Who needs Red Bull when there’s downtown Nassau? This cacophonous blur of bouncing jitneys, hustling cabbies, bargaining vendors, trash-talking pirates and elbow-knocking shoppers, is a guaranteed pick-me-up for even the sleepiest of cruise-ship day-trippers. And it’s been luring high-energy hustlers for centuries.
Just when the glossy mags started touting the Out Islands as ‘in,’ the Ministry of Tourism slapped a new label on them and confused the issue. In order to highlight the slower pace and small-town values of the islands scattered beyond New Providence and Grand Bahama, they’re now also marketed as ‘the Family Islands.
After years of playing second banana to bigger, more glamorous Nassau, Grand Bahama is finally coming into its own. If you’re looking for a laid-back, affordable getaway with a minimum of fuss, this is your place. The streets of Freeport, its main city, and Lucaya are clean and calm. Its golden beaches and aquamarine waters are rarely overcrowded, even in high season.
Though the Out Islands might rightly be described as sleepy, the Abacos will be the first to shake off the snooze. Yachtsmen and divers flock to this glittering crescent of islands and cays – stretching south for 200 miles just east of Grand Bahama – for stellar sailing, spectacular reef diving and sunny ports of call.
So what do you do in Eleuthera, a 100-mile-long wisp of land curving east like an archer’s bow? According to literature, research and dependable local gossips, most people come here to do…absolutely nothing. That’s right. The beach bum is the true king here, his every do-nothing need met by mile upon mile of obliging shores.
Life’s a little snappier in the Exumas. Whether you’re kayaking, kiteboarding or trimming a sail, a crisp palette of ocean blues sharpens every adventure. And with 365 cays unspooling over more than 100 miles, there’s a lot of adventure to go around. Wannabe Robinson Crusoes can wander lonely isles in Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park.
Believe it or not, this one-stoplight town is the third-largest city in the Bahamas. Situated on a peninsula, quiet Marsh Harbour has worked to establish itself as a small tourism and boating center for visitors to the Abacos. It’s a pleasant enough place, with most of the hotels and restaurants lining a small strip of road alongside the marina.
The sleepy island ‘capital’ overlooks a broad harbor that runs west along a peninsula to Cupid’s Cay, apparently the original settlement of the Eleutheran Adventurers in 1648. Just south of the town is Club Med Beach; its softly curving shore is one of the prettiest beaches in the Bahamas (though Club Med is long gone).
North & Central Andros
Technically one island, North and Central Andros are two separate administrative districts. Sleepy Nicholl’s Town (population 500) is the closest settlement to San Andros Airport and the center of activity for all of North Andros. It’s got some extraordinary hidden beaches and coves – ask a local. Further south, the Stafford Creek area has a handful of accommodations.
Quiet six nights out of the week, this low-key village is 25 miles north of Governor’s Harbour and five miles south of the Glass Window Bridge, where the island narrows dramatically to a thin span straddling the divide between pounding Atlantic waves and the tranquil green shoals of the Bight of Eleuthera.
Green Turtle Cay
If you’ve got time for only one cay, make it Green Turtle, by far the friendliest island in the Abacos, if not the Bahamas. The inhabitants are more than willing to point you in the right direction for hearty dining, primo diving and Loyalist-minded sightseeing. And being the birthplace of the goombay smash isn’t such a shabby distinction either.