Abaco Bahamas Vacations


Abaco Island has naturally protected waters and dozens of offshore cays covering over 130 square miles of aquamarine water in the Bahamas. The Abacos are a pleasure to yachtsmen and fishing enthusiasts. It is referred to as the sailing capital of the world. Here you will find excellent marinas, guides and boats for hire as well as a championship golf course, one of seven in The Bahamas, the others being in Nassau, Freeport, Abaco and Eleuthera. 
 

 

abaco.jpg (25505 bytes)Abaco is the third most populous island in The Bahamas and bears a resemblance to New England from which it attracts so many of its visitors and winter residents. Marsh Harbour is the commercial centre located on Great Abaco.

Home to the famous red and white striped lighthouse, Abaco with its numerous offshore cays and reef protected waters, once served as a safe harbor for British loyalists during the American Revolution. The first settlement on Abaco Was Carleton Point, located at the northern end of Treasure Cay a luxury resort development. Carleton was settled in 1783 by 600 Loyalists refugees from New York, fleeing the newly independent United States.

Now it serves a more useful purpose as the one of the most favorite destinations among yachtsman the world over. Filled with excellent marinas and boats for hire, not to mention a championship golf course, Abaco truly is a sailor's paradise.

Its two major islands, Great Abaco and Little Abaco, have a myriad of small cays flanking the mainland. The sea channel between the islands allows for good cruising. Abaco, located in the northern Bahamas, typically boats pine forests and is frequented by hunters of wild boar and ducks. Its waters abound with fish, including the marlin and sailfish. It also has bonefishing flats.
 

Other settlements include its northern cays, such as Walker’s Cay and the Grand Cays; Crown Haven and Fox Town in Little Abaco, and Cooper’s Town on Great Abaco; Green Turtle Cay, Hope Town, Moore’s Island, the tourist resort of Castaways Cay, Great Guana Cay, Cherokee Sound, Little Harbour, Hole-in-the-Wall, Sandy Point, Crossing Rock, Spring City and Man-O-War Cay.

 

History of the Abaco Islands

The Abacos’ character dates back to the island's Loyalist heritage. Pro-British colonists left the United States after the American Revolution of 1776 to establish plantations in the Bahamas. Some 600 refugees from New York founded Carleton, the first Loyalist settlement in the islands on Great Abaco near the present-day resort of Treasure Cay.
 

The Loyalists dreamed their town would become King Cotton of the Caribbean and, for a while, their vision came true. The Abaco Islands' economy boomed and the population flourished to over 2,000 people. But soon the bloom was off the cotton blossom and fields failed within a few years because of pests and soil depletion. Most of the settlers moved away, leaving a population of 400 on the islands by the end of the century -- 200 white planters and 200 black slaves. The fifty-fifty ratio has held steady to this day. The Abaco Islands have five times more white residents per capita than The Islands Of The Bahamas as a whole.
 

In the 1800s, The Abaco Islands took on an almost New England character as fishing, wooden boatbuilding and "wrecking" -- salvaging damaged ships while they were sinking -- became the mainstays of the local economy. It took nearly a century for the boatbuilding industry to strip the island of its hardwoods, and today only two firms carry on the tradition. Still, the Loyalist heritage of The Abaco Islands remains strong. Many island residents, commonly called "Conky Joes", vehemently opposed Bahamian independence and even tried to secede from The Bahamas and form their own British colony. Descendants of the original settlers even went to England to solicit the support of Queen Elizabeth II, but their efforts were rebuffed.
 

With excellent boating, fishing and scuba diving, The Abaco Islands rank high among the tourist destinations in The Out Islands. The historic Loyalist settlements that survive here offer a fascinating time-travel experience and striking contrast to both Nassau and Grand Bahama.

 

Did you know?

  • Sunken Treasure. Two Nassau businessmen turned conversation into cash when they discovered silver and coins off the southwestern tip of Great Abaco island, traceable to King Philip IV of Spain, and pocketed $20,000 worth of good fortune.
  • The autobiography, The Out Island Doctor, chronicles the life and times of Evans Cottman, and is probably the most well known Bahamian book. Believing in the old adage, a man’s home is his castle, Cottman literally built his own private castle as his residence on a hillside overlooking Marsh Harbour. His daughter, Gayle, still shares the spectacular view with guests who visit the castle’s terrace, now transformed into a popular café and gift shop.


