The Abaco Islands lie in the northern Bahamas 180 miles (290 km) east of South Florida. They comprise the main islands of Great Abaco and Little Abaco, along with smaller barrier cays. The northernmost are Walker's Cay, and its sister island Grand Cay. To the south, the next inhabited islands are Spanish Cay and Green Turtle Cay, with its settlement of New Plymouth, Great Guana Cay, private Scotland Cay, Man-O-War Cay, and Elbow Cay, with its settlement of Hope Town. Southernmost are Tilloo Cay and Lubbers Quarters. Another of note off Abaco's western shore is onetime Gorda Cay, now a Disney Island and cruise ship stop and renamed Castaway Cay. Also in the vicinity is Moore's Island. On the Big Island of Abaco is Marsh Harbour, the Abacos' commercial hub and the Bahamas' third largest city, plus the resort area of Treasure Cay. Both have airports. A few mainland settlements of significance are Coopers Town and Fox Town in the north and Cherokee and Sandy Point in the south. Administratively, the Abaco Islands constitute seven of the 31 Local Government Districts of the Bahamas: Grand Cay, North Abaco, Green Turtle Cay, Central Abaco, South Abaco, Moore's Island, and Hope Town.
The five administrative districts of the Abaco
|Major islands||Great Abaco Island, Little Abaco Island|
|Area||2,009 km2 (776 sq mi)|
|Largest settlement||Marsh Harbour (pop. 5,728)|
|Pop. density||8.6 /km2 (22.3 /sq mi)|
|Ethnic groups||Blacks, Whites, Mixed|
Unlike the sandy barrier islands of the eastern US, here the islands consist of limestone with some elevation and are protected on the ocean side by the third largest barrier reef in the world. For the most part the cays are green with mangroves and white-sand beaches. Most are uninhabited. The Abacos and their cays have been called Out Islands, Family Islands and Friendly Islands.
The Abaco Islands were first inhabited by the Lucayans. The first European settlers of the islands were Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution who arrived in 1783, as was also the case at Cat Island. These original Loyalist settlers made a modest living by salvaging wrecks, by building small wooden boats, and by basic farming.
The original inhabitants of the Bahamas before the arrival of Europeans were the Lucayans. They were a branch of the Taínos who inhabited most of the Caribbean islands at the time. The Lucayans were the first inhabitants of the Americas encountered by Christopher Columbus. The Spanish started seizing Lucayans as slaves within a few years of Columbus's arrival, and they had all been removed from the Bahamas by 1520. After the extermination of the Lucayans, there were no known permanent settlements in the Bahamas for approximately 130 years.
Spain laid claim to the Bahamas after Columbus's discovery of the islands but showed little interest in them. The Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci spent four months exploring the Bahamas in 1499–1500. Juan de la Cosa's first map of the New World, printed in 1500, shows the Abaco Islands with the name Habacoa. The map in Peter Martyr's first edition of 'De Orbe Novo' in 1511 shows the islands of the Bahamas but does not name them. The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León landed on Abaco in 1513. The Turin map of 1523 clearly shows Abaco, now named Iucayonique. This remained the most accurate map of the area until the first English maps of the Bahamas were produced. Both John White's map of 1590 and Thomas Hood's map of 1592 show the islands, as did a map produced in 1630 by the Dutchman de Laet. At this time the Spanish empire in the Caribbean was focused on Havana. Spain regarded the, now depopulated, Bahamas as unprofitable and treacherous to navigate;- in 1593 a Spanish fleet of 17 ships was wrecked off Abaco. Also, English and French pirates and freebooters had begun preying on Spanish vessels north of Cuba. A Spanish ordinance of 1561 forbade any merchant ship to enter the Bahamas without an escort. Ownership of the Bahamas passed back and forth between Spain and Great Britain for 150 years, until British ownership was established by treaty in 1783, when Great Britain ceded East Florida to Spain, receiving the Bahamas in return.
