailing is great and so is boating to hundreds of islands, islets, and hard to find fishing grounds. Visit Ben’s Cave, one of Grand Bahama two blue holes in the Lucayan National Park.
Now if sailing, snorkeling or fishing are not your cup of tea, how about swimming with the pigs on uninhabited Big Major Cay? An experience you do not want to miss. Where did they come from, since they are not native to the island, who knows? The perhaps swam ashore from a wreck, nobody knows how or when, but the pigs enjoy their quiet paradise and of course, handouts from tourists.
Freeport, the capital, offers modern amenities, first class health services and fine restaurants, beside banks. Food blends excellent European, Caribbean and American dishes with a Bahamas touch you will enjoy. The nightlife is spread out from downtown to a few short miles around. The concierge at your hotel will be delighted to point you in the right direction.
Great sugar-white sandy beaches stretch for miles with hardly anyone, a relief from the great cities’ ant’s way of life. Lunch at Banana Bay, among others, will be an unforgettable experience. Above all, are the welcoming people of the Bahamas, always ready to receive out of towners with a smile and an open heart.