Tucked away at the northern end of the Berry Islands is Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. This idyllic island is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line and was the first uninhabited island ever to be turned into a private cruise port.
It is located between Great Harbour Cay and Little Stirrup Cay (now renamed CocoCay at Perfect Cay) about 140 miles east of Miami.
Leased from Belcher Oil Company in 1977 and later purchased outright in 1986, Great Stirrup Cay is a private 268-acre island oasis. It is home to a lush coconut plantation, an automated lighthouse (built-in 1863), white sandy beaches, crystal clear ocean waters, and a wide variety of marine life.
It’s a fantastic destination and port of call for lucky cruisers with NCL. Along with all the natural features there are $25 million of facilities and amenities that NCL has built on the island. It’s no wonder the cruise port has so many fun activities to engage in!
We’re here to share some insider information about Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas including what you can expect from this port of call.
Great Stirrup Cay Weather
Great Stirrup Cay, just like most cruise stops in the Caribbean, enjoys a warm tropical temperature throughout the year. The temperature averages a very pleasant 77°F all year round.
The warmest months are from May to October, which typically enjoy highs of between 86°F- 90°F with gentle breezes. The coolest months are from December to February, with temperatures averaging 81-86°F, occasionally dropping as low as 66°F in a cold snap.
The climate in Great Stirrup Cay is rainy and more humid in the summer (May to October) with 3.5 inches of rainfall per month. It is dry and sunny in the winter season.
As the busiest cruise season is from November through April, most cruises enjoy uninterrupted sunshine and very little rain. The shallow ocean waters are warmest in the summer season, with temperatures reaching up to 86°F in August.
12 Things to Do at Great Stirrup Cay
1. Enjoy a Boat Ride
Cruise ships visiting Great Stirrup Cay drop their anchor some distance away from the island as the waters are too shallow for large ships to come ashore. Currently there is no pier or quay on Stirrup Cay so tenders (small motor boats) are used to transport cruisers ashore.
Norwegian Cruise Line uses very large tendering boats, and the trip only lasts 10 minutes long. This reduces unnecessary delays. It’s a great way to start your visit to Great Stirrup Cay so get a pre-booked timed ticket to board or just wait for “Open Tender” when you can just turn up and hop aboard!
Enjoy the view of the island’s coastline and the beautiful blue sea before the boat lands right on the beach where you can walk ashore.
The island is truly a Caribbean paradise with lots of tropical palm trees, colorful flowers and lush plants in this protected marine sanctuary.
There are many species of birds including gulls and sanderlings, lizards, crabs and small island creatures that you are bound to catch a glimpse of, once in a while.
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2. Relax on Great Stirrup Cay Beaches
The main attraction at Great Stirrup Cay are three powder-soft white sandy beaches. Bertram’s Beach is the main beach where tenders arrive and depart. It is named after the British naval commander who settled on Great Stirrup Cay in the 18th century.
Bertram Beach is is the busiest beach and has complimentary beach loungers and hammocks under the scattered palm trees. If you want to be sure of the best spots in shady areas, you need to arrive early or rent a clamshell (around $30 per day) to keep out of the sun.
Bertram Beach does gets crowded, especially if there is more than one cruise ship at the island. For a less busy beach, try secluded Fiesta Beach, which is the furthest from the pier with less noise and activity.
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The middle beach, known as Cabana Beach, has private cabanas for rent on a raised, hilly area on the beach. However, anyone can relax on the sand or use the free beach chairs available. Since it’s an extension of Bertram’s Beach, you can expect the same features and facilities.
For the ultimate relaxation, the new Silver Cove area offers beautiful private two-storey villas and a private lagoon for an additional fee. It’s also the location of the Mandara Spa.
The waters around Great Stirrup Cay are crystal clear, and there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel right from the beach. Enjoy a good swim or just float around on a float-pad (available for $16 for the day) from one of the shacks offering equipment rentals.
There are bars near all three beaches including the Bacardi Bar and Patron’s Bar. Grab a cold drink and enjoy your day, soaking in the sun in this beautiful place. Drinks are charged to your stateroom pass unless you have a drinks package in which case, just like onboard ship, your drinks are free.
