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Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas

a small blue building is in the center and is flanked by 2 hut like structures with no walls and lots of walkways. it's a restaurant that sits on the beach under clear bright blue skies with a few clouds

We made Great Harbor Cay our first stop on our Bahamas adventure and were pleasantly surprised at every turn. Many people stop at West End or Bimini because they are the closest Bahamanian ports to Florida (an easy daysail) and don’t require an overnight after the crossing.

Because we unlocked the Overnight Passage skill back in December (three months ago, whoa!), we were able to travel the extra miles overnight to Great Harbor Cay, a lovely little island in the Berry Islands with a few restaurants, a marina, two small grocery stores, and plenty of cruiser friends.

We spent 5 days in the Bay of 5 Pirates, a protected anchorage on the west side of Great Harbour Cay that usually holds around 10-12 boats. However, we were in for a bit of a blow and counted 17 boats in the anchorage when the weather came. We were packed a little closer than we preferred, but we made friends with our neighbors and several nearby boats before the crazy weather. That way, we wouldn’t meet them for the first time in stressful circumstances if something terrible happened.

We’re happy to report that we all made it through the big winds without incident and had a great time getting to know other cruisers in the anchorage. We frequently had lunch or drinks with them as we crossed paths when exploring the area.

A clear blue sky is dotted with 2 white fluffy clouds as you look over some bushes below you across a teal and turquoise blue bay with boats anchored in the distance
A view from the north side of the anchorage where it's very shallow (and where the village is)

The History and The Marina

Great Harbour Cay has a fascinating history, starting with celebrities investing in the area as an elite vacation spot in the 1960s. Great Harbour Cay Marina posted a history book by William Hunt describing the initial development in the 1960s and how it faired with plans falling apart through the 1970s and 80s.

Tamboo Club, a club in a round building visible at the marina entrance, was opened in the 1960s and failed to attract enough business to stay in business. A short walk from the marina is the abandoned golf club and golf course, which we explored on our way back from lunch at the Beach Club. We walked down one of the fairways of the old golf course, which took us up to the old clubhouse. Up the road, we found the clubhouse entrance and walked around the pool area and through a few of the rooms of the old club. There were bats in one of the smaller rooms! We had to be careful as the place was falling apart, so it was an “enter at your own risk” situation. I enjoyed envisioning Brigitte Bardot and Cary Grant lounging about, talking about scripts and other celebrity gossip.

a brilliant blue sky with a few white clouds hangs over a tropical building with a pointed roof and blue-green from door. it's flanked by palm trees, and has a sign out front saying "Tamboo"
Tamboo Club was opened (closed now) to entertain the rich and famous of the 1960s including Cary Grant and Bridget Bardot

Bullock Harbour - Village

Bullock’s Harbour is the village closest to Great Harbour Cay Marina and the Bay of 5 Pirates anchorage. We put the gas outboard on the dinghy and motored over to the government dock, where a local gave us a tip on tying up so we weren’t in the way of the work boats.

As we walked from the dock into the village, we passed a couple of businesses, including a gift/variety store (Unique Treasures) and a conch salad stand, neither of which was open when we visited. Then, we passed through the general school area, getting our first glimpse of primary school education in the Bahamas.

As of February 2024, the mail boat arrives on Wednesday, bringing fresh food and other supplies, so Wednesday afternoon or Thursday are good days to hit the stores for fresh produce. We didn’t know that, but we still got some produce, including grapes, onions, carrots, and cabbage. We were able to snag bananas only after a mailboat delivery.

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The two grocery stores are A&L General Store and Whitewater Grocery. A&L General Store was a cute little store (think someone’s house with wooden shelves, pallets of food, and fridges along the wall) with plenty of canned goods and other pre-packaged foods. Whitewater Grocery was bigger in square footage and about the same in selection. Prices appeared equal as well.

I’ll make one comment on the price of groceries. Groceries are more expensive in the Bahamas. Period. They don’t grow enough of anything on the islands to support the local demand. Everything is imported, and that import process means multiple transitions from boat to boat. I will not belabor that buying food is the highest-cost thing we do here, so you won’t see me comment on this any further. We prioritize getting fresh fruits and vegetables over being outraged at the expense.

I needed a SIM card for my phone and saw that A&L had an Aliv sign out front. When I asked the cashier about it, she said they didn’t sell them. When I asked where I could get one, she called her cousin. Her cousin sells Aliv SIM cards and works out of the Whitewater Bar (next to the grocery store). She called to confirm he would be at the bar, and that’s where we headed to make my purchase. It was an easy transaction, and everyone involved was kind and welcoming.


the left half of a white building with 2 closed doors in the middle and a sloping roof. a red sign with white lettering on the side of the building says "it's about your future"
A campaign sign for the Freedom National Movement is posted on this building in the GHC village

The Food

If you’re staying at Great Harbour Cay Marina or are anchored in the Bay of 5 Pirates, I highly recommend eating at Wharf Cafe, the little restaurant at the marina’s edge. There isn’t a menu per se. When we walked in, the proprietor told us her specials (ox tail, chicken, grouper) and offered burgers or salads. We tend to be easy and adventurous, so we ordered the ox tail and the grouper. It was so good! In fact, we were shocked at how good everything was. Plantains with every meal, please!

While in Bullock’s Harbour, we decided to eat at Coolie Mae’s for lunch. I got the fish special (not knowing anything about it), and it was a delicious, lightly battered fried fish with Bahamian peas-and-rice (a type of beans and rice side dish) and plantains. I don’t remember what Charlie got, but his food was good, and we enjoyed the gorgeous water views on the patio. Coolie Mae’s also sells homemade bread, which we purchased a loaf and enjoyed.

Of course, the Beach Club is on the east side of the island. Don’t let the name fool you into thinking it’s prestigious. It’s a casual little beach bar/cafe that serves delicious fried conch, burgers, salads, and sandwiches. It’s a great place to meet up with friends, have some drinks, and enjoy a bite to eat while relishing the quintessential Bahamian white sandy beaches and turquoise water.

a whole fried fish on the left side of the plate with a sliced lime. on the right side of the white plate is a cup of peas and rice and 3 fried plantains
Fried Fish w/Bahamian Rice & Peas and Plantains

The Verdict

We will definitely be back at Great Harbour Cay when we return to the Bahamas. The people are amazing. The food is delicious and plentiful. The island is full of charm and history. We highly recommend making this a stop on your Bahamas tour.

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