3. July 2014

July seems to make everyone feel more independent, and the boundary-stretching impulse has hit here at your favorite Exuma beachfront resort.

Countries all over the world have Independence Days this month. Canada on July 1, USA on July 4, and the Bahamas on July 10 mark their breakaways from the British Empire, just as some South American states, including Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, and Peru, celebrate their exits from the Spanish. From Europe (France, Belgium, Poland) to Asia and Africa (Malawi, Mongolia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and more), millions are taking part in July independence fests.

So if you’re feeling the need to get out on your own, blame it on the date—and then do something about it. Here on the Escape2Exuma blog, we like post ideas for self-guided island excursions, such as this car trip “down east” that pairs a visit to Tropic of Cancer Beach with great food at Santana’s and Manor (previously Mom’s) Bakery.
In today’s installment, we’re going to head a bit further afield and address the hikers and explorers among you.

The Trails of Stocking Island, Exumas

Stocking Island, just across Elizabeth Harbour from Hideaways Exuma Resort, is a great destination with miles of trails connecting remote beaches, scenic photo spots, and ecological niches. Maintained primarily by the hundreds of boaters who visit each winter, the trails are generally clear and marked by signs and colorful flotsam, like buoys and flip-flops, making it easy to find your way about.
Casual hikes won’t get your heart rate up too high but will give you the opportunity to see abundant variety of tropical flora and bring you to stromatolites (ancient coral-like species), a natural “spa” (where tidal action makes a veritable hot tub), osprey nests (often with young’uns and protective moms in residence), and many other interesting sights.
Among the possible encounters, however, is the occasional poisonwood tree. The trail maintainers will often put signs up to warn visitors of these itch-inducing plants, but check out this page so you can recognize it yourself.

Making the Trip

You’ll want to have a trail map to guide you, so click here to view and download a copy. It lists what you can expect to see on the various routes, as well as bench and table locations for resting and lunch.

Once you’ve got a plan, however unstructured, you’ll need to get to Stocking Island. You have three main options:

  • Boat Rental. You can see Minn’s Watersports for daily skiff rentals. Easy tie-ups are available at the Queen’s Dock and Hamburger Beach on Stocking Island (see map), although you can also anchor off beaches up and down Elizabeth Harbour. Just make sure to take the tidal drop into account! If you choose Queen’s Dock or Hamburger, paths behind them lead to the recently re-marked Nature Trail; North Beach, a secluded strip surrounded by rocky shore; South Beach, a 3-mile stretch of sand that’s great for jogging; and other destinations. Of course, interlinking paths will take you wherever you want to go from there.
  • Water Taxi to Chat & Chill or Hamburger Beach. The Elvis Water Taxi runs from Georgetown to Chat N’ Chill and Hamburger Beach all day. If you get off at Hamburger, it’s a quick step onto the trails, but if you’d like to make a Chat N’ Chill stopover part of your venture, here’s how. Circling back behind Chat N’ Chill you reach a very narrow inlet to one of the Hurricane Holes, across which is South Beach. To stay driest (usually wet only up to knees or thighs), cross at low tide. Once you reach the beach, you can turn left to visit the stromatolites (marked by metal stakes near the tideline) and/or take many offshoot paths to visit the monument (actually a stone navigation marker on the Exuma Chain’s highest point of elevation), the Nature Trail and beaches up Stocking Island, or Sally’s Path to Darling Plum Path featuring “Crabzilla.”
  • Kayak from Hideaways. The crossing is about two miles, so it’s best undertaken by relatively experienced kayakers and during settled weather. Land on any of the beaches on the map, pull your kayak up well above the high tide mark, and you’re ready to explore.

No matter how you choose to travel to Stocking Island, comfortable walking shoes, drinking water, and sun protection are musts once you’re there. Bug spray is nice in settled weather and during the rainy season. And if you’re making a day of it, bring along lunch, unless you’ll be stopping by Chat N’ Chill or St. Francis, also accessible from South Beach.

Whether you simply spend a few minutes enjoying your own private vista, a half hour or so hiking to the monument for a great pic, or a full day criss-crossing the island, it’s well worth setting aside time while you’re here.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to ask us for help!