Bimini might only be 50 nautical miles from Miami, but the beauty and beaches here are unmistakably Bahamian. Translucent turquoise water and bright white beaches are found throughout the islands.
Though the Lucayan word "Bimini" translates to "two islands," Bimini is actually comprised of three small islands. North Bimini is the most populated and is home to the majority of the tourism industry. South Bimini is quieter, less developed and mostly local (it also houses Bimini's small airport). The smallest of the three islands is East Bimini, which doesn't see any action from locals or tourists.
Settlers from the U.K. discovered the splendor and magic of Bimini about 200 years ago, and it has drawn travelers from around the globe ever since. Though small, Bimini has made its mark in history. Being so close to Miami, Bimini held a key location for rumrunners during Prohibition, the most famous being William S. McCoy, whose reliable alcohol supply helped coin the term "the real McCoy." It's also been under speculation as the location of the lost city of Atlantis and home to the original Fountain of Youth.
Famous leaders have been known to seek respite in the spectacular surrounds of Bimini, including Margaret Thatcher and the venerable Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, Dr. King wrote two speeches here, his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and his famous (and last) speech in 1968 to the striking sanitation workers. His island and bonefishing guide, Mr. Ansil Saunders, still lives in Bimini today.
There is no formal cruise terminal in Bimini, and larger cruise ships will tender with a drop off behind the Resorts World Bimini on its private docks. Resort access is a two-minute walk up a ramp.
There is nothing within easy walking distance, though you can walk to the resort's temporary beach club in about 20 minutes (in operation until about mid-2020). The resort has three restaurants, a pool, two bars and a casino; day passes are available for purchase. Virgin Voyages is slated to open an upscale European-style beach club in spring 2020 that will feature six bars, a large centerpiece pool, Bahamian cuisine and a relaxation area with hammocks, among other things. Virgin ships will call directly at the beach club. There aren't any attractions within walking distance, but passengers can book shore excursions.
Cruisers who arrive via ferry from Miami or another island in the Bahamas will dock at a small pier in North Bimini, which functions as the official ferry port. There's not much here outside of public restrooms and a small customs area.
Resorts World Bimini operates a small tram between the ferry port and resort, or visitors can try and flag down or arrange a taxi. The resort tram also drops off in Alice Town and a few other notable stops throughout Bimini.
The small size and slow pace of Bimini can be both a blessing and a challenge. On one hand, you'll get a true homegrown island experience rich with friendly locals and beautiful beaches. On the other, the challenges of still-developing infrastructure and clocks that run on "island time" might challenge your patience.
On Foot: You probably don't want to try walking around Bimini unless you're already in either Alice Town or Bailey Town, where you'll find a handful of restaurants and bars lining the main road. Otherwise, things in Bimini are miles apart, and it's best to choose another way to get around. Travel from the ferry pier, Resorts World Bimini or Virgin Voyages' Beach Club at Bimini requires wheels.
By Golf Cart:Bimini locals drive cars, while tourists rent golf carts. Golf carts are rented by the hour or day and share the wide one-lane paved roads with cars, pedestrians and bikes. Prices are competitive between rental companies and are sometimes negotiable. Like the U.K., Bimini residents drive on the left side of the road.
By Bike:Bicycles are another popular form of transportation for tourists. Rates are set in hour, half-day or full-day increments. There are no sidewalks, so expect to share the road with motorists, golf carts and pedestrians. Lanes are about 1.5 times wider than roads in the U.S. but don't have middle divider lines.
By Ferry:Since Bimini only has a few roads, ferries are a common and convenient way to travel long distances or between islands. The marina behind Resorts World Bimini has a popular ferry service between North Bimini and South Bimini.
By Tram or Shuttle:For those who don't want to rent golf carts or bikes (or if either are sold out), there are daily trams that connect North and South Bimini, and some tour companies and hotels operate shuttles. However, public and shared transportation options will leave you at the mercy of "island time" schedules and developing infrastructure. Anyone with a limited amount of time or a strict schedule should keep this in mind when budgeting time.
By Taxi:Taxis are available on the islands but only accept cash. Rates between any two points on the island usually come out to single digits. There are no ridesharing services or apps available on the island; you'll either have to flag down a driver on the street or get someone to dial one up on the telephone or request a dispatch via the radio channel dedicated to taxis.
Cash is king in Bimini, where the official currency is the Bahamian dollar. However, the U.S. dollar is also widely accepted and sometimes preferred. Credit cards are only accepted at a few businesses, including Bimini Undersea, Resorts World Bimini and Edith's Pizza. There is no official currency exchange on the islands, and the only ATM is in Alice Town on North Bimini.
English is the official language of Bimini, though you can expect a local dialect and Bahamian accent. For example, residents might refer to a bus as a "jitney" or say that a crowded restaurant or bar is "jam up." The Bahamian dialect often drops the "h" in words like thanks and things, which end up sounding like "tanks" and "tings," respectively.
Bimini has yet to fully cash in on its storefront potential. For now, visitors are left to purchase handmade souvenirs, from the occasional stands on the side of the road or head to Fisherman's Village on North Bimini to peruse stalls in a more official market-like setting. Keep an eye out for crafts made with local conch shells to take home a literal piece of Bimini.