I would like to start by saying that all the bars in the Abacos are excellent, each in its own way. The locals are friendly and genuine, with big smiles and infectious laughter. A good time can be had just about anywhere. All this made my assignment to report on the 10 best bars that much more difficult. I spent many, many days cruising from one end of the Abacos to the other, doing exhausting research, sampling the products and paying the price to bring you this valuable information. Here are my findings.
Right off the bat, at No. 10, I've picked a bar that isn't on a beach! Hey, it's da Bahamasroll with it. What is so special about the Blue Bee? This is where Miss Emily invented the Goombay Smash. Often imitated, never duplicated. Miss Emily is no longer with us, but her niece Violet continues to serve this potent tropical punch with a smile that could light up Nassau. The bar is classically funky with boat cards covering the walls and ceiling. Allegedly some pretty famous folks have their cards stapled here, but a huge storm surge washed out most of the old cards. That just seems to add to the ambiance.
Where to dock: There are mooring balls in Black Sound, or you can anchor off New Plymouth in prevailing easterly winds. Nearby options include the Leeward Yacht Club (242-365-4191) and the mooringballs at Donny's Dock (407-610-7000).
As with the Blue Bee, Pineapples is in New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay. New Plymouth is a bit off the central, popular part of the Sea of Abaco and takes just a bit more effort to reach. That means, for better or worse, it's a bit more rustic. That suits me fine, and so does Pineapples. There's a small beach, lovely sunset views, a pool surrounded by picnic tables and a small outdoor bar. You'll find typical Bahamian beach-bar fare of burgers, fried conch, fish dinners and a full compliment of cocktails. Live music is usually on the schedule in season.
Where to dock: There are moorings in very well protected Black Sound, a short walk into New Plymouth, or tie up at Green Turtle Club & Marina (800-370-4468) in the North Sound for a resort-like stay and about a one-hour golf cart ride to Pineapples.
The pool bar at the Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour Marina falls on the opposite end of the spectrum. ABR is one of the nicest resort/marinas in the Bahamas, with deluxe accommodations. The bar is a giant tiki hut serving all your favorite concoctions and a small bar menu. Formal dinner can be had steps away at Anglers Restaurant. But the pool is what makes this place special. You can swim up to your bar stool in the pool and be served cocktails without leaving the water. Life is good at ABR. It is located close to Marsh Harbor, the biggest town in the Abacos.
Where to dock: Onsite at Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour Marina (242-367-2158).
Why does the Reef Bar & Grill at Hopetown Harbor Lodge make No. 7? Its spectacular view of the Atlantic, good food and excellent service. It's a very pleasant and relaxing spot to enjoy your favorite drink. Being in Hopetown doesn't hurt either. If you like casual elegance, this is your place. Bar hopping via golf cart is known to be a popular pastime on Elbow Cay.
Where to dock: Hopetown has several marinas, including Hope Town Inn & Marina (242-366-0003) and a large mooring field in the well protected harbor near the beautiful old red striped lighthouse guarding Elbow Cay.
Grabbers is just a few stumbles from the beach just don't fall into the pool on your way. A Grabber frozen punch drink can do that to you. This is a great place to put your toes in the sand or swing in one of the hammocks and enjoy a beautiful Bahamas sunset. A good selection of cocktails and typical Bahamian fare should take care of your needs while you melt into the soft sand.
Where to dock: There is lots of room to anchor off Great Guana Cay during prevailing easterlies, or dock at Orchid Bay Yacht Club & Marina (242-365-5175).
Cracker P's Bar & Grill on Lubbers Quarters has one of the largest selections of rum I've ever seen including the Shotgun which is their house made rum punch. Maybe I can stop right there. But it also has a very good, well prepared menu and a regular Full Moon Party. Get your timing right and prepare to howl!
Where to dock: There is an anchorage north of popular Tahiti Beach and a dinghy dock at Cracker P's.
Abaco Inn has spectacular views from a bluff overlooking the Atlantic. What gets it such a high rating is its food the sesame tuna is perfection! It is known for their high standards, and the dinner menu reflects that. Everybody needs to indulge once in a while, right? The lunch menu still has high standards, but with more down-to-earth pricing. Oh, and it serves cocktails too! The Abaco Inn is on Elbow Cay, reachable by golf cart from Hopetown or by anchoring off Lubbers Quarters and dinghying into White Sound. There's a marina in White Sound a short walk away.
Where to dock: Sea Spray Marina in White Sound (242-366-0065), about a ten-minute walk away.
The beach at Treasure Cay is world famous, and for good reason seven miles of fantastically spectacular sandiness. And Coco's ain't too shabby, either. First, it mixes an excellent Bahama Mama. Second, there are great Wednesday and Thursday night dinner specials. Third, Friday nights usually sees very good live music and bonfires on the beach. Finally, Coco's has lounge chairs available under tiki huts with bar service. There's something for everyone. You must see that beach!
Where to dock: Onsite at Treasure Cay Beach Hotel, Marina & Golf Resort (242-365-8250), which offers docks, moorings and anchorage.
If you want a party, Nipper's on Great Guana Cay is party central in the Abacos. There are excellent view from the bluff of the ocean, the beach below, and the reef just offshore. The multicolored and multilevel decks make for great people viewing. Their Nipper Juice will get you properly juiced up, and there is an always-popular Sunday pig roast. If you are there on Easter Sunday, you can join the Easter egg hunt that includes hiding spots out on the reef. If the usual party isn't enough, make sure you plan your visit around the annual Barefoot Man concert in April: Party time on steroids!
Where to dock: Orchid Bay Marina (242-365-5175) is a decent walk away, and Nipper's will pick you up in it's golf carts, or anchor off Great Guana Cay.
Pete's Pub in Little Harbour ... this is a beach bar. From the ships-bow bar to the sand floor to the motto Why walk when you can crawl it's real, it's authentic and it's laid back. Its Blaster is a rum punch with a little something different, a bit of tang. The fish sandwich is excellent. Pete occasionally puts on wild pig roasts as well. The pub runs on solar power and rain water. And then there is the Johnston Studios. Pete's father brought the family to Little Harbour in the early 1950s and lived in caves while building a homestead and then a bronze foundry. The foundry still operates and you can see and buy bronze sculptures in the gallery. This is a place to be experienced.
Where to dock: Most boats take a mooring in the well-protected Little Harbor, where a large population of sea turtles roam about. Pete's Pub also has some dock space. The bar is just a short crawl from the beach where you land your dinghy.
There's another type of beach bar you can find scattered throughout the Bahamas. These beach bars don't have a staff of waitresses or bartenders or chefs. There's no cover charge or menu or live band on Friday night. No blenders, not even electricity. They are empty beaches where cruising boats and locals gather any useful flotsam to create a picnic area beach-bar atmosphere. They are truly BYOB. Some are quite elaborate, often employing old fishing nets as sun shade, stumps for seating, and any variety of planks, pallets, doors, and what-have-you for tables. They are close to good anchorages with sandy beaches. For a change of pace, create your own beach bar and your own Top Ten experience.