In the summer of 1783, a call for those wishing to help settle Abaco was published in the Royal Gazette in New York City. About 1500 Loyalists left New York and moved to Abaco in August of 1783. The Loyalists settled on a small sandy harbor about 6 leagues north of Marsh Harbour near modern Day Treasure Cay. They planned and built the town of Carleton, named after Sir Guy Carleton. Disputes over food distribution and having been misled about the resources available, led some of these settlers to found a rival town near Marsh Harbour called Maxwell. Conflict between disgruntled settlers and the officials responsible for helping became a constant feature of life on the islands. Sea island cotton was first sown by the settlers in 1785 and although both 1786 and 1787 produced good crops, the 1788 crop was blighted by caterpillars. Other settlements on the islands were Green Turtle Cay, Man-o-War Cay, and Sandy Point. In the 1790s, a group of Loyalists from the Carolinas arrived on the islands via Florida, founding the isolated settlement of Cherokee Sound.
In June 1971 the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Lynden Pindling, announced his government's plans for independence from Britain. On Abaco, the Greater Abaco Council was formed to lobby for continued British rule. In July 1971 the Greater Abaco Council submitted a petition to the Queen asking that Abaco become a 'completely self-contained and fully self-supporting' territory under British jurisdiction. In August 1971 the British Government refused to consider the petition. The September 1972 general election in the Bahamas showed a clear majority for independence across the country.
However, on Abaco the results were less clear cut. The pro-independence Progressive Liberal Party won one of Abaco's two seats by a small majority, while the Free National Movement, who opposed early independence, won the other seat by a large majority. Starting in December 1971, all party talks took place in London to draft a new constitution for the Bahamas. The Greater Abaco Council sent representatives to London for a 'collateral conference' to run alongside the official talks. The British refused to consider making Abaco independent separately from the rest of the Bahamas. The GAC accepted this and the group ceased activity at the end of 1972.
Shortly afterwards, Errington Watkins, the Free National Movement representative for the Abaco-Marsh Harbour seat, formed a successor group, the Council for a Free Abaco. A second petition was organised and signed by half the registered voters on the island. Errington Watkins took this petition to London in May 1973, hoping to influence the Bahamas Independence Order then being debated in the British Parliament. A sympathetic MP, Ronald Bell introduced an amendment that would have excluded Abaco from an independent Bahamas and have the islands remain a British colony. This amendment was defeated in the House of Commons and the Bahamas Independence Order was approved on 22 May 1973. Three weeks later a similar motion on Abaco was defeated in the House of Lords.
A last-ditch attempt by Errington Watkins to pass a resolution in the Bahamas House of Assembly calling for a United Nations-supervised referendum on Abaco was easily defeated in June 1973 and the Bahamas became independent on 10 July 1973.
In August 1973, shortly after the Bahamas became independent, the Abaco Independence Movement was formed as a political party whose stated aim was self-determination for Abaco within a federal Bahamas. AIM was formed by Chuck Hall and Bert Williams. They sought support from the US Libertarian Party and an American financier named Michael Oliver, who through his libertarian Phoenix Foundation agreed to support AIM financially. Mitchell WerBell, an American arms dealer and mercenary, also supported AIM. His talk of an armed insurrection and attempts to recruit mercenaries to go to Abaco greatly discredited AIM. The Progressive Liberal Party victory in the 1977 general election, effectively marked the end of the movement.
The combined population of the islands is about 17,224 as of 2010, and the principal settlement and capital is Marsh Harbour. The racial make up is about 40% white and other and 60% black.
In addition to Marsh Harbour there are several other settlements on Great Abaco including Cherokee Sound, Coopers Town, Crossing Rock, Green Turtle Cay, Hope Town, Little Harbour, Rocky Point, Sandy Point, Spring City, Treasure Cay, Wilson City, and Winding Bay.
