About Us > History/Culture
(Est. 2000 pop 12,500) The Abaco islands are a chain of islands and cays covered in pine forests, stretching in a curve for 130 miles from Walker's Cay in the N to Hole in the Wall in the S. The Taino name for Abaco was Lucayoneque, although the first Spanish reference to it was Habacoa, a name also used for Andros. The Spanish did not settle, but by 1550 they had kidnapped all the Indian inhabitants for slavery elsewhere and the islands remained uninhabited for 200 years, despite a brief French attempt at settlement in 1625 and visits by pirates and fishermen. In 1783 over 600 loyalists left New York for Abaco, settling first at Carleton (N of Treasure Cay beach but no longer visible) and then moving to Marsh Harbour. Other groups settled further S but all found it hard to make a living on the small pockets of soil and of the 2,000 who arrived in the 1780s, only about 400 (half white and half black) were left in 1790.
Wrecking was a profitable pastime and Abaco was ideally placed on a busy shipping route to take advantage of its reefs and sand banks. Sponge, pineapple, sisal, sugar and lumber were later developed but never became big business. Wrecking also declined after the construction of lighthouses. The lighthouse on Elbow Cay at Hope Town was built in 1863, after the wreck in 1862 of the USS Adirondack, despite sabotage attempts by local people. By 1900 Hope Town was the largest town in the Abacos, with a population of 1,200 engaged in fishing, sponging, shipping and boat building. The boats made in Abaco were renowned for their design and the builders became famous for their construction skills. Boats, though made of fibreglass, are still made on Man-O-War Cay today.
The inhabitants of Abaco continued to live barely at subsistence levels until after the Second World War, when the Owens-Illinois Corporation revived the lumber business, built roads and introduced cars. An airport was built at Marsh Harbour and banks arrived. When the pulpwood operation ended in the 1960s sugar replaced it but was short lived. Nowadays the major agribusiness is citrus from two huge farms which export their crop to Florida. Abaco has developed its tourist industry slowly and effectively and has a high employment rate. Resorts are small and the atmosphere is casual and friendly even in the most luxurious hotels.
The main centre on Abaco is Marsh Harbour, which is the third largest town in the Bahamas (Pop 6,000). Its name reflects the swampy nature of much of Greater Abaco. The scrub and swamp give the island a rather desolate appearance, but like many islands, life revolves around the offshore cays and the coastal settlements. The area S of Marsh Harbour owes its development and particularly its roads to lumber companies. There are miles and miles of pine forests, secondary growth after the heavy logging earlier this century.
Nobody lives S of Sandy Point although there is a lighthouse at Hole in the Wall. Roads are better in the N, where they are mostly paved, while in the S they are dirt.
Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated on 5 Nov with parades through the streets led by the Guy to a big bonfire in the evening (no fireworks).
The town straggles along the flat S shore of a good and busy yachting harbour. It has the major airport about 3 miles from the town and is the commercial centre of Abaco. As you drive in from the airport you pass government offices, supermarkets and lots of churches and liquor stores. The town has a large white population, but at the last census 40% were found to be Haitian, most of whom lived in the districts of Pigeon Pea and The Mud and worked as domestic servants in the white suburbs. Many Haitians have since been repatriated however. Shops are varied and well stocked and Barclays and CIBC banks are both represented. The only traffic lights on the island are outside Barclays. Batelco is a yellow building off Queen Elizabeth Drive. The Tourist Office is nearby. The two main food stores are Golden Harvest and Abaco Market. The Bahamas Family Market on Front Street sells mainly fruit and vegetables grown on Abaco. The Marsh Harbour Dental Clinic is near Abaco Market.
Is located on gorgeous Abaco Island, a Bahamian island of sleepy cays, tiny villages, superb beaches, world-class diving, genuinely friendly people, and stunning natural beauty. Wildlife on Abaco abounds: parrots, wild horses, flamingos, wild hogs and, of course, our extravagant marine life.
