Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bahama Out Island Hopping - Abaco Pt 1

 Did you know there are two Bahamas?

(1) The Bahamas of the casinos, high rise resorts, and nightlife of Nassau, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama Island

(2) And the Bahama Out Islands, with deserted pristine beaches, gingerbread houses/buildings, and peaceful fishing settlements 

Just returned from a 2 1/2 week vacation last Sunday in the Abacos - the northernmost Bahama Out Islands. 

The Abacos offer approximately 120 miles of islands and small cays to explore. Known for sailing and yachting, and there are miles of pristine private beaches on each island stop. 

A Protected Sea Shielded from the 
Atlantic Ocean by Cays and Barrier Reefs

What makes the Abacos special is the beautiful calm turquoise Sea of Abaco. This is the local boating highway - and there are only a few spots where you can pass through to the  Atlantic Ocean. 

The depth of the Sea of Abaco averages 8-10 feet, and while sailing you can view every detail on the sea floor. On sunny days the color reflecting off the crystal clear turquoise sea can only be described as luminous.  


Great Abaco Island and Little Abaco serve as the “mainland,” with a string of barrier islands separating them from the Atlantic.

Great Abaco, the largest island in the Abacos, receives the most air traffic and is also the major sailing harbor in the island chain. 

It has the largest protected deep water harbour in Abaco, and the international airport is serviced by major U.S. and Bahamian carriers. 

Marsh Harbour is the principal city - third largest in the Bahamas - and offers many shops, restaurants, marinas, along with full service diving/snorkel center. 


Home to the famous candy stripped Elbow Reef Lighthouse 

The feel of the town reminds visitors of an 18th century New England village with pastel Caribbean colors. 

Many visitors from New England call Hope Town "Nantucket under the palms." Accommodation options include charming small hotels, cottages or villa rentals.  

Hope Town has several fine restaurants, lovely inns, good grocery stores with fresh baked bread, a drugstore, interesting shops with artwork, jewelry, and clothing; modern marinas, daily & weekly boat rentals, private vacation homes for rent, an historical museum, a medical clinic, and most importantly a genuinely kind and friendly population.

The lighthouse is one of the last manual lighthouses in the world. The lighthouse keeper on duty must wind up the weights every 2 hours in order for the red and white candy-striped lighthouse to be seen from 17 miles away. 

To get an uninterrupted 360° view of the surrounding area, climb 100+ steps to the top of the lighthouse. 

Elbow Cay is approximately 6 miles long and 1/4 mile wide. A barrier reef protects the long sandy beaches, making them perfect for swimming, snorkeling, diving, and fishing.

Great Guana Cay is approximately seven miles long with a spectacular beach - great for swimming, snorkeling and beach combing. 

View of beach from Nippers 

Great Guana Cay is a small settlement with few stores, restaurants, a couple of small hotels, and a full service dive shop offering full and half day trips. One stop visitors must make is at Nipper's Beach Bar & Grill which is home of the famous Sunday Pig Roast, and during the week you can party all day til the wee hours of the night. 

The 7 mile long beach is popular with day visitors, small cruise ships and provides a wonderful picnic destination. There is excellent fishing offshore and on the reefs, and bonefish are abundant in the shallow bays on the Sea of Abaco side of the cay. 


The village of New Plymouth is known for its New England styled homes, pastel cottages, beautiful flower gardens complete with white picket fences. Many visitors say the ambiance of this cay reminds them of the Key West, Florida of decades past.  

Visitors can opt to stay at the Green Turtle Club, one of the best known hotels in the Bahamas, small inns, or choose beach cottage rentals. 

Beach lovers will not be disappointed with the miles of uncrowded pristine beaches, and many visitors use this cay as the starting point for diving and deep sea fishing.  


Another major airport for the Abacos is located in Treasure Cay which is just 30 miles from Marsh Harbour. Treasure Cay Beach Marina & Golf Resort is the largest accommodation, however many home rentals are available for tourists. 

The magnificent 3 1/2 mile beach has been rated one of the 10 best in the world, and this is the perfect base for island hopping. 

Sit on the beach and relax, or enjoy all the amenities of first-class resort destination - golf, tennis, fishing charters, diving, snorkeling, restaurants, full-service marina. 


Harbor at Man O War Cay

Man-O-War Cay is the leading boat building center in the islands. The Albury Brothers, which run the ferry service, boats are built here, and it also the home of the famous Sail Shop which has been operating for three generations on Man-O-War Cay.

This tiny cay has a small population and was founded by Puritan Loyalists during the U.S. Revolutionary War. Alcohol is not sold on the island, however visitors staying on the island can bring their own liquor. Also locals expect beach goers to cover up when coming into the town area. The village is extremely clean, quiet, and does not offer just a few shops,  restaurants, and lodging.  

No Name Cay

The swimming pigs of Exuma, Bahamas have become quite famous - they even made it to Hollywood this year.  However travelers may not be aware there are swimming pigs in the Abacos. These porkers (shown above) make their home on No Name Cay which is just south of Green Turtle Cay. 

Cherokee Sound

Long Dock stretches 770 feet

Cherokee Sound is located on the South end of the Abaco mainland. This is a small fishing village with approximately 200 residents, and home to Long Dock - the longest wooden dock in the Bahamas.

Other islands and small barrier cays in the Abacos

Walker's Cay, and its sister island Grand Cay, Spanish Cay, private Scotland Cay, Tilloo Cay and Lubbers Quarters. Another cay on the western shore (Gorda Cay) is now a Disney Island cruise ship stop and was renamed Castaway Cay.  

Happy Travels,

The Out Islands of the Bahamas - The Abacos

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