Introduction to Central and South Abaco
by Susie & Al, Bahama Palm Shores, Abaco
From Sandy's Estabrook's AbacoEscape.com a Guide to the Abacos off the Beatin Path

Central and South Abaco

The vast majority of folks who come to Abaco never visit and explore central and south Abaco and it's easy to see why.

There are very few restaurants, only a few small lodges (with the exception of Winding Bay which we will describe), just a few small grocery stores and a few private homes for rent. The drive from Marsh Harbour Airport to the southern tip of the island is quite unappealing to the untrained eye: mile after mile of Bahamian pine forests punctuated by abandoned logging roads. There are no marinas (as yet) and only two small gas stations in a span of over 50 miles.

But to the cognoscenti, this is one of the most beautiful, peaceful and magical places on earth. This is home to spectacular underwater caves and blue holes, miles and miles of deserted beaches, seemingly endless treasure troves of mangroves teeming with a huge variety of fish, home to the Abaco parrots, flats where the water looks like you can walk on the backs of hundreds of bonefish, gin clear waters that suddenly turn a deep bluish-black as the water depth plunges from 18 feet to several thousand and deep sea fishing that's only minutes from shore. It is also the nesting grounds of the Man-o-War birds and many others, wild boar in "the bush" and tidal pools - teeming with Queen Triggerfish - bordered by wild lilies on stark-white rocks.

It is home to quiet settlements where the folks are self reliant and real fishermen live and work, and you can still find folks skilled in true Bahamian craftsmanship from plait weaving to real Bahamian cooking to woodworking. Here you will also find churches built by hand and everyone is welcome.

In short, it is The Bahamas in her still truly natural state, yet the biggest town in all of Abaco can be reached by car, albeit a bit of a ride.

If You Have A Week And Want To Do It Right...

You could, of course, rent a house on one of our wonderful beaches and simply, truly relax in the sand, sun and pure, beautiful waters. Or, stay in one of our lodges and catch monster bonefish all day long. But if you really want to experience this place, you will need:

High clearance, preferably 4WD pickup truck Dinghy, canoe or kayak 17 foot (minimum) boat Good hiking boots Machete

We'll start our tour at the southernmost point and slowly work our way north to Marsh Harbour.

Sandy Point - Bonefish Heaven This is a very old, quiet settlement with a couple of restaurants, a few very small stores and one gas station that may or may not be open, and may or may not have gas! There is one small lodge that real bonefishermen love, because the fishing here is among the best in the world. You can buy fresh fish caught to order (really!) and conch and crawfish from the local fishermen at very reasonable prices if you don't fish yourself.

There is a major dock here where you can catch the fast ferry to Nassau. On August 1st, it is also the place where several "mother" ships set off for the annual crawfishing season, each towing about a dozen smaller boats to the fertile fishing grounds off the Berry Islands, Bimini and elsewhere.

If you like shelling, pull over from the main road as it makes a 90 degree turn about 3 miles from the settlement. Walk east (away from the settlement) and soon your bag will be filled with a gorgeous assortment of shells. If you have a dinghy, kayak or canoe, launch it there and again go east hugging the shore. Crawfish are teeming here and about 2 miles up there is a freshwater creek that holds monster snapper and other game fish. In season watch for the tarpon: they are big here!

50 Mile Road - Stunning Wild Beauty

A huge section of South Abaco is a National Park, and 50 Road is in its heart. This is a magnificent place to see the rugged Atlantic pounding on and over miles and miles of reef that protect about 10 miles of completely deserted beaches.

There's a magnificent spot called "White Rocks" that boasts beautiful wild lilies inexplicably teeming on top of chalk white rocks. These rocks have been carved and shaped by the Atlantic to form tidal pools. Here you will find massive Queen Triggerfish flashing their colors in the crystal clear water. (Please don't fish for them; take photos and memories and nothing else so others can enjoy).

You can see the famous lighthouse from here, and if you're in good shape, walk all the way down but it's a real hike. We love to go here for the shelling (awesome), the views and the solitude. We always bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it.

To get here, take the main highway about 45 miles south of Marsh Harbour and enter the road to the Park. Caution: this road is pretty rough and no rental cars are allowed.

Hole-In-The-Wall

This landmark is also located in the National Park. The road leading to the world-famous lighthouse which was built in 1865 is, frankly, lousy! It will typically take you about 45 minutes to an hour once you leave the main highway, but it's definitely worth it. As you carefully drive through the Park, take your time to turn off the engine and listen for the unmistakable cackling and squawking of the Abaco Parrots, who nest here. You may run into a small bird watching group, whale watchers or a few hunters in search of wild boar.

Definitely walk to the top of the lighthouse for a wonderful panoramic view of the southern tip of the island. Go down to the old landing site (still visible) and explore the caves. Try your hand at fishing here (but make sure you have really good equipment and that's all we'll say about that)!

