Abacos, Bahamas

Abacos, Bahamas

Anchored off Hope Town Harbour. Photo: John Lambert

A Step Back in Time

Just 135 miles off the coast of Florida, due east of Grand Bahama Island is unsung, oft overlooked Abaco—the northern tip of The Bahamas. The 780-square-mile cruising ground boasts long stretches of unspoiled beach, clear turquoise water, quaint villages, good provisioning, professional marine services, friendly locals, great snorkeling, a wide range of eateries, and predictable 5- to 20-knot trade winds. Little Abaco and Great Abaco Islands—from Crown Haven to Hole in the Wall—form a 120-mile arc that acts as the “mainland” for an outer archipelago of small reef-protected “cays” that dot the Sea of Abaco.

Abaco seems to exist in a time warp. Despite its proximity to the United States, none of the hustle and bustle of the more populated Bahamian Islands has crept northward. That is not an accident. Most Abaconians are aggressively anti-development and determined to preserve this unique and special place. Each of the Abaco islands still has its own distinct persona—many families, descendants of the Loyalists who fled the United States during and after the American Revolution, have called these islands home for well over 200 years. Some of the villages are quaint and charmingly gentrified, others a little less prosperous, but all are well tended with at least one water-view, aboveground cemetery. The surnames on those headstones are the same names on today’s shops, ferries, boatyards, and services.

The jumping-off point for a loop cruise of the Abaco archipelago is centrally located in Marsh Harbour, the third-largest city in The Bahamas. Its protected, deep water has made it the main supply depot for the islands and the home for most of the ferries, yacht charter companies, and a tiny but international airport. The Conch Inn Marina, with pool and restaurant, hosts the Moorings/Sunsail base. Within walking distance, a new Maxwell Supermarket has significantly raised the provisioning bar.