You can enjoy some beach sports activities by engaging in a game of volleyball on the beach or listen to the DJ spinning some island music. Alternatively, head out to the rocks in the water for a climb and more sunbathing.
Remember to wear good water shoes, however. Whichever beach you find yourself at, you are sure to have fun soaking in the sun and playing in the water.
3. Rent a Cabana
Luxury cabana rentals are ideal for small groups and families of 8-10 guests. Perched on a raised area of the beach they catch gentle breezes and offer stunning sea views. Cabanas have a front porch and include comfortable furnishings, side tables and bottled water.
Cabana rentals start at $249 for 8 guests with additional fees for more guests. These beautifully designed cabanas feature a large L-shaped couch, a mini-fridge, ceiling fan, four lounge chairs on the porch area, four floating pads, fresh towel supply, snacks, a bowl of fresh fruit, dedicated waiter service, an extra $50 credit for food and a private shower on the back.
They can represent good value for money and ensure the ultimate beach day experience in the Bahamas on Great Stirrup Cay.
For a more exclusive experience, Silver Cove offers private furnished villa rentals for 10 with one or 2 bedrooms and on-demand movies. Prices start from $599 to over $1100 for up to 8 guests (and $49 for each additional guest, up to 10 in total).
They overlook the Silver Cove Lagoon which has overwater swings, the Silver Cove Restaurant and Bar and the Moet Champagne Bar.
Pre-order a cheese board, sushi or tacos and find them waiting for you in the cabana. It’s a great way to start your Great Stirrup Cay visit in style with a party mood. There is a bar close to the cabanas, so you are never too far away to quench your thirst with chilled island drinks.
Great Stirrup Cay Shore Excursions
Since this is a private cruise port, don’t expect to go on excursions on your own, or to contract private tour operators, as there are none. All excursions are booked through NCL. Check them out:
4. Underwater Sculpture Garden
NCL went the extra mile and created a concrete underwater sculpture garden as part of their upgrades. Located at Bertram’s Cove, this garden offers snorkelers something to keep them busy with underwater statues of mermaids, sea creatures, fountains and urns.
Book snorkel equipment from Susan’s Rock Snorkel Center for the day ($30 for adults and $15 for children) and snorkel at this beautiful spot as much as you want.
Have your underwater camera ready to take water selfies with the shoals of fish that hang out at the garden You may also spot lobsters, crabs and shrimps, peering out from the holes and cracks in the statues.
5. Try Zip-lining from the Lighthouse
For thrill seekers, one of the newest attractions on Great Stirrup Cay is the zip-line. It is a series of three flights starting 130 feet above ground from a replica lighthouse (not the historic “real” lighthouse on the island!) and the experience lasts about an hour.
The first zip-line is 100 feet long, but it’s also the highest and scariest. The second zip-line is 600 feet long, starting 100 feet above the ground. The final zip is 600 feet long and carries you from a height of 75 feet back to ground level.
The zip-lines provide bird’s eye views of the island and surrounding ocean so keep your eyes open if you dare!
You can pre-book this exciting experience from the Excursion Desk onboard the ship or at the island’s Information Booth. Costs are from US$60-85 depending on the number of rides and which zip-lines you choose.
6. A Stingray Encounter
Come back to the earth and go on a speedboat ride zooming past the coastline to Stingray City. This 90-minute guided tour will take you to the home of huge southern stingrays.
You will have a brief safety instruction session before going into the shallow waters within a cove. The water there is about waist height. When the stingrays approach, you will have an opportunity to pet, feed and have a photo taken with these majestic creatures. This unforgettable stingray encounter will cost $69 for an adult and $49 for a child..
7. Guided Kayaking Tour
Take a 2 hour Kayaking Tour around Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. After a brief orientation your guide will help you into a 2-person kayak. You’ll be paddling in clear shallow waters spotting a range of marine creatures including turtles and dolphins if you’re lucky in this fun adventure.
The guide will identify the marine life and tell you a bit about the island. Enjoy the scenic views on this leisurely kayaking tour.
The cost of the guided kayaking tour is US $55 for adults and $40 for children aged 8 and above.
