Have you ever wondered what it is like to be shipwrecked on a deserted island? Would you get bored? Would you starve? Die of dehydration?
Or would you thrive and prosper in your newfound isolation and make the most out of your (hopefully) temporary stay on the beach?
In a roundabout way, our one month trip to Freeport, Bahamas was inspired by this thought experiment. What would life be like in a relatively isolated section of a Caribbean island? Crystal clear water. White sand beaches. No people. No nearby restaurants or entertainment.
Are we crazy to voluntarily shipwreck ourselves in such a predicament? I don’t think so. But we aren’t complete gluttons for punishment. We made sure to book a place with air conditioning and wifi (it is the 21st century after all).
For housing, we chose a somewhat isolated apartment with a long stretch of undeveloped beach. We kept our transportation very simple by only renting a car for 24 hours for a big grocery run, some sightseeing, and a few meals out. Otherwise we were stranded. Our feet became our sole (get it?) form of transportation.
End result: we all had a nice relaxing time throughout our stay and focused on enjoying the beauty of the beach and the peace and tranquility of our natural surroundings.
Time to hit the Beach!
The beach was the main reason we rented this particular apartment in the Bahamas. Two thirds of a mile of undeveloped beach and it was all ours almost every day!
I started most dips into the ocean with a snorkeling swim up and down the beach. The floor of the ocean was flat for five hundred feet or more offshore, which made it perfect for snorkeling. Most days the water was incredibly calm and clear. I even managed to harvest some sea urchins for dinner one day. Keep reading to see what the inside of a sea urchin looks like.
The snorkeling was amazing. We probably saw two dozen species of tropical fish plus the occasional sting ray.
Exploring the Canal
Virtually every day in the Bahamas was unstructured. Unlike most vacations, we didn’t have an itinerary or a list of attractions to visit. This was the ultimate in sloooooooow travel.
The canal was a five minute walk from our condo. We visited the canal repeatedly as there was always something different to see. Tons of fish, jellyfish, crabs, and seabirds every day. Plus the occasional eagle ray.
Some mornings I ventured out for a solitary walk to the canal. The only time I saw an eagle ray was on one of these solo journeys. Unfortunately I only had my mediocre camera phone instead of Mrs. Root of Good’s fancy DSLR camera.
One day while walking down this trail, I came upon a huge pile of what looked like donkey poop. Parts of the Bahamas are still rather rural in nature so it wasn’t too surprising to imagine a local using a donkey to transport goods.
A week or two later after spotting the equine droppings, we saw the offender on the beach. A lady was riding her horse up and down the coastline in the shallow water. Mystery solved.
The damage from 2016’s Hurricane Matthew was still evident in the Bahamas almost two years after the fact when we visited. The condos to the right of the canal were severely damaged and only a few units were occupied (and possibly by squatters). The hotel across the canal appeared to be vacant as well.
In the picture above, we are on a section of sidewalk that has been completely undermined by the storm surge. The seawall and sidewalk will eventually collapse into the canal if it’s not repaired.
Tour of the Bahamian Brewery
We couldn’t go an entire month without doing something touristy. On the day we had the rental car, we visited the Bahamian Brewery on the western side of Freeport.
The Bahamian Brewery is one of two breweries in the Bahamas making beer for their domestic market.
We took a private tour of the brewery’s operations with a tasting experience afterward. Total price tag for the brewery tour plus sampling was USD$10 per adult. Kids are free.
I don’t think there is a limit to how much beer you can drink in the brewery’s taproom. But I didn’t have more than a beer or maybe two since I had to drive (as my daughter responsibly reminded me half way through what would become my last cup of beer). And driving on the left side of the road is pretty tricky for this American even when 100% sober!
In the true Bahamian way, everything is imported at the beer factory. The brewery sources its hops, barley, and yeast from Germany. All the equipment is German made. They even imported the brewmaster himself from Germany! They only thing domestic is the water.
Review of the beer: they produce six beers that were all perfectly drinkable. Several were like “regular” US beers (Coors, Bud, Bud Light) and one was a Heineken look alike (which I liked better than the real thing). Their Strongback Stout was excellent and I enjoyed it more than Guinness. Rounding out the lineup is a grapefruit radler that’s fruity and sweet.
They have a bottle shop where you can get great deals on their line of beers plus a wide assortment of wines and liquor at very reasonable prices. We bought a six pack of mix n match bottles from the brewery for $10 and enjoyed those during the rest of our stay in the Bahamas.