Surrounding Great Abaco are several smaller islands known as cays, many of which are popular with tourists visiting the islands. A few notable cays include Castaway Cay (formerly Gorda Cay), Elbow Cay, Tilloo Cay, the Grand Cays, Great Guana Cay, Man-O-War Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Moore's Island, and Walker's Cay.
The Great Abaco Family Fitness weekend takes place every March in Treasure Cay, attracting both domestic and international tourism. The events include an open water swim, sprint and Olympic triathlons, a children's race, and a 5k/10k fun run/walk.
Marsh Harbour Airport (MHH) and Treasure Cay Airport (TCB) serve the needs of the Abacos, and all Abaco travel connects or originates in Florida or Atlanta. On the main island cars and boat rentals are available. On some of the cays, rental golf carts and boats are the main mode of transportation, along with bikes or scooters. Marsh Harbour Airport was the site of a plane crash that took the lives of nine people, among them was R&B singer Aaliyah, on August 25, 2001.
The cays can be reached by ferries. The southern cays can be reached from Marsh Harbour and another ferry leaves from the Treasure Cay ferry dock about a half-hour from Marsh Harbour by road. Ferry service is also to be found between Nassau and Sandy Point on the southern end of Great Abaco on weekends.
Sandy Point is a small settlement at the tip of southwest Abaco, Bahamas. It is the location of "Sandy Point Airport", which has yet to serve any regular scheduled carrier, and a new police station. Sandy Point also has a few shops, some churches and a few bonefish lodges. The annual "Homecoming and Conch Fest" is held around Bahamian Labour Day, the first Friday in June. In the 1990s, The Walt Disney Company bought Gorda Cay and renamed it Castaway Island and made it a stop on their "Island in the Sun" cruise ship offering. Many Disney employees live in Sandy Point. There is no public access for tourists from shore. Also off shore and a little more to the north, lies Moore’s Island. It has two settlements "Hard Bargain" and "The Bight". Hole-in-the-Wall, which is the site of a light house, may seem nearby but should be a trip unto itself and only in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle when coming from Marsh Harbour.
The Abaco Islands have been long famous for shipbuilding. Their chief exports are lumber, fruit, and pearl shells. Crawfish (Caribbean spiny lobster) are exported to the United States. Pulpwood is shipped to a Florida plant for processing. Tourism is a major portion of the economy.
The Abaco Islands boast important natural areas, especially important coral reef areas, barrier-island terrestrial habitats and large forests of Bahamian pine (Pinus caribaea var. bahamensis), some of which still contain old-growth trees. As development expands in the Abacos, local groups have begun to fight for the preservation of their natural resources, such as in the development case on Great Guana Cay.
Notable species of birds include the Bahamian subspecies of Cuban amazon (Amazona leucocephala bahamensis), which exists only in Cuba, the Cayman Islands, the southern Bahamas and Abaco. This population is unique in that it nests in limestone solution cavities rather than tree cavities. Abaco is also known for its intact elkhorn and staghorn coral structures, and for a breed of feral horse, the Abaco Barb, which became extinct in 2015.:2
Abaco National Park is a national park in South Abaco, the Abaco Islands, the Bahamas. The park was established in 1994 and has an area of 20,500 acres (83 km2).Black Sound Cay National Reserve
Black Sound Cay National Reserve is a national park on Green Turtle Cay in North Abaco, the Bahamas. The park was established in 1988 and has an area of 2 acres (0.81 ha).Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay is a private island in the Bahamas which serves as an exclusive port for the Disney Cruise Line ships. It is located near Great Abaco Island and was formerly known as Gorda Cay. In 1997, The Walt Disney Company purchased a 99-year land lease for the cay from the Bahamian government, set to expire in 2096, giving the company substantial control over the island.Castaway Cay was the first private island in the cruise industry where the ship docks alongside so guests do not have to tender to land.The island is still largely undeveloped, as only 55 of the 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) are being used. Castaway Cay now has approximately 60 Disney Cruise Line permanent residents who keep the island running daily; the numbers fluctuate between the busy season and off season.Central Abaco
Central Abaco is one of the districts of the Bahamas, in the Abaco Islands. The district contains the largest town in the Abacos, Marsh Harbour, which is the commerce centre for the islands. Some of the more noticeable settlements are:
Dundas TownThe Local Government for this district is based in Marsh Harbour which is also one of the three Town Areas (the others being Murphy Town Township and Dundas Town Township).Elbow Cay
Elbow Cay is an eight-mile-long (13-kilometre) cay in the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas. Originally populated by British loyalists fleeing the newly independent United States of America in 1785, it has survived on fishing, boat building, and salvage. Its main village of Hope Town surrounds a protected harbor with a noted red-and-white-striped one-hundred-and-twenty-foot-tall (37-metre) lighthouse built in 1863.Fowl Cays National Park
Fowl Cays National Park is a national park in Central Abaco, the Bahamas, situated between Scotland Cay and Man-O-War Cay. The park was established in 2009 and has an area of 2,335 acres (9 km2).Grand Cay
Grand Cay is one of the districts of the Bahamas, in the Abaco islands.
