Marsh Harbor

 
Many tourists prefer to base their stay in Marsh Harbor as it has easy accessibility to many tourist points in Abaco along with the best dining and shopping options. This is the largest settlement on the Abaco and most of the islands population lives here. In Marsh Harbor you will see a long strip of road (Bay Street) and most hotels and restaurants line up this one strip. This is a good place to restock cash (this place has lots of ATM machines and that’s tough to find in other remoter parts) and shops for groceries (affordable well stocked stores are here) and spend a pleasant enough day. 
 
 
 
There is also a lot of variety in terms of accommodation options in Marsh Harbor... lots of condo complexes and hotels are clustered around the main beaches. Great ones include Abaco Beach Resort & Harbor (bay street), Conch Inn Hotel (bay street), Pelican Beach Villas (2 km from the Abaco Marina), Lofty Fig Villas (center of Marsh Harbor…across the street from Dive Abaco), Turtle Hill Vacation Villas (this is on the highway between Marsh Harbor and Elbow cay)… all of these have private marinas and docks so in case you want to take your own boat to reach, these are ideal choices. 
 
Marsh Harbor is linked to a tarred main highway (roads all over the islands are not this good elsewhere) and you can drive down visiting all the settlements with interesting names like Snake Cay, Mango Hill, Fire Road and Hole in the Wall. Marsh Harbor is close to many beaches… Crossings Beach is to the North (1.4 miles away), Snake Cay is to the South (accessible through a bridge from the island of Great Abaco), Cemetery Beach is the North East (5.1 miles north east of Marsh Harbor) and Garbanzo beach is to the South East (5.8 miles away). 
 
Some of the nice restaurants you can check out in Marsh Harbor are Colors by the Sea, Jip Room Restaurant and Bar, Snappa’s, Jamie’s Place and Bliss Coffee Shop. Jamies place is basically an American style dining place… go here for eggs and grits, buffalo wings, cracked conch and loads of ice cream. It’s there on East Bay Street and is open from Monday to Saturday from 7am to 9pm. Colors by the Sea is a shack that’s open till 11pm …this is probably one of the most quirky places in East Bay Street in Marsh Harbor. Try blackened Grouper, fresh lobster and conch dishes here along with Kaliks. 
 
For a nice meal you can head off to Jib Room Restaurant… it’s there on Johnny Cake Lane. Musical nights with dancing is there every Saturday and Wednesday…food is rather nice with delicious grilled fish, steak and ribs. There is even a marina here…this is an extremely popular joint. Call 242-367-2700 for dinner reservations. 
 
Snappas is sort of a social hub and pub here on East Bay Street…on Saturday this place is open till 2 a.m. otherwise Snappas closes by 11 p.m. everyday. There is happy hour every day from 5 pm to 7.30 p.m.…grilled fish and meaty burgers here are a must-try. Bliss Coffee Shop is the most chic coffee shop in this part of the world…this was formerly known as the Java Coffee Shop. Located in Bay Street the coffee shop is open from Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
 
Maxwell’s Supermarket is where you should go to stock up on your groceries.  It’s located on Stratton Dr and is open from 8am to 7pm from Monday to Saturday. Call 242–367-2601 before going....you can even pre-order your groceries. 
 
 
 
Getting to Marsh Harbor 
If you are coming by flight… this is probably where you are landing. The main dock and the major airport of Abaco are both in Marsh Harbor so it has best accessibility from all points. 
 
Map of Marsh Harbor, Bahamas 
 
 
Nearby Places & Attractions 
 
Great Guana Cay 
Getting Here:  This 7 mile long island is only 8 miles away from the Marsh Harbor Airport. It’s beautifully sandwiched between Sea of Abaco and Atlantic… there are about 150 residents here and no police stations, post offices and banks exist (bring cash when you visit). The beach is 5 miles long and has soft powder-like sand. A short taxi ride takes you to the ferry that will transport you to Great Guana Cay. Any place on this cay is accessible by walking, bicycling and travelling via golf cart rentals. Right near the Ferry Dock is a popular shopping stop…the shop is named Gone Conching…they sell a good range of Bahamian handprints clothing, conch artifacts, sea glass jewelry and trinkets. 
 
