Marsh Harbour, Abaco
Marsh Harbour is Abaco’s largest settlement and its population third only to Nassau & Freeport. It is the major gateway to this island group, and is a popular place from which to explore the stunning offshore cays, including Man-O-War, Guana Cay and Elbow Cays. Known as “The Sailing Capital of the World”, Marsh Harbour is dotted with many marina facilities and is centrally located in the Abaco Islands making it the ideal starting point for your sailing adventures. The main Abaco settlement of Marsh Harbour is a modern town dotted with marinas, local shops and restaurants and it is also home to Abaco’s first, and only traffic light. (Removed again & again by Hurricane Floyd, & Frances!)
The largest town in the Abacos, and the third largest in The Bahamas, Marsh Harbour lies on Great Abaco Island and is the major gateway to this island group.
Marsh Harbour is the centre of activity in the Abaco chain of islands and has all the facilities of a large town, including a variety of grocery stores, hardware stores, fashion outlets and duty free shops. It does not have the typical New England style architecture most of the outlaying cays are known for, however its charm is from the sailing & yachting culture prevalent at the various marinas and inns surrounding Marsh Harbour.
There are good water-taxi connections, too, making this a popular place from which to explore offshore cays, including Man-O-War and Elbow Cays.
The Moorings (tel. 800/535-7289 or 242/367-4000) is one of the leading charter sailboat out fitters in the world. It operates from the Conch Inn Resort and Marina, where many upscale watercraft are tied up (many of them are for rent). With one of its vessels, you can enjoy short sails between the islands, stopping at white sandy beaches and snug anchorages. Yacht rentals can be arranged with skipper and cook if needed.For the more casual boater, Sea Horse Boat Rentals, at the Abaco Beach Resort (tel. 242/367-2513), offers some of the best rentals. A 5.5m (18-ft.) Boston Whaler rents for $140 per day, and you can also book a 6.5m (22-ft.) Privateer for $155 per day. Other vessels are also for rent, and all boats are equipped with a Bimini top, coolers, a compass, and a swimming platform, along with life jackets, a paddle, docking lines, and other equipment. It’s open daily from 8am to 5pm.
Sea Horse Boat Rentals at the Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour marina (tel.242/367-2513) also rents snorkel gear. One of the best places to snorkel, with a colorful reef, moray eels, and a plethora of beautiful rainbow-hued fish, is Mermaid Beach.
Website: www.abacodiveadventures.com or Dive Abaco, Marsh Harbour, can provide services as simple as renting snorkel gear or asin-depth as offering full dive trips to tunnels and caverns.
- Anglers Restaurant
At the Abaco Beach Resort Boat Harbour & Marina, overlooking the Sea of Abaco, this is the main restaurant of the town’s major resort. The menu changes daily, but fresh seafood, which the chef prepares with finesse, is always featured, along with a well-chosen selection of meat and poultry dishes.
- Bistro Mezzamare
Set adjacent to the Conch Inn and the upscale marina facilities of The Moorings, it attracts a lot of yachtsmen. The menu includes shrimp and crab meat salad, lobster salad, seafood platters, at least four preparations of grouper and snapper, and just about everything a chef could conceivably concoct from a conch as well as many succulent pasta dishes.
- Mangoes Restaurant
Set near the harbour front, in one of the town’s most distinctive buildings, Mangoes is the best, and certainly the most popular, restaurant on the island, attracting both yachties and locals.
- Sapodilly’s Bar & Grill
This restaurant occupies an open-air pavilion across the road from the harbor front, in an area of town known as “the tourist strip”. Lunch might consist of grilled fish sandwiches, burgers, salads, and quiche. Dinners are more elaborate, with 12-ounce New York strip steak, a flavor-filled shrimp kebab in teriyaki sauce, and zesty curried filets of grouper. There’s live music every Friday and Saturday from 8 to11pm.
- The Jib Room
This funky restaurant/bar is a hangout for local residents and boat owners who savor its welcoming spirit. If you want the house-special cocktail, a Bilge Burner, get ready for a head-spinning combination of apricot brandy, rum, coconut juice, and vodka. Saturday night brings Jib’s steak barbecue, when as many as 300 steaks are served. The only other dinner option is Wednesday, when grilled baby back ribs might be the featured dish of the day. Other choices include a seafood platter, New York strip steak, and broiled lobster.
This eatery occupies a tidy pink colonial villa on a lawn dotted with hibiscus, across the street from the water. There are an outdoor terrace, a boutique, and an indoor bar and dining area filled with Haitian paintings. The special drink of the house is a Wally’s Special, containing four kinds of rum and a medley of fruit juices. The chef prepares the best Bahamian cracked conch in Marsh Harbour, as well as tender filet mignon, lamb chops, tarragon chicken, and an excellent version of smothered grouper.