Less than a kilometer ( 2/3 mile) offshore is Pigeon Cay, which is uninhabited. Visitors often come here for the day and are later picked up by a boat that takes them back to Little Exuma. You can go snorkeling and visit the remains of a 200-year-old wreck, right offshore in about 2m (6 1/2 ft.) of water.
On one of Little Exuma's highest hills are the remains of an old pirate fort. Several cannons are located nearby, but documentation is lacking as to when it was built or by whom. (Pirates didn't leave too much data lying around.)
Coming from Great Exuma, the first community you reach on Little Exuma is called Ferry, so named because the two islands were linked by a ferry service before the bridge was built. Ask around about visiting the private chapel of an Irish family, the Fitzgeralds, erected generations ago.
Along the way, you can take in Pretty Molly Bay, site of the now-shuttered Sand Dollar Beach Club. Pretty Molly was a slave who committed suicide by walking into the water. The natives claim that her ghost can still be seen stalking the beach every night.
Many visitors come to Little Exuma to visit the Hermitage, a plantation constructed by Loyalist settlers. The last surviving example of the many that once stood in the Exumas, it was originally built by the Kendall family, who came to Little Exuma in 1784. The family established their plantation at Williamstown and, with their slaves, set about growing cotton. But they encountered so many difficulties having the cotton shipped to Nassau that, in 1806, they advertised the plantation for sale. The ad promised "970 acres more or less," along with "160 hands" (referring to the slaves). Chances are, you'll be approached by a local guide who, for a fee, will show you around. Ask to be shown the several old tombs in the area.
At Williamstown (look for the seaside marker), you can also visit the remains of the Great Salt Pond, a body of water in the center of the island that used to be the site of a flourishing salt-raking industry.
If you really have to see everything, you may be able to get a local to take you over to Hog Cay, the end of the line for the Exumas. It's just a spit of land, and there are no glorious beaches here. It's visited mainly by those who like to add obscure islets at the very end of the road to their list of explorations. Hog Cay is privately owned and farmed. The owner, whose house lies in the center of the island, seems friendly to visitors.
The Remote Darby Islands
There is an idyllic chain of five privately owned little islands in the Exumas, in the indigo waters of Exuma Sound to the east of Great Bahama Bank. They are called Big Darby (our favorite), Little Darby, Goat Cay, Bette Cay, and Guana Cay. These islands lie 458km (285 miles) southeast of Miami and 154km (96 miles) south of Nassau and are accessible only by boat or charter aircraft.
If you have time for only one, make it Big Darby, where you can hike to a decaying castle that's been abandoned for more than half a century -- talk about Gone With the Wind. Darby Castle was built as a working plantation in 1938 by an Englishman known as Sir Baxter. As a plantation, it became the largest employer in the southern Bahamas during World War II; its workers helped produce palm oil, fruit, cotton, and even goats. Today, the castle is the stuff of legend, with many tall tales told about the Englishman and his mistress. (Was he a Nazi sympathizer?) Though the so-called castle is in ruins, you can take a potentially dangerous walk to the second landing and its large stone-built balcony, where you can enjoy one of the grandest panoramas in the Exumas.
Come to the Darby Islands for some of the most beautiful beaches in The Bahamas; the sand is the color and texture of sifted flour. On Little Darby and Big Darby, there are more than 10 good beaches. The best snorkeling and dive spot is the little harbor nestled between the two islands.
A Romantic Legend & a Movie Star
On the road to Little Exuma, you'll come to the hamlet of Rolle Town. It was once, like Rolleville in the north, owned by Lord Rolle. Today, it is populated with descendants of his former slaves. This sleepy town has some 100-year-old houses.
In an abandoned field where goats frolic, you can visit the Rolle Town Tombs, burial ground of the McKay family. Capt. Alexander McKay, a Scot, came to Great Exuma in 1789 after he was granted 161 hectares (398 acres) for a plantation. His wife joined him in 1791, and soon after, they had a child. However, tragedy struck in 1792 when Anne McKay, who was only 26, died along with her child. Perhaps grief-stricken, her husband died the following year. Their story is one of the romantic legends of the island.
The village also claims a more contemporary famous daughter, actress Esther Rolle. Her parents were born here (though they went to the U.S. before she was born). Rolle is best remembered for her role as the strong-willed mother on the '70s sitcom Good Times. She won an Emmy playing a maid in Summer of My German Soldier; Rolle's other film credits included Driving Miss Daisy, Rosewood, and How to Make an American Quilt. She died at the age of 78 in 1998.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.