The Southern Out Islands Travel Guide
When to Go
Few visitors make it to these southern islands, but those who do come at different times. Europeans tend to arrive in summer and stay for a month or longer. Sailors come through on their way to the Caribbean in fall and return to the Bahamas in spring on trips back to the United States. Fishermen arrive all year and divers like the calm seas in summer. Those looking for a winter warm-up visit from December to April, when temperatures are in the 70s. These months have the lowest rainfall of the year, but the ocean is chilly and rough for divers and boaters. Christmas and New Year's are usually booked, so reserve rooms months in advance.
Many inns and resorts are closed September and October for hurricane season, which technically runs from June through November. Mosquito repellent is usually needed year-round, but is imperative in summer and fall, especially after a period of rain when both mosquitoes and no-see-ums come out in full force. Note that they remain in the sand on your feet and towels even after you leave the beach, so make sure to rinse or leave your towel outside your room.
The southern islands are generally warmer than Nassau, but you may need a windbreaker in winter, particularly on a boat. If possible, time your visit for Junkanoo, sailing regattas, and special events such as the Cat Island's Rake ’N' Scrape Festival.
Great Itineraries in the Southern Out Islands
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.
If You Have 3 Days
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.
If You Have 5 Days
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."
If You Have 7 Days
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.