I was disappointed yesterday to learn that Abaco — which, for decades prior to Hurricane Dorian, has generated a significant amount of tourist revenue for the Bahamas — had been all but wiped clean from the Ministry of Tourism’s website. (Presumably in response to the backlash this generated, it now appears to have been partially reinstated.)
Thankfully, Abaconians are far more resilient and resourceful than our Ministry of Tourism gives us credit for. And to paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumours of Abaco’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve suffered a significant setback. And the road to recovery — especially for Marsh Harbour and central Abaco — will be long and difficult.
But the truth is that there are still resorts, rental properties, boat and cart rental agencies, tour guides and attractions open and available to help plan your Abaco vacation. And your friends in Abaco need your support and tourist dollars now more than ever before.
When Abaco’s trusty, long-serving mailboat, the Priscilla, was destroyed in the 1932 hurricane, she was replaced by the Content, a converted luxury yacht.
The mailboat Content (Image courtesy of Eric Wiberg, Mailboats Bahamas, and Earl McMillen, McMillen Yachts, Inc.)
Originally owned by a West Palm Beach millionaire, the 120-foot Content had been purchased by the R.W. Sawyer Co. of Nassau, and converted to a mailboat, captained by Green Turtle Cay’s Roland Roberts and Stanley Weatherford.
Congratulations to Green Turtle Cay’s legendary tour guide, Lincoln Jones, who has been nominated for a 2017 Cacique Award. The Cacique Awards recognize individuals and organizations who positively impact the Bahamian tourism industry. Winners will be announced April 8. Good luck, Lincoln!
The first thing you need to know about getting to Green Turtle Cay is that it takes a bit more planning than traveling to a major tourist center. The second thing you should know is that the extra effort is so worthwhile.
To get to Green Turtle Cay, you’ll need to travel to the Bahamian island of Abaco. From there, you’ll take a small ferry from Treasure Cay (which, despite its name, is actually located on the Abaco mainland) to Green Turtle Cay.
…Arriving By Airplane
Most visitors to Green Turtle Cay arrive by commercial airline. Direct flights to Abaco are available from a number of Florida cities, including Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Daytona Beach and Orlando. Depending on your departure city, the flight from Florida takes roughly an hour. You can also fly to Abaco from the Bahamian capital of Nassau. This trip takes a little over 30 minutes.
There are two airports on the Abaco mainland. The first, at Treasure Cay (airport code TCB), is super convenient – it’s just a five-minute taxi ride from the Green Turtle Cay ferry dock. However, it’s relatively small, and the selection of flights in and out is limited. Airlines that currently fly into TCB include Silver Airways (from Ft. Lauderdale) and Bahamasair (from Nassau.)
The second Abaco airport, in Marsh Harbour (airport code MHH), is about a 45-minute taxi ride away from the Green Turtle Cay ferry dock. However, many more flights arrive into Marsh Harbour each week, so you’ll have a greater range of travel options from which to choose.
Whether you fly into TCB or MHH, there will be taxis waiting to meet the flight. From the Treasure Cay airport to the Green Turtle Cay ferry dock, it’s a 5-minute ride and about $15. From Marsh Harbour, budget 30-45 minutes and $80 or so, one way. Most taxis are mini-van type vehicles that comfortably seat at least four adults plus luggage.
A fleet of half-a-dozen or so ferries shuttle passengers between the Abaco mainland and Green Turtle Cay.
A few practical tips for planning air travel to Abaco:
As is common in the tropics, Bahamian weather can be unpredictable, which can lead to flight delays. If you’ve got connections to make, it’s a good idea to schedule a bit of extra time between flights.
If your trip home from Abaco to the U.S. takes you through Nassau, you can clear American Customs and Immigration there. If you fly straight to the U.S. from Abaco, however, you’ll need to clear Customs and Immigration at your first point of entry. Again, if you’ve got a connection to make, consider scheduling extra time between flights.
Not all routes to/from Abaco are serviced every day, so it helps if you can be flexible when it comes to travel days.
If you have questions or need advice about getting to Abaco or the Abaco Cays, check out the Abaco Forum. Forum members routinely travel all sorts of routes (air and sea) to Abaco, and they’re happy to share experiences and offer suggestions.
…Arriving by Private Vessel
Given that Abaco and its surrounding cays offer some of the most spectacular boating waters in the world, it’s not surprising that so many visitors arrive by sea. If you’re entering the Bahamas aboard a private vessel, you’ll need to clear customs and immigration. To do this, you’ll need to go to one of the official ports of entry, and present the following:
Proof of Citizenship (i.e., passport) for each person aboard
Though Green Turtle Cay isn’t shown on the official “ports of entry” list, I understand you can clear customs and immigration here. The Customs office is in the pink government building on Parliament Street in town. Call in advance (242-365-4077) to check on their hours. If you arrive late in the day, you can clear the next morning.
If you’re arriving by sea or plan to rent a boat during your stay in Green Turtle Cay, Steve Dodge’s book, The Cruising Guide to Abaco, Bahamas is considered a vital resource by visitors who spend time on the local waters. The guide provides regularly updated maps and charts, information about the various marinas and ports, a directory of local services, information about tides and more. (For the record, I’m not affiliated with this publication in any way – I’m just one of its many fans.)
…Arriving by Ferry
In most cases, these are less practical options, but they’re worth mentioning.
During the summer months, a fast ferry (which accommodates vehicles as well as walk-on passengers) travels weekly from Nassau to Sandy Point, at the southwestern tip of Abaco. Unfortunately, there are no car rentals in Sandy Point, and the taxi fare from there to Treasure Cay will run you well over $150. Having said that, if you have access to a vehicle or plan to rent a car in Nassau, this option may make sense. The trip takes about six hours. For more information, visit Bahamas Fast Ferry.
A preferred alternative for Abaco lovers who don’t like to fly, Pinder’s Ferry provides twice-daily service between Grand Bahama (the Bahamian island immediately west of Abaco) and Crown Haven, at the north end of Abaco. You can cruise aboard the Bahamas Express from Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Bahama, then take a bus to the Pinder’s Ferry dock. Rental cars are available once you arrive in Crown Haven. For more information about this route, contact Pinder’s Ferry at 242-365-2356.
…Arriving by Mailboat
The M/V Legend sails weekly between Nassau, the Abaco mainland and Green Turtle Cay.