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Trip Report

Orlando to Bimini in Search of Manatees, Dolphins, Sharks and Sea Stars

Two weeks of exploring the family-friendly fun in Orlando, the lively party in Miami, and the tranquil tropical paradise of Bimini.

by wishingoceansAbout Me:Hi, my name is Oriana! I like working in and exploring the best that nature has to offer - hiking, trekking, climbing, diving, swimming, paddle boarding, and volunteering on farms. read more

North AmericaUnited States, The Bahamas13 days / July - December 2019

Highs & Lows

The beaches of Bimini are some of the most beautiful anywhere!

There aren't many food options in Bimini, particularly healthy options, and the prices are a bit steep.

Itinerary Overview

I began by driving to Orlando, in central Florida. Orlando is like a giant theme park unto itself. There are activities for every sensibility, from the amusement parks, to the manatees, to the local crystal-clear springs and river, hidden little islands, to exotic animal and bird sanctuaries, to swamp tours, there are adventures hidden around every corner. The manatees are only around during the colder winter months, and cannot be missed - these gentle giants are some of the sweetest and cutest animals alive, and you will treasure every second floating with them! They are also super playful and will often swim around you, bump into you, and roll around in acrobatic tricks. We also stopped by a few exotic bird and animal sanctuaries and had the opportunity to learn about and play with lemurs, sloths, macaws, and many more! We also stopped at a wolf sanctuary, and were able to pet wolves, foxes, and skunks. I spent countless days exploring all the local springs and rivers, which are filled with spotlessly clear waters and often turtles and other surprises. Caladesi Island State Park is also worth a visit - it's a separated from the more touristic beaches within only a short and scenic boat ride, and it will give you miles of empty beaches and beautiful views to enjoy. I also stopped by Epcot to enjoy the World Showcase. 

Then, I drove down to Miami. Miami is an extremely lively city - as we were heading out at 6am to catch our boat to Bimini, most others were only just arriving back from the clubs! We only stayed in Miami the night before our boat trip, and then on the way back we stayed another night to go diving in Blue Heron Bridge. This is the best shore dive I've ever done, and I highly recommend it! There were endless sea stars and amazing corals, plus lots of macro. The diving is also quite easy, very shallow with good visibility, so you get lots of bottom time - just watch out for the swimmers, snorkelers, and fishermen!

From the hustle-and-bustle of Miami we sailed to the tranquil Bimini Islands, truly a paradise on earth! Although these are the closest islands to Miami (only 2 hours by boat), they have gone largely undiscovered. In our four days on the island, we saw almost no other tourists. We had miles and miles of gorgeous, candy blue beaches all to ourselves, and went on the most amazing dives with sharks and wild dolphins with only two other guests during peak season. The local culture is extremely laidback and friendly (everyone drives golf carts and spends plenty of time just relaxing on the beach with a coconut in hand) and the locals seem to genuinely appreciate being able to share their beautiful home with tourists. These locals are some of the kindest and friendliest I've met anywhere! The snorkeling and diving are top-notch even right off the beach, and you can have the best days of your life here just relaxing on the beach! This is a place to come to unwind and experience a life of peaceful paradise. 

  • 7 Nights: Orlando
    Manatees, Rivers, Springs, State Parks, and Amusement Parks
  • 2 Nights: Miami
    Shore diving and jumping off into Bimini.
  • 4 Nights: Bimini
    Swimming with wild dolphins and diving with sharks and shipwrecks.

Q & A

  • What would you have changed?

    I would skip the amusement parks - they are the pinnacle of "touristic," and with such long lines in the Florida heat and humidity, and sky-high prices, I didn't enjoy them at all. You can have lots of more "authentic" Florida fun for free or very cheap by exploring all of the abundant nature and state parks. I also would've spent a bit more time in Bimini to explore the other side of the island. The other side can only be reached by boat, so it's a bit tricky to get there.

  • How was the food?

    There are countless good restaurants in Florida - one of my personal favorite local chains is the Broken Egg for brunch, but you can't go wrong with most local restaurants. In Bimini, your choices are very limited, particularly if you're a vegetarian. We liked Nate's Breads (different fresh bread loafs each morning in fun flavors) and the Bimini Big Game Restaurant, and we tried and enjoyed pretty much every other local restaurant in the area as well.

  • What tips would you give a friend?

    For Bimini, it's good to book your excursions ahead of time just in case. You should not miss the swimming with wild dolphins or the diving with sharks. In Florida, you can't go wrong just exploring all the state parks and nature reserves, and be sure to enjoy a glass of fresh Florida orange juice!

  • Packing tips?

    You will only need summery clothes, such as shorts and dresses, and maybe a light sweater. Both Florida and Bimini are warm year-round, and with very relaxed cultures in both, you're good to wear just about anything you like. For sure bring a sunhat, mosquito repellant, reef-safe suncreen, and a mask/snorkel to enjoy some free snorkeling on your own.

  • Transportation Tips?

    In Florida, you will need a rental car. Uber and Lyft are accessible, but Florida (like most of the states) is best experienced through road-tripping. There are lots of toll roads, some of them exact-change coin-only, so watch out for that. You can buy a toll road pass that will automatically charge your credit card each time you pass by a toll. In Bimini, you will need a golf cart. You can also rent a bicycle, but the golf carts are a unique and fun way to see the island, and most everyone uses them.


  • Friends apt.

  • The Hilton Bimini - very nice hotel with very nice deals, and for sure the mot convenient option. They take care of everything for you, and the rooms, the pools and the restaurants are all very good. But, the onsite restaurant is extraordinarily expensive - I highly recommend only eating at the local restaurants. Some locals are also against the hotel because its construction caused damage to the island, so the best option is to find an airbnb and live among the locals.