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Laid-Back Luxury

 


 

"This South Island resort and marina provides the ideal blend of serenity and service."   Southern Boating Magazine, April 2011
 

Fresh sushi, prepared in front of you—now that’s something we never expected to see on Bimini. But on our first night at Bimini Sands Resort & Marina, there stood Francis behind the sushi bar at the Beach Club, making colorful hand rolls, sashimi and an amazing raw tuna and tomato salad, and serving them with a big smile.

While the Beach Club, the resort’s waterfront restaurant on South Bimini’s southernmost tip, still serves expected island fare like grouper, peas and rice (and three kinds of souse on Saturdays, a local tradition), an executive chef supervises the kitchen and mixes in upscale dishes like conch ceviche and Bimini bread with a French twist. After a meal, many patrons stay on to enjoy a drink next door at Mackey’s Sand Bar, which as its name promises has a sand-covered floor. Housed in the former home of Colonel Joseph C. Mackey, a mid-20th century airline owner, Mackey’s is known for sudden, spontaneous dancing atop the bar, especially on Wednesday—karaoke night. Outside the glass doors, the swimming pool glows blue with underwater lights and the sky is littered with stars.

 

 

Bimini Sands Marina
This deepwater marina is eight feet at mean low tide and holds up to 156 boats. Each berth has 30/50 amp power and fresh water. Transient rates are $33 per day plus $10 electric for boats up to 30 feet; and $1.10 per additional foot for boats over 30 feet. Water is 20 cents per gallon. Long-term discounted rates are available. The dockmaster team monitors VHF channel 68.
 

 

This mix of sophisticated cuisine and island flavors, good service and good times is the result of 15 years of hard work by developers Frank J. Cooney, Sr., president and CEO of Bimini Sands Resort & Marina, his wife Brigitte U. Cooney, and his son Frank Cooney, Jr., manager of the Beach Club and host extraordinaire.

“We pride ourselves on giving you the Bahamian experience with the standard of service Americans expect,” says Frank, Sr., who enjoys taking visitors back into the restaurant’s kitchen to see the spotless floors and countertops.

When Frank first came to South Bimini in the early 1990s, he stayed in the Reef Club hotel that stood near the spot where the Beach Club is now. The raffish old Reef Club was long past its 1960s heyday, when an early James Bond movie was filmed by the pool. “Half the air conditioners didn’t work. If you complained, they would take a working air conditioner out of someone else’s room and give it to you,” he remembers. “But I fell in love with the place—there was something magical about Bimini.”

 

 

There certainly is magic in the views of the ocean that can be seen from the Beach Club and the main Bimini Sands resort property about a half a mile up the road. We couldn’t get enough of what Frank, Jr. calls the “Bimini color change”, where the bright turquoise reef area transitions to the deeper indigo of the Gulf Stream. “It’s the way water ought to look,” he says.

 

 

In 1996, Frank, Sr. purchased Bimini Sands with Bahamian partner Rupert Roberts, Jr., owner of the Super Value supermarket chain. Then, in 2005, Hurricane Wilma pushed the old hotel into the sea (improving the view). Today, the resort has grown to encompass a full-service marina, two restaurants (the other one, the Petite Conch, serves breakfast and lunch overlooking the marina), three bars, two beaches, a reverse-osmosis watermaking facility, and a large complement of luxury condominiums. A brightly painted, “Partridge Family”-style school bus shuttles guests between the two properties.

 


While the Beach Club offers a few slips with limited services, Bimini Sands’ main, well-protected marina is a magnet for sportfishermen and cruisers. Located at the north end of the south island, just below the entrance to Alice Town’s harbor, it is a convenient Bahamas port of entry for boats that make the short run across the Gulf Stream from the Florida coast—Customs & Immigration are located on site. The marina has a fuel dock pumping both gas and diesel, and modern Bellingham floating docks that accommodate boats up to 100 feet. A bonus is free WiFi throughout the resort and marina.
 


The Cooneys’ goal in developing Bimini Sands (which is one condo building, an infinity pool and a few slips short of completion) has been to keep the focus on the beautiful natural setting. “I wouldn’t work at a place that is doing unnecessary damage to the environment,” said Grant Johnson, who runs the resort’s Activities Department with his partner, Katie Grudecki. Both Grant and Katie are marine scientists who formerly worked at the Sharklab on South Bimini. They guide guests on a long list of eco-adventure activities, including shark-feeding trips that end up with some of the guests swimming along with the toothy predators. They also offer snorkel excursions and round-island boat tours on the resort’s 40-foot pontoon boat or 22-foot Twin-Vee center console, along with kayaking adventures back in the mangrove flats—all at surprisingly affordable rates. Paddleboarding and kite boarding are available at the Beach Club, and the resort can arrange scuba diving excursions, offshore fishing charters or bonefish guides.

 



Katie and Grant built the Bimini Nature Trail that adjoins the Bimini Sands resort. Signs posted with information about the flora and fauna let you take a self-guided tour, or you can book a guided tour that offers a couple of surprises, such as handling the native Bimini Boa snake.

Families and overflow guests are easily accommodated in Bimini Sands’ luxury condominiums. Built with high vaulted ceilings, some with lofts, these nicely decorated two- and three-bedroom condos can house six to eight people. They include full kitchen facilities and balconies or decks where guests can enjoy the sea breeze and ocean or marina views. Each night, just before sunset, many condo and marina guests stroll over to the long beach that runs along the ocean side of the property. There, you can stand with pristine sand between your toes as the fiery sun sinks into the sea. Then it’s time to head over to the Beach Club for sushi and a little dancing on the bar.

 

From Southern Boating, April 2011

   
             
 

 

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