One thing that I love about the sailing in the Exumas? It never feels crowded when we visit.
There are over 365 cays, and you can anchor in solitude at many of them. No need to rub elbows with your neighbors in crowded mooring fields. Take the paddleboard out, go spearfishing, and enjoy the peace and quiet of a Bahamian sunset.
Here’s my guide to our favorite Exuma anchorages. I’ll start in the north and work my way south.
Northern Exuma anchorages
North Sail Rocks anchorage
Hands down, this might be my favorite Exuma anchorage. I love it because of how remote it feels (shh! don’t tell anyone).
It’s definitely off the beaten path and usually avoided by most yacht charter trips. Best accessed from the Exuma Sound, consult Active Captain community for details on the approach.
I like North Sail Rocks as a good option as a first or last night before a return to the charter base in Nassau.
You can anchor in ~10 feet and are very well protected from easterly trades.
What to do at North Sail Rocks
When we last visited, we had one of our best days of fishing on the drop just a couple hundred feet offshore. This included landing my first wahoo of the Bahamas.
The whole area is interesting to explore by dinghy or stand-up paddleboard.
Spearfishing is also excellent on the reef that runs through the middle of the anchorage. Swim to it directly from your yacht.
Ship Channel Cay anchorage
Ship Channel Cay is the first large cay in the chain, and one of the first you’ll see as you finish crossing the Yellow Bank. It’s nearly 3 miles in length.
There are many spots you can choose to anchor in the lee of Ship Channel. Make sure you give the many coral heads enough room. This one is best in settled conditions and easterly wind. Anything with more of a northerly component might get rolly. Definitely avoid if there is a frontal passage coming through.
We chose a spot towards the bottom third, about a half mile north from popular Powerboat Adventure’s Ship Channel Cay – they run day tours from Nassau.
What to do at Ship Channel Cay
This location is another good chance to explore by dinghy – you’ll likely be the only ones here.
Spearfishing is also a great bet – we brought in several invasive lionfish on the coral heads next to our yacht. The lionfish ceviche we made was delicious!
If you venture ashore, there are some ruins along the western side worth exploring.
Allan’s Cay anchorage
Allan’s Cay is a bit more popular, so don’t expect to be the only ones here. There are several options for anchoring – one or two boats will fit at SW Allan’s Cay. Most everyone else anchors in the sandy shallows between Allan’s Cay and Leaf Cay.
Be careful if there is weather afoot – expect this anchorage to get quite rolly.
What to do at Allan’s Cay
The main attraction here is the protected rock iguana species. You can’t miss them as you approach shore – despite signs, many visitors still feed them and they are eager for a snack.
Check the local guides for advice on several excellent snorkeling locations here. One I recommend is Stephen Pavlidis’ The Exuma Guide.
Shroud Cay anchorage
Shroud Cay is a must stop to enjoy the mangrove river dinghy ride, waterslide, and exploring of Camp Driftwood.
We like to anchor near the river entrance so it’s just a quick dinghy ride (Shroud Cay North on Active Captain).
There’s plenty of room to spread out here – be careful of your yacht’s draft as some areas can get shallow.
You can also drop the hook at Fresh Well Bay just a bit further to the south.
What to do at Shroud Cay
As I mentioned, an absolute must is a dinghy ride to the Exuma Sound side. This is always a highlight of an Exumas yacht charter trip. It takes some planning though – you want to do this on a rising tide, about an hour before slack tide.
I talk about our recent experience on my Exumas trip report here.
Halls Pond Cay anchorage
While the popular mooring fields at Warderick Wells get most of the attention in the southern part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, Halls Pond Cay flies under the radar.
You can get here from either side – Halls Pond Cut or from the Banks. If you anchor far enough in, the tide change will have minimal effect on your swing.
There are a couple private moorings here that should be avoided
What to do at Halls Pond Cay
It’s a lovely, peacful spot and also a private island, so your exploring ashore is limited to the beach. The snorkeling is great here, especially around the point to the south.
I also like to grab the snorkel gear and take the dinghy over to the rocks at the north end of the cay. This is best done at slack tide!
Otherwise, just chill out and enjoy having this place all to yourself!
It’s also worth pointing out that Johnny Depp’s island is nearby – Little Halls Pond Cay.
Fowl Cay anchorage
Get Fowl Cay on your itinerary as a lunch stop! More about why I love it in a sec.
This anchorage is exposed to the easterly trades, so it doesn’t make the best overnight stop. It can be done however.
The navigation looks a bit tricky on charts, so be extra careful about coral heads on your way in and out.
What to do at Fowl Cay
Here’s why I like it.
- Absolutely beautiful spot, and you’ll probably have it all to yourself
- Just outside the park boundary, so you can do some spearfishing nearby (we have caught several fish here)
- It’s a short dinghy ride to the popular Rocky Dudas attraction
Fowl Cay is a private resort, and I’ve heard they aren’t friendly. It’s worth a dinghy ride near the beach to check out the abandoned plane.
Compass Cay anchorage
There are several anchorages at Compass Cay. I like the channel near the marina between Compass and Pipe Cay.
Expect to experience some swing here on the tide, but there is plenty of room. Being a short dinghy ride from the Marina to explore Compass Cay is a plus!
What to do at Compass Cay
It’s worth a trip ashore for the small docking fee you’ll pay at the marina.
There are plenty of nurse sharks to swim with in the marina and you can also access the trails around the island.
The fantastic beach on the sound side is appropriately named Crescent Beach. I like enjoying the afternoon here with a cooler full of cold beverages. The beach has a couple covered structures for your use.
If you’re lucky, you might also get some nurse shark visitors at your yacht.
Sandy Cay anchorage
Sandy Cay is another excellent choice for a lunch pit stop. You might also anchor here in settled conditions overnight. It’s within quick reach of the hub at Staniel Cay.
Watch out for coral heads and anchor in 15 feet on the west side of the Cay.
What to do at Sandy Cay
The main attraction here is the sand bar – it’s one of the best in the Exumas. Bring a picnic ashore and enjoy relaxing in this lovely spot.
Staniel Cay anchorage
OK, you’re right. Staniel Cay can be busy and is a quite well-known Exuma anchorage. But, we always make a pit stop here since it’s often our turnaround point to head back to Nassau.
That means we are enjoying a bite ashore and re-stocking provisions.
There are plenty of options to anchor in the area. Pig Beach is nearby at Big Major Cay, but we try and avoid it now that we’ve checked that box.
I like the West of Thunderball anchorage. The area surrounding can be shallow, so I like the approach between the two cays to the NE.
What to do at Staniel Cay
Dump your trash, re-stock on provisions, and get yourself a peanut colada at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The food is also excellent.
You of course have the pigs nearby. Sometimes it’s fun to do a dinghy drive by and check out the big yachts that like to anchor over there.
And don’t miss snorkeling Thunderball grotto. Plan for this as it’s best done at slack tide (do it after low tide unless you are ok diving underwater to get into the grotto).