La Dolce Vita
Strictly Pleasure, Endless Love
The yachts bobbing at the Abaco Beach Resort(800-468-4799; www.abacoresort.com) in theAbaco Islands (www.abacos.com; www.oii.net)symbolize, perhaps, the spirit of this little island group inthe outer banks of the Bahamas. is paintedon one stern, and , andare on others. They refer to the good life.The serenity of the boat owners spills over the entireresort. Boaters are drawn by some of the best diving andarguably the finest sport fishing in the world. Blue marlin,bonefish, tuna, amberjack, grouper, and wahoomake Abaco their playground.
Although Marsh Harbour has only one traffic light, itis the largest town on Abaco and the third largest in theBahamas. It's only 55 minutes by air from the coast ofFlorida. The two islands, Little and Great Abaco, and the16 or so cays (pronounced "keys") that comprise thebulk of the Abaco Islands are subject to little of the glitzytourism that brings crowds to Freeport for the gamblingor Nassau for the shopping. That's the way Abaco wantsit. And once visitors pass the crowded Indiana Jones-styleairport, more suited to the 1930s than today's air traffic,they find the Abacos a calm and content experience.
Indeed, a sign on the dock at Man-O-War Cayclaims: "There is no other place like this place, near thisplace. So?this must be ‘the place.'" Asked why sheloves the Abacos, Michele Steegstra, an island enthusiast,answers, "We're a world away, but close to home.We speak your language, you've no problem with thecurrency, and there's really no crime." Peter Johnston, alocal sculptor, adds, "This is a land of flamboyant colorsand a proud and happy people."
Visitors who come to unwind, but want to explore,can easily reach hotels on the far side of the outerbanks or choose the Abaco Beach Resort. The resorthas added wireless hot spots for Internet access andallows guests to use a computer in its lounge. Locatedon the water with a central location in Marsh Harbourand a $10, 20-minute taxi ride from the airport, theconvenient resort has a front desk that can seeminglyarrange any activity for its guests. Be sure to have a biteat Angler's, its award-winning restaurant.
Other resort choices include the Bluff HouseBeach Hotel & Yacht Club (800-745-4911; www.bluffhouse.com) on Green Turtle Cay and the AbacoInn (800-468-8799) on Elbow Cay. Both have excellentrestaurants, and, due to the friendly cooperationamong resorts, if you're staying at the Abaco BeachResort, it will arrange a boat to take you to either spotfor lunch. Another option is to rent a houseboat (866-584-3315; www.abacoislands.org). Cruise along theislands and rest at sea.
The attractions on the Abacos, easily reached by cabor boat, include the 5-mile ferry ride to Green Turtle Cayto check out the Albert Lowe Museum, the SculptureGarden, the Old Jail, and Vert Lowe's Model Ship Shop.Many of its population of 450 are descendants ofLoyalists who left the Carolinas in 1783 after the UnitedStates won the Revolutionary War. Only a few surnamesexist in this cay: Sawyer, Curry, Lowe, Albury, andMcIntosh predominate. Observers will sometimes stopsomeone to point out, "You have McIntosh eyes."
Other days, you'll want to hire a boat and visitMan-O-War Cay, the capital of the Bahamas' boatbuilding for 200 years. Chat with its 300 inhabitants,such as the boat builder Willard Albury, who startedhis craft at age 14 more than 50 years ago, or the carpenterEmerson Albury, who, at age 84, is still creatingbeautiful rocking chairs of Caribbean Pine.
New England-style clapboard houses and picketfences recall the heritage of Elbow Cay, which wassettled by Loyalists in 1785. Its candy cane 1863lighthouse, the most photographed object in theBahamas, ended the wrecking industry that onceallowed locals to eke out a living before this happypeople discovered the joys of tourism.