Who knew skimming a daily deal site would result in two round-trip tickets to Freeport, Bahamas? Cruises to the Bahamas from Florida never appealed to me. There’s something about unlimited buffets, expensive wifi, small pools, and even tinier outdated rooms with little time on the island that never seemed like a vacation I would enjoy. Taking a ferry to the Bahamas from Fort Lauderdale allows flexibility in planning the perfect short day trip or extended trip without having to come back to a crowded cruise ship at the end of every perfect day.
What’s It Like To Take A Day Trip to the Bahamas from Miami?
We day tripped to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island using the Balearia Express Ferry from Fort Lauderdale. Being a little wary of boats and sensitive to motion sickness, the Balearia Express was an easy and comfortable way to get to the Bahamas. The views are unprecedented. More importantly, the process of boarding the ship and getting a start to the vacation is infinitely easier than dealing with check-in, weighing carry-ons, TSA, and having to be hours early waiting at a hectic airport.
The other perk of taking a ferry for a day trip to the Bahamas is no assigned seating. From arcade games, top deck views, and comfortable seating, there is total freedom to roam around the ship during the 2.5-hour boat ride. We enjoyed the views, played cards, and loaded up on duty-free alcohol for sale.
Immigration and Customs took a matter of minutes once we arrived at Grand Bahama Island. Unlike a large cruise ship, the day trippers are allowed to deboard the ferry first to get the maximum amount of time on the island while bypassing the lines. From arriving at Freeport and checking into our hotel took about 1 hour, it’s really that simple.
Taking a day trip from Miami to the Bahamas is not as daunting as it seems. It’s no different than taking a ferry to Salem from Boston. The ferries are pet-friendly, kid-friendly, wheel-chair accessible, and safe.
You might be wondering why would you leave Miami Beach and jump on a ferry to visit another beach? The answer is simple. The Bahamas offers idyllic views and uncrowded beaches. The Bahamas is a quiet, relaxing destination with aqua blue waters and pink sand straight out of a postcard which doesn’t exist in South Florida any time of the year.
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How do you get to the Bahamas from South Florida?
There are only 4 ways to get to the Bahamas from South Florida for a day trip.
- Ferry from Fort Lauderdale or Miami to the Bahamas
- Private Charter Boat
- Private Charter Plane
- International Flight
The easiest and most affordable way to day trip to the Bahamas from Miami or Fort Lauderdale is to opt for a ferry. Ferries take under 3 hours to get to the Bahamas and offer round-trip tickets for less than a one-way ticket from the airlines.
If you’re willing to stay overnight for multiple days, you can opt for a ferry and book your own resort on the island of your preference. However, you can also book 2, 3, or 4-night cruises with a room aboard the cruise ship for as low as $199 making visiting the Bahamas from South Florida a cheap weekend trip.
What to do in the Bahamas for a day trip
The average day trip to the Bahamas gives you 6-8 hours on the island. During a day trip from Miami to Bimini, you’d manage to have time to lounge on beachfront Hilton property that features 10 restaurants, a casino, and three pools. Some visitors choose to visit the hub of the island, Alice town, for shopping and dining. World Resorts Bimini also offers marine life tours like swimming with stingrays, fishing charters, snorkeling, and swimming with sharks.
Freeport, on the other hand, offers a little more for those day trippers that are looking for adventure or culture. A taxi ride from the Freeport Port can land day trippers at Lucayan National Park which is home to the world’s largest stretch of underwater caves and is also where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. Freeport also is home to many beachfront resorts that offer beachfront dining, water activities, horseback riding, and 5-star service.
Cost To Get To Port Everglades or Port Miami
Getting to the Port Miami from South Beach costs anywhere between $11-$16 for an UberX. Getting to Port Everglades from Downtown Miami costs anywhere between $35-$50 for an UberX.
There is no reliable public transportation from Downtown Miami to the Port Everglades. There is on-site parking at Port Everglades available for $15 per day and $22 per day (overnight) for parking on-site at Port of Miami.
What paperwork will you need for a day trip to the Bahamas?
Contrary to popular belief, US Residents, US Citizens, and visitors need a passport to go to the Bahamas even for a day trip. Visitors need a valid passport, state IDs and birth certificates are not applicable. Any ferry or cruise that tells you otherwise does not plan on docking at the Bahamas and letting you off the boat.
Why you should not fly to the Bahamas from Florida
Flights to the Bahamas from Fort Lauderdale Airport, Miami International Airport, or Palm Beach International Airport average $250 round trip in the slow season. Taking a ferry to the Bahamas takes an average of 2.5-3 hours which is about how early you would need to arrive at an airport for an international flight.
Ferries are less restrictive about the baggage fees while also giving you a great view of the ocean during your travel. Your vacation starts as soon as you’re on the ferry. Additionally, cheap day trips by plane are not possible. A private plane excursion for a one day trip to the Bahamas averages $700 per passenger for a 6 hour day in Bimini.
Miami Ferry to Bahamas and Fort Lauderdale Ferry to the Bahamas
There are many private boats that claim that they charge as little as $69 for round-trip day tickets to the Bahamas. However, when we investigated these companies, they were not really transparent about the vessel and had little to no public reviews which didn’t make us feel safe. Instead, we opted to spend more on a larger vessel with a public safety record, knowledgeable about the immigration and customs and had thousands of customer reviews on Tripadvisor, Groupon, and Google. Buyer beware about these private charters and make sure you ask the right questions to the captions about immigration, time on the island, and safety records (including insurance).
There are two main ferries offering day trips and multi-night trips to the Bahamas from Miami and Fort Lauderdale that are credible and trusted by tourists and Floridians alike.
Departing from Miami is FRS Caribbean which only goes to Bimini, the Bahamas which is the perfect setting for a day trip or luxury multi-night trip if the goal in mind is to unwind on the beach. Departing from Fort Lauderdale is Balearia Express which goes to Freeport located on Grand Bahama Island.
Departs: Port of Miami, Florida 9 AM and Departs Bimini at 6:30 PM
Destination: Port of Bimini, Bahamas
When: Operates every day except Tuesdays. Check their website for availability.
Cost: $69.95 for taxes and Hilton Resort Fee ($10) for Day Trips and $250-$350 roundtrips for extended stays (3-10 nights) not including hotel.
Departs: Port of Fort Lauderdale
Destination: Grand Bahama Island (Freeport)
When: Every Day except Tuesdays. Check Website for Availability and Check Groupon for Deals!
Cost: $119 Day Trip or $149 Multi-Day
Have you taken a day trip to a different country? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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