Stepping out of the small plane onto Long Island Bahamas, you are transported into a world of crystal blue water fronted by white sand beaches. Hidden amongst plantation ruins, rugged cliffs and idyllic beaches, Long Island provides travellers with many treasures to discover. Free-divers plunge into the watery depths of the World’s second deepest sinkhole, at Dean’s Blue Hole. And connections to Christopher Columbus are etched into his landing site at Columbus Cove, on his journey to discover the New World.
As the soles of your feet meet the white sand, you feel the pressures of the busy world begin to melt away. Your shoulders relax as you take in your first breaths of the warm air. Time moves at a slower pace here. There is nothing pressing to do, nowhere that you need to be other than right here, in an unspoilt, natural paradise that feels like it belongs to no one but you.
The Out Islands of the Bahamas encompass approximately 700 small islands. They make up nearly 84% of the Bahamas, yet they see significantly less visitors than the more popular islands. Bahamians who live and work on the busier islands often refer to the Out Islands as the “Family Islands” because they are where they take their own families when they need a relaxing break away from the crowds.
Long Island Bahamas is aptly named as it is nearly 80 miles long and only 4 miles at its widest point. The island is located 165 miles southeast of Nassau and is split by the Tropic of Cancer. Long Island Bahamas is one of only 14 of the Out Islands that are inhabited. The population of Long Island is approximately 3,000 residents. The islands are relatively sparsely populated. The majority of the Out Islands remain untouched and more or less unspoiled by modern life.
Clarence Town is the capital of the Island and one of its main settlements. It is located inland on the southern portion of the island. Other settlements on the island include Deadman’s Cay (home to the biggest airport on the island), Mangrove Bush (the center of the island’s boat building trade) and Hamilton’s (known for its large system of caves.) Many of the settlements on the island are named in the possessive tense for the family that originally settled there.
Long Island Bahamas offers a lot to explore in a little package. History lovers will cherish a visit to Columbus Cove and Monument as a chance to walk in the same steps that Columbus made as he passed through Long Island Bahamas on the way to ‘discovering’ the new world. Historic ruins of churches including St Mary’s Church which is the oldest church in the Bahamas and plantations remain as vestiges of the original settlers to the island. The ancestors of these original settlers still live here today.
Those with an adventurous spirit will enjoy being awash in untouched natural beauty waiting to be explored. Jagged cliffs and big waves adorn the north east side of the island. The southwest side has a more relaxed demeanour with its calmer waves and long stretches of inviting and empty beaches, including the Stunning Cape Santa Maria Beach.
There are no shortage of outdoor activities to participate in on Long Island Bahamas. The island is home to Dean’s Blue Hole, the second largest underwater sinkhole of its kind in the world and a mecca for those that participate in the sport of free diving. Those visiting the island with a mind towards scuba diving and snorkelling will not be disappointed. A wide variety of pristine dive sites rich with marine life await. Fishing for bonefish at Deadman’s Cay is a unique experience that can be had in few other places in the world.
And of course, the highlight of any Long Island Bahamas vacation is sure to be relaxing on the Cape Santa Maria beach and soaking in the sun and and azure blue water.
Read more about our adventures Island Hopping the Bahamas by Plane.
Columbus Cove & Monument
The Columbus Monument and Columbus Cove on Long Island Bahamas is thought to have been Christopher Columbus’ third stop on his way to the New World in 1492, after San Salvador and Rum Cay. The indigenous Arawak people who lived on the island before Columbus came had named the island “Yuma” from their language. After his arrival here, Columbus renamed the island “Fernandina”. The Columbus Monument sits up on the top of a prominent, rugged cliff line with large waves rolling in and battering the rocks far beneath it. From the tops of the cliffs near the monument you often feel a stiff breeze and taste the salty sea air on your lips.
When flying in over Columbus cove you see the landscape below like a quilt made up of a variety of textures and colours. The ever present undulating cerulean blue water completes the vivid panorama beneath you.
It is easy to picture Columbus sailing into the cove, anchoring his ship with relief within its calm waters and tentatively stepping onto unfamiliar land. The exploration and discovery of the New World was just beginning. In the minds of those first brave explorers the island was still filled with unknowns and possible danger . Were there dangerous wild animals? Fierce natives waiting to attack? Columbus referred to the Bahamas as “Baha Mar” which is Spanish for “Shallow Water”. We call it “Bahamas” today, which is the phonetic version of its original name.
Dean’s Blue Hole
Dean’s Blue Hole is a striking and unique feature of Long Island Bahamas. It is the second deepest underwater sinkhole in the world. The water in Dean’s Blue Hole makes a gradual transition from light blue at the edges, to deep dark Cerulean blue at the center under which the bottom sits at a remarkable 202 meters deep below the surface of Long Island.
Dean’s Blue Hole is a popular site for free-diving – a sport where participants dive down into the water to amazing depths without supplemental air. As the diver descends into the increasing darkness of the hole, the only light to be seen is from the opening at the top. Just as lack of oxygen is starting to put an unbearable amount of pressure on their strained lungs, they are rewarded with entry into a secret underwater world as the hole opens up into a massive 100 meter wide cavern.
