Monthly Archives: September 2011

Abaco Day 7 – Hope Town to Great Guana Cay

One of the best things about laid-back Great Guana is that it’s a large island with virtually no “must sees” or “must dos.” Barely 150 people permanently inhabit this cay. Yet, six miles of spectacular, wide, untouched beach fringed with palm trees sports a reef just 50 feet offshore. There’s good swimming, snorkeling and beachcombing. Plus a few eateries, some provisioning options, and infamous Nippers Beach Bar.

Great Guana has two side-by-side harbors – Fisher’s Bay and Settlement Harbour. Fisher’s Bay has moorings maintained by Dive Guana. Just inside Settlement Harbour – on the south side protected by a breakwater – is spiffy Orchid Bay Marina ($2.25/foot – cash or credit card)

Orchid Bay Marina is an upscale complex of four buildings, topped by pyramid-shaped roofs, edged with verandas populated with Adirondack-style rockers and picnic tables. 32 slips it in nine feet of water, with 50 and 30 amp power, ice, laundry and showers, a pool, a small clothing shop in the office plus weather service, Wi-Fi, Fax, FedEx and UPS & recycling bins! They also have the best heads in the Abacos each with three private showers with dressing rooms.

The marina can also arrange scuba trips. and rent golf carts ($25 for three hours). The mostly windows Orchid Bay Restaurant & Bar (Tues-Sun 11am-9pm) serves lunch and dinner.

The Great Guana Cay settlement is tiny but the surrounding island has met some developers who just couldn’t resist that beach – and the local residents, not too happy about the incursion and the resulting tourist boom, have been hanging their objections on the potentially negative environmental impact of the development. The biggest issue is over the former cruise ship landing that is now being developed as the Baker’s Bay Club. This has been pretty much resolved, but protest signs still abound and the local committee is now talking to the Bahamian Court of Appeals. In the meantime, Bakers Bay promises six miles of waterfront, an 18-hole golf course and 300 houses – take a drive around to understand the objection.

Guana Harbour Grocery (8am-5:30pm) is good for topping off the larder (especially on “freight days” – Thursdays & Fridays) as is Fig Tree Wines. A favorite, the Arts Café & Bakery is now closed (and for sale for $1.6 million!). A small stand on the main “street” sells fresh produce and hand-made jewelry.

Word has it that the very best conch salad in all of Abaco can be found at a home-based little stand in front of Miss Luv’s Kitchen “Bess on the Island” – which also serves three meals a day “all tings Bahamian.” Alas, it been closed each time we’ve visited, so we are unable to confirm its highly favorable press. And this last time (early Spring ’08), it was closed again – word is that it may re-open summer ’08.

Other food possibilities include Orchid Bay at the marina, Docksiders Grill, formerly called Blue Water Grill (242/365-5137) on Fishers’ Bay serves dinner only (entrees $26-44) and also has a dinghy dock. Grabbers at Sunset Beach near the ferry dock (entrees Lunch $8-16, Dinner $22-38) is a popular, casual spot (242/365-5133)

Dive Guana (242/365-5178) is a full service dive shop, and also organizes snorkel trips and rents bikes, kayaks and paddle boats. Golf carts might be rentable from Donna Sands at Guana Cay Rentals (242/365-5195) on the north side of the village or from Orchid Bay. Virtually everyone responds to a hail on Channel 16.

But the world-famous attraction on Great Guana Nipper’s Beach Bar & Grill…..

Abaco Day 6 – Hope Town Lay Day – Things To Do

Hope Town offers a plethora of things to do in gracious, pretty surroundings: Go deep sea fishing or flats fishing. Sign up for a dive or snorkel boat trip. Camp for the day on the talcum-powder beach. Swim in one of the pools. Snorkel the Hope Town reef right from the beach. Surf in White Sound (3 miles south, the Atlantic offers 6 of the best breaks in the Bahamas). Shop – start at Iggy Biggy our favorite. Wander. Relax. Read .…

Snorkel & Dive Shops:

Froggies Out Island Adventures, Hope Town 242-366-0431

Dive Abaco Marsh Harbour 242-367-2787

Abaco Dive Adventures Marsh Harbour 242-367-2963

Sport fish offshore for marlin, sailfish, dolphin (also known as mahi-mahi) Wahoo, tuna and more. Reef and bottom fish for grouper, snapper, and yellow tail. Or test your patience with bone fishing on the flats. See the fishing regs at the end of this guide. The Bahamas takes its protection and conservation laws very seriously – and ignorance is no excuse.

