TWO islands ? Great Abaco and Little Abaco ? make up the Abaco groups in the northern Bahamas, along with the smaller cays (pronounced keys).
The islands stretch from Walker's Cay in the north to Hole-In-The-Wall in the south. They lie roughly 175 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida, and 106 miles north of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.
Hole in the Wall, with its rugged, 80 foot cliffs and lighthouse, is a favourite whale watching spot in the Bahamas. The whales pass through the North-East Providence Channel, which flows south of Abaco. There are numerous caves in the area.
Abaco includes Elbow Cay (Hope Town), Green Turtle Cay, Man-O-War Cay, Lubbers Quarters Cay, Guana Cay, Gorda Cay, Great Stirrup Cay, Stranger?s Cay, Moore?s Island, Wood Cay, Walker?s Cay and Umbrella Cay.
The towns include Marsh Harbour, Hope Town, New Plymouth, Treasure Cay, Coopers Town and Cornish Town.
First inhabited by Lucayan Indians, European settlers called ?Loyalists? arrived in 1783, fleeing the American Revolution. They were loyal to the British Crown.
The population of Abaco totals more than 13,000. Marsh Harbour is the largest township in Abaco and the third in the Bahamas. Although more modern and lacking in the quaint Colonial charm of the cays, Marsh Harbour has an upscale residential community ? Pelican Shores ? hotels, banks, insurance companies, shops, restaurants and pubs. It also has ferry terminals with service to the cays, and car and bike rentals.
See Abaco map
Hope Town, Green Turtle Cay and Man-O-Way Cay are New England like settlements of quaint cottages painted in the soft pastels of the islands. The candy striped lighthouse in Hope Town is a landmark.
Abaco is well-known for its fine boat building. Tourism drives the economy and there?s a thriving fishing industry.
At 650 square miles, Abaco is one of the largest islands in the Bahamas. It is home to the beautiful Bahama Parrot - the only New World parrot that nests in sub-terrain rock cavities
These gorgeous parrots have dark green feathers, a white crown and upper cheeks, rose red throat, red shoulders and outer wing feathers tinged blue.
The 20,000 acre Abaco National Park provides an important habitat for the Bahama Parrot. Abaco also is home to wild horses and wild boar.
Abaco boasts one of the largest barrier reefs in the world. The Great Abaco Barrier Reef is made up of large, branching formations of Elkhorn Coral with Brain and Star Coral cascading down the inside of the barrier with the shocking blues, bright yellows, reds, greens and pinks of tropical fish swimming lazily by.
Dan?s Cave offers a different kind of diving experience. Located in the middle of Great Abaco?s pine forest, this underwater cave system has massive stalactites, many of them translucent amber.
Abaco hosts many thrilling fishing Big Game fishing tournaments throughout the year. Hundreds of anglers and their families converge on Walker's Cay, Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour with their families for the fun filled events. (c) Athena Mabon