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The Out Islands of The Bahamas ( or. www.myoutislands.com.)
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (242/302–2000. www.bahamas.com.)
Sportsmen are drawn to the southern islands to outsmart the swift bonefish, and fish for marlin, black and bluefin tuna, wahoo, and swordfish. Yachties roam these islands on their way to the Caribbean, and vacationers rent Hobie Cats and kayaks. Divers and snorkelers come to see healthy reefs and abundant underwater wildlife. Romantics and honeymooners head south for the glorious sunsets viewed from the verandahs of beachside cottages, and for the lovely pink beaches. Bird-watchers arrive with binoculars in hand to see the green and red Bahama parrots, the Bahama woodstar hummingbirds, Bahama pintails, tricolored and crested night herons, and, of course, flamingos.
The friendliness of residents is well known, but visitors are often taken aback by their instant inclusion in the community. You can't walk 100 feet without someone offering a welcome ride on a hot day. Ask an islander where a certain restaurant is and they will walk with you until you see it. Express any disappointment such as not seeing a flamingo up close, and the person standing behind you at the store will get on their cell phone. (There's a big flock now at the Town Pond!) The scenery is gorgeous, but this genuine rapport is what brings regulars back time and again to these tiny communities.
Note: If you don't have a boat, island-hopping is difficult in these parts, as there are no flights that fly directly between the islands (you must transfer back in Nassau). Most visitors choose one island to base themselves on, but if you're feeling ambitious, the following schedule should start on a Tuesday so you can head to Long Island Friday on a 2:15 pm flight from Nassau. It's the only afternoon flight of the week; all other days you'll have to overnight in Nassau in order to make an early morning connection.
Fly into The Bight on Cat Island and catch what's left of the day on a gorgeous beach, then enjoy a dinner of lobster or fresh fish at your inn's outdoor restaurant. Spend Day 2 diving with Hawk's Nest dive staff and reserve dinner at Shannas Cove Resort. The third day, climb to the top of the 206-foot Mt. Alvernia and see the Hermitage, the little abbey on top of the hill, which is a great place for a picnic. Spend the afternoon snorkeling or kayaking through Pigeon Creek from the beach at Fernandez Bay, then enjoy dinner at Fernandez Bay Village.
When you arrive on Long Island in the afternoon, head to Cape Santa Maria beach for some last-chance sun or snorkeling. Watch the sunset during happy hour at the Cape Santa Maria Resort before enjoying a fresh seafood dinner in the upstairs restaurant. On Day 5 pack an ice chest, rent a car, put on your swimsuit, and head south to Dean's Blue Hole, the world's deepest, and explore. Spelunkers will want to stop at the Hamilton Cave on the way. Max’s Conch Bar is a great lunch stop for fresh conch salad and mingling with locals. Next head to Galloway Landing and explore its beaches, canals, lagoons, and ocean flats. Eat dinner at Chez Pierre’s on Miller’s Bay, hands down the best food on the island, but call ahead for reservations and don’t be late, as Chef Pierre doesn’t work on "island time."
On Day 6, head north to the Columbus Monument. It's a long and rough road, but with four-wheel drive you can make it. From the top of the hill, where the monument stands, is one of the most spectacular views you will ever see. Afterwards, head back to the Queen's Highway and continue north until the road stops at the ocean; this is beautiful Newton Cay. Walk across the small crumbling bridge to Columbus Cove, where Columbus made landfall. For the more adventurous, follow the beach to the left to find magnificent sea glass or great snorkeling. Stop at Stella Maria Resort for lunch or dinner, and enjoy amazing views of the Atlantic. On your final day, book a dive trip with Stella Maris Marina to see healthy reefs, sunken ship wrecks, sharks, and wild dolphins.