This Bimini outpost is the newest reason to head offshore
The last time I stepped foot in Bimini, just 48 nautical miles from Miami, was literally decades ago, on a press trip to what was then the old Rockwell estate, a mid-century vacation home previously owned by industrialist/conservationist Al Rockwell (Rockwell International) before he founded the Cay Cay Club, a private island eight miles to the south. Back then Bimini was ground zero for the drug trade; small wrecked planes plunged nose-down in the harbor, everyone in town was festooned with thick gold chains, the Compleat Angler and the Bimini Big Game Club were packed to the rafters every night. Decades before that, Ernest Hemingway was in Bimini pulling in trophy marlin, only a few years after Prohibition rumrunners routinely loaded up their boats for delivery trips to coastal Florida.
Bimini has always rolled with the times—and the times are looking good again for this slip of an island.
Today, the place to go is Resorts World Bimini, a (Hilton) hotel and casino flanked by luxury vacation homes that is sleek, airy and spacious— modern luxury within reach. A pool (with a sexy swim-up bar) zigzags the length of the hotel; another one defines a party venue on the roof. The new Bar Luna at the beach is a wide-open bar pavilion and dining deck overlooking a crescent beach and a stunning panorama of blue ocean. In fact, the whole place shimmers with Caribbean views and a sense of open space that extends throughout the casino, the stellar Tides dining room, the comfy guestrooms (with balconies) and the resort property itself.
The best way to get around is by renting a golf cart, especially if you want to venture into Alice Town, the island’s largest settlement. Many guests likely do not even leave the resort; with eight dining venues, excellent food, four pools, a spa and the blissful Luna Beach, there’s no need to even put a toe in town. But those of us with a long romantic view of the island like the change of pace—lunch at a conch shack (We loved Sherry’s), or a side trip to Dolphin House, a labor of love by local renowned historian Ashley Saunders. Dolphin House is a two-story house on a side street with every inch inlaid with mosaics, bottles, sea glass, shells. Saunders, whose family came to Bimini 200 years ago as salvagers, has as much knowledge of the island as anyone you’d meet.
Bimini is as ragtag and poor as the Hilton is dreamy; some visitors may find that contrast uncomfortable. I elected to sidestep that issue, opting instead to drive past the crumbling shell of The Compleat Angler (it burned to the ground in 2006) to grab a Kalik (“Bahamian coffee”) at the iconic Big Game Club, or to drive up on the high road and look at the turquoise ocean spinning out to the horizon.
Coming back to the Hilton was a delight, and even better were the conch fritters at Bar Luna, the best I have ever had. Because whether you are in the lap of luxury at Resorts World or tooling down Queen’s Highway in Alice Town, there is an island vibe that stirs the palm fronds, paints the sky at sunset, ruffles the incoming tide. This is the Bahamas, after all, and that always wins out.