Fishing Guides:

Maitland Lowe “Bonefish Dundee” Bone Fishing/Reef Fishing/Bottom Fishing 242-366-0033, 366-0234

Robert Lowe “Seagull” Deep-Sea Fishing 242-366-0266

Ira Key “A Salt Weapon” Deep-Sea Fishing 242-366-0245

Truman Major “Lucky Strike” Deep-Sea Fishing/Reef Fishing 242-366-0101

Will Key “Day’s Catch” Reef Fishing/Snorkeling/Sightseeing 242-366-0059

Michael Schreiner “Down Deep” Deep-Sea Fishing 242-366-3143

Jay Sawyer “The Marls of Abaco Inn” Deep-Sea Fishing/Bone Fishing 242-367-3941

Golf Cart & Bike Rentals :

Hope Town Cart Rentals 242-366-0064

Island Cart Rentals 242-366-0448

T&N Cart Rentals 242-366-0069

JR Cart Rentals 242-242-366-0361

The Bike Shop 242-366-0292

Sundried T’s 242-366-0616 (bikes and surf board rentals)

Abaco Day 6 – Hope Town Lay Day – Dining Options

There are a surprisng number of easy to get to eateries stretched out along Elbow Cay from the the northe end of the village sout to White Sound. And everything is accessible by dinghy, van or golf cart.

From north to south:

Cap’n Jack’s (242/366-0247) is Hope Town’s other waterfront eatery – a casual down home atmosphere, it’s a little closer to the harbor’s mouth. On Wednesday and Friday nights, there is usually live music. A dock is adjacent to the outdoor, covered deck. Lunch & Dinner $9-$22

Harbour’s Edge (242/366-0087) is probably the most popular restaurant in Hope Town. Its blue clapboard house sits on a pier above the water – an inviting, open air dining room sprawls to the waterside deck that doubles as a dock. Reserve on Channel 16 or by cell; then tie up the dink right next to your table. Lunch $10-18, Dinner $15-40. (also has a pool table)

Club Soleil (242/366-0003) Small snack bar.

Hope Town Harbour Lodge (242/366-0095) has itsown dock topped by a brightly colored pergola and poulated with pastel Adirondack chairs. HTHL serves breakfast on their Upper Terrace from 7-10am ($8.50-12), lunch at the Reef Bar next to their fresh water pool ($ 7-12), and dinner on the Terrace or in the cozy rattan furnished dining room ($20-38).

Munchies Take Away (242/366-0423) – across from Vernon’s

On Da’ Beach (242/366-0558) – casual beach shack that serves from 11:30-6pm. Appetizers, sandwiches, salads and kabobs. $5-10

Abaco Inn (242/366-0133) is ocean front in White Sound. For light lunches ($8-12) or fine dining at dinner ($15-35). They will send a van to Hope Town harbor to pick up customers. Just radio for reservations. They serve breakfast, too.

Sea Spray Boat House Restaurant (242/366-0065) also in White Sound, Sea Spray serves casual breakfast and lunch around the pool at the Garbonzo Reef Bar and traditional Bahamian dinners in their waterside eatery.

Abaco Day 6 – Hope Town Lay Day

Founded in 1785, by Loyalists, Hope Town’s red and white candy-cane lighthouse, totally protected harbor and picturesque streets make it the poster child for the Abaco archipelago.

If you’re feeling energetic, begin the day with a tour of the still active 1863 Elbow Reef Lighthouse – a short walk from the marinas on the western shore. The structure launches a beam that can be seen for nearly twenty miles; and the 101 steps really demand to be climbed – with a camera. At the top is a massive 140-year-old rotating Fresnel lens floating in mercury with a small kerosene-fueled mantle – powered by a mechanism that is weighted by pirate’s cannon balls. The views extend as far as the beam – out past Parrot Cay on the sea side plus an aerial view of the harbor. Awesome pictures are guaranteed.

Next dinghy across the harbor and land at either the southern Public Dock in front of the Clinic and Post Office. Or the northern Public Dock. Stroll Back Street, the upper of the two village lanes that parallel the harbor. Lovingly restored brightly colored structures, dripping with Bougainvillea and edged with white picket fences, house shops, private homes, galleries and B&Bs. The narrow side-walk-like streets are designed for walkers and golf carts – with nary a car in sight.

Well-stocked Harbour View Grocery also boasts its own dock, and if they don’t have what you need, Vernon’s Grocery and his Upper Crust Bakery – likely will. If your boat needs a sugar fix – try one of Vernon’s pies (especially the Key Lime). On Back Street, just beyond Vernon’s look for a home-made blue sign advertising “Fresh Fish.” Turn east down the side street to the blue and white house. A knock on the door may bring Alan Albury, the fisherman himself, who will tell you what’s fresh that day – If it’s conch and you’re planning to build your own conch slad, Mr Albury may add a few fresh tomatoes picked right from his garden.

Near by is the entrance to North Beach – a favorite for surfing the waves and Iggy Biggy with the fun cartoony signs. We have found this a great stop for souveniers, gifts, island jewelry and pottery from the only studio in the archipelago.

Even if your or your kids are not museum fans, the compelling Wyannie Malone Historical Museum is worth a quick stop (Mon-Sat, 10am-3pm). Docented by a knowledgeable and passionate American transplant, the exhibits and artifacts help to decipher the history of the village and the larger archipelago. The double building is modeled after a early Hope Town residence and the upper floor is furnished as it would have been in the 19th century – including children’s rooms.

