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