Monday, August 22, 2011

A Driving Tour of Grand Cayman's Eastern Districts



This is a basis for a driving tour of Grand Cayman I posted on Trip Advisor.  Others are invited to add with their recommendations, pictures and advice in the comments section.


View Testudo's Snorkel Guides in a larger map

Please be advised Cayman follows the British Rules of the Road and driving is done on the left hand side of the road.  Posted speed limits are in Miles Per Hour and the police do stop and ticket speeders, so be mindful.
A suggested island tour or rainy/off-weather day trip (but sunny conditions really do the scenery justice) that basically circumvents 3/4 of the island, originating from the Seven Mile Beach area and heading East would be:
Head East from Seven Mile Beach along West Bay Rd.  As you enter town, the Island Glass Blowing Studio offers up a chance to see one of a kind glass creations being made.  
Glass Blowing Studio 
Proceed into George Town along Church Street and try not to run over any cruise ship visitors.  If the weather is not the best and you are killing time or if parking is readily available, the Cayman Islands National Museum is a hidden in plain sight gem.
 Cayman National Museum
Just past town is the Black Coral Clinic where the "unique" Doc Carey will be glad to display his creations and collections.
 Carey's Black Coral Clinic
 Next, stop at Pure Art just down the road if you like handmade local art and crafts.
 Pure Art
Just a few hundred yards down the road is Smith Cove Bacadere.  A picturesque little swimming hole, you'll probably want to return to later on during your stay.  Water is usually calm and there is some OK snorkeling around the Elkhorn coral in the left center of the cove.  If you didn't happen to yet see one of the many Cayman Blue Iguana statues around the island yet, here is a chance.
Smith Cove 
Back on the road through South Sound you can admire the "nice" homes of this well-to-do neighborhood. There are a few small community beaches all along this tour that you can stop off at (most are nothing special, but nice to check out regardless.  Just look for the green and white community beach access signs).
Once you reach Red Bay, look for the Flip Flop Tree photo op just past the docks on the right.  It even has its own Facebook page!
Flip Flop Tree 
At the end of South Sound Rd., merge onto Shamrock Rd, follow signs towards the Eastern Districts. If you like beer or are just curious as to how it's brewed, stop off at the Cayman Islands Brewery.  The tour is less than 30 minutes or you can just say "hi" and get samples of the days production and shoot the breeze with the brew-master.
Cayman Islands Brewery 
If fresh fruits (mangoes, papaya, limes etc..) are in season keep an eye out for the roadside stands anywhere along this entire route.
Continuing along Shamrock Road you will reach the town of Savannah.  A nice stop here is the Pedro St. James "castle"; a restored mansion with well regarded tours describing the history of the island.  
 Pedro St. James Castle
Just off the parking lot are impressive cliffs that make a dramatic photo op when framed by the sea.
Pedro St. James Cliffs
Back on Shamrock Rd (becomes Bodden Town Rd.) traveling towards Bodden Town you will come across the Market at the Grounds, the agricultural heart of Cayman and where a Saturday morning farmers market is held (not a suggested stop unless you happen to be passing before 10:00 on a Saturday).



Back on Bodden Town Rd., you will soon be entering Cayman's first capital, Bodden Town.  On your right will be Rankins Jerk Pit (as called on Trip Advisor), the first of a few jerk and fish fry establishments for those craving some "local fare".  This section of the island was hit hard from Hurricane Ivan and is just now (2011) beginning to get fully restored to it former conditions.  Coe Wood Beach is restored public area with some basic facilities and the Grape Tree Cafe fish fry if you need to make a stop.
Grape Tree Cafe
The Mission House is another spot for history buffs to explore.  
Bodden Town Mission House
There is some good snorkeling off the beach from the Turtle Nest Innand Governor Russell Public Beach for those needing to commune with the fishes.
Governor Russell Beach 
Towards the center of town are a few attractions that may be of interest: Beach Bubbles is a small store in the strip center next door to the post office that carries a collection of locally handmade soaps and lotions and other giftables, the Bodden Town Pirate Caves is a stop for only the youngest or most obsessed pirate lovers in the group and a local art and gift store in the Bodden Town Art Shop.  Some good snorkeling exists off of the Govenor Russell Public Beach adjacent to the Bodden Town Cemetery.
Beach Bubbles Shop 
Opposit the cemetery is Anton Bodden Drive where the Look Out Convenience Store is located a few hundred yards on the left.  This is a nice place to stop and sample some of their fresh squeezed local juices post snorkeling.  A sign is usually posted along Bodden Town Rd. with the juices available that day.
Continuing on the way out of town you'll pass Chester's Fish Fry home to one of the most famous signs in Cayman "Buy one jerk, get one free" and Woods' Jerk Stand.  
Chester's Jerk & Fish Fry
In a few minutes the wide expanse of Pease Bay's scenic water vistas will unfold.  On a sunny day the blue water can glow electric and make another great photo op.  
Pease Bay
Onwards towards Breakers, at the other end of the bay, is the the landmark Lighthouse Restaurant and the neighboring down home Cayman style South Coast Bar and Grill.
Lighthouse 
A mile or so past the Lighthouse is the turn for Frank Sound Rd. and the short-cut to North Side. If you want to visit either the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and Blue Iguana Sanctuary or the Mastic Trail, turn there.  If not, continue along the coast towards East End.  You can also visit either attraction on the return as well.
Botanic Park 
Entering the East End District, (the road name changes to Seaview Rd. and then Austin Connolly Drive)  you will begin to get a glimpse of the Cayman of olde.  No hi-rise condos or fancy hotels here.  Other than the solitude and and stunning views, the biggest attraction in this area are the Blow Holes.  Fun for kids and adults alike, especially if the there are some swells crashing ashore.
Blow Holes 
Along East End there are some quick stops like the East End Light House Park (inland side) and Wreck of the Ten Sails (look for the giant ship's propeller).  Keep a look out for the "old folks" crossing sign near the rest home.
Ten Sails 
In this area, some folks like to eat at Vivine's Kitchen for a truly Caymanian culinary experience or at Tukka's for a taste of Down Under meets Caribbean.  Both have great water views.
Miss Vivine's 
You'll soon come upon the East End Public Beach at Colliers. There are restrooms here and the cabanas and piers make for nice photo backdrop.  Another Iguana for those keeping track.
Colliers Public Beach
Just past the beach, keep your eye's peeled for the East End's Flip Flop Tree in the undeveloped area just before Morritt's Tortuga Club & Resort and the Reef Resort.  
 East End Flip Flop Tree
A nice stretch of beach fronts the neighboring resorts and feel free to stop at either for a look-see or to grab an drink or bite to eat at one of their bars.