On the first floor are photo montages of early Abaco life, on the native Lucayan Indians and some quiet exhibits on the artifacts collected by the infamous wreckers. Just like Key West, Hope Town owes some of its early affluence to a group of locals who enticed passing vessels with false signals to make them crash on the rocks and reef – and then salvaged the cargo.

Head south along the upper roadway, back toward Hope Town Harbour Lodge Resort – consider just pulling up a poolside chaise for the day or making camp at their ocean beach. If you’d rather try something new, one of the public beach entrances, marked by a gazebo, is just beyond HTHL. From either entrance, you will find a sweep of gorgeous, pink powder ocean beach that is protected by an offshore live coral reef. To snorkel, just swim a mere thirty feet out to the reef.

Nearby is the above-ground Settlement Cemetery with spectacular views of the ocean.

Abaco Day 5 – Tilloo Cay to Elbow Cay (Hope Town)

Sail north toward Elbow Cay and the charming, picturesque village of Hope Town. If you missed Tahiti Beach on Sunday, there might be time to drop a lunch hook and take a swim. It’s only accessible by boat, foot or bike. Many consider it the most beautiful beach in all Abaco. It is certianly very pretty – with its bank of palms and lush views but most beautiful? Maybe not. ….

Another option would be to stop in White Sound on the southern end of Elbow Cay for lunch. Ruth Albury’s Sea Spray Resort & Marina, in the harbor’s southern corner, may have a short term “dock ‘n dine” opening for their Boat House Restaurant or their pool-side Garbonzo Reef Bar. White Sound is also home to the Abaco Inn which sits at the edge of the dunes over looking wild Garbanzo Beach – known for its surf breaks. (Note: there’s no anchorage in the harbor – it’s a dock or nothing).

Alternatively, sail alongside the 6-mile long cay and head straight for Hope Town’s 120 foot red and white candy cane light house. Pass the lighthouse and carefully follow the boomerang entrance channel. Watch the depths and the tides – this can be a little dicey. The “Slow down, You’re in Hope Town” sign announces your arrival in the main harbor.

On the harbor’s west side are the three marinas, which all offer transient dockage. It is possible to walk from one marina to the next – and to the lighthouse. But, access to the village requires crossing the harbor by dinghy.

The first is Lighthouse Marina just below the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. 6 slips can accommodate LOAs to 60 ft. with up to 6 ft drafts and 30 & 50 amp service. Fueling stations dispense gas and diesel. Marine store with Tshirts and sandals, bait & tackle, Basic boat yard services with a mechanic on duty Mon-Fri. Plus heads, showers ($4 each) and laundry ($4 tokens). Hope Town Wine & Spirits is also here. Rates: $1/foot/night, 50amp $14, 30 amp $10, Water $0.25/gal., Ice – block or cubes $4. (242)366-0154

The second is Hope Town Marina at Club Soleil Resort. A low slung pink building marks the casually maintained facility. 16-slips can manage boats to 100 ft. LOA with up to 7.5 ft drafts and 30 & 50 amp service. And boats up to 45 ft. on moorings. The snack bar dispenses ice cream, drinks and light fare. And a small two-story motel with six rooms and two-bedroom apartments backs a simple fresh-water pool. Plus heads, showers and laundry. Rates: Dockage – $1/foot/night, 50amp $15, 30 amp $8, Moorings – $20/night). Water $0.25/gal., Ice – block or cubes $4 (242) 366-0003

The third is Hope Town Hideaways Marina. Impeccable docks front a pretty, manicured resort with flower edged walkways, loggias, and and inviting pool overlooking the harbor. 12 slips can manage vessles to 70 ft LOA up to 7 ft drafts with 30 & 50 amp service. Heads, showers, and a laundry room with internet station. 242-366-0224

Every where in this transplanted New England village is easily accessible by dinghy. The island is only a quarter mile wide at its beamiest point – and six miles form stem to stern. The preferred mode of transport is the golf cart – but, unfortunately, none of the three agencies will rent for any period shorter than a week in high season. In the next post, you will find their phone numbers; perhaps at the last minute, they might have a change of heart. But, note, the same rules that apply to rental cars apply to golf carts – they require a drivers license that proves you are over 25-years-old. Makes for a lot of very unhappy kids!

Tuesday afternoon we headed straight across the harbor and tied up the dink at the most southern dinghy dock – a fanciful turquoise affair lined with comfortable, colorful Adirondack-style chairs. The sign said Hope Town Harbor Lodge. We walked up the steps and across the road. You can’t miss it – the sherbet colors and fanciful filigree evoke echoes of “da plane, da plane.” Have a drink or two at the Reef Bar & Grille. The comfortable tables and chairs sit beneath a portico between the pool and the bluff overlooking the Atlantic beach – a perfect place to enjoy the reflected sunset. You can either stay put and eat there if it’s lunch time or move inside to the more formal Upper Terrace dining room.