Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hope Town on Elbow Cay, Abaco, in the out-islands of the northern Bahamas

Hope Town is a small, charming settlement located on Elbow Cay in the Abacos, part of the “out-islands” of the northern Bahamas. Hope Town was founded in the late 1700’s by Loyalists from the US fleeing the wrath and intolerance of the American Revolution. Their loyalties lay with Great Britain so they left the victorious United States in order to remain within the British Empire. Wyannie Malone was one of the first loyalists and many of her descendants still live on Elbow Cay.

Hope Town is home to the beautiful red candy striped lighthouse that is one of the most photographed in the world. It was built in 1863 by the British Imperial Lighthouse Service to mark the reef in the Atlantic which lies just to the east of the settlement. The reef was a graveyard for many ships prior to the lighthouse being built. This lighthouse is kerosene powered and one of only a handful of its kind still in existence in the world. Its beam of light can be seen for twenty miles.

Post Office

The one room post office is housed upstairs in an old blue two story building at the end of the south public dock. There are no typical boxes for rent here - everything arrives in care of general delivery.


Along the Queens Highway, the narrow concrete main lane, there are old loyalist’s cottages resembling New England that have been lovingly restored.

The Jib, named because it makes a shape similar to the head of the sail at the forward end of a sailing sloop.

St. James Methodist Church

Vernon’s Grocery and Upper Crust Bakery

Vernon’s motto is “Let them eat key lime pie.” He’s a baker and has great homemade breads and the best key lime pie in Abaco.

Harbour View Grocery, offering dock side convenience

Hope Town Harbour Lodge

The Hope Town Harbour Lodge, one of our favorite places to have a cheeseburger in paradise, sits on a pristine two mile white sandy ocean beach thirty feet from a coral reef. After lunch you are welcome to snorkel the reef, walk on the beach, swim in the pool, or doze under the palm trees.

Harbours Edge and Captain Jacks

Both of these restaurants are on the harbour and offer dock side dining and gorgeous views of the lighthouse. You can enjoy live entertainment here on weekends.

Harbours Edge Restaurant

Captain Jack's Restaurant

White Sound and the Abaco Inn

White Sound is a residential community three miles south of Hope Town. Because there is no offshore reef along this area, it attracts surfers. Some say White Sound is the best surfing in the Bahamas. The Abaco Inn sits on a narrow strip of land between the Sea of Abaco and the Atlantic.

Tahiti Beach on the southern tip of Elbow Cay

On of the prettiest beaches in Abaco is Tahiti Beach on the southern tip of Elbow Cay. It’s in a coconut grove with great views of Tilloo Cut, an entrance for boats into the Atlantic from the Sea of Abaco.

Lubbers Quarters – across the water from Tahiti Beach

In the foreground is Lubbers Quarters, which runs parallel to the south end of Elbow Cay. In the background is Tilloo Cut, the entrance from the Sea of Abaco to the Atlantic Ocean.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Junkanoo in Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

Junkanoo is a national festival in The Bahamas, held in the early morning hours of Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.

A procession of dancers in brightly colored costumes “rush” through the streets, making music on goat-skin drums, cowbells, conch shell horns and whistles.

The revelers, both young and old, spend all year pasting their costumes together, many of which are made out of cardboard covered in colorful crepe paper.

Spectators join in the celebration, singing and dancing to make it a big street party.

The origin of the word Junkanoo is unknown. Some say it comes from the French word “L-inconnu,” meaning the unknown in reference to the masks worn by the parade participants.

Others believe it was named for John Canoe, an African tribal chief who demanded the right to celebrate with his people during the 16th and 17th centuries after being brought to the West Indies as slaves.

The slaves were given a special holiday during Christmas when they could leave the plantations to celebrate and be with their families with African dance, music and costumes. After emancipation, they continued the tradition and Junkanoo has evolved from its simple origins to organized parades with intricate costumes and music.

These photos were taken at the Junkanoo festival in Green Turtle Cay in Abaco, in the northern Bahamas.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

Friday, October 30, 2009

It’s my (blog) birthday party and I’ll go where I want to - to Wally's

It’s my party and I’ll go where I want to, go where I want to, go where I want to. You would go too when it happens to you.

Both of my blogs, My Carolina Kitchen and Island Time in Abaco, are celebrating their first birthday. I’ve decided to celebrate by taking you on a virtual trip down memory lane to a birthday party at one of my all time favorite places in the world - Wally’s Restaurant in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. Located in a pink and white Nassau-style Colonial villa overlooking the harbour, its grounds are dotted with pink hibiscus and bright rosy pink bougainvillea. It’s a balmy 75 degrees there today and I’ve got friends waiting, so grab your passports, throw your sunglasses and flip-flops in straw bag, and hop on board. You take the window seat so you can so enjoy the view. Isn’t that a gorgeous private beach?

