Sunday, 6 August 2017

© Abaco ~ Jewels of the Northern Bahamas!

        Lying 180 miles off the Florida coast occupying 776 square miles are the islands of Abaco. Comprised of the the large mainland of Great Abaco, Little Abaco and a string of barrier islands stretching along its northern shoreline, from Walkers Cay in far northwest around to Elbow Cay and Tilloo Cay & Lubbers Quarters becoming the southern most islands. To the west lying further in the ocean and clear of the massive area of shallows known as The Marls, are two islands sitting alone in the ocean, Moore's Island and a few miles south a small settlement and Gorda Cay, purchased by Disney Cruise Lines developed as a tourist stop-over destination.

 

Many of the outer cays are privately owned, some supporting their own airstrips. Flying inbound to Abaco are direct commercial flights from Florida and Nassau. Both Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour being Ports of Entry for Bahamas Customs & Immigration. Marsh Harbour holds the largest community within the islands, just shy of 6000 people. The town supports major food centers, hardware stores and marine supply establishments with yachting the principal source of visitors within the islands. Marinas are many and scattered throughout the Abaco Cays offering provisions, restaurants, fuel & dockage.





The islands were first inhabited by The Loyalists arriving in 1783 escaping the American Revolution while staying loyal to England's King George III. Leaving their South Carolina properties some even dismantled their homes as best possible bringing stonework & furniture. Their architecture remains to this day with its classic porches and dormer windows. Photography is irresistible being able to catch history standing still here.


Man-o-War Cay supports a major flow of yachting tourism offering locally made wares and easy tie-up-to restaurants on the waterfront.



We explore the idyllic narrow streets boasting manicured properties and gorgeous waterfronts. All the way to the far western end of the island we find 'The Crossing' where ocean water laps over the rocks on a high tide trying to reach the calm bay within a few yards on the other side. Here we meet at sunset and watch the evenings canvas unfold.










 



These early inhabitants survived in the islands from salvaging wrecked ships and becoming master boat builders, a trade that the Abaco Cays have become famous for, well in demand by boaters from all walks of life today. The boat yards of Man-o-War Cay produce amazing hulls, crafted as no other within the Bahamas. Walking the narrow streets, only wide enough for golf carts, one passes classic wooden hulls on the side of the roads being restored or finished inside the yards as a new product.



 





The mainland of Abaco connects with its sister cays with a really efficient ferry service operating from Marsh Harbour. From here one can board a "Donnie" ferry to most major island settlements within a short boat ride away. 


Arrival by air carriers from mainland Florida or Nassau take taxis to the ferry port and on to popular destinations such as Hope Town, Man-o-War Cay, or Green Turtle Cay. Next stop for us would be Hope Town with its dominant candy-striped lighthouse keeping watch over one of the most popular harbors in the northern Bahamas.































The lighthouse was originally built in 1862 and commissioned into full time use two years later as one of the last kerosene fueled lighthouses in the world. Its beam could be seen at night extending just over 23 miles away to be recently replaced with a less effective digital light. There are no cars in old-town Hope Town, room only for pedestrians and golf carts with a local population under 600. Architecture is kept strictly Bahamian with building approvals granted by local Town Planning.


..... more to come here as we explore beautiful Hope Town and beyond!

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