 
 
In case you want an authentic Bahamian experience which is all about swimming and relaxing on not so crowded beaches then visiting the Great Guana Cay is a must-do activity. The beach is about 6.5 miles long making it one of the longest beaches in Bahamas. Not many people stay around here and you can get to imbibe the Bahamian way of life with plenty of local liquor options, all day pig roasts and not much of glamor. On weekends beach parties with live music and beach dancing take place. Great Guana Cay has a bar called Nippers which gets impossible traffic on the weekends… the bar overlooks the Atlantic. The drinks here are called Nippers…the dancing and music here makes this one a winner. The bar opens at 7 a.m.  and is open till 10 p.m. …it is open on all days except Monday. 
 
Other bars to check out are Blue Water Grill, Grabbers Bar etc. The Grabbers Bar and Grill is in Fishers Bay in Great Guana (you can anchor your boat here) the fish, lobster, sea food pizza and conch fritters (drinks here are called Grabbers) here are nice. The Blue Water Grill and Red Sky Lounge are a part of the posh Dolphin Beach Resort that’s probably the most luxurious place to stay around here…there’s an Austrian chef here who cooks up delectable dishes. For quieter and more rustic experiences you can go to Kidd’s Cove Seafood Bar and Grill that’s on the front street of Guana ’a Main Road….lobster salad and local style sushi here are nice. 
 
In case you want to try out boating and snorkeling you can contact Maria and Troy at Dive Guana (Phone: +1 (242) 365-5178; Email: [email protected]
 
Black Tip Cove is 1.5 miles away from the settlement harbor at Great Guana Cay so that’s one place you can check out too. You can visit the 3rd largest reef on the world (it’s saturated with exotic marine life) that’s just 100 yards away from the Cay. The west end of the island has rather photogenic ruins of an ancient mill that you can explore. There is also an old Anglican church here….most people here have loyalist ancestors and they still practice carpentry, fishing, farming and boat building. The houses are all painted bright and made from clapboard…the owners are remarkably friendly…they will randomly give you history lessons, boat building tours and if you are lucky…some Bahamian snacks too. 
 
Little Harbor/ Cherokee 
Getting Here: Cherokee Sound and Little Harbor can be easily reached by car from Marsh Harbor (it’s a 45 minute ride and you will need a tough vehicle). Also if you drive south for an hour from Treasure Cay then you will reach Little Harbor. Both of these places are usually visited in a single trip. 
 
Little harbour is a sheltered anchorage that lies on the south end of Great Abaco Islands.  It’s a sheltered community of about 60 homes (this was founded by Randolph Johnston who was a bronze sculpture artist) that encompasses a semicircle of white beach…incidentally the community is solar powered. The waters here are full of dolphins, turtles and stingrays and there is a fringe reef near the east shore of the harbor mouth that offers good snorkeling opportunities. 
 
 
 
This is not a glamorous place but it’s good for tourists who want to experience the local culture. There are caves in here around the island fringes that sailors have occupied for months back in the ancient 1800’s. 
 
In 1783 Colonel Thomas Brown founded the settlement Cherokee sound (south of little harbour) and it was so names because Brown had liaised with the Cherokee Indians. This is a small isolated community and people know each other on a first name basis. When you go to Cherokee sound you will see the fishing smack boats all have five sails instead of the usual seven. 
 
The harbor (in Cherokee Sound) is beautiful with great views. There is a dock here that’s the longest wood pier in Bahamas…its about 700 feet out in the sea. Now that there is a well maintained road that connects Cherokee to the mainland, the dock is just a tourist attraction. Another local attraction to check out is the 1988 built monument that’s dedicated to the local Cherokee fishermen…the base of the monument contains the scripted history of the illustrious fishers here. 
 
There is an art gallery called Pete’s Club here that is a must visit spot. It’s basically an on-sand local restaurant plus art gallery that’s famous for is paintings and sea food dishes. 
 
There is an under-explored little beach at the back side of Little Harbor ad there is the Jhonstons Foundry that displays good work. Incidentally Pete Johnston (son of the famous sculptor Johnston) runs this place and he also sells bronze castings to visiting yachts. 
 
