I went on a two-hour ferry ride from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Bahamas for $200.
The ferry's boarding process was easy, and I enjoyed walking around North Bimini island.
I wish I'd been able to spend more time on the island, and getting home wasn't perfect.
There are a lot of different ways you can spend $200 in a day in Miami.
A brunch with friends on South Beach could easily amount to this price if you aren't careful, and many excursions around the city could cost this much once you factor in parking and gratuity.
But this spring, I switched up my routine and used $200 to take a solo day trip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Bimini, a small island chain in the Bahamas roughly 50 miles east of Miami.
It cost me about $200 for the round-trip ferry ride.
I purchased a two-hour ferry ride with Baleària Carribean for a Wednesday. My round-trip ferry ride from Fort Lauderdale to Bimini cost a little more than $200 thanks to a spring-break promotion. Prices are usually around $225.
Prices can vary by time of year and airline, but a 45-minute flight from South Florida to Bimini usually costs $50 to $60 more than the ferry.
Flying would've been quicker, but I'd never taken a ferry from Miami to the Bahamas before despite living in Florida for nearly six years and I wanted the experience.
First, I drove to Port Everglades to board.
I left from Miami, and it took me nearly 40 minutes to drive to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale from Dade City. The ship was set to depart at 9:00 a.m., and information I received from Baleària said we should arrive about two hours early.
Around 7:00 a.m., I pulled into the Palm Parking Garage, which is right next to the terminal Baleària regularly uses. It cost me $15 to park for the day, which suited me because I was coming back that evening.
I'd already printed my boarding pass and only had a small backpack, so check-in was easy.
Within 20 minutes, I'd shown my passport, passed through security and the ticket gate, and was ready to board. I was given a wristband, which I'd need to prove I was a day-trip passenger who was getting off at the ship's first stop before the vessel would head on to Freeport.
After an hour, the gates opened and people were able to board.
Once boarding started, I realized I was surrounded by people who'd done this before.
We didn't have assigned seats on the ferry, so the seats were first come, first served.
I'll take my peace of mind over a choice seat on a ship or plane any day, so I was one of the last people to board. Fortunately, the ferry was nowhere near capacity on this Wednesday trip, so I was still able to snag a window seat in a row all by myself.
Once I got myself situated, the concession-stand line was already long. While I was waiting, people around me were making comments about the voyage and how it compared to other ones, which made me think I was with people who regularly made this trip.
The ship left on time, and I didn't get my coffee and snack until 40 minutes later. I can only imagine how much longer everything would take if the ship were full.
The ride was rockier than I expected.
When I was 18, I sailed across the Irish Sea to Dublin from Wales and thought it was fine. Now, a decade later, I can definitely say I'm not immune to seasickness.
I'm not sure if the sea was rougher than normal, but I definitely felt the roll of each wave as we sailed to our stop in Bimini. It wasn't unmanageable — just uncomfortable. Stepping out onto the deck to watch the waves helped a little.
The ride took almost exactly two hours, and we docked in Bimini's harbor at 11:00 a.m.
Day-trip passengers were prioritized when we disembarked in Bimini.
When we made it to our stop in North Bimini, the ship crew made an announcement for Bimini day-trip passengers to begin disembarking first. I had to show the wristband I'd gotten back in Fort Lauderdale to get off.
Within five minutes, I was standing on the dock. A few minutes later, a tram came and picked us up to drive us to the island. Since we were the first ones off the boat, we didn't have to wait to get on.
I was only going to be in the Bahamas for the day, so I appreciated how Baleària was committed to maximizing my time on the island.
The area of the island I was in felt like it was really geared toward tourists.
When I first got off the boat, my group was immediately shuttled near the entrance to the Hilton at Resorts World Bimini. When we got off the shuttle, we were greeted by half a dozen people trying to convince us to spend $60 to rent golf carts. This is one of the most common ways tourists explore the island for the day.
Even though I was here to relax, I'm not comfortable visiting a country and only spending my time at a resort. So, before I headed to the Hilton, I decided to explore the island on foot.
The farther south I went, the fewer tourists I found.
It's only about 2 miles from the cruise port to Radio Beach, and I was one of the few people I saw walking that day.
The weather was warm and pleasant, and I saw lots of stores and shops I would have missed if I were zooming by on a golf cart. Locals and visitors on golf carts stopped me more than a dozen times asking if I wanted a ride, so I guess it's unusual to walk the length of the island.
I eventually made it to Radio Beach, which was quite empty.
Even though I was by myself, I felt incredibly safe and enjoyed my time alone.
When I finally made it to Radio Beach, I was the only one there, and the ocean views made the trek absolutely worth it. After sitting and enjoying my solitude for a while, I walked back to the Hilton.
I stopped at a hotel on the island and bought a pool pass.
When I was planning my trip in the days before arriving at North Bimini, most everything I read online said you could get a Bimini Beach Club day pass for $39.
However, I learned on the island that I could get a day pass to the Hilton's outdoor pool for about $15. Since I only had a few hours left on the island after lunch, I chose this option.
The pool area was clean, stylish, and nearly empty when I visited — just like the beach was.
Leaving the island didn't go as planned, but the process was still well-coordinated.
When it was finally time to leave, we had a minor hiccup: The ferry was coming back from Freeport and was delayed. Baleària communicated this with Hilton, and the hotel allowed me and other passengers to wait in the lobby until our shuttle arrived.
Instead of boarding from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., we arrived at the ferry a little past 7 p.m. The boarding felt a little rushed, but we still left on time to head back to Florida.
Getting off the boat back in Florida was the most stressful part of my trip.
After a long day of walking and traveling, I was ready to get back to Miami as quickly as possible. However, when the ferry docked just after 10:00 p.m., we were told we had to wait an additional half an hour until all luggage was off the ship before disembarking.
The ferry had two seating levels, and I was on the top one, so we had to wait for the passengers below to disembark before we could.
Once we were off the ferry, passengers with checked luggage collected their bags, and we passed through customs and immigration before I headed back to my car.
I'll definitely go back to the Bahamas, but probably not as a day trip.
Based on my short time on the island, I think North Bimini is a beautiful destination for resort-goers or solo travelers looking for some peace and quiet. I definitely want to go back to the Bahamas and visit another island, but I don't think I'll be doing a day trip again any time soon.
Baleària and Hilton made the experience as smooth and joyful as possible, but it's a long day. I'm glad I got to experience a piece of Bimini, but next time, I'd want to spend a little more time on the islands.
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