8. Swimming with Pigs!
Visit the coral reefs of the Bahamas in this unique 90-minute cruise excursion swimming with pigs. This guided trip will start with a boat ride out to Treasure Island, where guests get a full safety briefing before entering the water.
You get the chance to feed and interact with these porkers and have a photo op before relaxing with a drink on the observation deck and watching the fun. Prices start at $105 for adults and $85 for children aged 6 and above.
9. Take a Catamaran and Snorkel Tour at Great Stirrup Cay
This is for laid-back folks looking for a relaxing tour around the beautiful island waters of the Berry Islands aboard a modern double-decker catamaran.
The tour takes around 2 hours and includes the chance to snorkel in the crystal clear waters and enjoy the stunning underwater corals and reefs. You’ll also see local fish and plenty of colorful marine-life.
Once everyone’s back on board, enjoy a slow cruise back to Great Stirrup Cay while enjoying island music and light refreshments, snacks and alcoholic beverages.
Prices for this trip are US $65 for adults and $45 for children aged 8+.
10. Indulge in More Water Sports
There’s plenty more to do on Great Stirrup Cay. You can go parasailing in tandem, sailing 400 feet high in the air above Stirrup Cay while being towed by a motor boat.
Other activities to look forward to include renting a stand-up paddle-board at US$25 for an hour. Glide smoothly along the coastline enjoying the scenery and spotting fish and marine life beneath the water, while maintaining your balance on this fitness ride.
11. Go Shopping
A visit to the Bahamas is never complete without a souvenir. Head to the Stirrup Cay Marketplace and you’ll find a great choice of beachwear, Bahamian crafts and souvenirs.
Check out beautiful paintings, wooden carvings, clothing, woven items, jewelry and sculptures to take home. This is also the best place to shop for that perfect gift to take to your friend or family back at home that you won’t find anywhere else.
Bring cash (US dollars) as many local traders do not accept credit cards or stateroom passes.
12. Enjoy a Delicious Meal
After all that activity, you’ll have worked up quite an appetite. Enjoy a hearty serving of tasty food including burgers, pizza, hot dogs and grilled chicken or steak. Food on Great Stirrup Cay is complimentary and there are three dining options to choose from:
Jumbo Beach Grill is the largest and most popular buffet venue. It has barbecue food, salads, ribs, chicken and corn-on-the-cob.
Abaco Taco is a fun taco bar where you can load up your own taco with fish, chicken beef and all the toppings.
Finally, the “Tropic Like Its Hot” Food Truck has tasty Bahamian-style sandwiches including Mahi Mahi and BBQ pulled Pork as well as ceviche and spicy chicken. Meals are cooked to order. For dessert, feast on rum cake and coconut fudge bars!
Those who have paid to enjoy the Silver Cove experience have their own exclusive Silver Cove Restaurant and Bar with an upscale buffet including lobster tail and jumbo shrimp.
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On the drinks end, there are five bars on the island, starting with the very energetic Bacardi Bar where you can hang out and listen to music as well as enjoy a drink. It has a large seating area and a raised stage for the DJ’s booth who churns out some cool island tunes.
Other bars in Great Stirrup Cay include the Lighthouse Bar and the Patron’s Bar along with two private bars (Moet Bar and Silver Cove Bar) at the exclusive Silver Cove.
Great Stirrup Cay FAQ
Great Stirrup Cay is in the Bahamas archipelago. It is part of the Berry Islands, 140 miles east of Miami, Florida and between Great Harbour Cay and RCI’s private CocoCay, formerly Little Stirrup Cay.
Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line and can only be visited as a port of call from a NCL cruise.
There are no manmade swimming pools at Great Stirrup Cay. However, there are beautiful calms shallow waters right off the beach that provide a safe environment for swimming and snorkeling in the clear warm water.
So there you have it! 12 things that are guaranteed to help you enjoy your day at Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas. All we can add to this is a few tips such as:
Don’t forget to carry and reapply sunscreen as often as possible. Carry cash for the local market on the island; they don’t take your ship stateroom card or credit card.
And lastly, remember to wear good water shoes. With all this information, you are all geared up for the best time possible at Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. Happy Cruising!!