Grand Cay is a small island or cay situated south of Walker's Cay in the Bahamas Islands. It is a settlement of Abaco, a major island of the Bahamas. After a hurricane's devastation of Walker's Cay, and other matters, Walker's Cay's workers were forced to go back to Grand Cay to seek employment. Previously, Grand Cay was seen as a base or home; but presently it is an island containing the main occupations and housing. It has a population of 383.(2010 census) Grand Cay is notable for being a tourists' haven, and a peaceful, fishing community.
Its number one attraction is "Rosie's Place". Patrons can still sample the combo of Cracked Conch, Lobster Tail and Grilled Grouper. Rosie still provides a small full service marina and air conditioned rooms in addition to his famous eatery. Today on many of the cays people make a living fishing and lobstering.
In terms of Education, Grand Cay hosts the Grand Cay All Age School, which is located under the Grand Bahama District. The school population varies from 100-115.
This was the island of choice of U.S. President Richard Nixon, a friend of Robert Abplanalp, an island resident.
Few gas docks, restaurants and other places to suit the tourist industry are found on the island.
It's about a mile in length.Great Guana Cay
Great Guana Cay is an islet in The Bahamas. It is a long, narrow islet, 7 miles (11 km) long. It is in the centre of the Abaco Islands and is near Gumelemi Cay. It is about 8 miles from Marsh Harbour. Approximately 150 people live on the island, mostly along the five and a half mile long stretch of beach.
Great Guana Cay's settlement is known for its loyalist culture and architecture, as well as its social scene. Several traditional loyalist homes are in the settlement, which wraps around a natural harbor.Hope Town
Hope Town is one of the districts of the Bahamas, on the Abaco islands as well as a small village on Elbow Cay, located in Abaco. The area had a population of 458 in 2010.Golf carts are the main source of transportation, and most of the supplies for the area are brought in by barge each week. In Hope Town, neither cars nor golf carts are permitted in the main part of town. Only bicycles and walking are permitted. Cars and golf carts are permitted on the outskirts of town, however these laws are not enforced. All the buildings that are built must adhere to Bahamian Architecture at the discretion of Town Planning. The seat of the Hope Town District Council is in Hope Town, and most of the meetings are held there.Marsh Harbour
Marsh Harbour is a town in Abaco Islands, Bahamas, with a population of 6,283 as of 2012.The settlement lies on a peninsula just off the Great Abaco Highway, which runs south through Great Abaco to Cherokee Point and Little Harbour. North of town, the road becomes S.C. Bootle Highway, another smooth stretch that runs north and west toward Treasure Cay and Little Abaco.
