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“Perhaps the most beautiful of all the islands of The Bahamas!” Eleuthera’s original population of Tainos, or Arawaks, was captured and taken by the Spanish to work in the mines of Hispaniola, where they died out by 1550. Afterward, the island is believed to have been unoccupied until the first European Settlers - Puritan Pilgrims - arrived in 1649 from Bermuda, seeking religious freedom. Captain William Sayle and his band of 70 persons, calling themselves “The Eleutheran Adventurers,” fled persecution in Bermuda and England and sailed away to an island listed as Segatoo in the old Bermudian records. The present name of Eleuthera can be traced a modification of the Greek word for “Freedom”.

“The Eleutheran Adventurers”

The settlers first went ashore near “Governor’s Bay,” which is today known as Cupid’s Cay, but disputes arose among the group and Sayle and his faction headed off toward the northern part of the island by boat. Their boat floundered on the treacherous reefs known as the Devil’s Backbone. The bottom of their boats was ripped open and their supplies were lost. Many of them nearly starved, but they made do, living and worshiping in a large cavern now known as Preacher’s Cave. Sayle eventually received support for his fledgling colony from two churches in Boston. In return, the Eleutherans sent a load of ten tons of Brasiletto wood as a gift to Harvard College (University). As time progressed, many, if not most, of the original adventurers drifted away, but a committed group remained, and thrived on farming and the collection and sale of valuable ambergris. Eleuthera became the “birthplace of The Bahamas,” and the western world’s first true seat of democracy. In 1958, Harvard University presented to Governor's Harbor a plaque made of Brasiletto wood in commemoration of the original settlers’ contribution. The plaque is housed in the Haynes Public Library in Governor’s Harbour.

Eleuthera's Main Towns

From north to south, the main settlements include The Bluff, Upper and Lower Bogue, Current, Gregory Town, Alice Town, James Cistern, Governor’s Harbour, North and South Palmetto Point, Savannah Sound, Winding Bay, Tarpum Bay, Rock Sound, Greencastle, Deep Creek, Delancy Town, Waterford, Wemyss Bight, John Millars, Millar’s and Bannerman Town.

Spanish Wells

While offshore Harbour Island and Spanish Wells offer unique experiences, the main island is a destination for those interested in history and nature. Natural attractions include the Glass Window Bridge where the roadway is suspended with the sea crashing upon the rocks below and to each side, Hatchet Bay caves and Surfer’s Beach in the north, and Ocean Hole and Lighthouse Beach at the south end. Preacher's Cave on the north end was home to the Eleutherian Adventurers in the mid-17th century, and religious services were held her for over 100 years. Recent archaeological excavations have uncovered Arawak remains at the site. Just north of Green Castle, if you watch closely you may spot a herd of horses living among the trees on the eastern side of the island. The island is particularly noted for the excellence of its pineapples and holds an annual Pineapple Festival in Gregory Town.

Harbour Island

Best known now for it’s pink sand beaches, Harbour Island’s colorful history can be traced through Dunmore Town, the main and only town on Harbour Island, which dates back to the 18th century and is one of the oldest settlements in The Bahamas. When the Revolutionary War broke out in the United States, the Loyalist Governor of Virginia fled to The Bahamas where he was awarded the title of Lord Dunmore, Governor of The Bahamas. He laid out what is today Dunmore Town, at the center of Harbour Island, giving shape to the village of today. From a noted shipyard and sugar refinement center in the late 1800s to shipbuilding and citrus farming just before WWI to a thriving tourism business, Harbour Island’s history is just as fascinating as the island itself.

Not far away, first inhabited in 1649 when the Spanish Conquistadors sunk a well to provide ships with potable water, Spanish Wells was the last stop for their galleons before the arduous journey back to their homeland with the riches of the New World. In 1776, the island was settled by some of the Loyalists who came from the Carolinas and many of today’s residents proudly claim that their heritage goes back to those early pioneers. Industry today leans mostly to the crawfishing fleets and tourism.