At $20 for the tour for the whole family plus several beers in the tasting room, I’d say it was a good value. As far as brewery tours go, it’s pretty good and the beer is tasty.
Lodging for One Month in Freeport, Bahamas with Airbnb
We rented a two bedroom, two bathroom condo right on the beach in Freeport, Bahamas. The condo was very spacious for an airbnb rental. Each bedroom had a walk-in closet. We converted the closet in the kids’ bedroom to a third bedroom and put an extra air mattress in there for the middle kid.
We paid $2300 for the one month rental. Renting for a full month came with a 50% discount off the nightly rate due to the long term rental.
The kitchen was well appointed with everything but a dishwasher. The free laundry facilities were about 20 seconds away at the end of our building right next to the pool.
We originally tried to book a 2 bedroom, 1 bath condo on the second story. However, our Airbnb host suggested we would be happier in his larger ground floor unit that we ended up booking at no additional cost.
The ground floor unit came with an extra full bathroom which came in very handy for our post-beach showering. It was also nice to walk straight out of our back door onto the beach instead of going up or down the stairs. The main downside of the ground floor unit is a worse view of the ocean from inside and from the patio.
Our airbnb host Peter rents out several units in the 20 unit condo building. The building is about half empty because there are several owners that use their unit as a vacation home. Plus a couple units that were damaged in the last hurricane and not repaired yet. Around 5 units are occupied by full time residents and another 5-6 units that were rented out at various times while we were there.
Overall it’s a very quiet building. We only saw other people in the pool on a few occasions during our one month stay.
The location of the apartment was perfect for our deserted island themed vacation. When you don’t have a car, and the nearest restaurants and grocery store are a mile away, it’s basically the middle of nowhere.
I had my expert graphic designer pull together a professional map showing where we stayed, the two thirds of a mile of deserted beach in front of our condo, and the location of the seafood shack and mini grocery store.
The seafood shack and the mini grocery store are both about a one mile walk from our temporary home on the beach. The “real” grocery store that closely resembles what you commonly see in the US was about 4-5 miles away.
Here are some links to a few units in the building where we stayed. Don’t forget to use my $40 off referral link off your first Airbnb stay if you end up booking any of these places (or anywhere listed on Airbnb for that matter!).
- Tyne Beach Terrace Unit 106 – Ground floor unit; 2 Bedrooms, 2 bathrooms <– Where we stayed
- Tyne Beach Terrace Unit 205 – 2nd floor unit; 2 Bedrooms, 1 bathroom
- Tyne Beach Terrace Unit 207 – 2nd floor unit; 2 Bedrooms, 1 bathroom
Food in the Bahamas
For those long time readers of Root of Good, you know that we like to eat. When we’re on a slow travel vacation, that often means we cook at home in the kitchen in our rented apartment.
In preparing for our trip, I read that groceries in the Bahamas are tricky. Prices are high, availability is limited, and quality of fresh meat and produce is inconsistent. I’m sad to report that it’s all true.
We paid about 50% more for groceries compared to prices at home in Raleigh. And that was with carefully planning our meals and keeping the fresh produce and meat to only those items that were on sale.
The Bahamas imports nearly all its food since hardly anything is grown on the islands. A lot of the produce was in poor condition after being shipped over from Miami or elsewhere.
In the US, I’m pretty sure grocers would fill the dumpster with some of the produce we purchased. But down in the Bahamas, that’s what passes for fresh. Leafy vegetables seemed to be the worst. The more durable produce like onions, cabbage, carrots, apples, and bell peppers seemed to hold up well throughout their journey to the Bahamian grocery shelves.
Another interesting phenomenon of island living is the concept of “milk day” or “bread day”. When I visited the main grocery store on our first day in the Bahamas, I couldn’t find any regular cow milk on the shelves. When I asked, the clerk helpfully explained “Today’s not milk day. Come back Wednesday, that’s milk day”.
Shipments of some fresh goods arrive once per week. When the supply runs out, that’s it until the following week.
In terms of grocery logistics, our airbnb host was gracious enough to give me a lift to the big grocery store several miles away on our first day. I got about a half cart of basic groceries plus some toilet paper for about USD$100. That kept food on the table for about a week.
After that first week, we rented a car for the multiple purposes of a big grocery run, some dining out, and some sightseeing. We spent another $225 and filled the grocery cart all the way up with provisions to last the remaining three weeks in the Bahamas.