Other places to visit here are the winding bay trails, lighthouse and Ezras Picnic Spot. The lighthouse is just ahead of Johnston’s Foundry… it’s now non-functional (this was also a manned lighthouse) and there is a 100 year old house and a blowhole (named Dragon) in front of the light house. The winding bay trails are a bunch of walking trails that criss cross the whole area…just ask around locals will show you many options. Ezra’s picnic spot is along the beach near the tennis court…its best to approach this area during low tide. 
 
The most prominent place to stay here is the Abaco Club (it’s on winding Bay) that happens to be a Ritz Carlton enterprise. You can enjoy a luxurious meal at the Abaco Club and use its spa, health center, golf course and gift shop. 
 
You can also take a kayak ride from Little Harbor to Cherokee by following the Yellow Wood Creek. Blue holes are aplenty around (tom curry’s point is a famous one) but you would need a trained guide along to show you the places. 
 
You can spend a nice quiet day by combining a visit to both Little Harbor and Cherokee… get lunch at Petes club and check the art… admire the ocean and then drive around to Cherokee…. swim in the waters and check the long dock before heading back. 
 
If you are interested in bone fishing then little harbor, Cherokee sound and all the land to its south is bone fishing territory…you will find umpteen fishing lodges and fishing gear rental agencies here. 
 
If you are driving back from Cherokee Sound to Great Abaco and turning southwards then there is a pretty little fishing village called Casuarina Point where there are lovely stretches of sand and blue flats (good place for bone fishing). Vacation rental homes are available here and there are a host of other activities you can indulge in here like kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, dipping into blue holes etc. 
 
Some distance away southwards is another fishing hamlet called Crossing Rocks (this is where Great Abaco shrinks to its narrowest point)... you have to travel for 45.7 km from Little Harbor via the Great Abaco Highway to reach the Schooners Bay at Crossings Rock. Nice luxury vacation rental homes are available here and there is the Black Fly Bonefish Club and the Sand Piper Inn that is clustered around a 14 acre harbour. 
 
Man-O-War Cay 
Getting Here: To reach Man-O-War Cay you need to cross the waters from Marsh Harbor Dock… the ride will last a good 20 minutes. Albury’s Ferry runs reliable rides (phone: 242 367 3147/ 242 365 6010) and leaves from a small dock which is near the Abaco Beach Resort. 
 
Abaco has always been famous for boat building and Man-O-War Cay is believed to be a boat building hub. The cay is sparsely populated by residents who are descendants of the early settlers and boat builders like Billie Jo and Joe Albury. Albury had legendary skills in making handcrafted boats and these skills have been passed on from generation to generation. Incidentally Albury Benjamin was a sailor in 1820 who had survived shipwreck and had made Man O war his home…his descendants now run most of the large businesses here. 
 
 
 
There are many tourists who visit Joe Albury’s boat studio to admire the array of model boats and dinghies. These make for nice souvenirs in case you are interested to pick up something that will remind you of the beautiful sailing vessels of Abaco. 
 
You can also visit Albury Brothers Boat Building Shop and Alburys Sail Shop to see the art of boat making, wood carving, dinghy sailing and creation of canvas items. Nowadays fiberglass boats have started replacing traditional wooden boats of yore. Albury’s sail shop is at General Delivery Road in Man O War Cay also sells bags, hats and fashionable items made of canvas clothes. 
 
Norman Albury Sail Makers also make customized tote bags out of sailboat material (these aren’t available online making them an Abaco specific collectible). If you want to see the boat making process first hand then stopping at the Edwin’s Boat Yard is a nice idea.  
 
You can also check out Man-O-War Heritage Museum on the Queens Highway…this is actually an ancient wooden home built in 1800. Inside you will find old archived records about the town’s history, rare photographs, artifacts and items of historical interest. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. everyday apart from Sunday though you can call Mrs Chana Albury at 242-365-6599 to know the exact timings. 
 
Other places you should check out while you are visiting Man O War Cay are Hibiscus Café, and Dock N Dine. Hibiscus Café is now renamed Bradley but locals still like to refer to the old name…it’s on the waterfront and it serves good salads, sandwiches, tacos and conch fritters. DocknDine is on the sea road and you will get a close look at the large yachts and boats that are anchored at the dock there. Do try the coconut crusted grouper burger with tartar sauce there. 
 
One point to remember here is that Man O War is a dry zone… you cannot buy alcohol here. However what you can do is to bring your bottles of beer!!! 
 
 
 
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