Geology tells us that the ocean level was not always as high at the site of Dean’s Blue Hole as it is now. More of the hole was exposed 15,000 years ago when rainwater seeped through and eroded the porous limestone beneath. Dean’s Blue Hole is also a popular site for diving and snorkelling. The protected nature of the hole makes it an ideal habitat for a wide variety of fish. Dean’s Blue Hole is surrounded by dramatic cliffs and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is sure to be a central memory of your visit to Long Island Bahamas.
Long Island’s Long History
Long Island Bahamas has deep historical roots. The first indigenous tribes on the island were the Lucayan Taino tribe (a subset of the Arawak tribe that inhabited the Greater Antilles and parts of South America). They likely lived in the island’s extensive cave system. They were taken as slaves to Hispaniola and Cuba. Loyalists escaping the ravages of the American Revolution were the next people to settle here. They started arriving on Long Island in the 1790’s.
The island’s newest inhabitants attempted to start cotton plantations which largely failed due to thin soil and different weather patterns than where they had come from. Most of the plantations had fallen into ruin when slavery was abolished in 1834. You can still see the ruins of many of them as you explore the island. The descendants of these original plantation owners still call the island home.
The Adderley Plantation is another ruin on the island that is of particular historical interest. The land that the plantation sits on was gifted to Abraham Adderley in 1790. Over the years the plantation grew to encompass as many as 2,500 acres. The land was passed down through the years between family members until it was bought by a German businessman. It eventually became the Stella Maris Estate, upon which presently sits the Stella Maris Resort. The ruins of the original plantation can be explored, adding a further layer to the unique history of the island.
St Mary the Virgin Anglican Church is generally regarded as being the oldest church in the Bahamas. Spanish settlers built the church in the 1600’s. Those interested in the history of Long Island Bahamas are sure to enjoy a visit to these ruins.
Cape Santa Maria
Cape Santa Maria is the most beautiful beach on Long Island Bahamas. This enticing piece of heaven is located towards the northernmost end of the island. Those looking for the quintessential white sand Caribbean beach flanked by gentle turquoise water need look no further.
The luxurious Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort occupies prime beach space on this end of the island. It features beachfront bungalows and villas. The bungalows and villas include many amenities to make your stay easy and stress free including a kitchen and washer/dryer (you can even arrange grocery delivery ahead of time.) You will fit right in here if relaxation is the primary goal for your vacation.
The Cape Santa Maria Beach resort offers a variety of activities to keep you as busy as you wish to be. Activity choices include spending your day snorkelling looking for colourful fish, bone-fishing on the tidal flats or renting a kayak to explore the nearby limestone caves. Whether you wish to all of the above or relax and do nothing at with your time on Cape Santa Maria all is your choice.
Read more about our adventures Island Hopping the Bahamas by Plane.
The Stella Maris Resort is located on the eastern side of Long Island Bahamas. On the beach, the trade winds provide a cooling breeze, making the palm trees sway to and fro as you look out at the sea. The Stella Maris Resort is an easy 5 minute taxi ride away from the Stella Maris Airport. The resort offers privately chartered flights for guests from Nassau and Georgetown.
A wide variety of room configurations are available to suit all needs. These range from standard hotel rooms to one bedroom cottages with a convenient kid friendly pool nearby to palatial apartments with personal infinity pools.
Activities abound at this resort suitable for the whole family. To start with, the resort offers free shuttles to popular island destinations and free cruises to nearby beaches, allowing you to conveniently explore the island and all of its hidden wonders.
The Stella Maris Resort is an easy choice for families, especially those with little ones. The resort offers a sheltered beach and kids playground area, babysitting (with additional fee) and tons of family oriented activities. They make it a point to do all that they can to make sure that the little ones can participate with you in many of the activities offered.
The Out Islands Experience in Long Island Bahamas
Long Island Bahamas is a stunning natural paradise that is deeply rooted in history and tradition. Time moves at a leisurely pace here. Those who visit feel more able to truly slow down and bask in a more authentic Bahamas experience than can be had on the busier, more touristy islands.
Your Bahamas vacation can easily be adjusted to incorporate a visit to Long Island Bahamas. Getting to Long Island is as easy as a quick flight from Nassau into Deadman’s Cay Airport or a hiring a private plane into Stella Maris Airport. Many the resorts on the island would be happy to help you arrange transportation. A visit to Long Island is truly one of the top things to do in the Bahamas.
If you are planning on visiting other parts of the Bahamas, our Bahamas travel guide will be a great asset in helping you to plan your escape.
Your time on Long Island Bahamas can take many shapes. Exploring the many unique historical ruins of the island, learning the stories that each place has to offer. You can savour walking in the footsteps of Columbus and seeing the monument that was erected to commemorate his visit. Exploring Dean’s Blue Hole and the surrounding secluded beaches is sure to be a focal point of your time on Long Island Bahamas, particularly if you have an interest in snorkelling or diving.
Whatever you choose to do in the island, be sure to plan for some time just relaxing and soaking in visions of the bright turquoise Caribbean waters from Cape Santa Maria Beach (or one of the island’s many other beautiful beaches) to take with you. It will help you remember how relaxed and happy you felt in this laid back natural paradise.
Long Island Bahamas Map
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Select images courtesy of the Bahamas Ministry Of Tourism.