It’s little wonder that the islands of Abaco are among the hottest second home markets in the region. Lying less than an hour by air from Palm Beach and an easy boat ride from South Florida, Abaco offers all the romance of a foreign experience and the convenience and sophistication of a modern vacation destination.
Known as the yachting capital of The Bahamas, the chain of islands that make up the Abacos stretches more than 120 miles in length, starting southeast of Stuart, Florida and running from Walker’s Cay in the north to Hole-in-the Wall in the south. Even the names of various islands carry a hint of romance: Tilloo Cay, Man-o-War Cay, Lubbers Quarters, Treasure Cay, Manjack Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Elbow Cay, Lynyard Cay, Scotland Cay.
Most of the islands are sparsely populated though there are concentrations in Marsh Harbour, the largest ‘city’, as well as Hope Town and Green Turtle Cay. The population is estimated at 16,000 scattered over 650 square miles.
Many of the islands were settled by Loyalists in the 1700s and the architecture of the older settlements like Hope Town and Green Turtle Cay reflect the heritage of New England fishing villages adapted to a tropical climate with sherbet-colour cottages, white lattice and trim and front verandahs to catch the breeze on a summer’s night. The best-known exception is Treasure Cay which was created as a new town in the 1960s and is best known for its three miles of broad, soft sand beach that always makes the world’s best beaches list. Each of the islands has its own culture and personality, one of the things that makes visiting Abaco so interesting with each trip offering something new. Many who rent cottages return year after year to renew acquaintances and discover special new places and people – an out of the way ‘bakery’ in a local woman’s home, an artist who lives aboard a sailboat, a farm specializing in Neem, a gathering of people who care about protecting birds or Spanish horses or a preserve where bonefish thrive. That active rental market along with a scarcity of land drives real estate value. Even in a lackluster economy, Abaco is a bright spot that shows little sign of doing anything but continuing to grow.
In addition to the quaintness of its towns and the friendliness of its people, the beauty of Abaco lies in its waters and in nature, which has drawn the most active environmental protection in The Bahamas. There are coves for protected anchoring in dozens of places. Birds of all types abound – great blue herons, pelicans, shore birds, colourful buntings, duck, pigeon and quail and the famed Bahama parrot, now found naturally on only two islands of The Bahamas. There are also wild boars and wild horses and seven national parks or preserves as well as several small, but very interesting, museums. Abaco is also known for its food and its artists. While many travel the Abacos by private boat, a reliable ferry system unites the islands, taking residents to nearby islands to shop or see a doctor, or children to school. Visitors hop on and off these ferries as they would a taxi in an urban environment.