When the Bahamas are mentioned Nassau and Paradise Island are usually the first islands that come to mind for many travelers, however there are many more islands and cays to visit and explore.
Life in the Out Islands is a lot more peaceful and serene with a focus on natural beauty versus high rise hotels, crowded beaches, casinos and nightclubs.
The Bahama-Out-Islands can be reached by commercial or charter airlines, and in some cases by ferry. The Abacos are among my favorite Bahama Out Islands, and are the destination for our annual family summer vacation. Here you will discover an authentic island culture, miles of stunning and uninhabited beaches to explore, sailing, snorkeling, diving, picnicking, and fishing, along with a unique selection of accommodations, restaurants and bars.
The 120 mile long Abaco island chain offers a complete mini Bahamas vacation with its own shallow sea and string of crescent shaped offshore cays which run parallel to the coast. A cay or key is just another name for a relatively small island or islet. This is an island hopping paradise as the cays are easily reached by boat or ferry.
The quaint towns were settled by English colonists who remained loyal to the crown after the American Revolutionary War. This explains why the villages, towns and hamlets colonial architecture have the look and feel of a quaint New England seafaring town.
While the Abacos offer many activities on land, this is one of the world’s top sailing destinations. Sailing enthusiasts return each year often living aboard their boats, and spend the days cruising from beach to beach, or dropping anchor in one of the towns. Chartered captained boats are available for non-sailors, with the other alternative of taking the ferry which services Marsh Harbour, Man-O-War Cay, Hope Town, Great Guana Cay, and Scotland Cay.
The Sea of Abaco is the marine highway of the island chain with the majority of settlements and towns located long this narrow like lagoon. What’s amazing is the sea is less than 10 feet in depth in many spots. It’s not an exaggeration saying Abaco has the most beautiful waters on earth. Around mid-day the sea becomes a brilliant translucent turquoise color.
Abaco is known for its diving and snorkeling, along with miles of pristine white sand beaches, sand bars and reefs. The waters are so crystal clear you can view the ocean floor and the colorful tropical fish and coral; most of the time you will be the only one on the beach or in the water.
The stunning aqua blue waters are perfect for sailing through the neighboring cays as the sea is sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean by barrier reefs. In these calm shallow waters you can drop anchor just about anywhere and step out of the boat.
This is the third largest island in the Bahamas chain and the place to stock up on provisions. This is where your vacation will start when arriving by plane. It is a lively spot with great restaurants and is home to a large sailing community. Great Abaco’s Marsh Harbor offers a full service marina where you can rent a crewed boat, or head out to sea on your own. Aside from windsurfing, diving, fishing and sailing, there are numerous beach bars, restaurants and entertainment.
Each of the cays are worth a visit . . . here are the most popular
Home to one of the most famous landmarks in the Bahamas, this peppermint stripped lighthouse dates back to the 1800’s and has been featured in numerous Bahamian tourist brochures. The village of Hope Town has a protected harbor and the long sandy beaches and everything you need in town are all within walking distance. Tahiti Beach, one of my favorite secluded beach bumming spots, is located at the tip of Elbow Cay. It’s a beach lover’s dream and only accessible on foot, bike or by boat. Garbanzo Beach is located on the Atlantic side and offers the best surfing in the Bahamas. At Hope Town’s public beach you can snorkel over a live coral reef less than 30 feet from the beach.
Green Turtle Cay
The Village of New Plymouth is where the original loyalists settled back in the 1770’s. You can walk the entire village in less than 15 minutes. This is also home to the famous Goombay Smash cocktail found at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar, which also serves great fresh lobster. Green Turtle Cay’s main island industries are lobster fishing and tourism. Beautiful stretches of white sand beaches are located at Coco Bay and beyond for snorkeling and diving.
Great Guana Cay
Head to this cay for partying 364 days a year from early morning until the last customer decides to leave. Nippers is definitely the hot spot of the Abacos, and has been doing business for over a decade serving good food and very potent drinks. If you are not staying on Guana, the only access to Nippers is by boat or ferry from Marsh Harbor. The restaurant/bar has its own spectacular seven mile beach overlooking a tall sand dune with views of the Atlantic, a swimming pool and new enclosed air conditioned restaurant. Sunset Beach is aptly named as it is the absolute perfect spot to capture an awesome Caribbean sunset. If you head north on Guana you will discover another breathtaking crescent beach called Bakers Bay.
This cay is known for religious locals, boat building, boat repairs and no alcohol is sold anywhere on the island – you are however free to bring your own. The narrow island is less than three miles long making it easy to explore. One side of the island faces Great Abaco, while the other faces the Atlantic Ocean. One of the more interesting spots to visit is “The Low Place” which is a strip of land less than 40 feet wide with sea on both sides. The waters are so clear you can spot marine life from the shore all around the island.
There are actually 25 pristine cays off the eastern coast of Great Abaco. Aside from the Abacos the other Bahama Out Islands include Andros, the Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exumas, Harbor Island, Inagua, Long Island, San Salvador and Spanish Wells.
The islands of the Bahamas have so much to offer from the high powered excitement of Nassau and Grand Bahama to nature’s hidden gems known as the Out Islands.