The Out Islands of the Bahamas

Harbour Island, BahamasBeyond Nassau and Freeport lie the 13 inhabited islands or island groups that make up the Out Islands of The Bahamas. These are the Abacos, Andros, Eleuthera (including Harbour Island - see photo), Cat Island, Long Island, Bimini, the Berry Islands, Crooked Island, San Salvador, the Inaguas, the Exumas, Ragged Island and Rum Cay. They are magical places, each with a character all its own. It’s here in these tiny backwater paradises that adventures really begin.

The Inhabited Out Islands:

This is the land of the treasure hunter, scuba diver, beachcomber, explorer and hiker. It’s where the old world ends and the new one begins, a land of emerald seas, snow-white sands and mysterious blue holes, where you can wander deserted beaches for hours on end and never set eyes on another living soul. Although there are no shopping malls, night clubs, casinos or any of the other major attractions that lure visitors to the two main islands of the Bahamas, life goes on here much as it has for more than 300 years, quietly, unchanged.

These are the islands of romance where couples can leave the bustling mainland and all its distractions behind. Sunshine, warm breezes, tropical drinks, soft music and solitude make for an unforgettable experience. If, after a week together here in the Out Islands, you don’t get to know one another intimately, you never will.

Dotted around the Out Islands are a dozen or so resorts (some more deserving of the title than others) and perhaps five times as many small hotels and B&Bs. Accommodations run the gamut from spartan to delightful and almost luxurious. Don’t expect all the modern conveniences here: telephones and televisions are rarities. Air-conditioning is available almost everywhere, but be sure you confirm before you book. The absence of climate control in your room, if you’re not prepared for it, can be a vacation breaker.

Upscale restaurants and fine dining, as we know them, are the exception rather than the rule, but these islands do boast of some of the best little holes in the wall I’ve ever come across. The atmosphere in these sometimes raunchy little cafés and restaurants, and the often outrageous local cuisine, makes eating out an experience to remember. But even those who like fine dining and a good bottle of wine, will find opportunities to indulge. The Romora Bay Club on Harbour Island is one, the Green Turtle Club on Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos is another.

Adventures on land and sea abound in the Out Islands. Most of them, though, require a modicum of self-organization. Throughout the following pages you’ll find references to beaches, dive sites, snorkeling, bicycling and walking opportunities. Very few of these activities, with the exception of scuba diving, can be formally structured. A good map and the ability to make friends with the locals – local knowledge can produce golden opportunities – is all you need. Hotel employees are also a good source for local secrets. Other than that, you’ll need to head out on your own and see what you can find.

Beyond the Out Islands, far to the south, lie the Turks and Caicos Islands. These are not a part of the Bahamas per se, but they are a part of the Bahamian archipelago and an increasingly popular destination for Americans, Canadians and Europeans. So, it seems only right that we give them coverage in these pages.

Most people have heard of Nassau, some have heard of Freeport and Grand Bahama, but very few have heard of the Out Islands. If you really want to get away from life in the fast lane, enjoy a few quiet days in the sun on some of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches in the world, the opportunities offered by the Out Islands are almost limitless.

With rare exceptions, hotel standards in the Bahamas are not what you get on the US mainland, or in Europe. Due to the fact that almost everything has to be imported, and is therefore expensive, there is a definite trend to put off until tomorrow what should be done today. Hotels that might have been considered fairly upscale five years ago can quickly become slightly seedy as time and weather take their toll. Don’t expect too much, especially in the Out Islands and Turks and Caicos. But don’t let a little inconvenience spoil your vacation.

Continued on Page 2 of The Out Islands of the Bahamas

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Getting There:

For visitors arriving by air, the Bahamas are served through Nassau by most US airlines and by international airlines from Canada and Europe, and to a slightly more limited degree through Freeport.

The Out Islands are served mainly by Bahamas Air via connections in Nassau and Freeport.

The Bahamas is also a major destination for the cruise ship industry

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