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An Opinionated Guide To The Bahamas (Washington Post)
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Page 1 of 1Total of 1 messages
Posted by:Apr 8th 2005, 12:22:45 pm
Fig Tree News Team
An Opinionated Guide to the Bahamas

By Marvin Hunt

Sunday, February 27, 2005; Page P09

Not sure which Bahamian island to visit? Here's a primer on the most populated islands, with special attention to the Out Islands -- along with my admittedly biased recommendations of what type of traveler each is best for.

New Providence

CLAIM TO FAME: Home to Nassau, the capital city (population 181,000) and the Bahamas' center of commerce, government and tourism. Port of call for major cruise lines. Large hotels and resorts at Cable Beach and Paradise Island.

PROS: Casinos, shops, restaurants, golf courses, all types of water sports.

CONS: Casinos, shops, restaurants, golf courses and crowds of day-trippers from cruise ships. Did I mention traffic and noise?

BEST FOR: Gamblers, golfers, old-timers and young families, honeymooners and anyone who wants a convenient, insulated, all-inclusive experience.

NOT FOR: Travelers interested in authentic Bahamian culture, deserted beaches and eco-tourism.

Grand Bahama

CLAIM TO FAME: Freeport (population 49,000) is the second-largest city in the Bahamas. Major hotels and resorts line south-facing beach, some stretches of which are among the most beautiful in the country. Home to Lucayan National Park (site of the world's longest known underwater cave and cavern system) and the Rand Nature Center.

PROS: Casinos, shops, restaurants, golf courses, fishing and excellent nature preserves. Acres of pine forests home to interesting bird life.

CONS: Casinos, shops, restaurants, golf courses and crowds of tourists on packaged, inclusive vacations.

BEST FOR: Gamblers, singles looking for singles, honeymooners, families interested in all-inclusive deals.

NOT FOR: People in search of an unsanitized Bahamian experience who don't want manufactured amusement.

Great Abaco

CLAIM TO FAME: Abaco and its cays were settled in the 1780s by Loyalist planters fleeing the newly formed United States in the wake of the American Revolution. Abaco has a very Anglo-American feel to it.

PROS: Spectacular beaches and Anglo-American culture, especially in the offshore cays. Hope Town on Elbow Cay and New Plymouth on Green Turtle are beautiful villages of colonial architecture offering a wide range of amenities, accommodations, restaurants and shops, and lovely beaches.

CONS: Time pressure. Ferry schedules from mainland Abaco to its cays require that you arrive no later than mid-afternoon, so as to catch the last ferry runs of the day. Marsh Harbour and the more populous cays, Elbow and Green Turtle, may be too crowded for some.

BEST FOR: Families, beachcombers, honeymooners, snorkelers, divers, anglers.

NOT FOR: People looking for bargain vacations or who like a lot of glitz, although Marsh Harbour gets down after dark.

Eleuthera and Harbour Island

CLAIM TO FAME: The oldest post-Columbian settlement in the Bahamas, Dunmore Town on Harbour Island dates from the mid-17th century. It's a pristine, flower-strewn village of whitewashed churches at the corners of streets lined with small hurricane-shuttered buildings that are centuries old. The most luxurious destination in the Out Islands. Nearby Eleuthera is 110 miles of stunning beaches linking small settlements, notably Gregory Town, Governor's Harbour and Rock Sound. The cliffs north of Whale Point Road offer the most dramatic vistas in the Bahamas, but they are challenging and dangerous -- no easement, guides, trails or rails.

PROS: A real travel experience in myriad forms.

CONS: Harbour Island is very expensive.

BEST FOR: Nearly everybody. Between Harbour Island and Eleuthera, there's a situation to satisfy virtually every traveler.

NOT FOR: People requiring physical assistance.

San Salvador

CLAIM TO FAME: The most likely site of Columbus's first landfall in the New World in October 1492; known for its beautiful lighthouse, one of the oldest in the Bahamas, and its resident iguanas.

PROS: Superb diving and trophy fishing. Grotto Beach, about 15 miles south of the main settlement of Cockburn (pronounced "Coburn") Town, is the most beautiful stretch of sand and water I've seen in the Bahamas.

CONS: Not easy to get to. There is a Club Med and a private hotel near Cockburn Town, but little else.

BEST FOR: Divers, anglers and people who like small, quiet, out-of-the-way places promising an intense experience.

