With miles of idyllic deserted beaches – especially the 13 km (8-mile) pink sand beach – cerulean waters, word-class diving, snorkelling and fishing, beautiful rolling hills and rocky cliffs, Cat Island is considered to be one of the most beautiful islands of The Bahamas. And, as one of the least inhabited, it’s location ninety-five miles southeast of Nassau makes it the perfect destination for people looking for total, blissful seclusion.
Back in the days of Christopher Columbus, the island we know as Cat Island was called San Salvador, and was the first land in the New World he ‘discovered’. But in 1926, when a nearby island was renamed San Salvador the name Cat Island was restored. Of the many stories behind the name, the two most favoured by locals involve the pirate Arthur Catt, a contemporary of the notorious Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach, who returned so frequently to hide his plundered treasure that the name ‘Catt’s island’ stuck, and the fact that when seen from the air, the island resembles a cat sitting on its haunches.
The first European settlers – British Loyalists, fleeing the newly formed United States arrived with their slaves in 1783 and set to work establishing cotton plantations. Fortunately for the slaves, when the cotton industry failed they were freed and turned to farming peas, corn and potatoes, and later to growing pineapples
Today, many inhabitants practice traditional activities such as straw plaiting (weaving) hats and bags and are more than happy to demonstrate their skills to anyone travelling the single road, appropriately called Main Road, which runs the length of the island, between Arthur’s Town in the north and Port Howe in the south.
As well as the colourful handicrafts, the island’s beautiful churches and fascinating historical sites are all accessible from Main Road. And at Port Howe you can see the ruins of the Deveaux Mansion, a two-storey whitewashed building that was once the home of Col. Andrew Deveaux of the US Navy and given to him as a reward for recapturing Nassau from the Spaniards in 1783.
The Hermitage on Mount Alvernia
A great place to get away from it all, Mount Alvernia on Cat Island is the highest hill in The Bahamas. At 63m (206 feet) high it gives a full 360 panoramic view of the island with its lovely and almost never-ending pink and white sand beaches. The medieval style Hermitage that sits pituresquely on the summit was built in 1939 by Father Jerome who devoted his life to spreading the word of the church. He hand carved steps out of solid rock, representing the Stations of the Cross, and many other incredible works on the island including a chapel and bell towers. If you’re looking for solitude and some amazing view you’ll find them here.