By Alexander Britell and Guy Britton
They came here for the water, for the fresh pond surrounded by maritime birds and and waving reeds.
The early settlers eventually built Mission House, a two-story wooden home, a place that became a haven for Presbyterian missionaries.
Today, the beautifully preserved home is a draw in Bodden Town, the first settlement in the Cayman Islands and its original capital.
Bodden Town, on the southern coast of Grand Cayman, is a slice of the Old Cayman, a gentle, breezy village where history is served up with a side of sand.
Step across Bodden Town road from the wetlands and you’ll find a very pretty, very long, uncrowded stretch of beach that is a throwback to a different time in the Caribbean.
It is a place where you can discover another personality of Grand Cayman, where you can come for the day or for a week and experience a vastly different environment than the deservedly popular Seven Mile Beach corridor, and a place where, if you squint, you can see the early stages of a renaissance.
It’s where you’ll see the Turtle Nest Inn, Bodden Town’s charming little boutique hotel, a closely-guarded secret with a lovely sliver of beach and refreshingly warm, family-run service, equal parts English bed and breakfast and Caribbean beach retreat.
Look across the road and you’ll discover Beach Bubbles, a colorful shop run by Nina Squires that has people journeying from across the island to get their hands on her locally-made soaps.
Next door, there’s the new Cayman Cigar Company, a full-fledged cigar factory producing locally-rolled puros and soon, they say, cigars made from tobacco grown right here in the Cayman Islands.
That’s adjacent to new art gallery showcasing the best of Caymanian art, including works by celebrated local painter John Clark.
The plan is to turn this little mall into an artisan plaza, Squires says, and to help to transform Bodden Town as a tourist destination.
“By next season, this place should be jamming,” she says, admiring a new sea turtle mural by local artist Carlos Garcia.
As one travels down Bodden Town road, the component parts of a vibrant beach town emerge: the weekly Grape Tree Fish Fry; the cheekily named Bodden Town Truck Stop and the fresh jerk at the Pirates Eatery.
There are no crowds here, just the kind of Caribbean beach village that’s rather hard to find these days.
Further up the road, Roxanne is serving up cold Caybrew and locally-made Governours Reserve rum at the White House, a new beach club, where the cruise visitors come several mornings each week.
On the other days, though, or in the late afternoon, this place becomes your own private beach club, with an overwater bar and a restaurant and a pool, and some of the most sparkling turquoise shoreline you’ll ever see.
Because you still come to Bodden Town for the water.