Crossing Rocks -The Home of Real Fishermen

This is a small settlement that was nearly wiped out by Hurricane Floyd as all the original homes were very close to the beautiful beach. Here you can meet some of the very best fishermen in all The Bahamas, ladies who are expert plait weavers and some very, very colourful preachers! There's not much for a typical tourist here, but if you're looking for a wonderful Sunday morning church service, drive to the ocean any Sunday morning and worship with a joyous congregation. You will be warmly welcomed and might even be lucky enough to get invited to someone's home for a mouthwatering Bahamian-Sunday meal.

Long Beach - The Golf Course That Almost Was

Originally conceived as a golf course community, it now is a residential development. The beach is gorgeous, but the currents and undertow are quite strong, suitable only for very good swimmers. The fishing is excellent but conditions are usually pretty tough.

Cross Road - Gateway To The Marls

There's a very good boat ramp located on the narrowest part of Abaco. Launch your boat, canoe or kayak here and in minutes you're in fishing heaven. BE CAREFUL! Even experienced locals have gotten lost in the Marls, so please go with someone who knows what they're doing for your first trip out.

There's a unique beach hidden in the Marls that boasts fine dark brown sand and plays host to giant crabs that are delicious. A bit further in you will find the nesting place for the Man-o-War birds. You'll never find it unless a local takes you there.

Schooner Bay - An Eco-Friendly Community

Schooner Bay used to be one of our favorite spots to swim, fish and beachcomb. A new development is under construction, and unlike other recent developments - it is wholeheartedly welcomed by all the locals. A deep water marina is almost complete and the first private homes are being built. The developer has a long, excellent reputation in The Bahamas and no, there won't be a golf course, nor a gate. You can still reach the beach by boat or 4WD pickup truck.

Delphi Club - Excellent Food and Fishing Lodge

Located on Rolling Harbour, the Delphi Club is an eight room high end lodge primarily for fishermen with money! It's a world-class operation and if you're into bonefishing you can't go wrong. They also offer excellent dinners for the public and we can highly recommend it for an upscale evening.

Sawmill Blue Hole - Fossil Treasure Repositor

This was the first blue hole that was thoroughly explored and revealed the stunning underwater caves that hold perfectly preserved remains of fossils thousands of years old. If you are a serious diver, check out the National Geographic special - "Bahamas Blue Holes" - for a complete description and photographs. These dives are only for highly experienced cave divers. There are miles of connected underwater caves that are unique in the world. Due to their sensitivity, we won't reveal the locations of the larger caves. If you're interested and serious, we'll put you in touch with the right folks.

Bahama Palm Shores - AKA High Banks

This is a residential area and is also the home to hundreds of Abaco parrots. The beach is great and there are only 18 homes on eight miles of beach. The area is a great mix of locals, ex-pats and second homeowners. There is no boat ramp here, but we have an agreement with Casuarina Point to use theirs. Most of us have boats, canoes, dinghies, kyaks and/or Hobie Cats to enjoy the area.

Casuarina Point - Serenity Defined

This is a peaceful little settlement that offers canal access to the deep water, a beautiful little beach and a short wade to some truly world-class bonefishing. At low tide you can almost walk straight to Cherokees Sound on a sandbar bursting with sand dollars. As an added bonus, two of the best fishing guides live there.

Freddie's Cut - Central Marls Access

Just north of the Neem farm is an old logging road that leads to the central Marls. We like to throw the dinghy in the back of the pickup truck and head there for a day of awesome fishing and sightseeing. In all the years we've been here, we've only met 2 people doing the same thing. Wild boar, heron, egrets and many more species are abundant, as are the fish.

Cherokee Sound -- Home of The Long Dock

This is another old settlement where the homes are perfectly maintained and the yards manicured. Easy access to the deep water as well as flats make this an ideal place for the avid fisherman. The folks who live here are the very definition of self-reliance and it seems that just about everyone can do just about anything from fishing and hunting to engine repair to master carpentry to farming! We like to walk on the Long Dock to view seemingly endless flats and enjoy locally made foods for a casual lunch.

Winding Bay - Gated, Upscale and Golf

This is a private development located on one of the best beaches in The Bahamas. It has a Scottish style 4 star golf course open to members only. If you have a lot of money and like golf, tennis and a private beach this is the place for you!

Little Harbour - Eclectic, Casual and Fun

Pete's Pub is a little restaurant where shoes are frowned upon, the drinks are ice cold and the daily fish specials simply can't be beat. It can be reached by boat or car (the roads are OK for rentals) and the food as well as the world famous art gallery make it a great way to spend a lazy afternoon. If you walk 50 feet from the restaurant you can simultaneously see the rugged Atlantic pounding the shoreline and the glimmering, perfectly protected bay.

Snake Cay - Fishing and Easy Access to Pelican Cays and Creeks

Launch your boat, canoe, kayak or dinghy here and head out to either the beautiful creeks southward or east to the Pelican Cays. We like to take our boat into the creeks and reach tiny, perfect beaches for swimming, sunning and a picnic.

If you only have a day, we'd highly recommend renting a car and reaching Cherokee Sound, Pete's Pub and Casuarina to at least get a feel of what this wonderful place is all about.