The Abacos, a northern island chain nestled to the east of Grand Bahama Island, has been a top destination for boaters of all stripes — we’re talking megayachts to sea-weathered sailors — for generations. No wonder: The Abacos play host to myriad beautiful harbors and cays which are perfect for keeping boats safe while their captains and crew head on land to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the Bahamas.
While you don’t need a boat to visit there (plenty of people arrive just fine via airplane), the laid-back boater’s vibe permeates the area —- the one-stoplight island of Great Abaco doesn’t have any structure taller than three stories, and is so surprisingly pristine, it feels like a rare gift that such an unspoiled tourist destination still exists in the world.
Where to stay
Abaco Beach Resort at Boat Harbour
Since 1955, this laid-back, easy-going hotel has been a favored place where boaters, beachgoers and adventurers congregate. Centrally located in Marsh Harbor on Grand Abaco, next to a collection of restaurants and shops, Abaco Beach Resort (abacobeachresort.com) is a perfect jumping off spot to spend the day cay hopping.
What to do
Boats, boats, boats
You don’t have to arrive via boat to get to the Abacos, but you need to get one to fully experience it. A little geography lesson: The Abacos are comprised of the main islands of Great Abaco and Little Abaco (where most of the commerce is located). These are surrounded by 11 smaller, beautiful cays. If you have a little boating experience, you can rent a boat for a day to visit them. Or you can seek out legendary local Lincoln Jones, who will take you fishing for bountiful red snapper, yellow tail and silver snapper, as well as lobster spearing and snorkeling. He’ll then host you and your group for a deserted beach fish fry to cook up your catch (go-abacos.com/lincoln).
What to see
Abaco nature tours
Be sure to book an eco-tour with the spitfire Ricky Jones, who will teach you all about the Abaco Islands (abaconature.com). Bird watching your thing??He’ll take you to see the endangered Bahama or “Abaco” parrots. Or book him for a kayaking and bike trip — or even a tour to visit Abaco’s blue holes. Sure, bird watching and an ecotour might not have the same allure as, say, drinking Goombay Smashes while overlooking a pristine harbor, but the intrepid Ricky makes topography interesting.
What to drink
The Bahamian national drink is the Goombay Smash. You’ll need to take a ferry over to Grand Turtle Cay to try where it (allegedly) all originated, the sun-baked Blue Bee Bar. Violet, the daughter of the bar’s founder, Miss Emily, welcomes locals and in-the-know tourists alike. The Smash is also on the menu at most Abaco restaurants and bars.
Follow Dorothy Robinson on Twitter @DorothyatMetro