Marsh Harbour has the majority of services available in all of the Abacos, including a post office, bookstore, grocery stores, specialty shops, travel agencies, and laundries. Visitors come to boat, swim or snorkel, and stay at one of the lodges located near Bay Street on the waterfront, though some adventurers reserve a day or two to kayak in the Marls on trips conducted by naturalist guides. The Marls are an extensive region of pristine mangrove habitat and open shallows called "flats" that harbour a rich variety of wildlife and offer an important fisheries, for local sustenance and for sport.Marsh Harbour Airport
Leonard M. Thompson International Airport, formerly known as The Marsh Harbour International Airport (IATA: MHH, ICAO: MYAM), is an airport serving Marsh Harbour, a town in the Abaco Islands, The Bahamas. Leonard M. Thompson International Airport is the second largest airport in the Bahamas and the second largest international gateway into the country only after Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau.
Marsh Harbour is a major tourist attraction. The airport offers services to Nassau and some cities in Florida, United States. In 2007 a new runway was built to allow larger, regional jets to operate from Marsh Harbour. A new airport terminal was opened on 27 May 2014.Moore's Island
Moore's Island is one of the districts of the Bahamas, on the Abaco Islands.
Moore's Island is one of the little cays off the main land of Abaco. It is approximately 7 miles (11 km) long and 3.5 miles (5.6 km) wide and approximately 28 miles (45 km) from Great Abaco. It has two settlements, Hard Bargain which is the capital and the other settlement is the Bight.
To arrive to Moore's Island by boat traveling from Sandy Point one passes Gorda Cay (Castaway Cay); Long Rock can be passed on either side, staying offshore in deep waters because inland passage is too risky. Then one passes south Channel Cay (Stake Cay) which has a light tower. After passing Channel Cay a direct approach is taken 6 feet (1.8 m) to the north end of Moore's Island to locate Hard Bargain.North Abaco
North Abaco is one of the districts of the Bahamas, on the Abaco Islands. It has a population of 9,578.(2010 census)Some of the more known settlements within this district include:
Fire Road Village
Black Wood Village
Dundas TownPelican Cays Land and Sea Park
Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park is a national park in Central Abaco, the Abaco Islands, the Bahamas. The park was established in 1972 and has an area of 2,100 acres (8 km2). The park's marine environment contains an extensive coral reef and undersea cave habitat, which provide opportunities for snorkelling and underwater diving.Shavez Hart
Shavez Hart (born September 6, 1992) is a Bahamian track and field sprinter, who mainly competes in the 100 metres and 200 metres. His personal best of 10.10 seconds makes him the second fastest Bahamian of all time behind Derrick Atkins, and fastest Bahamian-born sprinter. His personal best of 20.23 makes him the third fastest Bahamian of all time.
He is a graduate of St. Georges High School in Freeport, Bahamas. He was the bronze medallist in the 100 m individual and relay events at the 2011 CARIFTA Games. At the 2011 Pan American Junior Athletics Championships he false started in the 100 m final but took the bronze with the Bahamian relay quartet.He competed for South Plains College with compatriot Trevorvano Mackey, winning a sprint double at the 2012 National Junior College Championships, before transferring to Texas A&M University. They both teamed up to break the Bahamian national record in the 4×100 metres relay in Morelia, Mexico, winning the gold medal at the 2013 CAC Championships in the process.South Abaco
South Abaco is one of the districts of the Bahamas, on the Abaco Islands.The district had a population of 7,646 in 2010. Sandy Point is one of the largest settlements.Tilloo Cay National Reserve
Tilloo Cay National Reserve is a national park in Hope Town, the Abaco Islands, the Bahamas. The reserve was established in 1990 and has an area of 11 acres (4 ha).Treasure Cay Airport
Treasure Cay Airport (IATA: TCB, ICAO: MYAT) is an airport serving Treasure Cay, in the Abaco Islands in The Bahamas.Walker's Cay National Park
Walker's Cay National Park is a marine national park north of Walker's Cay in North Abaco, the Bahamas. The park was established in 2002, and has an area of 3,840 acres (16 km2). The park's marine environment has a barrier reef, which is used for underwater diving and snorkelling.