After the Reef Resort you can stop off at the hidden Barefoot Beach and climb the stairs off to the right for another dramatic photo op.  It can be hard to spot the hidden turn-off, but a great find for those who manage to.  Refer to the link above for instructions on where to find it.
Barefoot Beach
Back on the road towards Rum Point (now called Queen's Highway) you'll pass the town of Old Man Bay,  just after the intersection with the ball fields.   If you happen to be driving by on a Friday or Saturday there may be some local food for sale roadside. 
Over the Edge restaurant and bar makes another nice spot to grab some lunch for fresh fish lovers and take in a great view.
Over the Edge 
Continuing towards Rum Point, you'll enter Cayman Kai, another spot to check out some "nice" snowbird homes and try and make sense of their mostly whimsical names.  
As you get to the end of Rum Point Drive (now the name of the road), stop at the Rum Point Club beach and see if it is crowded or not.  You will notice the rum barrels spelling out the destination at the parking lot entrance.  If not, spend some at the beach (free to use amenities like chairs and restrooms), imbibe one of the Wreck Bar & Grill's famous Mudslides, walk to the end of the pier or just chill in a hammock (taking in the amazing shades of blue).  Yes, that is yet another Blue Iguana statue you just tripped over.
Rum Point Pier
If you have packed a lunch or have you own food and drink (neither of which are permitted at the Rum Point Beach Club), there is a public beach section at the far western end of the Rum Point Club's parking lot.  Look for the public beach access sign and park along the street.  Just follow the white fenced bordered path to the beach.  Same great beach, just no lounge chairs and some fallen trees.
 If you happen to arrive with a hoard of cruise ship visitors still enjoying their excursions or on a Sunday afternoon when the locals have descended for a weekend get-away,  head towards Kaibo Restuarant and Star Fish Point (as it is termed on Trip Advisor).  The turn onto Water Cay Rd. is just before the rum barrels and there should be a sign for Kaibo.
Kaibo Yacht Club Restaurant & Bar
This is a great little spot where Cushion starfish usually congregate in the sandy shallows off the point.  Refer to the linked guide for Starfish Beach on how to get there.  
 Starfish Beach
The cruise ship crowds have usually vacated by 2:00 PM, so it if the timing has worked out you can now head to the Rum Point Club.
Rum Point Entrance
You have now covered most of the island east of Seven Mile Beach, so it is probably late in the day and time to head back.  When returning, take the Frank Sound Rd. "short-cut" at the intersection by the ball fields. Stick to the "highways" and you'll make the return trip in 45-60 minutes.
Map featuring many of the points of interest contained in the travel guide (be sure to look at page 2 on the map as well):
Safe travels and happy motoring. 

3 comments:

  1. Happy New Year! Thank you for all the excellent and detailed snorkeling info you've posted over the years. We've studied your maps and comments many a day as we have now enjoyed our second visit to Grand Cayman. Related to Rum Pt and Old Man Bay area snorkeling, we wonder if there is a time of year when the breezes come from the southwest or when the waves are less "white capped" than in Dec/Jan as we've experienced in 2012 and '13?
    Thanks, K & J

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    1. Glad the snorkeling guides have helped make your visits to Cayman enjoyable.

      As for the water conditions, the Christmas Winds usually start to kick up at the end of December and stick around until the end of February; making snorkeling on the North Side and East End an iffy proposition on many days.

      Best water conditions for snorkeling off these areas is from Mid-March to mid-October. In the middle of summer there are actually days where the water out past the reef is as calm as a lake.

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