The Abaco Island chain is less than 100 miles off the Eastern coast of Florida. The 120 mile chain is strung out like a necklace of sandy islands, sheltered harbors and 18th century villages that were settled by the fleeing Loyalists from America in 1783. The chain consists of uninhabited islands as well as settlements on Elbow Cay, Man-o-War Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Guana Cay, Treasure Cay, and Walker’s Cay as well as the largest island, Great Abaco Island. These settled islands offer a gentle and relaxing stay amongst the blue waters, white sandy beaches and historic villages.
Great Abaco Island is the largest of the Abacos and is protected by the outlying smaller islands mentioned above. It is a favorite cruising ground among all kinds of yachtsmen from all over the world. There are excellent, fully equipped marinas, walking distances to facilities, boats for hire, inns to stay if you want to get off of your boat and stretch your legs. There even is a championship golf course. All the islands are close enough for a quick sail over to visit them as well.
The Abacos history dates back to the island’s Loyalist heritage. After the American Revolution of 1776 the British Loyalists left the Colonies and headed out to sea landing and settling here. There are still many buildings and narrow turning streets from that era. For a while the economy blossomed from the cotton fields. After the fields began to “dry up,”the main industry changed. By the 1800’s the islands took on a New England character with wooden boat building, fishing, and salvaging from sinking vessels.
Aside from the nautical and water related interests, there are many various things to do and see. Some of you may have read or heard about Evans Cottman and his autobiography, “The Out Island Doctor.” He believed in the old adage that a man’s home is his castle and literally built a castle high on a hill overlooking Marsh Harbor.
Elbow Cay is a must for anyone going to the Abacos. It is home to one of The Bahamas’ best known tourist attractions, Candy Cane Red and White Striped Lighthouse. Also in Hopetown are narrow streets rimmed with New England colonial architecture and the well known pastel colored homes of green, pink, and blue all trimmed with white. It is a very secure harbor filled with moorings and marinas.
If you want miles of white sandy beaches, gin clean greens and shades of blue and turquoise water, go to Treasure Cay. Located there is a famous beautiful horseshoe shaped sandy beach rimmed with palms, white sand and beautiful water. For the mariners, there is a wonderful anchorage. If you prefer there are many small apartments and cottages to rent. This is a great place to just “chill out.”
Green Turtle Cay is one of the Bahamas’ oldest settlements. Many cruisers love to come here because of its two protected anchorages as well as docks.We enjoyed the colonial village of Plymouth with shops, restaurants and gift shops.
Man-O-War Cay is quite unique as well. If you are interested in boat building, both large for the water and small models for your home or office, this is the island for you. We bought one for our home and a few smaller models as gifts to our family. These . hull models are known world wide. They are not inexpensive. However to us they are worth the cost. Emmet Albury was the builder of these models. Unfortunately, Emmet has since passed away and the shop is now being run by his son. As the name of the Cay suggests, Man-of War Cay was and is a renowned shipyard.
Finally, I must mention Great Guana Cay. It has a great anchorage and a beach. One of the renowned events is the great barbeque given at NIPPERS high on the hill. It is a pig roast with all the island trimmings. The steel bands and musicians are spectacular! “Nippers is the Place to Be” is immortalized by a song of the same name as well and is printed on brightly colored tee shirts. Both a music disc by “The Barefoot Man” and a tee shirt is a must for anyone who goes to the Abacos.
If you have not sailed there yet, what are you waiting for?
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.