We’ll land at the Marsh Harbour International Airport in the northern Bahamas where we’ll take a taxi to Wally’s.

Hi ladies, it’s great to see you. How have you been? We’re meeting friends, so we’ll just go on in.

Hi Pattie, Penny, Barometer Bob. Hope we haven’t kept you waiting too long. I’ve brought along a few friends.

Every time we come to Wally’s the first thing my husband does is to give Wally's daughter Maureen, the owner, a great big hug. Hi Mo. Maureen attended the Cordon Bleu and returns to Paris each fall for a visit.

Hi Angie, our usual, please.

Here’s why we came – to share a bite of Wally’s special birthday brownie. One of their specialties, it’s a huge, sinfully rich brownie, smothered with vanilla ice cream, and covered in a dark chocolate sauce, rich whipped cream, and topped with a birthday candle. It comes with extra spoons, so dig in.

Before we leave let’s slip in the boutique and say hello to Angie’s daughter. Maybe I’ll pick up a cute swimsuit and one of those colorful pareos to match. Look around, I’m sure you’ll see something you can’t live without.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip to Marsh Harbour. I’ve met so many fabulous people this year blogging that I now call friends. Thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

These pictures were taken several years ago and reflect how the author remembers Wally’s and her friends.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Old drawing of Hope Town Harbour

This drawing of Hope Town Harbour was given to me by Vernon Malone. It's titled General View of Hopetown, Abaco, Bahamas. Note the spelling of Hope Town. By the looks of the sailboats I would guess it's sometime in the 1800's. It's signed either A. Stem or A. Stom. Please feel free to leave your comments if you can add any information as to the date.

For better viewing, click photo to enlarge.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Children's Easter Parade

This was clipped from The Abaconian newspaper about six years ago. The caption reads: St. Francis de Sales School held an Easter Parade on March 26. It was a competition and also allowed the children to dress in their Easter clothes so parents and friends cold admire them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Watercolor Artist Brigitte Bowyer Carey of Abaco, the Bahamas

I would like to introduce Brigitte Bowyer Carey of Abaco, the Bahamas, an accomplished artist and a good friend of ours. Her beautiful watercolor art of the Bahamas is now available on the internet at Island Watercolors. She paints a variety of Bahamian subjects including marine scenes, landscape, seascapes and Bahamian T’ings. My personal favorites are the island houses and lighthouses, especially those depicting the colorful settlement of Hope Town and its candy striped lighthouse dating to the 1800’s. When you are in Abaco, be sure to visit the Abaco Inn or the Hope Town Harbour Lodge to see her work. 

From Germany, Brigitte was educated as a graphic designer, although her first love has always been painting. When she discovered watercolors, she knew she had found her passion. Her style of painting is referred to as “wet on wet,” meaning the paper is wet and one drop of paint blooms and creates wonderful images all over. Her unusual landscapes and seascapes are on display the world over and her collectors include novelist Pat Conroy and Mr. and Mrs. Sean Connery. She has a studio in her home on Tilloo and her paintings and prints are in galleries throughout the United States as well as the Bahamas. She also does special commissions for clients.

We met Brigitte and her husband Donnie many years ago. Donnie, a Bahamian, knows more about native plants than anyone I’ve ever met and their gardens are spectacular at their cottage, Hunkaloo. We first met them when they were building their cottage, near our home Lazy Days on Lubbers Quarters. We became fast friends and have shared many good times together, including some that will be in my upcoming travel adventure memoir, Living on Island Time, Retirement in Abaco Spiced with Food, Friends & Rum.  

Bahamian watercolors by Brigitte Bowyer Carey of Abaco

Bahamian Blue Heron

Grouper in the clear waters of Abaco

Old Hope Town House in Abaco, the Bahamas

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Diving & Snorkeling in Abaco, the Bahamas

Visit Sandy Cay National Park  and see more diving & snorkeling underwater sites at Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park & Sandy Cay Reef in Abaco, the Bahamas. 

Barry the Barracuda

Grouper - notice the cleaning Gobi on its eye

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bahamian Grouper and French Angel Fish in Abaco

Bahamian Grouper

French Angel Fish

This Bahamian Grouper and French Angel Fish (photo taken by one of our our guests at Sandy Bottoms) are just two of the fish you might see snorkeling and diving at Sandy Cay National Park at Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park and Sandy Cay Reef in Abaco.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Martha Stewart visits Abaco and samples Bahamian conch fritters

Martha Stewart has a blog and she talked about Abaco and showed thirty something pictures including the flight over. I happened to catch it because I have a link to her blog on my site, My Carolina Kitchen, and saw in the headlines that she mentioned Abaco.