We pretty much nailed it in terms of getting just the right amount of food in our big grocery haul. I built a spreadsheet to model food consumption and estimated what and how much we would need for the remaining three weeks on the island.
Staple meals for the month in the Bahamas included:
- baked chicken and rice
- stewed chicken and rice
- deep fried chicken and rice
- butter curry chicken and rice
- chicken stir fry and rice
- chicken and veggie soup (on top of rice)
- tacos (some ground beef, some chicken and rice)
- spaghetti and meat sauce
You may note a chicken and rice-centric menu. Those are staple ingredients in the Bahamas. In true castaway spirit, we wanted to keep it local. Though we also purchased a ton of fresh fruits and veggies to complement our chicken-and-rice meals.
I even made some killer ghost pepper pico de gallo from scratch to keep things lively. Very lively.
We brought seasonings, bullion, sauces, curry paste, and spices from home. We also brought some noodles and other dried goods to the Bahamas since everything was more expensive down there.
Breakfasts were simple: cereal and milk, yogurt, fruit, and eggs.
Cooking at home is healthier and saves money. In our case it was easier and more convenient to cook at home instead of going out for a bite at a restaurant since we didn’t have a car everyday. However, we also like to try local dishes and restaurants.
At the suggestion of our airbnb host, we visited Sire’s Restaurant which offers local cuisine like conch fritters, cracked conch, and a Bahamian twist on hamburgers. The whole meal for five of us including a beer was under USD$40. There was so much food that had plenty of leftovers to bring home. And it was so good that we went back a second time the next day before turning in the rental car!
When we were car-less, we made the mile long trek down the beach to a total hole in the wall seafood shack on the beach called “Gone Legit Two Dolla Bar”. They weren’t lying – the conch fritters and crack conch were totally legit.
Being Americans, we couldn’t neglect our pizza addiction. We ordered Domino’s pizza for Mrs. Root of Good’s birthday. Very convenient to have pizza delivered when you have no car!
With the dining out, we cheated a bit on our deserted island castaway themed vacation. It’s unlikely most deserted islands have pizza delivery or conch shacks on the beach. Or breweries selling ice cold beer.
Getting To/From/Around Freeport, Bahamas
We flew to Freeport from Raleigh with a connection in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Flights are pretty expensive due to departure taxes. Regular tickets were roughly $500 round trip from Raleigh. Even from Ft. Lauderdale, the 25 minute flight to Freeport is $250+ round trip!
We used a combination of Southwest points for Raleigh-Ft. Lauderdale and Chase Ultimate Reward points (redeemed through the Chase Sapphire Reserve card at 1.5x the normal point value) for the Ft. Lauderdale-Freeport tickets. This combo of Southwest and Chase UR points saved us points overall.
Raleigh-Ft. Lauderdale, FL tickets: 9,308 Southwest points x 5 + $5.60 x 10 = 46,540 SW pts + $56 tax
Ft. Lauderdale-Freeport, Bahamas tickets: 19,500 Chase UR pts x 5 = 97,500 Chase UR points
In total, we used just under 150,000 points plus $56 cash for the $2,500+ in plane tickets to the Bahamas.
If you want to score free travel from credit cards, there are several cards currently offering 50,000 points or more. These points can be redeemed for $500 cash or $500+ in free flights or hotel stays. Compare current travel credit card deals.
We rented a car for USD$55 for 24 hours. The car rental lady dropped the car at the condo and she gave me a lift back to the condo at drop off time. Since we had the car 24 hours, we went grocery shopping and dined out during the afternoon and evening of day 1. Then we went sightseeing the next morning and had a nice lunch out that afternoon before returning the car.
Since the Bahamas is a former British colony, they drive on the left hand side of the road. This was my first time experiencing left-side driving! My strategy was to keep the left edge of the road on the left side of the car and make sure oncoming cars went to my right. Left turns are easy; right turns require you to stop and yield to oncoming traffic.
Taxis travel all over the island and rates seemed reasonable though we never hailed a cab ourselves. Rates are about what you would pay in the US. A 15-18 minute drive from the airport to condo would have been around USD$20 I think. Fortunately our airbnb host picked us up and dropped us off at the airport without extra charge.
Minivans serve as local buses. They have bus shelters on the main roads but the buses seem to run very infrequently. At least they are affordable with rates starting at a buck or two for the shorter routes into town. Longer distance routes to the edges of the island are more. I never tried to figure out the bus system so I can’t vouch for the prices or reliability personally.
