New Providence | Grand Bahama | Abaco | The Out Islands
WELCOME BAHAMAS - NASSAU, CABLE BEACH & PARADISE ISLAND - 2003
Out Islands in the sun
Spectacular beaches and so much more
Originally published WELCOME BAHAMAS - NASSAU, CABLE BEACH & PARADISE ISLAND -
2003 © Etienne Dupuch Jr Publications Ltd
Beyond the historic charm of Nassau and Paradise Island, beyond the state-of-the-art luxury and efficiency of Freeport and Lucaya, the real Bahamas is sprinkled over 100,000 square miles of the Atlantic. Come explore with us and enjoy the view.
Nearly 200 miles east of Palm Beach, FL, the Abacos form a crescent-shaped archipelago on the outer fringes of the Little Bahama Bank. Apart from the main island there are about 80 off-lying cays and 200 islets and rocks.
The offshore cays, most uninhabited, lie east of Great Abaco Island. They provide an extended protected cruising area, dubbed "the sailing capital of the world." Sailing regattas and big game fishing tournaments dot the calendar. Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco is the third largest town in The Bahamas. It is a busy business hub, but with one stop light, it still retains the old-world charm of an Out Island community.
Four Loyalist settlements are worth a visit. Hope Town, with its candy-striped lighthouse; the Wyannie Malone Museum in Man O War Cay, known for boat building and sail making; and Guana Cay, with its superb fishing, are a short ferry ride from Marsh Harbour. Green Turtle Cay with quaint streets, New England-style architecture and the Albert Lowe Museum (in a 150-year-old residence) is closer to Treasure Cay than Marsh Harbour.
Treasure Cay, 25 miles north of Marsh Harbour along the Great Abaco Hwy, boasts a world class 3.5-mile, crescent beach and an 18-hole golf course designed by the late Dick Wilson.
Castaway Cay, seven miles off the tip of Sandy Point, is Disney's privately owned island where Disney Magic, a 2,400-passenger cruise ship, visits twice weekly.
Andros - the big yard
Andros is the largest Bahama island, spreading over 2,300 sq miles.
Know locally as "the big yard," it features broad expanses of swamp, inlets, creeks, bays, bights, mangroves and a farming heartland.
On the eastern shore, running along the mile-deep Tongue of the Ocean, is the second-largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The US Navy uses the Tongue of the Ocean for submarine testing at the Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) at Fresh Creek.
Andros is a dynamic diving locale, with the major dive resort at Small Hope Bay in Fresh Creek. Hand-batiked fabric known as Androsia has been the quintessential souvenir and product of Androsians at Small Hope Bay since 1973.
Bonefishing lodges are sprouting up throughout the island and the fishing is spectacular in the bights that permeate the island and the Joulter Cays off the north end. There are about a dozen lodges dedicated to fishing and bonefishing, including the newest, Ritz Beach Resort at Driggs Hill, with 20 rooms and 22 new beach cottages.
The island is spooked by two legendary mischievous creatures. The Lusca supposedly drowns the unwary who carelessly explore blue holes which link the ocean with fresh water creeks inland. The Chickcharnie is a three-toed, red-eyed, bird-bodied creature that brings woe to anyone disturbing its pine tree nest.
An Androsian legend says that before he became British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain chopped down trees said to house a nest of Chickcharnies. His sisal plantation subsequently failed at great financial loss. Chamberlain went on to become the UK prime minister, met with Adolph Hitler in the interests of peace and got a world war instead.
Eleuthera - means freedom
Eleuthera is 110 miles of white sand beaches, imposing cliffs, rolling hills and quaint friendly villages. At one time it was an important agricultural and dairy centre.
Capt William Sayle and a band of Puritan pilgrims, the Eleutherian Adventurers, sought religious freedom when they landed on the island of Cigatoo in 1648 at what is now Governor's Harbour. They renamed the island Eleuthera, the Greek word for freedom.
Fellow Puritans in the then-Colony of Massachusetts aided the adventurers in their struggle for survival. When the adventurers settled in and got back on their feet, they sent a gift of rare braziletto wood to Harvard University. At the time, it was the most valuable present ever received by the university.
When a shipwreck ended their exploration of the north tip of the island, the Eleutherian Adventurers took refuge in Preacher's Cave, well worth a visit.
Off the north end of Eleuthera, a short ferry ride away, are two gems.
Spanish Wells is a prosperous crawfishing and fishing community. There is a small museum where the seafaring residents' rich heritage and culture is on display.
Harbour Island is best known for its three-mile pink sand beach. The Harbour Island settlement of Dunmore Town dates back to the 18th century. It was once the governor's summer home, second only to Nassau in importance.
