The Better Bahamas

 

 

Sunset over Marsh Harbour, where we began our sailing   adventure.

 

Sometime during the last two hours of our sailing adventure through the Bahamas’ Abaco Islands (skimming cerulean seas on a 44-foot catamaran we’ve booked through Sunsail yacht charters), someone in our crew looks out off the port bow and hollers in excitement.

“Dolphins!”

For the next fifteen or twenty minutes this delightful trio of dolphins cavort around the boat. Back and forth they go: off the port bow, the stern, the starboard quarter.

Perfect end to a perfect adventure – and it’s not over yet.

For the past eight days we’ve been exploring this island chain due east of Florida. We’ve been snorkeling, beaching, partying a bit, imbibing a heap of history and – of course – sampling one of the chief attractions of this appealing archipelago.

 

The famous (or infamous) weekly pig roast at Nipper’s on Great Guana Cay draws a party crowd.

 

We’ve been sailing.

Now don’t get me wrong, Nassau is nice. Lucaya is likely luscious and Grand Bahama may be one of the grandest places in the world.

But there’s something extra special about the Abacos.

 

Perfect sunrise on a perfect cay – no shortage of those in the Abacos.

 

Consider the dolphins, the sea turtles that visit us in every anchorage, a shark we see lurking beneath the surface, spotted rays that circle our boat when we grab a mooring ball at Great Guana Cay just before heading ashore to Nipper’s for their famous (infamous?) weekly pig roast.

All inspiration for that little jingle I’ve been singing to myself from the moment we landed at Marsh Harbour – that tune that accompanied those Bahamas Tourism commercials you’ll remember if you’re old enough.

And I gotta agree with that sentiment, even if I change the words every time I break into song.

Sure “it’s better in the Bahamas” but my own take on that little ditty is equally valid – and just as catchy. Cue music.

“We’re in the better Bahamas.”

The often-scary Whale Cay Passage. We’re racing another boat. The winner should be obvious.

 

Need convincing the Abacos – AKA The Out Islands, AKA The Family Islands – are worth a visit?

Consider Hope Town. Exhibit A.

Fascinating little village, the sort of place Disney might have designed if they’d been given the job of coming up with a tropical paradise. Or maybe it’s more like New England on psychedelic drugs. A wealth of 18th century houses and buildings here – all those architectural features you’d expect – gingerbread trim, steep angled roofs, gabled windows.

But these places that could hold their own in Nantucket or Lunenburg are horses of a different colour. Well, houses of a different colour: lime and turquoise, coral and lemon. In short a rainbow of hues.

 

Hope Town, on Elbow Cay, is a bastion of history, boasting a wealth of period buildings.

 

And history’s hardly the only appeal of this erstwhile Loyalist bastion. Elbow Cay boasts a gorgeous pink sand beach with its own near-shore reef for snorkeling, a candy-cane lighthouse.

And that’s just one village on one cay in a cornucopia of cays.

Talk about the better Bahamas.

And you don’t have to be a sailor to love the place.

At the end of our voyage we’re welcomed to a delightful beachside retreat called Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour. Think two pools, one with a swim-up bar that features amazing fish tacos washed down with frigid Kalik beers, a harbour where you stroll past boats that could hold their own in Monaco, an activities centre that offers sea kayaks and standup paddleboards, rooms and villas both Caribbean and comfortable.

 

Abaco Beach Resort and Marina caters to both lad-based visitors and serious fishermen. Here’s proof: scale for weighing the one that didn’t get away.

 

We start our adventure with a stay at Treasure Cay Resort in a full housekeeping unit replete with loft, a cozy abode that fronts a little channel where big boats tie up – big boats that signal another huge appeal of the area.

The waters off Treasure Cay are considered the best place in the Bahamas to catch Blue Marlin and all the waters around here are prime fishing grounds – whether your pleasure is something called bone-fishing or whether you wanna make like a Hemingway hero.

 

Treasure Cay Resort. Already succumbing to the lure of the sea on the morning of our first full day in the Abacos.

 

The waters here are sometimes calm, sometimes windswept, but always appealing. Think neon lime-coloured shallows, vast expanses of turquoise and teal hues so beautiful they’d convert an atheist, so irresistible almost every person we meet wherever we go is either on a boat for a few days, just about to get on a boat, or has just gotten off a boat. No surprise Sunsail (one of the world’s biggest charterers) is based here.

 

The beach at Treasure Cay. Rated, in the past, both best Caribbean beach and one of the world’s top ten.

 

And the land nuzzled by those selfsame waters is just as appealing. Think icing sugar incandescent sand in a gentle arc framed by pines and seas, a beach just across the road from the resort, guarded by Coco Beach Bar and Grill, a beach bum of an eatery featuring, among other events, a weekly beach bonfire.

 

A beach bum of a rustic eatery serves up daily catch of the day – Bahamian-style.

 

But this is no ordinary beach. National Geographic’s rated it top ten in the world. The now-defunct Caribbean Travel and Life has rated it best in the Caribbean. And it’s not even in the Caribbean.

Which brings me back to that old jingle, but with that subtle little twist.

Visit the Abacos and introduce yourself.

Make friends with the better Bahamas.

 

Seas that can be dangerously shallow for boaters also make for some of the most gorgeous colours.

 

TRIP TIPS:

 

2 Responses

  1. Kim North

    Your words and pictures create a vivid picture of light, colour and ambiance.
    So many experiences to savour in such a beautiful area as the Abacos Islands.

    • Mark Stevens, photos by Sharon Matthews-Stevens

      Yes, when I look back at the photos the light was incredible. What a beautiful place to sail! Thank you.