Easing Into the Out Islands: The Abacos


An island-hopper's paradise...

Here at the top of the Bahamas, the shallow, sheltered Sea of Abaco exists as both a playground and as a turquoise highway. There's even regular bus service in the form of ferries that bridge Great Abaco and its string of barrier islands facing the Atlantic. Hop aboard one of these sturdy little boats setting out from Marsh Harbour or Treasure Cay, and your shipmates will include a chatty collection of commuters and school kids. Passengers sitting next to you with suitcases are heading for the cays' small hotels or rental homes, while those with backpacks are day-trippers based at the resorts back on the big island.

Check out the Abaco destination page...

Look toward the horizon. The white sails bent to the breeze are likely charters, as the Abacos rank among the top three Caribbean cruising grounds. Bareboat and crewed yachts steer for many of the same cays as the ferries do, enjoying easy, line-of-sight sailing to a new, protected anchorage with fresh beaches, restaurants, bars and attractions. The other boats you see - those crossing the Sea of Abaco as though they're on a mission - are the area's large fleet of water-sports operators off to snorkel the reefs of Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park, scuba dive sites such as Shark Wall and Fowl Cay marine preserve, or troll for tuna and blue marlin out in big-game waters.

The ferry you're on depends on the day's desires. If it's Sunday, you're heading to Great Guana for the Nipper's Beach Bar pig roast and party; any other day, and the Guana boat delivers sun worshippers to the island's endless beach. If you're Elbow Cay bound, the attraction is the audacity of Hope Town with its iconic lighthouse that stands as the Abacos' historic center, marking a loyalist stronghold and wreckers' last refuge. The same quaint New England-in-the-tropics vibe - gingerbread cottages painted Bahamian blues and pinks - awaits on Green Turtle Cay, while Man-O-War Cay adds the charm of its family cottage industries of boat building and canvas work. Around sunset, the last ferries cross back to Great Abaco, landing at Treasure Cay, famed for its stunning sugar-sand beach, or Marsh Harbour, a town so bustling with restaurants, shops and marinas that it merits the Out Islands' sole traffic light.

Check out more beach bars like Nipper's in our round-up of Ultimate Beach Bars...

Learn more about the Bahamas...

GO: From Miami on American Eagle (800-433-7300; aa.com); from Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on Continental Connection (800-231-0856; continental.com); and from Nassau on Bahamasair (800-222-4262; bahamasair.com). You can get to Nassau via American, Jet Blue, Delta, US Airways and Continental from hubs in the United States.

STAY: Most resorts in the Abacos have marinas catering to Florida boaters and charter yachts, providing a "boat drink" and Top-Sider ambience enjoyed by yachties and landlubbers alike. Treasure Cay Hotel Resort & Marina (800-327-1584; treasurecay.com; from $150 in low season, $170 high) sprawls across an entire peninsula on Great Abaco, with golf, a spectacular beach, and 87 rooms and suites around the marina. Out on Turtle Cay, both the 34-room Green Turtle Club (242-365-4271; greenturtleclub.com; from $180 low season, $240 high) and Bluff House (800-745-4911; bluffhouse.com; from $187 in low season, $225 high), with 32 rooms, suites and cottages, lie on a sheltered sound just a golf-cart ride away from Atlantic-side beaches and charming New Plymouth.

PLAY: Get in the water, snorkeling or diving, with Keith Rogers of Marsh Harbour's Dive Abaco (800-247-5338; diveabaco.com) or Brendal Stevens of Green Turtle Cay's Brendal's Dive Center (242-365-4411; brendal.com). Charter a boat - sail or power - from The Moorings (888-952-8420; moorings.com or mooringspower.com) or Florida Yacht Charters (800-537-0050; floridayacht.com), both based in Marsh Harbour. Dine on the fresh catch at Angler's (at Abaco Beach Resort) and Mangoes (Front Street in Marsh Harbour), and don't miss the Sunday pig roast at Nipper's on Great Guana. Climb the Hope Town lighthouse and then reward yourself with key lime pie from Vernon's Grocery. (If you really want to go all out, Vernon also officiates weddings.)

To view the original article published by the Carribean Travel Mag, click here

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