If your dream of a Caribbean vacation involves unspoiled, un-asphalted, un-crowded, un-casinoed and un-touristy islands, come to Abaco, Bahamas, and discover the undiscovered.
An island archipelago in the northeastern Bahamas, Abaco is 126 miles long and often called an “island,” but is actually a cluster of islands, islets, and hundreds of offshore cays, many uninhabited. With a population of approximately 13,000, Abaco is the second largest of the Bahamian Out Islands (Andros is the largest.)
Abaco Island Beaches
The deserted beaches of Abaco are begging to be explored. We have hundreds of them. From Bahama Beach Club, you can rent a boat or take an excursion to an overwhelming array of snow-white, picture-postcard, virtually untouched hidden beaches.
Abaco Island Environment
While much of the more touristed Bahamas (Freeport and Nassau) is covered with asphalt, cement, and concrete, the residents of Abaco and the Bahamian government have gone to great lengths to preserve the integrity of our island "ecosphere." Abaco Island has set aside a multi-thousand acre preserve to protect the environment of the endangered Abaco Parrot. More government-protected parks and undersea preserves exist on Abaco than anywhere else in The Bahamas. We’re also a leader in The Bahamas ‘Out Islands’ for our architectural preservation efforts. Settlements on Abaco look like brightly painted pastel versions of New England's quaint fishing villages, with many of the homes well over one hundred years old.
Abaco Island History
Abaco Island has been the boat-building capital of The Bahamas for more than a hundred years. This northern Bahamian island is also the original colonization site for the Loyalists who fled the American Revolution and arrived in 1783. Now, Abaco is populated by industrious and friendly islanders who are proud of their heritage and love meeting visitors.
So come see us. And by the way, our climate is heavenly.
Click here for the current weather
In addition to the islands' natural and cultural assets, the man-made assets of Abaco include:
- 20+ marinas
- Museums of History (Hope Town, Coopers Town and Green Turtle)
- Museum of Island Marine Life
- Abaco National Park - 20,500-acre sanctuary for the Abaco Parrot
- Underwater parks and preserves
- Medical facilities - nurses can be found in all populated areas
- Doctors and dentists can be found in Marsh Harbour
- Clinics - the largest are in Treasure Cay, Marsh Harbour and Coopers Town
- An 18 hole golf course (at Bahama Beach Resort, Treasure Cay)
- 8 airstrips airports (located throughout the mainland and on several cays)
- 11 tennis courts (Marsh Harbour, Elbow, Green Turtle and Treasure Cay)
The Abacos contain two main Islands and a number of cays, many tiny and uninhabited. It is considered a Family Island and has a number of blue holes, truly beautiful beaches, wildlife including parrots, wild horses, flamingos and wild hogs. Eco tourism is abundant. Yachtsman have long loved the Abacos, which has a large number of marinas.
The main land mass is Great Abaco of which the main settlement is Marsh Harbour. Marsh Harbour is on the eastern side of Great Abaco. North of Marsh Harbour is Treasure Cay with it's incredible beaches and pristine golf course. Further North is the settlement of Coopers Town. South of Marsh Harbour are the settlements of Snake Cay, Spencer Bight, Little Harbour, Cherokee, Cherokee Point, Crossing Rock Hole-In-The-Wall, and Sandy Point (southwest). There are many more settlements on Great Abaco, as well as many small cays.
North of Coopers Town is Little Abaco, with the main settlements of Wood Cay, Mount Hope, Fox Town, and Crown Haven. Some of these settlements are very small and you are likely to be treated as family nearly anywhere you go in the Abacos.
The cays each offer their own personality. While there are a large number of cays in the Abacos, only a few of the cays are heavily inhabited. Ferries or private boats carry passengers to the Cays. Home Town and Elbow Cay have long been a quaint area to live and work offering, marinas, vacation home rentals, restaurants, activities and shops. Golf carts are the only means of ground transportation. Man-O-War Cay has no resort facilities and offers a quieter setting, with a strick prohibition of alcohol. Man-O-War Cay is a popular cay to build a a home for those seeking solice. Green Turtle Cay is another quiet area for those who wish to work in tourism but live a private life (watch what others see you do or you will suffer from the gossip) with resorts, marina, restaurants and activities. Great Guana Cay also has resorts, marinas, private cottages or condos for vacation rentals (each with its own name) restaurants and activities. Walkers Cay is popular to fisherman. All the cays offer beaches, nature and pristine waters. One can easily find a simple position on a cay and live a quiet life.
