Great Stirrup Cay
Berry Islands, Bahamas
N 25° 49.523 W 077° 54.711
Great Stirrup Cay, is the northernmost island of the Berry Islands. It is owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines. NCL cruise ships anchor just offshore and transfer passengers to the island on dedicated tender boats.
Belcher Oil Company took ownership of a large section of the island. In 1977, Norwegian Caribbean Lines (later Norwegian Cruise Line) acquired the western section of the island from Belcher Oil, developed recreational facilities and established a port-of-call their passengers. Tender boats that are permanently kept on the island transfer passengers and cargo from the cruise ship to Great Stirrup Cay.
Activities on the island include swimming, snorkeling, parasailing, Wave Runner tours, kayaking, paddleboarding, and excursions to Stingray City. You can even hike along wide gravel roads the the far southeast end of the island, visit a lighthouse, and "international airport", and encounter wildlife along the way.
History of Great Stirrup Cay:
Great Stirrup Cay is a small uninhabited sub-tropical island in north central Bahamas that is part of the Berry Islands Group. The island was a used by pirates from the time the British occupied the Bahamas and made Nassau the capital until 1815. Once the United Kingdom abolished slavery, the British began to withdraw from the outer islands of the Bahamas until Great Stirrup Cay was abandoned.
During the American Civil War the island was used by the Confederate states to store provisions and to export cotton to Europe. The area was patrolled by Federal warships to inhibit the export of cotton by the Confederacy.
The Imperial Lighthouse Service erected the 80' high lighthouse on the north east coast of Great Stirrup Cay in 1863. The lighthouse site was manned until it was converted to solar power. The light is visible for over 20 miles.
During World War II the United States erected observational and defensive infrastructure including: submersible anti-submarine cables, Later the U.S. Air Force constructed a satellite tracking station which was closed in 1991. A helipad that is known as Great Stirrup Cay International Airport is still in use.