Already a member? Please login below for an enhanced experience. Not a member? Join today

Fly to island timeFly to island time

Abacos Islands, The BahamasAbacos Islands, The Bahamas

Warm up and chill out at the same time on the beautiful Abacos islands of the Bahamas. Wiggle your toes in the sand and relax—you’re on island time.

  • A seaplane is a great way to get around the Bahamas, but there are also plenty of runways for wheeled aircraft. Here, a seaplane is beached in front of the Abaco Inn on Elbow Cay. Photo courtesy Abaco Inn.
  • The Bahamas actively encourage GA pilots to visit their numerous islands, surrounded by turquoise waters. Here, a pilot ties up at Staniel Cay Airport. Photo by Bob Friel, courtesy Bahamas Out Islands Promotion Board.
  • Like this? There’s plenty of it. In the Abacos, you’re never out of sight of land, either. Photo by Wes Rikkers.
  • After a day of fishing and swimming, throw out the anchor and spend the night on your luxury catamaran. Photo courtesy The Moorings.
  • Most folks boat in to Pete’s Pub and Gallery in Little Harbour, though it’s also accessible by land. Dig into spicy triggerfish or seared wahoo topped by mango salsa. Try “The Blaster,” their rum punch concoction. Check out their foundry and gallery next door, watch artisans cast bronze sculptures, or pick up some locally-created jewelry. Photo by Wes Rikkers.
  • Captain Perry Thomas can take you deep sea fishing for mahi-mahi 5 to 8 miles off the Abacos in 3,000 to 9,000 feet of water. At those depths you might even hook a 900-pound blue marlin, [email protected] Photo by Patricia Strutz.
  • Go diving or snorkeling with Above & Below Abaco. Colorful reef fish include yellow tail snappers and striped sergeant majors. Photo courtesy Kay Politano of Above & Below Abaco.
  • Dive the Abacos and make a new friend. The folks at Above & Below have been using the same dive sites for years. Several local groupers have become tame, like giant pet fish. Photo courtesy Kay Politano of Above & Below Abaco.
  • Curious Caribbean reef sharks usually show up as well, but they’re not aggressive. Photo courtesy Kay Politano of Above & Below Abaco.
  • Above & Below can take you diving into sea caves. You can also explore shipwrecks or the otherworldly “blue holes.” Photo courtesy Kay Politano of Above & Below Abaco.
  • Learn how to make great underwater photos and video with Len Bucko, affiliated with Above & Below Abaco. Courses include classroom instruction, a dive-and-shooting experience, review and edit of photos, and use of his equipment. Photo courtesy Kay Politano of Above & Below Abaco.
  • The Abaco Inn sits right on the shores of Elbow Cay. The inn offers kayaks, snorkeling gear, boat dockage, bikes, beach coolers and towels, transportation to and from Hope Town, and an onsite restaurant with great conch or lobster sandwiches and crab cakes. Photo courtesy Abaco Inn.
  • Private home rentals are offered on Elbow Cay by Hope Town Hideaways. Well maintained, these places offer the comforts of home—except you’re in the Bahamas! This is the “Hibiscus” home. Photo courtesy Hope Town Hideaways.
  • Catering to the party crowd, Nipper’s sits right on the beach on Great Guana Cay. They’re famous for their pig roasts: Roasted and barbequed wild boar, cornbread, baked mac ‘n cheese, and salads are served up buffet-style every Sunday. Photo courtesy Nipper’s.
  • Nipper’s boasts a large tiki bar, deck, and two swimming pools that are generally full of bikini- and boxer-clad rowdy patrons. Try the blackened mahi-mahi, a winner every time. Photo courtesy Nipper’s.

There’s no better way to beat the late-winter blues than a flying trip to the Bahamas. Feel your spirits soar as you take in the white sand and turquoise waters. And here’s good news for pilots now flying under BasicMed: The Bahamas is the first country outside the United States to accept BasicMed for U.S. pilots flying in its airspace.

