Abaco Island: A True Bahamanian Getaway

Divers explore coral reefs near Abaco Island

When Bahamian Byron Glinton describes why he loves Abaco Island, he becomes poetic. “Sheets of flying fish, giant winged frigates, and graceful dolphins,” he says in a melodic voice.

“Abaco Island and her cays are an endless universe of wildlife and nature, each with a unique heritage. The real Bahamas.”

I’m only 165 miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale in the Bahamas, but I’ve discovered a different galaxy. Boaters bring their yachts to catch Really Big Fish. Nature lovers encounter endangered parrots, wild horses, and ocean blue holes.

Goodbye civilization, hello serenity.

Boaters relax near the Hope Town Lighthouse on Abaco Island

Minutes after checking into the Abaco Beach Resort in Marsh Harbour, I hear the quiet. Yachts bob quietly in the marina. Palms rustle on an ivory beach. A hammock swaying in the ocean breeze beckons.

I meet the resort’s owners, the Sweeting family. Pete Sweeting tells me his favorite Charleston restaurant is Magnolias. His wife Sallie tours me through the stunning gardens, proudly pointing out majestic Royal Poinciana trees. Their son Andrew says “Get ready for a fun island tour by boat tomorrow. You’ll see gorgeous, practically empty beaches and sea turtles. I’ll make my famous fresh conch salad,” he promises. I’m starting to feel like family.

At Angler’s Restaurant that evening, I dine with Andrew, Byron, who is the resort’s reservations and leisure sales director, and Kevie Thomas, rooms director. Why does everyone look so happy?

“Sharon, we hope you’ll start your experience here with a Goombay Smash,” Byron says. Andrew and Kevie nod. A delectable cocktail arrives. Strong and sweet. I’m happier in one sip.

Chef Charles Smith has prepared an amazing feast: conch fritters, grouper fingers, and seared tuna over spicy noodles. Delicious fresh shrimp and spicy chicken.

Kevie shares her mom’s recipe for steamed wild boar.

Byron boasts he caught 60 fish yesterday and shared them with family and friends. Andrew says “Sharon, tomorrow we’ll visit end of the world bars in funky cays. You’ll fall in love with the turquoise Abaco Sea.” These folks are clearly afflicted with Island Fever, and it’s contagious. How fast can I sell my home in Mount Pleasant, pack up Warren and Sage the cat, and buy my own end-of-the-world bar?

Goombay smashed, I drift off to my cozy room, dancing in Abaco moonbeams.


Wild boar and flying fish entertain my dreams, waking me at dawn. I take my coffee out for a walk, as birds sing good morning from magenta bougainvillea. Curly-tailed lizards dart along the marina. Mega-yacht partygoers sleep off last night’s rum-punch cocktails, their deep-sea fishing rods awaiting monster blue marlin.

A tranquil beach on Abaco Island, Bahamas

By 10am, Andrew and Byron have shepherded us onto a spiffy fishing boat. The guys look like young versions of George Clooney and Denzel Washington. “Ready to catch fresh conch?” Andrew asks. Byron laughs. We lapse into a contented silence, mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of emerald, cobalt, turquoise.

But perfection never lasts, does it? Storm clouds have the audacity to show up. Waves pitch our boat without pity.

Our smiles fade, frightened by thunder and Zorro lightning bolts. No worries. Andrew and Byron expertly steer us to safe harbor on Elbow Cay. We walk along the dock, uphill into The Abaco Inn. Settling inside the open-air bar, we’re dry, despite torrential rains.

Now a silly storm never halts a Bahamian party, and The Abaco Inn is comfy and charming. Soon we’re slurping tasty Bloody Marys and devouring crab cakes. The more it rains, the more we laugh. Conch are already wet, we’ll get to them later, right?

The storm lets up, so Andrew says, “Let’s make a run for it.” We bolt down the hill and jump onto our soaked boat, huddling in damp towels. Instead of bikini babes, we’re shrouded in burkas. More rain, and a short cold ride to Cracker P’s, a funky bar near Hope Town. Cold Bahamian beer and hot conch fritters keep us entertained, along with hilarious, possibly true stories of global adventures and misadventures.

The Abaco Beach Resort

On that stormy happy day, exploring end-of-the-world bars and soaked beaches on Abaco Island, Andrew never got to prepare us his famous conch salad. But I’ll be going back, with Warren and Sage. I’ll send a postcard with his recipe. Andrew promised it’s the best conch salad in the world, and I believe him.

When you go

Abaco Beach Resort at Boat Harbour is located in Marsh Harbour on Abaco Island, The Bahamas. The Resort has the largest marina in the Bahamas, and 72 oceanfront rooms with balconies. Activities include island-hopping, boating, surfing, snorkeling, swimming pools, fitness center, tennis, volleyball, kayaking. Angler’s Restaurant features fresh seafood, beef and pork, and the Pool Bar is a popular hangout with live entertainment.

Abaco Beach Resort