The Bahamas are renowned as one of the most beautiful places on earth, featuring tranquil blue waters, white sand beaches, and some of the world’s most incredible weather. For those who love sailing, the Bahamas offer a paradise of scenery and adventure.
When planning their trip to the area, many sailor enthusiasts like to plan well ahead so they can be sure to hit the best places to sail in the Bahamas.
From the bustle of vibrant island towns to the peaceful isolation of uninhabited cays, the Bahamas offer an entirely unique, customizable vacation experience for sailing enthusiasts. Here are just a few spots in the Bahamas that every charterer should mark on his or her navigational chart when planning a trip:
1. Marsh Harbor
Marsh Harbor is located eastern side of the Abaco Islands in the northern part of the Bahamas. The town’s famous harbor is reminiscent of the kind of view you might see in the scenic seaside towns of Greece or Italy, with lines of yachts marking the entrance to the city.
As you approach the harbor, a beautiful collection of white buildings with red tile roofs emerges from the hillside, spreading across the rolling land. Once you get off the boat, Marsh Harbor offers a variety of bars, restaurants, and shops that are sure to please casual tourists and experienced seafarers alike.
The town is the largest settlement you’re likely to see on your travels through the Bahamas and makes a great base of operations for day trips and excursions. If you’re interested in sightseeing, many tours originate in the town, including both overland hikes and undersea scuba diving excursions.
2. Pelican Cay Land & Sea Park
Pelican Cay Land & Sea Park is a 2,100-acre preserve managed by the Bahamas National Trust, located about a forty-minute drive from Marsh Harbor. The park is famous for the beauty of the scenery both above and below the surface of the water, including Sandy Cay Reef, one of the world’s premier snorkeling destinations.
By hiking the park on foot, visitors can see an impressive collection of the Bahamas’ native flora and fauna, including, of course, a large number of the pelicans the park is named for.
Sailors passing by the park along the coast will be treated to some of the clearest water in the world, allowing visitors to see all the way down to the seafloor, which is populated by enchanting coral and a variety of exotic fish species.
Hope Town is a small settlement on Elbow Cay, a long, thin barrier island off the coast of Abaco’s main island. Many visitors to Hope Town appreciate the fact that Elbow Cay is far less developed than other parts of the Bahamas, like Marsh Harbor, keeping it free from the loud sounds of cruise ships and resorts.
Given the small size of the island, bicycles and golf carts are the primary means of transportation for locals and visitors alike, offering a fun, intimate vacation experience. The island is also home to Elbow Cay Lighthouse, one of the last kerosene burning lighthouses in the world and one of the Bahamas’ most iconic historic structures.
The lighthouse’s tall, candy-cane-striped structure is visible from almost anywhere on the island, and passing sailors can enjoy passing by the same warning light that has protected visiting ships for over 150 years.
Man-O-War Cay, also located in Abaco, is regarded as one of the most peaceful, quiet, and exclusive parts of the Bahamas. First-time visitors to the islands rarely make it to Man-O-War Cay, which only has about 500 year-round residents and is less than 100 meters wide in some places.
If you want to stay in one of the Cay’s rental homes, there is a vigorous vetting process that locals use to make sure only respectful visitors are allowed to stay in the community.
Just offshore, passing sailors can look down to the ocean floor to see the wreck of the USS Adirondack, a Union warship from the American Civil War that sunk after hitting the nearby reef.
The entire area surrounding the cay and wreck is a premier destination for snorkelers, offering breathtaking views of fish and coral that are unavailable in most parts of the world. Man-O-War Cay is the perfect example of the kind of adventurous sightseeing that is only possible in the crystal-clear waters of the Bahamas.
Like Elbow Cay and Man-O-War Cay, Green Turtle Cay is a small barrier island off the coast of Great Abaco. The area was settled by New Englanders, which lends the cay a peak-roofed architecture style more similar to the settlements on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard than anything else in the Bahamas.
Although Green Turtle Cay is small, it features all the amenities available in the Bahamas, including restaurants, stores, hotels, and marinas, making it a great place to stop for supplies or some rest during your sailing trip.
Throughout history, Green Turtle Cay has been a place for sailors to wait out storms, so an eclectic mix of people has washed ashore on the small island over time, lending the area a unique personality that many visitors find charming.
Manjack Cay is to the immediate north of Green Turtle Cay, off the coast of the Great Abaco Island. Unlike its neighbor to the south, Manjack Cay is undeveloped and privately owned, meaning it provides some of the most unspoiled scenery the Bahamas have to offer.
These qualities make Manjack a popular spot for families to picnic, feed rays and soak up the sunlight away from the noise and bustle of the resort. The waters around Manjack Cay are a renowned shark habitat, so it’s one area where you’re probably better off in your boat or on shore.
In spite of the danger, many visitors enjoy swimming with the sharks in the shallows surrounding the cay. Since the area is not preserved, many anglers also enjoy fishing for sharks on the northwest side of the island.
No matter what aspect of the Bahamas you find most beautiful, you’ll find Manjack Cay to be one of the most breathtaking places anywhere on the islands.
When you’re planning your sailing trip to the Bahamas, you should start by thinking about what side of the islands you want to see.
Do you want to take in the vibrant culture of more settled islands like Marsh Harbor or Green Turtle Cay or enjoy the peaceful tranquility of unspoiled areas like Pelican and Manjack Cays?
With the freedom of your boat, you can construct whatever vacation experience you prefer, blending relaxing days of quiet sightseeing with nights spent socializing with friends in local bars.
Regardless of how you like to spend your time, you can create the getaway vacation of your dreams when you sail the Bahamas in style.
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Daniella has been passionate about travel, the sea, and nature for many years. As a child, she frequently traveled throughout the Mediterranean and continued with her journeys throughout her adult life.
Her experiences have created the desire within her to share her love for traveling with other passionate and adventurers who want to discover beautiful horizons and new cultures.