The AOPA website has extensive information and assistance for pilots who would like to fly outside the United States. Plus, the brand-new Bahamas Pilot’s Guide from AOPA puts a wealth of flight planning and travel information into the palm of your hand. Another excellent resource is Caribbean Sky Tours, with offices in Florida and Mexico.

Find your own private play spot with a catamaran from The Moorings. Photo courtesy The Moorings.

The Bahamas are so close! From Palm Beach International, it’s only 75 nautical miles east to Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport. Another 87 nm east and you’re at Marsh Harbour International on Great Abaco Island. Marsh Harbour is an Airport of Entry, so you can skip Freeport if you prefer. The Abacos chain of islands stretches 120 miles and boasts four airports and practically unlimited floatplane access. The boomerang-shaped Great Abaco and Little Abaco islands function as Abaco’s mainland. Great Abaco is the most populated island and offers modern conveniences unavailable on barrier cays, but even here, phone and internet service can be spotty. The best advice is to do as the locals: Don’t worry, be happy—you’re on island time!

A 10-minute taxi ride from the Marsh Harbour airport and conveniently close to the marina’s sailing and diving charters and restaurants, the tiny Conch Inn provides simple, clean furnishings. Conch Inn is owned by The Moorings, next door. Captain your own fully equipped private luxury monohull or catamaran yacht and use it as your floating hotel. If you desire, a skipper will accompany you the first day. The Abacos provide a protected boating atmosphere—you’re never out of sight of land. You can even cruise to dinner; all harbors and most resorts and restaurants provide public docking. Stop at Pete’s Pub and Gallery in Little Harbor, a tiki hut with great fish and cocktails, and visit their working foundry.

On Elbow Cay, walk or boat in to waterside Cap’n Jack’s. A covered canopy provides outdoor seating and great harbor and lighthouse views. Join in the fun: Bingo, trivia, and cornhole (tossing corn-filled bags into holes) are popular here. Try the conch fritters or grouper filets. Photo courtesy Cap’n Jack’s.

If you’d rather sleep on land, you can still rent a power boat from Island Marine in Marsh Harbour. Tool around for a while and then throw out an anchor and snorkel in the clear waters. Or try deep-sea fishing excitement with Captain Perry Thomas, who supplies quality equipment and a lifetime of knowledge. You’ll troll for mahi-mahi, tuna, or even marlin; he offers snorkeling adventures, too (call 242-577-0553). The Abacos are known for great sailing, and Captain John Sporck offers captained sailing charters on his beautiful, sloop-rigged, 33-foot monohull Skye Lark. He’ll even pick you up anywhere within the Sea of Abaco at no extra charge. You choose your adventure, whether a breakfast trip or sleepover. Optional instruction is included at no extra cost.

These turquoise waters seemingly demand you get under them, so try a dive or snorkel with Above and Below Abaco. Get up close to colorful reef fish and explore underwater caves. Bring home your own fantastic underwater photos and video by spending a day with Len Bucko, a former military aviation photographer. You’ll get classroom instruction, a dive-and-shoot experience, review and edit of your photos, and use of his equipment.

Six miles east of Great Abaco is the charming Elbow Cay, all pastels and palms. Walk or boat in to waterside Cap’n Jack’s for conch fritters, grouper, or chowder. Stroll through the tiny settlement of Hope Town and visit the candy-striped lighthouse. Grab a rum punch and unwind to sweet calypso music. Enjoy views of both the Atlantic and the Sea of Abaco from the Abaco Inn, or rent a private home through Hope Town Hideaways. Adventures abound on Elbow and the other cays: Secluded beaches, pig roasts, boat builders, a wild horse preserve, exotic birds, and mangrove swamps, are all within easy reach via boat. The party crowd ties up at Nipper’s on Great Guana Cay, just north of Elbow Cay. Trade the wintertime blues for blue waters in the Abacos!

Mangroves line the shore on Elbow Cay. Pull up to the dock, visit the iconic lighthouse, and stay overnight. There’s no hurry—you’re on island time. Photo by Wes Rikkers.

Share your favorite destination in the AOPA Hangar: Places to fly, things to do, where to eat!

Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: Travel, Caribbean

Related Articles