CARIBBEAN

ABACOS: EXOTIC ISLANDS

Abacos 760x510

STORY BY RICHARD THIEL   //  PHOTOS BY AIMEE COLON

Mention the words “exotic island paradise” to most Americans, and the first thing they usually think of is some faraway destination like Tahiti or Bora Bora. But there is just such a destination that is not only much, much closer, it’s less than 60 miles from the U.S. mainland. In terms of an easy-to-get to island paradise, nothing can compare to the Abacos chain in the Bahamas.


It’s possibly to fly into the Abacos—there are daily flights into two airports, one in Marsh Harbor and the other in Treasure Cay—but the islands are so close to the U.S. mainland, many people just hop in a boat and make the run over. After all, the nearest point, West End on Grand Bahama, is reachable in as little as two hours. The passage can be tricky in the wintertime when northerlies roil up the Gulf Stream, but from May through October, the prevailing winds are out of the south, almost always making for a flat and placid crossing. And once you get within sight of West End, you’ll be on the Bahamas Bank, thousands of square miles of shallow turquoise water that is so clear, you can usually check your anchor just by looking down at the bottom from the side of your boat.

The Abacos chain is noted for its excellent sailing and powerboating. The winds are constant and strong, the weather is predictable, and it’s usually possible to navigate by line of sight as long as you have a reliable chart and an up-to-date cruising guide. In fact boating is so popular in the Abacos you don’t even need to have a boat! There are a number of companies based here that charter them, either with a captain or without. Once you land at either airport, you can be relaxing on your charter boat in a remote, secluded anchorage the same afternoon.


INSIDER TIPS:

The Abaco Cays are spread out over many different islands, but don't worry the maximum travel time between two adjacent Cays, shouldn't be more than a half hour. You will want to explore the beauty of uninhabited island beaches, fishing, picnicking, snorkeling, etc. There are many boat rental companies in the Abaco islands from small console boats to larger power boats if you are a boater with some navigation experience. The ones I recomend are Rainbow boat rentals (www.rainbowboatrentals.com) on Marsh Harbor for its proximity to the airport and size variety of his fleet. Also, The Moorings (www.moorings.com) one of the largests boat charter companies based at the Conch Inn docks in Marsh Harbor.

The Do's:
There are hundreds of islands—or cays (pronounced keys), as locals call them—in the Abacos, but the best known are probably Man-O-War, Green Turtle, and Treasure. Without a doubt, the best-known settlement is Hopetown, whose red-and-white striped lighthouse is a much-photographed landmark. Each cay has its own character and therefore its own special appeal, For instance, Walker’s in the very north is the place to go for deep-sea fishing. But all of the major cays share two common traits: the tastiest and freshest seafood humanly possible and plenty of unforgettable beach bars.

The Eats:
As to food, if fresh seafood is your thing, you really can’t go wrong anywhere in the Abacos. If you’re craving something a little more eclectic, I recommend Angler’s Restaurant in Marsh Harbor. Here in an atmosphere as sophisticated as any you’ll find on the mainland, you can dine on a roasted rack of lamb that will melt in your mouth. (The grilled wahoo is to die for as well.) But don’t worry. Sophisticated though it may appear, shorts and a polo shirt are perfectly acceptable attire.


As for unforgettable beach bars, for me there is only one: Nippers on Great Guana Cay. Once you’ve sampled a Nipper Tripper, with its five different kinds of rum, you’ll never look at another run drink the same way again. And while you may not find rack of lamb on the menu, Nipper’s seafood is as good as any you’ll find in the Abacos. I’d like to say that you’ll come away from Nippers with some great memories, but if you have more than one Nipper Tripper, your recollection of what happened there may be seriously impaired.

There are dozens of great bars and restaurants in the Abacos, and yet solitude is never far away if you want it. That’s what locals mean when they brag, “The Abacos has it all.”

NIPPER'S BEACH BAR & GRILL
Great Guana Cay,
Abaco, Bahamas
P. 242.365.5111
www.nippersbar.com

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