Where to Eat, Drink, Sleep and Explore in the Abacos, Bahamas – UPROXX | Gmx Pharm

When I think of epic summer adventures, I picture crystal blue waters, towering palm trees, potent cocktails and soft sand beneath my bare feet. In short, I dream of the paradises I see on postcards or in movies. But these dreamy places often don’t really materialize – even on the best of trips.

So, as you can imagine, when I found such a perfect postcard spot earlier this summer, my first instinct was to tell everyone I knew about it… but also to keep it absolutely secret. Because the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas are literally a gateway to paradise. The kind that makes you sing her praises and be silent.

A little background: The Abacos are a 120-mile long chain of small islands and bays in the Bahamas. One of the world’s premier boating and sailing destinations, the archipelago has long been a haven for connoisseurs – a respite from the busier and more visited islands of the Bahamas. With a population of just over 17,000, the chain feels laid-back at every turn, but still offers plenty to do with your days aside from just sprawling out on the sand. And after Hurricane Dorian (then the pandemic) dealt a major blow in 2019, the region is once again open to business and eager for tourism.

This means that it would not help anyone to remain silent about my “discovery”. So get ready for me to sing some serious praise because this place is something special. This is where you should eat, drink, sleep and explore the Abacos, Bahamas.

PART I – Where to Eat

Emil Hart

This was my first visit to the Bahamas and I was anxiously awaiting the island cuisine and all the clams. I was not disappointed to say the least. On my first day in Abaco, I stayed on Great Abaco Island and did the short hike to Little Harbour. Tucked away down a long and totally nondescript dirt lane I found Pete’s Pub and Gallery – a true hidden gem. Located directly on the sand, the pub is a classic beach bar. I had a lobster and shrimp wrap which I enjoyed on the beach before taking my drink into the water for a swim.

Remember when I mentioned “all shells” – well, I wasn’t kidding. Conch is a true Bahamian specialty. The traditional dish of the Bahamas, it wasn’t hard to find conch salad, conch fritters or really anything conch wherever I went.

clam salad
Emil Hart

But if you want the royal treatment, you have to visit Kow’s Conch Stand at Abaco Fish Fry. Owner Jade “Kow” Adderley is a master of conch salad – a local delicacy I was dying to try. He famously prepared conch salad with Prince William and Kate Middleton during their tour of the island earlier this year, and I have to say this dish is fit for royalty.

clam salad
Emil Hart

This was my first but not my last conch salad. A combination of raw mussel meat, vegetables, oranges and lime juice – it’s unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. Check out these clam donuts:

The bistro
Emil Hart

There is no shortage of casual dining on an island, but I was also pleasantly surprised to find some great fine dining during my trip. My favorite was the bistro at Abaco Beach Resort. In fact, I had dinner here twice and exceeded my expectations both times. The first night I enjoyed a wedge salad and crab cakes, which were fresh and just the lightness I wanted.

the bistro
Emil Hart

The next night I happily attended a dinner with a unique tasting menu. Chef Deja Rutherford pulled out the stops with a lobster tempura appetizer, an incredible seared snapper with a coconut curry veloute main and a chocolate hazelnut core banana fritter for dessert. I was blown away by each dish and only wish there were more courses.

PART II – Where to drink

Sunset Abaco wine
Emil Hart

When I travel (and when I’m at home) I’m almost exclusively a wine drinker. Perhaps out of habit more than anything, but it feels like an easy choice in any scenario.

Any scenario outside of island and beach hopping, that is. Wine just wouldn’t make it here. I needed some boat drinks and I needed them fast. Luckily, I was able to find Bahama Mamas and Piña Coladas easily and often. I’ve also found a new favorite – the Goombay Smash. Created by Emily Copper (Ms. Emily) at the Blue Bee Bar in New Plymouth (on Green Turtle Cay), the drink is a blend of rum and pineapple juice — but the original recipe is a secret.

