There’s more to the 200 km (120-mile) necklace of islands and often uninhabited cays and beaches that form the Abacos than just great sailing and boating. There’s Marsh Harbour, the bustling capital of this island group, and Treasure Cay, both of which offer a wide range of small, family-run hotels and villas, superb restaurants and lively nightlife.
The outlying cays, nestling around these two thriving centres, are home to picture-perfect villages with quaint, white and pastel-coloured clapboard houses. On Elbow Cay, just a 20-minute water taxi ride from Marsh Harbour, you’ll discover the enchanting New England-style Hope Town, situated on an almost landlocked harbour and overlooked by a 37m (120-ft) candy-striped lighthouse – perhaps the most photographed sight in Abaco.
Green Turtle Cay ranks with Elbow Cay as one of the Abacos most important destinations. Take a water taxi from Treasure Cay to the main town of New Plymouth and again, with pretty clapboard houses surrounded by white picket fences, you could be back in New England.
For keen sailors, marinas abound throughout the cays, and many are the permanent home of numerous luxury yachts. In addition to sailing, fishing and diving are popular activities here. Deep-sea fishing generally takes place off the Abaco cays, where the drop-off from the reef to the Atlantic is steep, and the shallow marshy flats to the west of Great Abaco are ideal for bonefishermen.
Deep walls, reefs and a multitude of shipwrecks provide excellent diving territory right around the Abaco cays. Several excellent dive operators are located in Abaco, including Walker’s Cay Undersea Adventures, home of the spectacular Shark Rodeo.
Compared to their more popular neighbours Eleuthera, Exuma and Nassau, the Abacos remained largely unexplored until the late 18th century, when the non-Indian population began to grow on this small chain of islands.