|Welcome to the Abacos|
The Abacos.....are in the northeastern Bahamas about 185 miles from Florida. (Map) They have been called Out Islands, Family Islands and the Friendly Islands all of which definitely apply. Here you will find friendly folks, a relatively bustling economy with none of the hassles and hustlers of fast paced Nassau, Paradise Island and Freeport. Evenings are spent with family and friends or fishing buddies usually at the local watering holes, or on your deck or dock. Some bars offer bingo or trivia pursuit for drinks. Darts and karaoke are also popular pastimes where as native folks can be seen playing dominos. A couple nights a week are highlighted with a local band. And that is it for nighttime excitement, no casinos, no discos. As for weather, it's pretty much the same as southeast Florida with early fall being hurricane season and when many places close. In our book, the Abacos rate high as being a truly homogeneous little spot on the globe with first time visitors returning more often than not.
The Abacos, start in the north at Walkers Cay working their way 110 miles or so, down to Hole in the Wall and Sandy Point on Great Abaco. On Green Turtle Cay and Elbow Cay you'll find the old English loyalist settlements of New Plymouth & Hope Town with their colonial homes in hues of pastel colors. For the most part these Cays parallel the Island of Great Abaco and can be thought of as barrier islands as they are what separate the Atlantic from the shallow Sea of Abaco and Mainland Abaco. Unlike the classical sandy barrier islands of the eastern US, here they consist of limestone with some elevation and are protected on the ocean side by the third largest barrier reef in the world. For the most part the cays are green with mangroves and beautiful white sand beaches, one only dreams about. Most are uninhabited.
The Atlantic side of these cays are strewn with some of the most beautiful coral reefs you'll find in the Atlantic. Shooting up from the depths one can find reefs in waters from 6 to 200+ feet. They are surely as spectacular, as the Caribbean hot spots of Grand Cayman, Bonaire, Belize etc. There are reefs for snorkelers to the experienced diver. There is even a network of well maintained and protected underwater parks with mooring buoys for rental boats / boaters. It's truly a divers paradise and a well kept secret. And it's the same distance from Ft. Lauderdale as is Key West - you just cant drive. (nautical chart). The Florida Keys cant even come close and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same conversation. For the fisherman in Abaco, the fishing is - as outstanding, with tournaments at many locations throughout spring and summer and no less comparable than Costa Rica or Cabo San Lucas. A word of caution: Making passage from the Sea of Abaco between the cays to the ocean and the deep sea fishing areas and diving spots is a bit tricky if not impossible in most areas. It is generally forbidden to take a rental boat to the ocean in any case. There are plenty of spots to dive without risk covered later. Lastly the protected waters, trade winds and panoramic beauty make this 120-mile long stretch of he Sea of Abaco a boating and sailing paradise. World class Bareboat Chartering companies, marinas and small boat rentals are found through out Abaco and the Cays.
We've been vacationing in The Abacos regularly since 1973. That was just months prior to their independence from Great Britain. In early years we stayed almost exclusively on Green Turtle Cay. Moving to Florida in 1990 afforded us the opportunity to see all the Abacos Cays by boat from the top down. We made six trips all together. One was solo over and back. Today we mostly fly in about every year or two and generally split our time between a couple Cays and, when we can, include mainland exploration too. Feel free to e-mail us any questions using the link at the top left.
Marsh Harbouris the Bahamas third largest city (after Nassau & Freeport) and the Abaco's commercial hub and where you'll probably arrive. It is the primary area providing for the medical needs of the island folks. Additionally there are grocery stores, liquor stores, auto rental agency, gift shops, hardware stores and tradesman to fill your specific needs. Maxwell's supermarket is Abaco's largest, and along with Abaco Groceries are the places to stock up before heading to your rental home or charter.
Boat rental agencies proliferate in Marsh Harbour. Regular visitors often go straight from the airport to their rental boat and head to the Cay's saving the ferry fare and wait time. Our choice in this regard has been Rainbow Rentals. They are on the edge of the harbour making for a quick exit to your destination. See our page on Boating. Beaches are limited in and around Marsh Harbour, but they do boast of one very popular snorkeling spot called Mermaid Reef. It's on the "Eastern Shore" across the street from the "Jib Room". It's accessible by land or sea. Be sure to check it out. Here is a fun video taken there by my friend Larry Thompson.