NOT FOR: People requiring medical attention; families with small children.

Long Island

CLAIM TO FAME: Beautiful beaches; Father Jerome's churches in Clarence Town; the world's deepest Blue Hole(600 feet) near Deadman's Cay; Long Island Museum.

PROS: Great beauty, few tourists. To me, Long Island is the loveliest island in the Bahamas. A steep ridge forms a spine down the middle of the island, both sides sloping down to beaches virtually abandoned and drop-dead gorgeous.

CONS: No shopping, cinema or fancy restaurants. Only two proper resorts -- both superb in their own way -- at Stella Maris and Cape Santa Maria, both at the north end.

BEST FOR: People who love remote places; private pilots, divers, adventurous types.

NOT FOR: People requiring lots of amenities; families with small children.

Great Inagua

CLAIM TO FAME: Morton Salt Works; Inagua National Park.

PROS: Birding. Nearly half of Inagua, the southernmost island in the Bahamas and the least developed, is taken up by Inagua National Park, home to the world's largest concentration of West Indian flamingos. During the November-to-January nesting season, about 50,000 of them perform elaborate mating dances, and the skies turn pink with flamingos on the wing. Dozens of other magnificent species, notably Bahama parrots, are permanent or transient here. Day passes to the park, obtainable through the Bahamas National Trust, cost a mere $25.

CONS: Finding a place to stay in Matthew Town requires some work. The Morton Main House, the best choice, is often booked weeks or months in advance. There are mom and pop eateries, a liquor store and a bank, but little else besides the enormous salt works of Morton Bahamas, the island's only industry. Wild donkeys, feral hogs and seed cattle vastly outnumber Inaguans.

BEST FOR: Bird lovers; people seeking someplace rugged and remote.

NOT FOR: Many, if not most, types of travelers.

Great Exuma

CLAIM TO FAME: Beautiful beaches, ruined plantations with slave quarters, yachting, fishing and diving; host of the Family Island Regatta in April.

PROS: George Town, the major settlement on Great Exuma, is cosmopolitan and well-provisioned. It is peopled by well-heeled, international visitors from yachts docked in one of the finest anchorages in the Caribbean, the harbor separating Great Exuma and Stocking Island. Good restaurants and the best nightlife in the southern Bahamas.

CONS: Exuma's top beaches are not within walking distance of George Town. It's well worth renting a car to reach them and other interesting sites.

BEST FOR: Anglers, divers, sailors and a wide variety of travelers, from those seeking a comfortable retreat among tropical splendor to those who want to explore Bahamian history and culture.

NOT FOR: People in poor health.


CLAIM TO FAME: The largest island in the Bahamas, Andros is flanked on the eastern Atlantic side by the world's third-largest barrier reef system and on the western side by miles of flats, probably the best bonefishing grounds in the world. Vast pine forests and blue holes characterize the interior.

PROS: A paradise for divers, anglers and explorers. Red Bays, the only settlement on thewestern side, was founded by Seminole and Creek Indians fleeing Andrew Jackson's Indian Wars in the 19th century. This is one of the most unusual places in the Bahamas. At the northern tip is lovely Nicholl's Town and Morgan's Bluff, site of a 17th-century pirate base.

CONS: No nightlife, very little shopping.

BEST FOR: Anglers and divers, adventurers and people seeking a retreat amid peace and quiet.

NOT FOR: People who prefer reality television to reality; families with small children.


CLAIM TO FAME: The western point of the Bermuda Triangle. The Bimini Road, an underwater stone formation that is reputedly the ruins of the sunken city of Atlantis, is a mandatory destination for divers and snorkelers; Ponce de Leon's "Fountain of Youth" on South Bimini is worth noting. The closest Bahamian island to the United States (50 miles from Florida), Bimini is small and crowded but rich in history, having gained fame as the workplace of bootleggers during Prohibition and drug dealers during the 1970s and '80s. Ernest Hemingway lived here in the 1930s.

PROS: Fishing, boating, snorkeling, diving, drinking and a colorful history. Some shopping and above-average dining.

CONS: Crowds, boorish drunks, aggressive boaters.

BEST FOR: Anglers, divers and boaters seeking the easiest access to the Bahamas from the United States.

NOT FOR: Agoraphobics.

2005 The Washington Post Company

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