The temperature is rising, and days have gotten longer. With the U.S. 4th of July and the 41st Anniversary of The Bahamas Independence July 10th on the calendar this month, you’ll find over 30 events throughout the islands: boating flings, Junkanoo Jump Ups, flag raising ceremonies, Bahamas Royal Police Force Band concerts, small regattas, fish fries, and homecoming parties with local vocalists and bands. Your best bet is to pick a favorite island and just go. Here are a few festivals close to the U.S. mainland.
Not sure what to plan for the 4th of July? The Abaco Beach Resort hosts a spectacular weekend celebration that includes a BBQ, beach bonfire, music, crab races, and over-the-top fireworks display. Call (242) 367-2158 to reserve a slip in the marina and to receive special event ticket pricing. abacobeachresort.com
Put the 3rd Annual Goombay Summer Festival at the Seaspray Resort in White Sound, Elbow Cay, Abaco, on your festival cruising list July 3-17 and the 31st. Featured attractions include music, food, a Junkanoo rush-out, and local crafts. Sea Spray Marina is one of the more protected marinas in Abaco providing easy access to the Atlantic Ocean and the Sea of Abaco. The marina can accommodate a variety of vessels up to 120 feet long drawing up to 7 feet. Call (242) 366-0065 or (717) 718-8267 while in the U.S. email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to seasprayresort.com/marina.html. If you’re docked in Marsh Harbour, Albury’s Ferry provides a water taxi service from mainland Abaco to Elbow Cay. Call (242) 367-0290. alburysferry.com
While you’re in Elbow Cay there’s a must-see in the tiny village of Hope Town located in the center of town behind the post office—the noted Hummingbird Cottage Art Centre. It opened last year after exhaustive work was done to its historically significant building and is now one of the most charming Loyalist cottages in the Hope Town settlement. The Hummingbird is home to works by celebrated artists and award-winning international spotlight artists such as Amos Ferguson—“Paint by Amos”—The Bahamas’ most famous native painter. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9:30AM to 5PM, and they close the end of August for a month or so. Private appointments are available. Call (242) 366-0272. hopetownart.com
Hope Town is also great for specialty galley provisioning at foodie spots such as Vernon’s Grocery & Upper Crust Bakery located on the corner of Lover’s Lane and Back Street. Cruisers in the know call in advance to reserve Vernon’s special delights. Otherwise, expect a long line at the front door. Vernon’s is famous for fresh-daily baked breads and delicious homemade pies—Key lime pie is still the best seller. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 8AM to 6PM. Call (242) 366-0037 or channel 16 on the VHF.
Hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, this Goombay Summer Festival is held at the Great Harbour Cay Marina on the 4th, 11th, and 18th showcasing the Bahamian cultural heritage with Rake n’ Scrape bands, dance groups, limbo, food, drink, local souvenir vending, a Junkanoo parade, and Goombay dancers each evening. Contact the Administrators Office at (242) 367-8291.
Great Harbour Cay Marina is under new management, nestled inside a serene harbor with 65 slips that can accommodate vessels up to 130-feet LOA drawing 8 feet. This “Hurricane Hole” is one of the most protected marinas in The Bahamas. Each slip has 30/50/100-amp shore power and water. Marina amenities include ice, showers, laundry, Wi-Fi internet access, pool bar and restaurant, 24-hour security cameras, liquor store, golf cart, and car rentals. Customs and Immigration is available at the marina. Call (242) 367-8005. greatharbourcay.com/webpages/marina.asp
You’ll find the Great Harbour Marina’s famous “burgers in paradise” beach bar—overlooking a gorgeous four-mile stretch of beach—handsomely remodeled and offering beach umbrellas, lounge chairs, dune buggies, and kayaks for rent. Hours are weekdays from 7:30AM to 6PM for breakfast and lunch, and weekends from 7:30AM to 9:30PM for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Cruisers visiting Great Harbour Cay have several dining options. The Rocky Hill Bar and Restaurant adjacent to the marina serves lunch and dinner every day of the week— international cuisine with a Bahamian twist, excellent cracked conch and pan-fried fish. Call (242) 367-8051. For a more local experience, head to Coolie Maes at Bullock’s Harbour offering authentic Bahamian dinners; sit outside to catch beautiful sunset views. Call Coolie Mae to place your order ahead of your arrival at (242) 367-8730. Carriearl Hotel located on the old golf course away from the beach also has a small restaurant with international fare—reservations are recommended. Open Thursday through Saturday and for Sunday brunch. Call (242) 367-8785.
Just 50 nm from the U.S. mainland, the Biminis host several events in July beginning with the U.S. Independence Visitors Reception on July 4th. In appreciation of visitors to the island, a cultural exchange features Bahamian food, art, crafts, music on North Bimini, and a beautiful fireworks display on both North and South Islands. Contact the Bimini Tourist office at (242) 347-3529.
By Sandra Davis, Southern Boating July 2014