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A dangling chain of cays and islets on the eastern edge of the Great Bahama Bank, the unspoiled and serene Berry Islands begin 56km (35 miles) northwest of New Providence (Nassau), 242km (150 miles) east of Miami. This 30-island archipelago is known to sailors, fishermen, yachtspeople, Jack Nicklaus, and a Rockefeller or two, as well as to devoted beachcombers who love its pristine sands.

As a fishing center, the Berry Islands are second only to Bimini. At the tip of the Tongue of the Ocean (aka TOTO), it has world record-setting big-game fish and endless flats where bonefish congregate. In the "Berries," you can find your own tropical paradise islet and enjoy -- sans wardrobe -- totally isolated white-sand beaches and palm-fringed shores. Some of the best shell-collecting spots in the Bahamas are on the Berry Islands' beaches and in their shallow-water flats.

The main islands are, from north to south, Great Stirrup Cay, Cistern Cay, Great Harbour Cay, Anderson Cay, Haines Cay, Hoffmans Cay, Bond's Cay, Sandy Cay, Whale Cay, and Chub Cay. One of the very small cays, north of Frazev's Hog Cay and Whale Cay, has, in our opinion, the most unappetizing name: Cockroach Cay.

The largest island is Great Harbour Cay, which sprawls over 1,520 hectares (3,756 acres) of sand, rock, and scrub. It's a multimillion-dollar resort for jet setters who occupy waterfront town houses and villas overlooking the golf course or marina. Brigitte Bardot and many other stars have all romped on the 12km (7 1/2 miles) of almost solitary beachfront.

Bond's Cay, a bird sanctuary in the south, and tiny Frazer's Hog Cay (stock is still raised here) are both privately owned. An English company used to operate a coconut and sisal plantation on Whale Cay, also near the southern tip. Sponge fishermen and their families inhabit some of the islands.