Bimini is one of the many jewels of The Bahamas and with so much to offer, it’s a must visit for locals and international visitors alike. Its proximity to the U.S. has allowed Bimini to be considered the “gateway to The Bahamas“ and the 50 miles distance from the United States makes Bimini an easy getaway for those that want to experience a piece of The Bahamas. Bimini exudes island charm in every way, from the warm hospitality of the locals to the unspoiled pristine beaches that wrap around the island. It’s important to note that Bimini is not only breathtakingly beautiful but also historically significant. As a lover of Bahamian history, I found myself completely enchanted by the rich history of the island.
Martin Luther King Jr. composed parts of his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Bimini. Today, two bronze busts of King’s image are on display in Bimini to honor his great legacy. Ponce de León was lured to Bimini in the early 1500s in search of the legendary 'Fountain of Youth, and the purported site still bears that name today. Ernest Hemingway called Bimini home for quite some time, enjoying the thrill of big game fishing, and mysterious Bimini Road is a spectacular underwater stone pathway of giant size square blocks that extend 1,500 feet and is said to be part of the road system of the Lost Continent of Atlantis.
Amid this historical paradise, the ruins of an old hotel on North Bimini stuck out to me. These ruins were once The Bimini Bay Rod and Gun Club which played a major role in America’s prohibition era and the Compleat Angler which ended in a tragedy. In 1920, just a year after Albert Burns Chalk began scheduled seaplane flights from Bimini to Miami, Thomas Peters built a three-story hotel and casino called the Bimini Bay Rod and Gun Club. The Bimini Bay Rod and Gun Club played an important role in the tourism industry by being the largest hotel in The Bahamas at the time and having the first casino in the country. The Bimini Bay and Rod Club was also the first place to provide accommodations for visitors in Bimini and employed 50 people during high season.
The hotel was used to store liquor which would be smuggled into the U.S. during prohibition but the booming years came to an end in 1926 when a hurricane destroyed the hotel. Eventually, the hotel was sold to Gene Tunney, a famous boxer and Sir Harold Christie who started a new hotel, the Compleat Angler, which was built in 1935 by Helen and Henry Duncombe. Unfortunately, the Compleat Angler was again damaged by a hurricane just ten years later in 1936. The hotel was then sold to the Brown family in 1973 after Henry Duncombe died. The Angler was considered an unofficial museum, with one room devoted to memorabilia of Ernest Hemingway's exploits, and most of its pine walls decorated with decades' worth of fading photos and news clips of assorted anglers and trophy fish. On January 13th in 2006, the hotel was destroyed by fire and the owner Julian Brown died after leading a guest to safety.
Although many tragic events took place at the hotel establishments once located at these ruins, the Bimini Bay Rod and Gun Club and the Compleat Angler contributed to the historical significance of the island of Bimini, paving the way in tourism and even becoming the island’s own unofficial museum. I encourage history buffs all around the world to make Bimini your first stop in The Bahamas.