The anchorages on Central Exumas:
Staniel Cay Overview
Staniel Cay is one of the most eventful islands in the Central Exumas archipelago, thanks to its resourceful marinas that offer everything from fuel to food, an airstrip, welcoming restaurants and bars, and relaxing water sports. Also known as Stanyard or Staniard Cay, it is one of the most-visited places in the whole of Exumas and is perfect for a calm, relaxing vacation.
It is characterized by a large beachfront with clear, turquoise waters, potential social gatherings, and good food and camaraderie.
Staniel Cay is a loaded island that makes it a preferred base station for many charters. Our charter services also suggest Staniel Cay as a holding station because of easy connectivity to nearby sights such as Pipe Creek and Fowl Cay.
Navigation and Anchoring
Between the southern shore of Big Major’s Spot and the Thunderball Grotto lies an anchorage with five moorings. You can rent one of them for $10 per night to enjoy safe, covered parking. If you have a larger boat (that is, above 50 feet), head to the center of the anchorage. Anchoring charges may be hefty. You can call Club Thunderball on VHF ch. 16 to get the prices.
Mooring systems are the same as in that of North Mooring Field at Warderick Wells in Exuma Park. If you find a vacant spot, you can park right away and settle the bill at Club Thunderball afterward.
To enter the cay from Exuma Sound, head towards Little Major’s Spot. Towards the south, past the Thunderball Grotto, you will find the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (SCYC) on your port side. You can anchor anywhere near its southern and western shores.
If you are planning to head further south, round Sandy Cay and head to the northern end of Lumby Cay. There’s a 50-foot hill here that’s very conspicuous, which will direct you towards the second marina, the Happy People Marina. There’s a light to the west of this marina that will guide you further to the anchorages (near the Batelco tower).
Staniel Cay Marinas
There are two marinas on this island: Staniel Cay Yacht Club and Happy People Marina. SCYC has a lot of spots across 18 slips for parking your boats, both on the southern and western ends. You can anchor in 5-7 feet of water and head to the club for some food and relaxation. The marina has power and fuel stations, fresh water and ice, internet access, and a bar with pool tables and satellite television.
SCYCY is active throughout the year, attracting cruisers who enjoy having breakfast, lunch, and dinner here. You may also rent one of the 14 bungalows that may be available for lease or part of the package. Prices are pocket-friendly. Check out its official website for more details about moorings and other services.
If you wish to park at SCYC, go round and approach from the north to avoid the rocky patch and strong currents. Extreme attention is recommended till you find 7-foot water levels.
The Happy People Marina is a smaller anchorage and has quite some room for small boats. Provisions and services are meager compared to SCYC. It’s usually preferred by those heading north in the Exuma Sound.
Areas of Interest In and Around Staniel Cay
Staniel Cay is made up of two cays that are separated by a nearly 100-foot mangrove range. This is a protected area by the Bahamas National Trust and you will need to take extra care to avoid the mangroves while at sea. Together, the cays are nearly 1 ½ miles long and almost half the size wide.
The most popular sight here is the Thunderball Grotto that has a large opening on the top for the sun rays to swipe in. This will be a great spot for photography, and was the shooting location of the James Bond films Thunderball (1965) and Never Say Never Again (1983).
There is a salt pond on the northern end of the cay that may be worth visiting.
You will find abundant shoals of bonefish in Staniel Cay Creek that lays past the Happy People Marina. Here you can engage in fish spotting and even the annual summer bonefishing tournament. Do note that, at the time of writing, off-season fishing was prohibited in the area.
Further past the Happy People Marina is an arena of unattended Bahamian sloops such as Lady Muriel, Sea Hound, and Tida Wave. Many of these boats were part of the cay’s once-popular regattas. If you’re lucky, you can explore the area with the locals who will guide you through and share some interesting stories of the legendary sailing expeditions of Staniel Cay sailors. These sailors were and are some of the best in the world, as the trophies you will see on the island will very much prove. A huge rock across the marina contains an aircraft wreck.
Again, if you’re lucky and if you plan accordingly, you can catch (and also participate in) the New Year’s Day Regatta where everyone wins prizes.
Southeast of Staniel Cay lies Lumber Cay (known for a 50-foot ridge in the middle) and Grape Tree Cay (known for its rookery). This is also a protected place and caution is recommended if you plan to visit. Sisal formation used to be found here and on the neighboring Cabbage Cay.
There’s also an isolated beach called Pirate Beach to the northern end of the cay. It’s too far from the marinas, so make sure you eat something before going for a hike.
Staniel Cay is a beloved area for many tourists. It has good provisioning and has a positive vibe overall, giving it most of the attention in the Central Exumas. For instance, three of the most popular shops in the area are in Staniel Cay. They are the Pink Store, the Blue Store, and Isles General Store. The first two are located near the Happy People Marina and offer groceries and souvenirs. You can replenish your supplies here and also stock up on marine-related stuff for your boat.
The Isles General Store (or Isles Inn) is run by Vivian Rolle and is located 100 yards up Staniel Cay Creek. It has a heavier stock with supplies, eatables, and even ice cream. The area is great to grab something to munch on and enjoy the views. The 3000-foot airstrip is just past the Isles General Store; charter flights can be booked via the store or SCYC.
Then there are the two restaurants with bars, namely SCYC and the Royal Entertainer. Each of them offers continental food for the adventurist tourist looking for some gastronomy experiment. Another restaurant here goes by the name of Chamberlain’s. In the stores and the restaurants, there are several small fun activities to engage in too if you visit during peak season.
Laundry services, medical assistance, and kayaking and snorkeling equipment can also be easily found on the cay. Staniel Cay Divers and the stores have stocks that will further help with swimming equipment.
If you are traveling solo, you can call Club Thunderball for any and all assistance. The staff is quite friendly and will accommodate/direct you as needed. You can reach out at 242-355-2024 or [email protected].