Beaches & Outdoor Pursuits
Whatever sport you want to pursue -- whether it be snorkeling or fishing -- Marsh Harbour's innkeepers can set you up with the right people and equipment. You can also take the ferry over to Hope Town (on Elbow Cay) and check out the facilities and outfitters there.
Of the major Out Islands towns, Marsh Harbour has some of the least appealing shores. You can try one of three private beaches, but none is very enticing, and none really wants outsiders. The easiest to get into is at Abaco Beach Resort, but it's small, not fabulous, and, again, private. Buy a drink for a local at the hotel bar, and you're in, but that, at best, is a somewhat uncomfortable arrangement.
To compensate, beach seekers head south of Marsh Harbour. Once south of Little Harbour, after 15 to 20 minutes of driving, lots of good options begin to appear. The beaches near the hamlet of Casuarina Point benefit from some battered, all-Bahamian restaurants in the vicinity.
Some swimmers heading south from Marsh Harbour make it a point to go eastward from the main highway whenever an offshoot road appears, usually at points south of Little Harbour.
None of the beaches on Great Abaco Island has facilities or lifeguards. Guard your valuables and stay alert.
The Moorings (tel. 888/952-8420 or 242/367-4000; www.moorings.com) is one of the world's leading charter sailboat outfitters. It operates from a perch behind the Conch Inn Hotel & Marina, overlooking intersecting piers and wharves -- at least 80 berths, with more on the way -- where hundreds of upscale watercraft are tied up (many of them for rent). With one of its vessels, you can enjoy short sails between the islands, stopping at white-sand beaches and snug anchorages. Yacht rentals generally range from $345 per day, with a skipper costing another $190 per day, and an onboard cook (if you want one) for an additional $175 per day.
For the more casual boater, Sea Horse Boat Rentals, at Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour (tel. 242/367-5460; www.seahorseboatrentals.com), offers some of the best rentals. A 5.1m (17-ft.) Boston Whaler goes for $165 per day, while a 5.4m (18-ft.) Privateer costs $195 per day. Other vessels are for rent, too, and all boats are equipped with a Bimini top, coolers, a compass, a swimming platform, life jackets, a paddle, docking lines, and other equipment. Sea Horse is open daily from 8am to 5pm.
Snorkeling $ Scuba Diving
The strangest dive site of all is the Abacos Train Wreck, 4.5 to 6m (15-20 ft.) deep. This unusual wreck consists of two locomotives lying on their sides. During the U.S. Civil War, they were reportedly part of a Union train captured by Confederate troops and then sold to Cuba. The barge transporting the train ran aground on the reef during a storm in 1865. Enough of the train still exists to make it an interesting shore dive. Another nearby wreck, the Adirondack, lies in shallow water some 3 to 7.5m (9 3/4-25 ft.) deep. Many divers come here to explore the government-protected Sea Preserve and Fowl Cay Land, which teems with multicolored sea life in shallow reefs.
The best place to snorkel is Mermaid Reef and Beach, with its colorful reef, moray eels, and plethora of beautiful rainbow-hued fish. The reef and beach lie on Pelican Shores, the northernmost edge of the Marsh Harbour waterfront directly west of the Marsh Harbour Marina. From the center of Marsh Harbour at East Bay Street, walk east along the harbor, and then head northwest until you reach the marina. Once there, continue walking west to Pelican Shores across the stretch of scrub and sand until you reach Mermaid Reef, where you can enjoy the beach or snorkel in the clear waters. Sea Horse Boat Rentals, at Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour (tel. 242/367-5460), rents snorkel gear.
Scuba divers should check out the nearby Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park. You won't find any organized excursions here, but Dive Abaco is the best source of information and might arrange a trip for you. You can also drive down to the park by following the road immediately south of Marsh Harbour and then turning east at the sign leading you toward the park. Several small beaches are suitable for swimming. The easiest jumping-off point is at Pelican Harbour.
Dive Abaco, Marsh Harbour (tel. 800/247-5338 in the U.S., or 242/367-2787; www.diveabaco.com), rents snorkel gear and offers dive trips to tunnels and caverns along the world's third-longest barrier reef. Resort courses for uncertified novice divers are all-inclusive at $190. Two-tank dives for certified divers cost $115, including tanks and weights, and depart daily at 9:30am; afternoon times are dictated by demand. Shop hours are daily from 8:30am to 5pm; ask for owner-operator Keith Rogers.
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.