The "Eastern Shore" of Marsh Harbour is the region where lovely homes, cottages and villas can be found - many for rent. Geographically speaking the Eastern Shore is at the northeastern most mainland point of the island of Great Abaco. The homes here are right on Abaco Sound facing the Cays and many have a dock on the protected creek facing Sugar Loaf Cay. One such home is "Done Reach". It's perfectly positioned for quick getaways by boat ether heading east to Hope Town or White Sound on Elbow Cay or the cays south, Lubbers to Little Harbour. Done Reach offers a full size home plus a charmingly furnished boat house on the creek side. Another that comes to mind is, "On the Rocks", with still others easily found with an internet search or checking our Accommodations & Services page.
If you're headed to the Cays you will likely arrive and depart from Marsh, so why not consider spending part of your trip here. There is plenty to see and do. And there is one thing you can do in Marsh that you cant do on the Cays and that is rent a car. This can make for a great adventure and exploration to the south like the quaint settlement of Cherokee and its neighbor Little Harbour noted for Pete's Pub and The Johnston's Foundry. Further south at Abaco's S.W. corner is the picturesque settlement of Sandy Point and at Abaco's southeast corner is the old light house at Hole in the Wall. Still another option is head north to Treasure Cay and its famous beach and nearby sites. For mainland adventures see our page on "Abaco, Off the Beaten Path".
When we cruised the Abacos by boat and were in Marsh Harbour, we'd always stay at, the close to everything, Conch Inn Hotel & Marina. In recent times it has been taken over by the Moorings Charter Fleet operation (See Chartering). The Inn's rooms are pretty much geared to short stays, perfect before or after a charter and a great place to stay before an early flight out before the ferries are running. They offer a pool and two restaurants, the Conch Crawl Restaurant and the newer 2nd floor bar & restaurant called Curly Tails. The Conch Inn offers an easy walk to town the the multitude of shops and restaurants the line this side of the harbour. Also at the Marina is Dive Abaco Marsh Harbour's oldest dive shop. Just across the street is the Lofty Fig Villas, a lovely place we sometimes stay in the heart of harbour front. They have only six units, so book ahead.
Marsh Harbour has a large cruising community moored in it's harbour and is a lively spot. As mentioned there a good many restaurants are within a short walking distance of the Conch Inn. From here to the center of town is just a 15 minute walk. Hot spots you'll pass along the way are, Mangoes, Sapodilly's, which had a serious fire and may not yet be opened. The newest place is, Snappas which is located at the Harbour View Marina along harbour's edge near by. Also in the area is Wally's - It's voted the best restaurant in Marsh Harbour on a regular basis by Abaco bulletin board members. In town there is a luncheonette style restaurant called the Golden Grouper. It's been there for years and popular with the locals. Still a little furthure and highly rated with lobster lovers is Junovia's. It's next to Island Bakery on Don Mackay Boulevard. On the Eastern Shore side of the harbour is the active Marsh Harbour Marina and Jib Room. Here on Saturday night in season, it's barbecue night, when as many as 300 steaks are served. Their steaks are absolutely the best in all the Abacos. Chicken & fish are also available and reservations required. Many of the restaurants have their own "special night" offering special meals and or drinks and are announced on the "Cruisers Net" daily. Be sure to plan ahead. Lastly there is Jamie's Place, a popular place with local business folks. It's a 10 minute walk east of the Conch Inn. It's a great spot for breakfast and lunch.
The Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour. is the largest marina and hotel in Marsh. It is actually not on the harbour but on the Sea of Abaco side. It's a full scale resort with something always going on here especially for the sport fisherman. It is here they hold the annual shootout - the by invitation only, fishing tournament for Hatteras and Bertram owners. There is a dive shop of some renown at this location for expert divers specializing in cave diving, hence ist name Bahamas Underground." Click on their website, you'll be impressed.
One of my favorite things when in the Abacos, is sampling the Conch Salad from the markets and street vendors (picture above). It is this mans very favorite food in the Bahamas. It's refreshing, non fattening and tasty - sort of a crunchy gazpacho. It's better than Ice cream. Our favorite conch salad can be found at the street vendor you will see just a couple hundred feet north the Conch Inn in Marsh Harbour. The stand that has been there for years although the vendor may change. Get your self a pint. See Sandy's Conch Salad Recipe and Video.