Areas of Interest

Little Harbour Cay

A short ferry ride from Great Abaco to Little Harbour takes you to the artist compound of the Johnston family, who started their own version of Swiss Family Robinson life in 1951, when their sailboat wrecked on this lovely harbour. Fact mirrors fiction. The Johnstons set up house in their boat and a nearby cave while building a thatched residence inland. Today their children and grandchildren still reside in Little Harbour and, as well-known artists and sculptors in their own right, receive visitors at their studio. The Johnston story is portrayed in the book, Artist On His Island. 

The cay is home to Johnston Studios & Art Foundry, with bronze sculptures that weigh hundreds of pounds. The sculptures were created by Randolph Johnston, who passed away in 1992. His son Peter continues the tradition.

Elbow Cay & Hopetown

A scant 30-minute boat ride from the Abaco Beach Resort is Elbow Cay, the Bahamas tourist attraction probably best known for its candy-striped lighthouse. But there is more to this charming island than the storied beacon. Visitors enjoy walking the narrow streets to observe the New England colonial architecture and the pastel homes of pink, blue, green, and yellow with multi-color gardens.

Man-O-War Cay

For those interested in boating and boat building, this is the best Bahamas tourist attraction. Perhaps you'll be lucky to run into Joe Albury, whose family dates back several generations. He continues the craftsman tradition, from Abaco hardwoods, sailing dinghies, model hulls, and gifts. Visitors can also observe the fabrication of sails, canvas bags, and hats.

Great Guana Cay

Completely different from New Plymouth and Elbow Cay, this Bahamas attraction is popular with snorkelers, swimmers, and sunbathers for its miles of unspoiled beaches. Guests frequently take time out to enjoy the food and unique libations at Nippers Restaurant, which is open daily. This restaurant, a popular Bahamas tourist attraction itself, is also famous for its weekly pig roast.

Green Turtle Cay & New Plymouth

Just a few miles away by boat or ferry is one of the oldest settlements and Bahamas attractions in Abaco, appropriately named Green Turtle Cay for its striking emerald waters. A very popular cruising destination, Green Turtle provides a variety of well-protected anchorages for boaters. The quaint, colonial village of New Plymouth offers visitors the opportunity to stroll down charming lanes filled with gift shops and restaurants. As with all of Abacos' splendid islands, Green Turtle Cay's beaches and views are spectacular.

Treasure Cay

In the 1950s, Treasure Cay became one of Abaco's first major Bahamas tourist attraction. Accessible by automobile or boat from Marsh Harbour, it is home to the only 18-hole championship golf course in the Abacos. Like Marsh Harbour, Treasure Cay is a developed, residential community and has numerous homes, condominiums, shops, and medical clinics. It is well-known for its picture-perfect, four-mile crescent shaped beach.
 

Abaco Calendar

  • Abaco Bridal Extravaganza Dec 1 - 4, 2005
  • Abaco Art Festival 2006 January 27–29, 2006
  • Bahamas White Marlin Open April 5–8, 2006
  • Bahamas Billfish Championship April 17–22, 2006
  • Marine-Max - Hatteras Billfish Invitational April 26–29, 2006
  • Shootout May 9–13, 2006
  • Roscioli Donzi Yachts Rendezvous May 18–21, 2006
  • HMY Billfish Blast May 29–June 2, 2006
  • Bahamas Billfish Championship June 18–23, 2006


Abaco Diving Spots

  • The Towers - Huge coral pinnacles, 60 feet tall, pierced with tunnels and caverns.
  • Grouper Alley - Numerous tunnels cut through and beneath a monstrous coral head in 40-foot depths.
  • Wayne’s World - A tour of the outside of the barrier reef in 70 feet of water.
  • The Cathedral - A huge cavern where shafts of sunlight dance on the ocean floor.
  • Tarpon Reef - High-profile corals provide a home for a school of Tarpon and a huge Green Moray.
  • San Jacinto - The wreck of a large steamship that sank in 1865 in 40 feet of water.

Abaco Parks

Abaco National Park

This National Park, comprising 20,500 acres in Southern Abaco near Hole In The Wall, has been designated a preservation area by the Bahamas Government and is managed by The Bahamas National Trust. Included are 5,000 acres of pine forest – the nesting area and habitat of about 1000 endangered Bahama or "Abaco" Parrots. The parrots once lived on as many as seven islands in The Bahamas, but now only exist in Abaco and Great Inagua.

The forest is valuable to the parrots for several reasons: during the breeding season, parrots feed on the seeds from the pine trees, which provide a rich source of protein for developing chicks, and they nest in limestone cavities on the ground of the pine forest. They are known to be the only species of parrots throughout the islands of the Caribbean that nests in the ground. This works against them, though, because they become vulnerable to predators like wild cats, wild boars, crabs and snakes, plus heavy rains during the nesting period can flood parrot nest holes, killing young chicks.