Heading south from North Eleuthera you'll find a clutch of quaint villages, including Current, Upper Bogue and Lower Bogue. The Glass Window Bridge separates the sometimes turbulent Atlantic Ocean from the tranquillity of the Bahama Banks, and North Eleuthera from Central Eleuthera.
Gregory Town attracts world class surfers and rock star Lenny Kravitz. Windermere Island, off the Atlantic shore, used to be popular with the rich and royalty. Governor's Harbour is the island's largest and busiest town, Tarpum Bay is home to the creative, artsy crowd, and Rock Sound offers comfortable facilities for visitors and, at one time, a first class golf course at Cotton Bay.
A Pineapple Festival in June recalls the era when Eleuthera exported the world's juiciest pineapples. The pineapple still symbolizes first-class hospitality, and although production has faded in recent years the festival is celebrated each year.
Exuma - yachting paradise
Exuma has thriving reefs, stunning beaches, safe anchorages and is possibly the most beautiful yachting venue in the world. This magnificent chain of 365 cays stretches 150 miles along the lip of Exuma Sound.
It is home to a fishery reserve, the 176-sq-mile Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the world's first land and sea area to be declared a national park. (See story on pg 158.)
Most of the cays are uninhabited, and are privately owned, including one with a hilltop castle and another with large friendly iguanas you can hand feed.
Highbourn Cay the most northerly inhabited cay, was once used to re-settle slaves taken from illegal slavers between 1807 and 1883.
Norman's Cay features wrecked airplanes from the notorious drug-smuggling days of the 1980s. One plane lies partly submerged within swimming distance of the beach.
Snorkelling is spectacular throughout the islands, but particularly at Staniel Cay's Thunderball Grotto, site of much of the underwater action in the 1965 James Bond thriller, Thunderball.
Exuma's capital, George Town, on Great Exuma, hosts the annual week-long Out Island Regatta in late April. In its initial years, the regatta caught the attention and enthusiastic support of HRH Prince Philip. The 2003 regatta is the 50th.
Rolle, the most common last name in Exuma, shows up in communities such as Rolleville and Rolle Town. All are Lord John Rolle namesakes. The British Crown granted Lord Rolle huge tracts of Exuma land as compensation for property lost as a result of the American Revolution. After emancipation, Exuma's former slaves took Lord Rolle's surname as their own.
The 200-year-old Cotton House in William's Town, on Little Exuma, recalls the era when growing cotton was a viable industry. Today tourism is tops and The Bahamas' newest large upscale island resort is emerging as Emerald Bay with its 200-plus-room Four Seasons resort, golf course and casino on Great Exuma.
Long Island - beauty queen
The Atlantic side of Long Island is a dramatic rocky shoreline. The lee side is the essence of tranquillity, fringed with soft sandy beaches.
Bahamian artists consider Long Island, believed to have been visited by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the beauty queen of the country.
In the 1790s, Loyalists migrated here from the US and set up prosperous cotton plantations. More arid than most of the Bahamian islands, Long Island is noted for its sheep and goat herds. Long Island mutton is a Bahamian speciality.
Many say Long Islanders are the most physically attractive of all Bahamians. Their Afro-Euro-American genes may or may not include input from the Lucayan-Arawak-Taino aborigines who lived here in the 15th century and before. Archaeologists have found ceremonial stools, called duhos, and other evidence confirming pre-Columbian inhabitation of Long Island's magnificent caves. Today, one of the caves at the north end of the island is used for dining and parties. A network of caves with stalagmites, stalactites and tiny fruit bats lies at Deadman's Cay, six miles north of Clarence Town, the island's largest settlement.
Clarence Town is twice blessed with fine churches. St Paul's Anglican Church was built by expatriate architect-priest Father Jerome. He converted to Roman Catholicism and then built St Peter's Catholic Church, also in Clarence Town. With permission, climb the tower of St Peter's for a panoramic view.
Diving over shipwrecks and communing with sharks are among adventures to be savoured in Long Island's waters.
Only the beginning
While these five islands are the most popular Out Island destinations, many others are worth a trip for their laid-back charm and simple beauty. The Berry Islands and Bimini, while small, are easily accessible from Grand Bahama, New Providence and Florida. Cat Island, east of Exuma, has history and the highest point in The Bahamas, Mount Alvernia, at 206 ft. San Salvador, where Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World, boasts a spectacular Club Med resort. And further south, Ragged Island, Crooked Island, Acklins, Mayaguana and Inagua bask in the sun, waiting for those who truly want to get away from it all.
Go to TOP | Go to NEXT article | See ALL articles
THE ISLANDS OF THE BAHAMAS