We did a lot of walking. The neighborhood grocery store was just under a mile away from our condo. We had to make a few trips up there during our stay to resupply on essentials like spaghetti noodles and, more importantly, toilet paper.
A mile’s walk up the beach, we found two small seafood shacks offering fried conch, fish, burgers, and cold beer. They even had free wifi though it was inoperable when we visited.
We didn’t rent bikes during our stay but that’s an option. I briefly considered buying a used bike or a very cheap new bike to make it easier to get to grocery stores and restaurants.
I couldn’t find a way to buy a used bike. They must not use Craigslist in the Bahamas. The cost of a new bike (after tariffs) would have been the same price as several days of car rental.
Ferries and Cruises to/between Bahamian Islands and the United States
The easiest way to get to the Bahamas is a short flight from Florida. However, ferries run from Fort Lauderdale daily for a slightly lower cost than plane tickets. The downside is the ferry takes many hours instead of 30 minutes of flight time.
Another interesting option to get to Freeport is the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. They offer two night voyages with a departure leaving each day of the week. Rates are more than a plane ticket but not by a lot. Considering you get a place to stay for two nights plus meals, it’s a good value.
Costs for One Month in the Bahamas
Here’s how a family of five can survive and thrive as beach bums in the Bahamas for a month on a mere $3,000 budget (plus some travel hacking).
|Dining Out + Drinks||$125|
|Plane Tickets||$56 + 150,000 points|
|Rental Car + Gas||$59|
We got a decent deal on the apartment at $2,300 for the month since we booked it for such a long period of time. The nightly rate for the unit was $150 at the time we booked, and the landlord offered us half off since we rented for an entire month.
Groceries were more expensive than at home and the quality and freshness weren’t great. We brought spices, seasoning, curry paste, and some dried good from home which kept our grocery budget artificially low. We kept the menu rather simple and shopped the fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables that were on sale. Total grocery spending was $440.
We had four restaurant meals that varied from $15 at the seafood shack to $27 for pizza delivery to $35 at the sit down local Bahamian place. I stuck the $10 six pack of beer from the brewery in this category which totaled $125 for all dining out plus alcohol. The restaurant meals were surprisingly affordable in light of how expensive groceries were in general.
Plane tickets were 150,000 frequent flyer points plus $56 cash for the taxes. If we paid cash for flights for the five of us, it would have been $2,500 total.
Rental car for the day plus gas was $59.
The brewery admission was $20.
In total, we only spent $3,000 for an amazing month in the Bahamas. If we included the value of the plane tickets we got basically for free, the total would be $5,500. Either way you count it, that’s a phenomenal value for a month of oceanfront living for five of us in the moderately expensive Bahamas.
Thoughts on Freeport, Bahamas
The beach was unbelievably beautiful. I struggle for the right words to convey how we felt about it but hopefully the pictures offer some insight into how amazing the beach was. The beach is what we were looking for when searching for the right apartment rental on the right island in the right country and we nailed it.
This was exactly the kind of place we wanted to rent. Somewhere a little out of the way so we weren’t surrounded by crowds on the beach. Yet somewhere that offered modern amenities like wifi and air conditioning.
The inconvenience of having to walk a mile for groceries or restaurant food was more than offset by the tranquility of having two thirds of a mile of deserted beach all to ourselves most days. I would definitely go back to this same place again.
Did we get bored after a month in the same place? The adults in the family didn’t. The ocean was so beautiful and changes in the weather led to changes in the scenery. The ocean was calm most days but turned into a raging churning beast once or twice when a thunderstorm rolled over the island.
We spent several hours on the beach every evening when the sun was lower in the sky and the heat subsided. We also went out in the middle of the day occasionally when the water was particularly enticing.
Though the adults were thrilled to be on this “deserted” island, the kids eventually grew tired of the ocean. They really wanted to stay inside and play games on the computers or watch Netflix. However, when we “made” them come out to the beach and have fun, they always had a good time. I think they are simply lazy. And kids will be kids.
Overall, I would say the Bahamas met my high expectations. We have visited the Bahamas a dozen times on cruises but never stayed overnight. Spending a month in such a beautiful spot was a nice change of pace and let us enjoy the Bahamas in a totally different way versus our normal short daytime visits while on a cruise.
How would you like to be “stranded” on a Bahamian beach for a month? Would you go stir crazy and flag down the Coast Guard to rescue you? Or would you embrace the situation and indulge in some laziness?
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