Bimini in the Bahamas, is comprised of a chain of islands located about 53 miles due east of Miami, and is known as the “Big Game Fishing Capital of the World.” Indeed, according to Robbie Smith, the Dock Master of the Bimini Big Game Club Resort and Marina, the largest fish ever caught in the Bahamas – a 1060 pound blue marlin – was reeled in there in 1979.
The original Bimini Big Game Fishing Club was founded in 1936, by Nassau entrepreneur, Neville Stuart, and quickly began attracting famous people from around the world, including American author and sportsman, Ernest Hemingway. Originally a formal dining club, with tuxedo and tie as the preferred attire for gentlemen, the club moved to its current location in 1954 with the completion of a marina and six cottages for visitors. In 1963, the main hotel building opened, and some years later, the property was acquired by the Bacardi family, who renovated and operated it for many years.
Today, the Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina is owned by the Southern California-based Hankey Group of Companies. Located in Alice Town on North Bimini, the 3.5-acre property is a boutique style resort with 51 guest rooms and cottages and 75 boat slips. It has recently undergone a $6 million renovation which included a new, larger freshwater pool, new docks at the full service marina, new landscaping, new furniture for the guest rooms, and a renovation of its most popular restaurant, the Big Game Bar and Grill. In addition, according to General Manager, Larry Williams, the facility is reviving its beachside restaurant, Sharkey’s, by putting in a poolside bar, and is contemplating opening a new restaurant named after Hemingway, himself.
Most of Big Game’s guests come from southeast Florida, followed by Texas, and the northeast U.S. The resort is open all year ‘round and according to Smith, “As long as the weather is good during the season, we’re pretty much full every weekend. During the off-season, it’s weather permitting, because you’ve got to cross the 50 miles of Gulf Stream. But you’re only two hours away by boat and 20 minutes by plane. Bimini is the little getaway.”
While the Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina is not the only “game in town,” according to Williams, it’s still the “big game in town.” “We have the Bahamian flavor,” adds Smith, “which is what a lot of tourists come back for. Big Game is the place in town that everybody wants to get to and be able to say ‘Oh, this is Bimini!’”
Williams agrees: “A tourist told me, this morning, if he wants to go to ‘Palm Beach,’ he’ll go to the competition, but if he wants to go to true Bimini, he’ll go to Big Game. We market ourselves as a genuine Bimini experience. We’re run by an all-Bahamian team. When guests come here, they really feel that they’re connecting with family members. We do everything to make them happy.”
In addition, Williams says that Big Game is “one of the few small hotels in the Caribbean that is headed by a CHA, a Certified Hospitality Administrator, and has a licensed boat captain as a marina manager.” Also, the resort has a joint venture with Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center which is located at the Big Game Club, and operates a 55-foot glass bottom dive boat, well-suited to accommodate divers, snorkelers, and sightseers. In addition to reefs, wrecks, and wall diving, the Dive Center offers Great Hammerhead Shark, Wild Dolphin, Reef Shark, and Sting Ray Safaris. PADI certifications and courses are also available.
Now that the Big Game has completed its renovations, Williams expects that its occupancy rate will increase from its current 50 to 60 percent, which will likely help boost the resort’s profits. “Since the six years of the current ownership, this is the first year that we made a profit every month,” he reports. Williams would also like to augment his staff training agenda and see that they are given certification in several professional areas. Lastly, he says that he hopes that Sharkey’s Restaurant, with its new bar, becomes a “hot spot in Bimini for entertainment.”
The Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina – still the “big game in town.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: The Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina
WHAT: A boutique style resort and marina
WHERE: Alice Town on North Bimini Island
SEACOR Island Lines LLC – www.seacorislandlines.com