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Exploring onshore charms of the boating capital

There is so much more to The Abacos than just taking to the seas

Island charm, romantic spots that beg you to while away the time, coupled with the conveniences of a metropolitan city – this is the Abacos. And these out islands to the north gave me reason to pause. I went in not knowing what to expect, and came away with all my expectations I did not know I even had, exceeded, with the best of two worlds covered – quaint, picturesque, and charming as well as the creature comforts, romance and sophistication.

I strolled the 770-foot wooden Long Dock in Cherokee Sound, took a seat and dangled my legs off the side and paused to take in the stunning, never ending sea view that I did not want to leave. Searching for the Bahama Parrot turned out to be quite an adventure. Although brilliantly colored, the birds turned out to be quite elusive to spot. (My guide told me I should have gotten an earlier start.)

Visiting the Blue Hole Conservation Forest and the four cave systems beneath the pine forests of South Abaco – Dan’s Cave, Nancy’s Cave and Ralph’s Cave and Sawmill Sink – four systems that are said to extend over nine miles underground within less than a six square mile area of land. Encouraged by my guide to give it a taste, and always up to a challenge, I dipped my hand into the water for a sip, of what turned out to be some of the most delicious tasting water I’ve ever had. (And that was despite the tadpoles I witnessed lazily meandering, the leaves floating in the water and the mossy rocks. Hey, I paid to drink the water at the Roman Baths in Bath, England, and if I remember correctly, that water had some green bits of I don’t know what floating in it, and I survived.)

These are just a sampling of amazing memories that I now have of The Abacos, which are considered the yachting paradise of The Bahamas as I continued my out island-hopping adventures with the Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board.

After a three-month hiatus, The Abacos, the second largest island in the archipelago, was my latest stop. Unlike my three previous island visits to Exuma, Bimini and Eleuthera, in which I literally lived in a swimsuit and in the water, and even though I was in the boating capital of the country, we set out to explore land-based activities from the south to the north.

Flying into Abaco, I was disheartened taking in the miles of forest land that had been denuded as a result of the ravages of Hurricane Dorian and the miles and miles of browned coppice standing bare of leaves, standing like sentinels devoid of leaves, just on of the reminders of the ravages of the monster storm. I landed, at the Leonard Thompson Airport at Marsh Harbour, and as I traversed the streets, I was heartened to see the rebound and resilience of the people.

My first stop was breakfast at Sugar Cane Restaurant & Bar where I enjoyed a delicious boiled fish made with hog fish and a side of Johnny cake. Then it was off to catch the dock, to catch D&L Ferry over to Elbow Cay, literally tripping over myself with excitement to visit the Hope Town Lighthouse, the candy-cane looking structure which is said to be one of the most photogenic spots in Elbow Cay and is known as the jewel of the Abacos. (For me, one of the draws is its history. It is one of the only lighthouses in the Caribbean still operated manually. You are also able to hike to the top.) Just my luck, the restoration that I knew was to happen, had literally just begun prior to my arrival, and the famous structure was sanded down and stripped of its iconic red and white colors and draped in tarp. This just means I will definitely have to make plans for a return visit to take in the lighthouse in its restored splendor.

Tooling around town in a golf cart, I popped into the Firefly Sunset Resort which overlooks the sea of Abaco in Hope Town, and it was there that I was able to take in my first breathtaking vista as I crested a ridge to head down to the restaurant and caught a peek of the spectacular sea view.

Returning to the mainland, I moved on to the Abaco Neem Farm where I was given a tour of the organic farm by Nick Miaoulis. Learning I had never had wild boar before, Miaoulis invited me back for dinner the next day with his wife Daphne, and promised to have wild boar on the menu. (The Miaoulis’ offer a farm to table experience at the farm.)

I headed further south for the night to check in to The Sandpiper Inn & Cottages at Schooner Bay, which was the first of three resorts I would visit while in Abaco. It turned out be a lovely two-and-a-half storey traditional Bahamian verandah house with wrap verandahs on two levels with two duplex cottages at the rear. I arrived just in time for dinner. We sat down to a meal from Chef Marcellus Higgins that was simple, local, fresh, well-seasoned, perfectly prepared and hearty. And then there’s the fact that they have the benefit of fresh seafood nearly year-round, complemented by lovely local and organic produce from Driftwood Farms. (Just a quick aside, the three-headed shower is absolutely amazing.)

