The Bahamas are actually a collection of 700 islands. Abaco consists of about 150 of those islands, and only about 15 are inhabited. The main island of Great Abaco is ringed by a chain of barrier islands or Cays (pronounced key, from the Spanish cayo, which means small island) which in turn are flanked by the third largest barrier reef in the world (See the Maps & Photos page). The fish are abundant & the fishing is excellent. Catch dorado, wahoo, tuna, grouper, jacks, snappers, hogfish, porgies, grunts or dive for conch or lobster (in season). You are just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean, or bone fishing in the flats. Reliable local guides are available if you desire. Protected by the outer cays, the Sea of Abaco offers some of the clearest, most beautiful, turquoise waters you will ever see. Just perfect for cruising to visit the Cays, or to stop and jump in to cool off. The average depth of the Sea of Abaco is only 18 feet. You can count the Starfish on the bottom as you pass by, or even be entertained by cavorting Bottlenose Dolphins.
Marsh Harbour is the commercial centre of Abaco, where you'll find all your shopping and banking needs. It is the third largest settlement in the Bahamas, after Nassau and Freeport, but there are only about 6000 people living here. There are no casinos. Life runs at a slower pace in the Family Islands. There are however, several excellent and varied restaurants, as well as 2 large well-stocked supermarkets, several liquor stores & bakeries in Marsh Harbour which can supply you with just about everything when you arrive. Your taxi will wait while you shop, or use the bicycles at Driftaway to explore. Some people rent cars, but the best way to see Abaco is by boat. There are several boat rental companies that offer from 18 to 26 foot runabouts. There are few beaches on the mainland, but the location of Driftaway, on the end of Eastern Shores, provides easy access from the private protected dock, to the Cays in the north, east, or south. You will have the isolation of the Cays, but with the convenient proximity to Marsh Harbour's amenities. There are also 2 excellent medical clinics in MH.
Ferries -You can catch a scheduled ferry, several times a day, to Hopetown, Man-O-War, or Guana Cay. You can also charter them to other destinations. Albury's Ferry Dock is right at the entrance to the Eastern Shores peninsula.
average 70-75 degrees between December and April, and 80-85 degrees during the rest
of the year.
Elbow Cay Elbow Cay has two settlements:
Theres the candy striped lighthouse, a great beach with a close-in reef to snorkel on the ocean side. The town is quaint with pastel coloured, Loyalist style houses. There are a couple of good gift shops, an old wooden schoolhouse, and the Wyannie Malone Museum. Close by is the fish stand where local fisherman clean and sell their catch. The Post Office has a small Dolphin/Whale exhibit downstairs. There are several interesting places to eat. (Pull your boat right up to their docks, or take the ferry)
Here youll find the Abaco Inn
where they serve excellent lunches and dinners. The view of the Atlantic off their
back porch is terrific; and if the
waves are right you can watch the surfers hang
ten. Sea Spray Marina & Restaurant is also located here.
Man O'War Cay
This industrious settlement was once famous for wooden boat-building, and today they still make small fibreglass boats. Theres also a sail loft, boat yard, and Alburys Sail Shop which now makes bags and hats. Joes Studio is a gift shop selling everything from carvings, prints, and postcards to T-shirts. Since no alcoholic beverages are sold on MOW, the restaurant business is limited. However, a few small places serve lunch and Enas Place serves great burgers. Also you can wander over to the beach on the ocean side. On the reef just offshore lies the wreck of the Adirondack, from the civil war.
Great Guana Cay
There are no more Iguanas in this small settlement. On the ocean side of the island, you will find a very good beach and high up on a sand bluff is Nippers for drinks, lunch, and a great view. On the south side of the settlement harbour is Orchid Bay, a new Marina and home site development. At Fisher's Bay, just north of the settlement harbour, you will find the charming Dolphin Beach Resort. Farther north, on the Sea of Abaco, Guana Seaside Village, offers great hospitality and a Carolina BBQ on Saturdays. At the very north end of the Cay is Bakers Bay and a property called Treasure Island, where the Disney cruise ship used to come and anchour. The drifting sand silted in faster than they could dredge so they have gone elsewhere, leaving the buildings, beach and the dolphin pens. Across the water a short distance lies the spoil bank from the dredging, and this small island has lots of shells.
Green Turtle Cay
The main settlement is New Plymouth where you can find the Loyalist Sculpture Gardens and the New Plymouth Inn. Several establishments serve lunch, including the Wrecking Tree and Miss Emilies Blue Bee Bar; where she invented the Goombay Smash, a drink served on several Caribbean islands. The original drink recipe is a closely guarded secret known only by a few family members, including Judy Curry, Driftaway's housekeeper, who is one of Miss Emilies daughters. Across Black Sound to the north end of the island lies White Sound where youll find the Bluff House and the Green Turtle Club for meals and another great view.
Actually it is no longer a Cay. Years ago, a hurricane closed the spit over and its been a part of Great Abaco ever since. It got it's name because supposedly there is a large pirate treasure buried somewhere on the cay that has never been found. Here you will find the Treasure Cay Marina, and Spinnakers restaurant where you can sit inside, or on the deck next to the pool and boats. The beach at TC is magnificent and was rated to be in the top ten in the world by National Geographic. Cocos Beach Bar is right in the centre of the beach. On Sundays they have a pig roast. The only public Golf Course in Abaco is also found in TC. There is also a Blue Hole in a wooded glade just north of the entrance of TC, but its hard to find, so ask for directions.
Here youll find the famous Johnson Studio
where sculptor Randolph Johnson worked. Pete
Johnson and other artists still
run the foundry. Some days you can watch them during a
'pour' when they cast the sculptures from molten bronze. There is a Gallery to view and
purchase artwork, and the tiny
but famous Petes Pub. They
never close because there are no doors, and the Sunday pig roasts
are legendary. Across the harbour you can see the
cave where the Johnson family lived
years ago while building their house. For the full story, read
"An Artist In His Land", available in shops in MH.
Snorkeling & Diving
There are several professional
dive and snorkel tour operators that will ensure you a fantastic time. They provide
instruction, rental gear, tanks and guided trips to the reefs for experienced or novice
You can snorkel in the little coral gardens right off the north side of Driftaway. But there are better sites like Mermaid Reef , which is just off the north shore of Pelican Shores near the Jib Room. Its small but there are a lot of fish because they are fed. Its so close to shore, that you can swim out from land. Take some dry cat food in a plastic baggy, look for the floating sign and go feed the fish.
There are larger sites that are a little farther away and accessible by boat. The two best are Fowl Cay and Pelican Cay. Fowl Cay is a couple of miles NE between Man O' War and Scotland Cay. Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park, a 2100 acre preserve, is located a few miles by boat to the south. Fowl Cay & Pelican Cays Park are perhaps the best snorkeling & scuba diving in all of the Abacos.
All three sites (Fowl Cay,
Mermaid Reef, & Pelican Cay Park) are protected undersea parks, where it is illegal to
take fish, or even shells. However, there are also several other reef areas that are not
protected parks. You can get a chart book at most of the marinas in
If you go by boat, remember not to drop your anchour on the reef - It kills the coral!
Pick up a mooring if there is one, or anchour in the sand nearby and swim over.
Never take live Coral! Never stand on a reef! Coral is a formation of millions of tiny creatures.
It takes years to grow back the damage that you can cause by being careless even for just a few moments.
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