Tips for visiting Marsh Harbor:
- Island life applies to Marsh Harbor: you can’t be in a rush to do anything or expect anything to happen on time.
- Car rentals warning: Cars here have seen better days. Don’t expect too much from your rental car if you get one! I’d strongly recommend just walking or biking around this island, or just getting a cab. The rental car (an old Buick) I got through the Cherokee FBO for $90/day was a lemon, and that’s a kind word for it. The interior was old, scratched and the car needed a deep clean. The car key didn’t work to lock or unlock the doors, nor did the trunk. We had to open up the owner’s manual (still very grateful it was in the glovebox) because we would never have figured out how to get our luggage out of the trunk. Three lights were blinking on the dashboard our whole stay: service maintenance, the ABS system as well as the traction control. I just feel lucky nothing bad happened!
- Mosquitos: bring insect repellent if you want on sitting out on your balcony or taking a leisurely walk at dawn or once it’s dark.
- Fishing around Marsh Harbor: If you enjoy fishing on big fancy boats, this seems like the right place to be! There must have been at least 20 to 30 of them docked in the hotel marina and I saw a lot of day trips advertised.
- Hotels: Abaco Beach resort and marina is the best option out of the 2 hotels we visited and the research we did. The rooms and furniture are quite old and there is a mildew smell when you walk in: I’d recommend getting the suite with the kitchen and living room as it’s more spacious. The gym here was probably the worst one I’ve ever seen: the two treadmills had a weird bump in them in the middle, the weights were old and rusted and it smelled horrible. On a plus side, there was a private beach with cute chairs, palapas, hammocks, free kayaks and paddleboards. It was also nice to walk in the marina and look at the docked fishing and leisure boats. The hotel is also well situated to walk to local restaurants and shops and has a dive center called Dive Time (they didn’t have any dives available when I was there). The second hotel we looked at was Treasure Cay Beach, resort, and marina which was further from the airport and not as nice. The rooms were very small unless you get the marina view with the kitchen and balcony (but still a lot smaller than the Abaco beach resort room) The furniture looked newer but the view of the marina is not as nice and the beach is on the other side of the road… which is probably a good 5-10 minute walk (I’m not sure if the chairs that were on the beach belong to the resort or the restaurant). There was a decent sized grocery store, a cute restaurant and bakery as well as a golf cart rental shop and a liquor store, all within a few steps of the resort.
- I contacted 2 diving companies while I was in Marsh Harbor: Dive Time Abaco and Dive Abaco. Sadly I didn’t get to dive on this trip as I prioritized my trip to see the pigs but I would love to go next time. I also learned that Froggie’s Adventures offer dives as well as Brendal’s dive center.
- Maxwell’s grocery store is fantastic and your place to go if you need to go food shopping. I really didn’t expect such a great selection and they even had a vegan section!
- My colleague tried Bliss coffee, which is supposed to be the best coffee on the island, and said it was okay. He also described the vibe as walking into someone’s living room, a little awkward.
- I was recommended the following restaurants in Marsh Harbor (close to our hotel) but didn’t get a chance to try them: Mangoes, Conch Inn, Snappas and Wally’s. The breakfast at the Abaco beach resort was nice and I must say the Lobster Benedict was fantastic.
- Take the day trip to No Name Cays (pigs) with Froggie’s adventures. It was absolutely worth the price! (see more below)
- Take a day trip adventure to Elbow Cay, check out my post about this island.
Impressions of Marsh Harbor:
This island feels like it’s oriented towards people sailing through the Bahamas and only stopping for a few days. I’ve never seen so many marinas with so many boats in them for such a small island.
My first day was simply magical. I had been in contact with the concierge of my hotel before we landed and he’d organized a tour that left early the next morning to see the pigs. From my previous experience in the Bahamas, I knew that everything starts later and takes longer than expected (ALWAYS!), so I’d left my entire day open.