At Sandpiper Inn, I also felt like I could finally breathe as I drank in the stars in the clear, inky black sky, which allowed the stars to shine brightly. For the first time in my life, I was able to locate and take in the absolute brilliance of Polaris (commonly called the North Star or Pole Star). It was brilliant and stunning to behold to the naked eye.

A nature walk around Schooner Bay jumpstarted day two before meeting up with Marcus Davis of Da Bush ‘N Da Beach tours for a curated experience that included a visit to the Abaco National Park to try to spot a famous Bahama Parrot, but they hid from us. The tour also included a visit to the blue holes and caves in South Abaco, which are historical, cultural and geological treasures. I visited Sawmill Sink, the most famous blue hole in Abaco – an inland blue hole about 110-feet deep, as well as that cave where I took that drink of water. Then it was off to Gilpin Point to feed the ducks – white-cheeked pintail, also known as the Bahama pintail or summer duck; and Long Beach, which takes its name from the fact that it is a long beach, and offers fabulous Atlantic Ocean powder white sandy beach and stretches for miles. A drive through the peaceful, quiet, secluded community of Crossing Rocks and combing for sea glass at the beach (I was able to locate at least four pieces that I loved) was the perfect way to end the tour.

Then it was time to pack it up and head northward to the Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour Marina in Marsh Harbour. It’s a resort that caters to anyone looking to escape the crowds of some of the larger islands and experience the relaxed hassle-free attitude that makes The Abacos unique. And no matter which room you stay in, you are assured of an ocean view.

Again, arriving in time for dinner, we dined at Bistro – a chic, modern space with a menu that perfectly matches the ambiance, helmed by Executive Chef Deja Rutherford and her Executive Sous Chef Mychael Clarke. Rutherford likes to think of the cuisine as modern world fusion.

I found myself at what I considered the most romantic time of the entire trip for me, the impressive 770-foot over water Long Dock at Cherokee Sound. It is also the longest wooden dock in The Bahamas and located in a quaint community with neat, narrow streets and its pastel painted homes. I could have sat there all day drinking in the views, on that perfect day. But with so much to do which included a visit to Pete’s Pub & Gallery and the working bronze Foundry at Little Harbour, Abaco.

I explored the Foundry, where they use traditional techniques to create beautiful works of art. And you can schedule a time to see the beautiful works of art being made, from the initial sculpting to the red-hot casting process to the final welds and polish, it’s a fascinating process. The Foundry has existed for 60-plus years and has created large and small sculptures that are currently in collections and museums, worldwide.

With the thought of my first taste of Abaco wild boar on mind and Miaoulis’ promise of a treat, we returned to the Abaco Neem Farm to enjoy this unexpected and unplanned addition to the trip. The Miaoulis’ put out a veritable feast with dishes prepared with ingredients that came directly from trees on their property. The wild boar itself was not gamey tasting at all. It is also much leaner than commercially-raised pork, and richer tasting. I was also surprised to find it quite tender. (Actually, everywhere I went, the native Abaconians spoke of the many ways they prepare wild boar; their descriptions leave you salivating.) The wild boar meat was indeed delicious and I would eat again if given the opportunity.

Dare I say though, that the highlight of my dinner at the Abaco Neem Farm was the conversations across wide ranging topics that we enjoyed, well into the night and that were capped off by a captivating firefly display as the night took hold as we sat under the stars on the patio.

Farm tours are available for booking; the Miaoulis’ also afford people an opportunity to volunteer their services in exchange for accommodations and food; it is open to all able-bodied adults in good health, and ideal for anyone wanting a break from the “rat race” and who enjoy the tranquility of nature. Services include pruning, weeding, feeding chickens, cooking, tending gardens and more.