A subspecies of the Cuban Amazon parrot, the Bahama Parrot is 12-13 inches in length and its white head and mostly green body make it easily recognizable. In fact, the Bahama Parrot’s scientific name (Amazona lecocephala bahamensis) literally means, "white headed Amazon parrot from The Bahamas.” It has patches of red feathers on its cheek, throat and sometimes its abdomen; its flight feathers, usually hidden from sight when it is perched in a tree, are a beautiful cobalt blue. Another distinctive feature of the Bahama parrot: it has two toes facing forwards and two facing backwards – a configuration known as zygodactylism.

It is said that Columbus was so struck by their numbers when he made landfall in The Bahamas in 1492, he wrote in his log, "Flocks of parrots darken the sun." The Bahama parrot was recognized as the official mascot of the 500th Anniversary of Columbus’ Landfall in the New World in 1992. Bahama parrots bones found on New Providence have been dated back to the Pleistocene Era, more than 50,000 years ago.

The Bahamas National Trust reports that there are now less than 3,000 Bahama parrots remaining in The Bahamas. These birds are protected under the Wild Bird (Protection) Act and it is illegal to harm, capture or offer these birds for sale. Stringent rules and regulations are enforced in the event that anyone tries to harm the parrots. The Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) list the Bahama parrot in Appendix I meaning that it is a species that is near extinction or very endangered.
 

Abaco Wild Horse Preserve

For many years the people of Abaco debated the origin of a herd of horses that galloped through their pine forest, but in 1998 they came to believed that they might be “Spanish Barbs.” In August of 2002, their identity was finally confirmed through three separate DNA analyses, photos and video records. They were subsequently accepted by the Horse of The Americas Registry as the “Abaco Barbs,” descendants of horses brought over at the time of Columbus’ explorations. It is believed that Abaco is now the curator of possibly the purest strain of these horses in existence today.

In the 1960’s, there was a mighty herd of 200 strong, but the Barbs’ journey to extinction began in the 1970’s when the herd was reduced to only three. By 1992, they had reproduced and increased to 35, and today they are once again fighting for survival as the herd count has dwindled to nine. Throughout the world, the Barbs are recognized as critically endangered. With assistance from the Government of The Bahamas, a preserve area in Treasure Cay was designated so that they could be back in their ancestral forest home, their normal habitat. Also playing an active role in their survival is Arkwild, a non-profit organization that is campaigning for funding and support to ensure the wild horses of Abaco survive as a living part of the island's history. Tours are available to persons interested in exploring the habitat of the Abaco Barbs.
 

Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park

Located 8 miles north of Cherokee Sound, Great Abaco, this 2,100 acre land and sea area is a sister park to the Exuma Cay Land and Sea Park. It contains beautiful undersea caves, extensive coral reefs and abounds with terrestrial plants and animals life. This park is accessible by boat only.

 

 

 

 

Traveling to the Abacos

AIRLINE SERVICE TO MARSH HARBOUR, ABACO BAHAMAS (MHH)
Company Departure City Phone
Florida Coastal Airlines Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Pierce (888) I FLY FCA
American Eagle Miami (800) 433-7300
US Airways West Palm Beach, Orlando (800) 428-4322
Continental / Gulfstream International Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando (800) 231-0856
Bahamasair Nassau, West Palm Beach (800) 222-4262
Island Express Ft. Lauderdale (954) 359-0380
Calypso Air Ft. Lauderdale/ West Palm Beach (866) 325-9776
Air Florida Ft. Lauderdale (800) 373-9593
Vintage Props & Jets New Symrna Beach, Orlando (800) 852-0275
 
PRIVATE CHARTERS
Company Departure City Phone
Cherokee Air (Daily) Bahamas, West Palm Beach (242) 367-2089
Abaco Air Bahamas, West Palm Beach (242) 367-2266
Yellow Air Taxi (Daily) Ft. Lauderdale (954) 359-0292
Sky Limo Air Charters Ft. Lauderdale & Florida Cities (866) SKY- LIMO
Lynx Air Ft. Lauderdale & Others (888) LYNXAIR
Fox Air International Ft. Lauderdale & Other (954) 359-6060
Chandelle Aviation West Palm Beach (561) 638-0830
Dolphin Atlantic Ft. Lauderdale & Other (954) 359-9919

 

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