Bimini is still known as the big-game fishing capital of the world, and fishermen come here throughout the year to fish in flats, on reefs, and in streams. Ernest Hemingway came to write and fish. It was here that he wrote much of To Have and Have Not, and his novel Islands in the Stream put Bimini on the map. Regrettably, fishing isn't what it used to be in Papa's day, and such species as marlin, swordfish, and tuna have been dangerously overfished.
Located 81km (50 miles) east of Miami, Bimini consists of a number of islands, islets, and cays, including North and South Bimini, the main tourist areas. You'll most often encounter the name "Bimini," but it is more proper to say "The Biminis," since North Bimini and South Bimini are two distinct islands, separated by a narrow ocean passage. Ferries shuttle between the two. The majority of the region's development has taken place on North Bimini, mostly in Alice Town. North Bimini's western side is a long stretch of lovely beachfront.
Off North Bimini, in 9m (30 ft.) of water, are some large hewn-stone formations that some people say came from the lost continent of Atlantis. Divers find the reefs laced with conch, lobster, coral, and many tropical fish.
Bimini's location off the Florida coast is where the Gulf Stream meets the Bahama Banks. This fact has made Bimini a favorite cruising ground for America's yachting set, who follow the channel between North and South Bimini into a spacious, sheltered harbor, where they can stock up on food, drink, fuel, and supplies at well-equipped marinas. From here, they can set off to cruise the cays that begin south of South Bimini. Each has its own special appeal, beginning with Turtle Rocks and stretching to South Cat Cay (the latter of which is uninhabited). Along the way, you'll pass Holm Cay, Gun Cay, and North Cat Cay.
Hook-shaped North Bimini is 12km (7 1/2 miles) long and, combined with South Bimini, it makes up a landmass of only 23 sq. km (9 sq. miles). That's why Alice Town looks so crowded. Another reason is that much of Bimini is privately owned; despite pressure from the Bahamian government, the landholders have not sold their acreage, and Bimini can't "spread out" until they do. At Alice Town, the land is so narrow that you can walk "from sea to shining sea" in just a short time. Most of Bimini's population of some 1,600 people lives in Alice Town; other hamlets include Bailey Town and Porgy Bay.
Although winter is usually high season in The Bahamas, summertime visitors flock to Bimini's calmer waters, which are better for fishing. Winter, especially from mid-December to mid-March, is quieter, and Bimini has never tried to develop a resort structure that would attract more winter visitors.
If you go to Bimini, you'll hear a lot of people mention Cat Cay (not to be confused with Cat Island in the Southern Bahamas). You can stay overnight at Cat Cay's marina, which lies 13km (8 miles) off South Bimini; transient slips are available. The island is the domain of Cat Cay Yacht Club (tel. 242/347-3565; www.catcayyachtclub.com), whose initiation fee is a cool $25,000. This privately owned island -- attracting titans of industry and famous families -- is for the exclusive use of Cat Cay Yacht Club members and their guests. At their leisure, they can enjoy the golf course, tennis courts, a large marina, white-sand beaches, and club facilities such as restaurants and bars. Many wealthy Americans have homes on the island, which also has a private airstrip.