Mrs. Emily's blue bee
Emil Hart

I visited Ms. Emily’s Blue Bee Bar to try one from the source and I wasn’t disappointed. There have been many iterations of the drink in the Bahamas and elsewhere, but this is the prototype, though Mrs Emily never tried her own invention — she was allergic to pineapple.

Nippers beach bar
Emil Hart

Nipper’s Beach Bar on Great Guana Cay is a quintessential and legendary beach bar. The bar is popular with locals and tourists alike, with its pristine setting above a white-sand beach, two swimming pools, and the famous (and famously strong) Nipper Juice cocktail. The colorful establishment was destroyed during Hurricane Dorian but has been rebuilt and is as popular as ever. It’s the perfect place to spend the day drinking, lounging on the sand and cooling off in the clear blue waters.

Thirsty Cuda
Emil Hart

After island hopping to Hope Town on Elbow Cay, I made a beeline for Thirsty Cuda – one of the most unique bars I’ve ever visited. The floating bar and grill near Tahiti Beach was anchored near the most pristine sandbar I had ever seen and served drinks and snacks to anyone who dared to swim to the top. The fish bites were a perfect afternoon snack and the Almond Joy Colada was a refreshing and unexpected treat.

PART III – Where to sleep

Abaco Beach Resort
Emil Hart

During my trip I stayed in Marsh Harbour, the commercial center of Great Abaco Island and home of Marsh Harbor International Airport. Marsh Harbor is a great base for island hopping and is home to many hotels and resorts. I stayed at Abaco Beach Resort and it was the perfect place to come back and relax after a busy day exploring.

Abaco Beach Resort
Emil Hart

The 40-acre beachfront property has it all – restaurants, water activities, two pools, a marina, a private beach, and any type of room or residence you might need. I loved my newly renovated king room with a large balcony — mostly because of that incredibly dreamy bathtub.

PART IV – Where to explore

The Abaco Islands truly offer the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. During my trip I spent my days exploring Great Abaco Island, Green Turtle Cay, Elbow Cay and Great Guana Cay and always wanted more.

foundry
Emil Hart

One of the most interesting places I visited was the Johnston Art Foundry in Little Harbour. Located in Pete’s Pub, the bronze foundry has been in the Johnston family for three generations – since 1952. The Art Foundry is the only one of its kind in the Bahamas using the lost wax technique to create beautiful bronze sculptures that are commissioned, purchased, and exhibited around the world.

foundry
Emil Hart

No trip to the Bahamas is complete without getting on the water, and that’s especially true when you visit The Abacos. I spent one of the most amazing days of my life on the water at Brendal’s Dive Center in Green Turtle Cay, which you can take the Green Turtle Ferry to, just a 30-minute drive from Marsh Harbour.

Stingray abaco
Emil Hart

Brendal and his wife Mary started their dive center in 1985 and since then their SCUBA and adventure tours have become a regular part of The Abacos. From snorkeling on a coral reef, swimming with sharks and spotting dolphins, to having lunch over a fire on an island served with Brendal’s famous rum punch, it was, in a word, epic.

City of Hope Abaco
Emil Hart

The Abacos are known as the boating and sailing capital of the world, but even if you don’t have access to a boat or funds for a private charter, it’s fairly easy to hop from island to island. With six daily ferries running from Marsh Harbor to Elbow Cay alone, you have no excuse not to take the scenic hike to the quaint village of Hope Town. I made the short 5 minute drive from Abaco Beach Resort to The Crossing Ferry Dock ready for another day of exploring.

Elbow Cay Lighthouse
Emil Hart

My first stop in Hope Town was a visit to Elbow Cay Lighthouse, “the last manual, kerosene-powered, intact and complete light station on the planet.” I walked up the spiral staircase to a beautiful view of the bay and surrounding water. Be sure to visit the Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society gift shop to learn more about the restoration efforts and preservation of this iconic site.

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