It's titled it My first day on the island of Abaco, a quiet and friendly place.

She described Abaco as a very quiet, nothing-to-do kind of place and said she had a surprisingly nice time there. She was a guest of friends of hers, the Dowdle family. She went deep sea fishing, bone fishing, wild pig hunting, swam in the blue hole and visited Green Turtle Cay.

There are photos of Ruby Clarke, the cook who promised to write all of her recipes down so Jimmy (Martha's host) could create a cookbook for prosperity. There is also a picture of her with Freeland, the driver. There are numerous photos of the flight over and the beautiful clear waters of Abaco from the air and nice sunset pictures.

While Martha was there, she sampled Conch Fritters, which she loved, prepared for her by Ruby Clarke, a local Bahamian. Conch Fritters are a local specialty. The fritters are a conch and flour batter seasoned with onions, celery, green bell pepper, (these three vegetables are called the “trinity” in Creole cuisine), tomato paste, thyme and baking powder and deep fried and served typically with a red cocktail sauce flavored with horseradish and hot sauce.

I have two excellent recipe sources for Conch Fritters. One is in Gourmet Bahamian Cooking by Marie Mendelson and the other is from Rudy’s Place in Elbow Cay (sadly now closed and missed by all). Rudy’s recipe is in A Guide and History of Hope Town by Steve Dodge & Vernon Malone, 1990 version, and Gourmet Bahamian Cooking is still in print.

Now Martha knows the secret to Abaco, as all of us do that have visited. Get sand in your shoes and you will return. Abaco lovers such as myself have kept this wonderful place our little secret paradise. Thank you Martha for visiting and finding it the quiet, laid back and friendly place that it truly is. As the Bahamians say, "Martha's done reached."

To read more, here's the link to her blog:

Monday, January 5, 2009

All About Abaco Island and the Barrier Cays

The Abacos are a boomerang-shape cluster of islands in the northeastern Bahamas located about 160 miles east of the south Florida coast, a short one hour flight. The Abacos are the most popular of the "out islands".

Abaco is one large island with a group of barrier cays (pronounced "keys"), occupying the second largest landmass in the Bahamas. The chain of barrier cays is located about two to five miles offshore of the mainland and provides a protected body of water from the Atlantic Ocean which is the Sea of Abaco. The Sea of Abaco with its naturally protected waters has helped the Abacos become the sailing capital of The Bahamas. The Sea provides a safe & well protected environment to pursue the many water related activities the area has to offer. Marsh Harbour, the third largest town in the Bahamas, is considered the commercial center of the area. It is well stocked with shops and services to fill your every need.

The Abacos host internationally known regattas and there are numerous game-fish tournaments, providing a fisherman’s paradise. Offshore fishing, reef and bottom fishing and bone fishing are all very popular with anglers. However, there is much, much more to do than just fish or sail our gorgeous waters. There are numerous other activities including diving, snorkeling, surfing, island hopping, beachcombing or just plain-old relaxing.

Island-hopping is one of the favorite attractions. The various cays are about 10 – 40 minutes apart. Each is charming with a character all its own and different from the next. You must see them all. There are numerous deserted cays, coves, beaches, creeks and bays just waiting for you to relax and explore in your run-about. There are quaint fishing villages reminiscent of New England but in pastel colors. There is a candy-striped lighthouse dating back to the 1800’s. The third largest barrier reef in the world surrounds Abaco. Sandy Cay National Park & Fowl Cay offers some of the very best diving in the world.

The Abacos are uncrowded and unspoiled with no high rises or gambling. It is a very casual, laid-back, relaxed atmosphere and perfect for vacation getaways and longer stays. The dress is casual and the life-style is friendly. The local Abaconian people are warm and friendly. Fall in love and you’ll return again and again. Many have decided to make this their second home and there are services available to make your transition into our out-island lifestyle smooth and pleasant.

There are numerous resorts and private rental cottages, all catering to your needs for a relaxing, casual & fun-filled vacation. Some are on the mainland and others are scattered throughout the various cays.

Beautiful sunny days can be found no matter what time of the year you choose. Average temperatures range between 70 – 75 degrees from December to May and 80 – 85 degrees the rest of the year. Art galleries, gift shops, well-stocked grocery & liquor stores, full service marinas and numerous restaurants are found through-out Abaco.

Come to Abaco & let the sand get in your toes. Bahamians say, "If you get sand in your toes, you’ll return again and again."

Written by Sam Hoffer - Photo of starfish taken by Meakin Hoffer in front of our home, Lazy Days, on Lubbers

First published in Latitudes Magazine, 2003, American Eagle’s in-flight magazine.

For better viewing, click photo to enlarge.