One of the most popular Bahamas cruising and boating grounds is in and around the stunning waters of the Abacos. Here are our recommendations for making the most of your time in Marsh Harbour, Hope Town and Nassau.
Great Abaco and the surrounding cays lie along the northeast portion of the Bahamas, 200 miles from the coast of southern Florida, and the area offers some of the world's best cruising and sailing destinations. Each cay has its own ambiance and character, with access to the Atlantic Ocean and the pristine Sea of Abaco.
Marsh Harbour is the hub and commercial center of Great Abaco Island and serves as an ideal base for any visit. Guests find a host of anchoring and docking possibilities, an infrastructure to support extended cruising, and a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour Marina is located on the southern shore of Marsh Harbour, with direct access to the Sea of Abaco. Offering 200 slips for vessels up to 200 feet, fuel, two swimming pools and two restaurants, it is the most comprehensive development on Great Abaco Island. Each year, the resort hosts several fishing tournaments, and the private beach is a gem for those looking for solitude and privacy.
The newly renovated Conch Inn & Marina is located just across the narrow island in the heart of March Harbour and the local restaurants and shops. The 73 slip marina accommodates vessels up to 120 feet and their new hotel offers modern boutique-style guest rooms and suites with balconies and marina views.
Anchoring in the harbor provides easy access to Maxwell's, the major grocery store, and dining and bar-hopping options such as Snappas and Colors. The Jib Room, located on the harbor's north side, is well known for its ribs and steaks.
DAY 1: MAN-O-WAR CAY DISTANCE FROM MARSH HARBOUR: 4.3 NM
At the end of the American Revolution, loyalists to the British Crown fled to Abaco and established settlements throughout the area. The settlements of Man-O-War Cay and Hope Town offer glimpses of those early days. Most of the 300 residents of Man-O-War Cay can trace their family lineage back to a young couple from Charleston, SC, who settled there in the late 18th century. For hundreds of years, Man-O-War was known as the boat-building capital of the Bahamas. The wooden sailboats constructed here along the protected harbor played a major role in the development of reliable transport and shipping throughout the region.
For excellent marine repairs and services, visit Edwin's Boat Yard. Seldom does anyone tour Man-O-War Cay without purchasing a canvas bag from Albury’s Sail Shop or a souvenir from Joe's Studio, one of the best shops in the Bahamas. Taking a walk on the beach is as easy as strolling along the settlement's narrow streets to find the perfect spot.
DAY 2: HOPE TOWN DISTANCE FROM MAN-O-WAR: 4.70 NM
Hope Town is the principal village on Elbow Cay and the site of the candy-striped Elbow Reef Lighthouse, the last hand-wound kerosene lighthouse remaining in the world. The 89-foot-high edifice was built in 1863 and played a significant role in the development of Hope Town, as fishing and shipping industries flourished throughout the Bahamas.
Today, thriving Hope Town is full of New England-style clapboard cottages painted in an almost endless array of pastel colors. Gateways along the walking-only paths are festooned with bougainvillea and native plantings. Dining out is popular here among the wide assortment of casual and fine food establishments. A trip to Hope Town would be incomplete without a visit to Vernon's Grocery to sample the ever-popular Key lime pie.
At the foot of Elbow Reef Lighthouse is Hope Town Inn and Marina, which boasts 50 slips set on a private 15-acre estate. The harbor setting makes for a spectacular view of the village, with two pools and a restaurant serving casual Caribbean cuisine.
DAY 3: NASSAU DISTANCE FROM HOPE TOWN: 103.2 NM
If time permits, it is well worth the effort to visit Nassau on the island of New Providence, a one-day run from Hope Town and just 90 miles south of Marsh Harbour. The open-water passage across the channel from Abaco is straightforward and enjoyable, weather permitting.
With a rich history of rum-running and pirating, Nassau stands today as the Bahamas’ largest city and its capital. A tour of the area reveals the city’s cultural influences, from the indigenous Lucayan people and Spanish imperialism to post-Revolutionary loyalists, Bahamian independence, and a flourishing tourism industry.
Marinas line the harbor, including Hurricane Hole Superyacht Marina at Paradise Landing (242-603-19500), a 66-slip full-service facility accommodating vessels up to 420 feet that has recently undergone a complete transformation. Also on Paradise Island is, of course, The Marina at Atlantis with its 63 mega-yacht slips – worth a visit even if you aren’t docked there!
Across the bridge you will find more world class marinas: Bay Street Marina, Nassau Yacht Haven and the newly constructed Pointe Marina in the heart of downtown Nassau. On the southwest shore is Albany Marina, a state-of-the-art complex with 71 slips. Palm Cay comprises a 194-slip marina on New Providence’s southeastern coast with an oceanfront residential community and world-class amenities. Offering a private beach, pools, dockside dining and a gourmet market, the 69-acre property is a must-visit.
Written April 2014 | By Robert Wilson
Updated July 2023 |By Micah Angel at Marinalife.