Little Exuma Island and all of its Offerings
If you are planning a trip to Exuma, it is highly recommended that you explore Little Exuma Island during your visit! Little Exuma Island is a hop, skip, and a jump away from Great Exuma and can be accessed by vehicle by crossing a small bridge that connects the two islands. If you aren’t paying attention, you might actually think they are the same island however, Little Exuma has a lot to offer all on its own. From gorgeous beaches, delicious food, and historical sites, you won’t want to miss out on this short little trip.
Little Exuma Island, like Great Exuma, is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The main beach of attraction is the Tropic of Cancer Beach, and it sure does impress.
Tropic of Cancer Beach (also known as Pelican Beach) is so called because the tropic of cancer line apparently runs through the beach. It received its claim to fame as Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed here and became recognized as one of the prettiest beaches in all of Exuma. The long, crescent shaped beach is graced with gorgeous white sand and teal blue water. It is the largest beach in Little Exuma and is quite often one of the quietest. Don’t be surprised if you find your party to be the sole occupants of the beach while visiting! Be sure to bring your snorkel gear or rent it from Hideaways, as there is ample opportunity to see some unique and colorful fish!
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Santana’s Grill Pit
A local favorite of movie star Johnny Depp and the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean, this small restaurant is situated right next to the ocean with gorgeous views and a nice breeze. Santana’s is uniquely decorated with a vast amount of hats hanging from the ceiling and an outdoor bar-style and patio seating arrangement. Seafood is their specialty however, there are many great menu options which include authentic Bahamian dishes as well as American cuisine. The menu is reasonably priced and the staff are very friendly. If you are not feeling too hungry but would enjoy a bevvy, Santana’s is a great place to grab a drink and sit back while enjoying the scenery and experience.
Sitting right next to Santana’s Grill Pit is a truly local treat. If you give Mom’s Bakery a quick search on the internet, you will find reviews such as ‘Mom’s Bakery is a Must!’ and ‘An Absolutely Brilliant Bakery’. Mom makes fresh baking everyday, including her delicious vanilla or chocolate rum cake. Her baking is so good and so sought after that when she is closed up for the day, Santana’s and other restaurants on the Exuma Islands will often sell her treats as dessert items on their menus.
In Little Exuma, visitors have the opportunity to join a boat tour out to Pigeon Cay and snorkel around to see the remains of shipwreck which dates back more than 200 years. In addition, on one of the highest hills of Little Exuma, lie the remains of an old pirate fort where old cannons can also be found.
Aside from its pirate forts and shipwreck remains, Little Exuma Island has a great deal more history to offer, as it was once the site of salt production and shipping. Evidence of this can be found throughout the island including a salt beacon along the main road on your way into Willams Town. Before there was a Williams Town, salt came from the ‘Great Salina’ in Little Exuma. At the site of the salt beacon, an excerpt is provided with explanation of its purpose:
“Overlooking Exuma Sound and the “Great Salina” of Williams Town the thirty-foot-tall marker situated on this low waterfront cliff guided ships to pick up salt harvested from Little Exuma’s three salt ponds. Designed as a Tuscan column, the marker was most likely constructed in the Loyalist Era of the late 18th or early 19th century.”
Little Exuma appears to have the earliest salt raking, production, and shipping history, dating back as far as the year 1670 and holding steady into the 1860’s. In Williams Town, visitors who are interested in the salt history of Little Exuma can stop and see the remains of the Great Salt Pond, which is a body of water which used to be the site of the salt raking industry.
In addition to salt production, Little Exuma was also known for cotton plantation. The cotton on Little Exuma Island was planted by Loyalists and slaves during the time of salt production and shipping, and carried on into the 1800’s as well. A major tourist attraction on Little Exuma Island is the Hermitage Estate in Willams Town; a cotton plantation site.
Visitors to this site have the opportunity to see the Cotton House, which happens to be the oldest building in the Exuma Islands. The Cotton House was built in the 1750’s by the Kelsall family and is still standing alongside an old Loyalist tomb and partial structures of three slave quarters. In a place which is largely known for it salt production and shipping, the Hermitage Estate ruins are a key reminder on the island of Little Exuma that cotton plantation also took place here.