Captain Chris picked me up from the Da Blue hole (marina area) in a 36 feet speed boat and the only thing I was expecting from this trip was to see pigs and maybe stop for lunch on another island, and wow I got so many great surprises along the way! We sped towards Hope Town, Elbow Cay Island, to pick up more adventurers and I got a glimpse of this cute little spot and told Captain Chris how fun it looked and he told me I could hop off at the end of the day to explore for a few hours if I wanted to. I got very excited because this island was on my list of things to do! About half an hour after we left Hope Town, we stopped in the middle of the Abaco sea and Captain Chris told us we’d arrived at Fowl Cays National Park and it was time to go snorkeling around the reef. I got so excited, put my mask, snorkel, and fins on and dove into the crystal-clear water. The visibility was fantastic and the water was so salty making it very easy to float around. I saw so many fish (a lot of the same ones I saw while doing the shallow dive in Nassau, but with better visibility!) as well as coral and a huge barracuda! I couldn’t believe we were the only boat around! After 30 minutes of swimming around the reef, I got cold and swam back to the boat, where we all decided we were ready for food so we headed towards Green Turtle Cay.
Once again, we were the only tourist boat on the little dock, and most of my new friends stopped at the first restaurant for some food. I decided to walk around this island, considered one of the earliest settlements of Abaco and home of pirates such as Charles Vane. The houses were so colorful, the streets so quiet and empty. I stopped at a cute coffee shop & restaurant called Turtle Crawl Café and grabbed a pretty decent cappuccino and kept walking the streets of this beautiful island. I would totally come back here and chill for a week. From here we went on a quick boat ride up to a little bay where we fed some green turtles. They were so beautiful! The water was so clear we could see them coming up from a distance and making their way to us, and the squid they were going to snack on. We also witnessed some pretty aggressive fish, speeding up to the surface to catch the squid, as well as a barracuda that tried to eat a big piece but couldn’t and started jumping on the water surface to get away from the other fish that were trying to steal it! Our captain also told us we could feed stingrays and sharks on a beach not too far from where we were. That sounds like something I’d like to do next time!
It was now time to check out No Name Cay also known as Piggyville! As we got closer to the beach, I started noticing all these dots along it… and then started realizing that they were pigs and there were so many of them, all sizes and ages, as well as roosters and hens. The place wasn’t too crowded, only 2 other boats other than ours, so the pigs started coming towards us as we pulled in closer to the beach. As we were getting off the boat, someone pointed out that there was a shark a few meters away from us… sweet! Captain Chris assured us he’d keep an eye on him but there was nothing to fear. I grabbed a few slices of bread and started walking towards the pigs. I was told that the pigs are difficult here, they like their bread dry and will not eat it if it’s soggy! I made a few of them swim out to me and then started walking on the island shore, to see the piglets. Some of the pigs were quite aggressive, or possibly hangry, so you had to be careful of how you held the food and who you gave it to but in general, if you didn’t have any food in your hands and didn’t try to pick up the babies, they were all very friendly. We spent a good 30-45 minutes here and it was such a unique experience. Once everyone was back on the boat, we started our 55-minute journey ride back to Hope Town and enjoyed a few jumps and laughs along the way. See my Hope Town post for details about Elbow Cay & the town.
I was sad it rained and was very gray and stormy on my second day! I still decided to go on an adventure up to Treasure Cay to see more of the island. The drive was not very exciting (actually a little bit depressing) as we drove by junkyards and old abandoned buildings. We toured the resort and marina and then checked out the beach. The color of the water and the sand was breathtakingly beautiful, and this was on a stormy day so I can imagine how wonderful it must be on a sunny day. This 4-mile beach was voted one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world and I could agree with this statement if there was less seaweed on the beach. I got back to my room mid-afternoon, after grocery shopping for my flight the next day, and the sky didn’t look too menacing so I decided to head out on the paddleboard. It was a little bit choppy because of the wind, but still very good conditions. I kept telling myself how lucky I was to be on this paddleboard, amongst the fish, the boats, and the crystal-clear water.
And then the rain started, and it never stopped until a few hours before we left Marsh Harbor the next morning.