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Paul Rubio | Photo: Courtesy of Deep Water Cay | August 20, 2014
Nestled among the remote, shallow flats of Grand Bahama Island, this tropical private retreat is sheer bliss for outdoor enthusiasts.
In the esoteric world of avid fishermen, the Bahamas’ Deep Water Cay is a legend. This island and its eponymous circa-1958 lodge has hosted a who’s who of famed fishermen from Curt Gowdy to Ted Williams. Anglers have traveled near and far to search the rich fishing flats and deeper waters of Grand Bahama’s East End for bragworthy catches, specifically bonefish, permit and pompano.
More than 50 years after its inception, this remote hideaway has expanded its no-frills, hard-core, fishing-only roots. Envisioning a well-rounded retreat, the destination is taking full advantage of 250 undeveloped square miles of prime fishing flats, dreamy virginal beaches and vibrant patches of pristine barrier reef.
Welcome to Deep Water Cay 2.0, fresh from the addition of several new villas, as well as a head-to-toe renovation of the historic lodge and common areas. The reinvention is currently being finalized with the West End Cottages, new one- and two-bedroom beachfront cabins with waterfront decks and plunge pools. This new incarnation remains anchored in superlative trawling and world-renowned guides, while encompassing enough luxurious amenities and ancillary outdoor pursuits to entertain the entire modern family.
Most guys are lured to Deep Water Cay by the prospect of a record-breaking catch on one of the house water toys (including a fleet of new Hell’s Bay Flats Skiffs, a center console 33-foot World Cat catamaran fishing boat and contemporary diving boats). They may or may not pay as much attention to the new, lounger-lined, infinity-edge swimming pool; the beachside massage pavilion; or the Robinson Crusoe-esque white sandy beach picnic site. They also might not be as quick to notice the racks of sleek paddleboards and kayaks, and the epicurean delights of the lodge restaurant (think spicy conch ceviche and citrus-marinated spiny lobster). For the fish-obsessed, it’s all about the sport. And thanks to a practice of catch-and-release and excellent environmental stewardship, Deep Water Cay still proudly flaunts superb offshore fishing and some of the world’s best bonefishing.
However, for the more casual fishermen and the rest of the family, these new amenities and frills are totally in focus. Clearly, today’s Deep Water Cay is a top-notch activities-driven tropical retreat, oceans away from globalization but easily accessible (a mere 96 miles off Fort Lauderdale). Unlike most Caribbean and Atlantic attractions, days at Deep Water Cay revolve around outdoor pursuits rather than lounging on the beach. So, while cocktails poolside or at the dockside Tiki bar are both on the agenda, scuba diving mysterious blue holes, snorkeling biodiverse barrier reefs and kayaking through the mangroves are the norm. Not to mention there’s also sailing away on a Hobie Cat; sunset cruising for awe-inspiring sky, sun and sea panoramas; and visiting remote settlements like Sweeting Cay (pop: 494) to indulge on fresh cracked conch.
Of course, nobody’s to stop you from relishing the island’s simpler experiences: ambles along the island’s sandy perimeter, searching for starfish, a game of tennis, exploring the island by golf cart or bike (the island’s sole modes of transportation), or the always-popular good reads and sun-worshipping combo.
Families tend to rent one of the six popular, newly built Bahamian-chic villas. These double-story oceanfront villas near the island’s main dock and lodge, the Royal Poinciana and the Gumbo-Limbo, are each three bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom gems bursting with tropical panache. Guys’ groups typically opt for the more simplistic waterfront one-bedroom cottages, each with two queen beds and a full bath. The arrival of the stylishly luxe West End Cottages in 2015 will finalize the isle’s transformation into a boutique retreat as the existing basic cottages are phased out with the new.
What began as a simple fishing camp by angling icons Gil Drake and A.J. McClane in the 1950s has now evolved into a world-class luxury destination for both elite fishermen and active modern families. McClane once described it as “one of the best spots in the Bahamas, if not the world, to catch large fish… on spin or fly.” And while there are far more frills now, Deep Water Cay is still the same serene world of complete escapism and outdoor enthusiasm Drake and McClane stumbled across. Blue Water Adventure Package rates begin at $2,369 per person for a three-night package that includes accommodations, all meals, professional-guided fishing and round-trip taxi service; private home rates begin at $1,300 per night
Several major airlines offer commercial flights to Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport from major cities such as Atlanta (Delta), Philadelphia and Charlotte (US Airways), Miami (American Airlines), and Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach (United/Silver Airways). After landing in Freeport, you’ll be transported to McLean’s Town by car and then to Deep Water Cay by private water taxi.
Deep Water Cay has its own private 4,000-foot paved jet airstrip and can accommodate small, private aircraft. Deep Water Cay can also arrange private air transportation to the island through Fort Lauderdale-based Sheltair.
Visas and Docs
Prearranged visas are not required for travel to the Bahamas. A Bahamian customs and immigration facility is present on Deep Water Cay for those arriving directly by private aircraft—pre-clearance in Grand Bahama allows flights to land in the United States as domestic.