Headed further north, we moved on to Green Turtle Cay to check into the Green Turtle Club Resort & Marina. This entailed taking the Green Turtle Cay Ferry Service over from the mainland to this most northern cay in the Abacos, which is known as an idyllic romantic getaway. This resort, like The Sandpiper Inn, allowed me to breathe. I loved its casual, yet sophisticated elegance.

I dined at The Green Turtle Club which they say is a culinary experience not to be missed with a menu offering something for everyone from casual dining to those looking for a more elevated gourmet experience. The Yacht Club Pub I found is popular for pre-dinner cocktails.

On my final day in The Abacos, I wrapped up my stay with a visit to Bluff House Beach Resort & Marina, which is said to be the first and oldest resort in the out islands. General Manager Molly McIntosh graciously gave me a tour of the property to show the beautiful renovations to the property after the ravages of Hurricane Dorian. hanging out and chatting with the friendly staff

I could not depart The Abacos without a tour of the Town of New Plymouth, which is akin to an 18th century village by the sea and which features a Loyalist Memorial Statue Garden in the heart of New Plymouth in memory of the founders of Green Turtle Cay.

I learned that Green Turtle Cay was one of the first islands settled in The Bahamas in the 1770s by the Revolutionary War Loyalists, and that many of the island’s approximate 500 or so residents can trace their ancestry back to those Loyalists.

And, of course, I rode past Ye Olde Jail.

It was in New Plymouth that I got another gut-wrenching display of the destruction unleashed by Hurricane Dorian. I was disheartened as I rode my golf cart through and noticed that many of the buildings in the heart of the town remained damaged and unoccupied. The visual was a hard reminder of the battering that the central and northern parts of the island suffered at the “hands” of the 2019 storm.

A visit to Pineapples Bar & Grill where I hung out and chatted with the friendly staff for a spell before heading to the ferry to return to the mainland, wrapped up my Abaco adventures.

I headed to The Abacos not knowing what to expect, especially having come through Hurricane Dorian, but I came away absolutely amazed – amazed to see the resilience of the people. There are visuals that remain today as a hard reminder of the devastation of the storm, but you can still see the picturesque place that it once was, and to be honest, still is.

Four islands into my out islands’ adventures, having also visited Exuma, Bimini and Eleuthera, I am proud to say that I am no longer a neophyte to my own country, even though I have so far only visited four of the 16 inhabited islands.

The Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board provides the perfect vehicle to explore The Bahamas with their Bahamas Residents Two Fly/Cruise Free from Nassau promotion – one free airline/Bahamas Ferries ticket from Nassau for pre-booked two-night hotel stays or two free airline/Bahamas Ferries tickets from Nassau for pre-booked four-night or longer hotel stays.

Many Bahamians have been missing out on the natural wonders of our own country. The Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board’s Two Fly Free initiative seeks to rectify that, allowing residents the opportunity to get out and experience the country at a reduced cost and introducing them to the fact that from The Abacos to Inagua, there’s a collection of unspoiled islands that cater to true connoisseurs of island life.

Par for the course after an amazing out island experience, my question is – where to next?

With the Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board’s domestic tourism program – Two Fly Free from Nassau, which makes domestic tourism incredibly attractive and doable, The Bahamas is my oyster! And I am definitely finding the pearls, which are the memories of the amazing experiences I’m having.

There are three ways to redeem the fly free offer – directly with participating hotels, via Majestic Holidays and Bahamago.com.


WHERE I STAYED

THE SANDPIPER INN & COTTAGES

Accommodations: Spacious suites that offer both privacy and amazing views of the harbor, the island, village, forest and ocean.

Dining: Cuisine that is simple, local, fresh, well, seasoned, and perfectly prepared.

ABACO BEACH RESORT & BOAT HARBOUR MARINA

Accommodations: No matter which room you stay in, you are assured of an ocean view.

Dining: Authentic Bahamian flavors with an international twist whether you’re delighting in the fare at the chic Bistro, or imbibing at The Terrace at Marinaville, you will find something you love.


GREEN TURTLE CLUB 

RESORT & MARINA

Accommodations: Casual, yet sophisticated.

Dining: A culinary experience not to be missed with a menu offering something for everyone from casual dining to those looking for a more elevated gourmet experience.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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