Great Guana Cay
The population in the Abacos (based upon the 1990 census) was 10,003. The Islands are situated approximately 105 miles north of Nassau and 175 miles east of Palm Beach. The majority of the Abaconians are employed in the fields of tourism, banking, fishing and boat making. A rich history of evolves of those in the art of boat making and it is passed down through the generations. The islands have bred keen fishermen, boat builders and sail makers since theywere first settled in the late 18th century by Loyalists fleeing a newly independent America.
There are two museums, Albert Lowe Museum and the Wyannie Malone Museum in Hope Town. Both display artifacts attesting to Abaco's colourful cast of past characters, including wreckers, smugglers and pirates.
Game fish tournaments are held each year. Billfish, marlin, and tuna abound. Competitions include Great Abaco Beach Resort's Wahoo Tournament, in which fishermen compete for one the sea's fastest fish.
There is virtually no unemployment in the Abacos.
The Abacos are a sailing universe. Somewhere in the long necklace of pale-sanded islands and often uninhabited cays, flung out over 120 miles, you're sure to find the ideal private spot for some chilled champagne and a good book. Sheltered harbours create a haven for yachtsmen, and the slumber-struck 18th century villages and historic museums recall a tranquil past. The major islands of this small archipelago are Great and Little Abaco, with the off-lying cays of Elbow Cay, Man-O-War Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Guana Cay, Stranger's Cay, Umbrella Cay and Walker's Cay. The Abacos have a long history of providing refuge from hectic life in the States. It was at Carleton Point, Abaco's first settlement, that 600 Loyalist refugees fleeing the newly-independent United States settled in 1783, and Grand Cay was once a favorite retreat of former US president Richard Nixon. If you're not cruising there's still plenty to do. You can visit the Pelican Cay National Park, an underwater preserve; or, the Abaco National Park, a 20,000 acre site in southern Abaco encompassing the nesting area and habitat of the Abaco Parrot. Or spend a quiet afternoon at the Albert Lowe Museum, a restored 150-year-old mansion that now houses exhibits on local history. In the Memorial Sculpture Gardens, busts of some 30 Bahamians, representing different Bahamian islands, stand in an elegant, tranquil garden setting. Elbow Cay, with beautiful beaches and fine hilltop views, is the proud home of a candy-striped lighthouse standing guard over a picture-book harbour. A guide will show you around and tell you how the lighthouse operates. Nearby Man-O-War Cay (named after the bird) has always depended on shipbuilding for its livelihood. Some boats are still handmade-without-plans in a tradition that has been passed down for centuries. The town here resembles a New England sea-side village, save for the palm trees and tropical breezes. The commercial hub of the islands and third largest town in The Bahamas is Marsh Harbour, on Great Abaco, which has a plethora of well-stocked stores and marinas that provide services to fulfill the boater's every need. There are relatively few green turtles remaining on Green Turtle Cay, but they are bred here on farms and considered food. On occasion, boiled turtle or turtle stew, will appear on restaurant menus. Be aware when purchasing items made from turtle shell that they may have to be left behind, as it is illegal to import these products into many countries. Treasure Cay has an 18-hole championship golf course, tennis courts, a marina and facilities for fishing, boating and scuba diving. Nearby Treasure Island has superb beaches. Walker's Cay is the northernmost island in The Bahamas. Its waters are overrun with gamefish like tuna, dolphin, blue marlin, billfish, and kingfish among others. Walker's Cay Undersea Adventures offers bonefishing, deep sea fishing, secluded island picnics, tours of the tropical fish hatchery, and cookouts for dive groups