Have you ever driven through a Bahamian pine forest? Better question, did you know there was such thing as a Bahamian pine forest? Tall, spindly Caribbean pines, bare except for the limbs full of pine needles which hang at the treetops, are doing their best to once again cover the majority of Grand Bahama Island. 40 years ago, Illinois Lumber Company decided to clear cut the entire island, a shining example of the eco-insensitivity of the time. Some stands have been reduced to a collection of tree carcasses standing as reminders of the tidal surge from Hurricane Wilma but most are doing a great job of reclaiming the island’s skyline.
These days, places like Lucayan National Park are prime examples or pristine habitats and incredible beauty. The park features all six of the island’s ecosystems, including beaches, forest, mangroves, and caverns. Just a few steps from the parking lot, a path takes visitors to a series of stairs which lead down to flooded caverns where bats peacefully roost above the entrance to part of one of the largest underwater cave system in the world. Scuba diving opportunities inside the cave are possible by special permit but most of us are left to ponder what mystery lies beyond the cavernous opening.
A boardwalk takes visitors on a short walk over the crystal clear waters of the mangroves which are teeming with tropical fish. Visitors should keep their eyes peeled for the resident family of raccoons which love to snatch all sorts of aquatic goodies from the water. On my trip to the park, I couldn’t help but be jealous of the kayakers gliding quietly through this unspoiled environment. Viewing the mangroves from above on the boardwalk was certainly a treat but peacefully paddling through an environment that is foreign to most of us seems like an ideal way to explore the ecosystem.
Once across the boardwalk, the Caribbean pines and mangroves give way to a seemingly never-ending stretch of sugary white sand lapped by the clear blue shallows of the Atlantic. Gold Rock Beach is paradise by anyone’s standards. The producers of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise found the locale to be so enchanting that they filmed much of the franchise in this very spot. That’s right ladies, Johnny Depp walked, swam, and sweated all over this West Indies jewel. Swooning aside, Gold Rock Beach is the perfect place to bring a picnic and spend the day. The water is knee deep for at least 100 yards (depending on the tide) and waves are nothing more than a ripple, making it an ideal place for young children to play. Best of all, the beach is long enough for everyone to have their own quiet slice of heaven.
Excited to visit national parks with your kids? We are too! Visit our National Parks with Kids page for extensive coverage, tips & tricks for all our nation’s National Parks.