After a crafts session on the beach, the kids headed for the docks to go fishing. It may sound like an ordinary kids program on an ordinary day at a sunny beach resort, but what makes the difference at Abaco Beach Resort at Boat Harbour in the northern Bahamas is that Bahamian kids are doing most of the teaching.
Bahama Buddies started at the 90-unit resort in 2009 as a way of connecting cultures and forging friendships among guests and locals. “Not only do the guests’ children learn from the local kids, but also the Bahamian children become more experienced about the ways of Americans and other visitors,” said resort events and wedding planner Jules McCafferty.
When the counselors and Bahamian kids — “borrowed” from the local community center — take guests fishing, they do it “the down-home way,” explained McCafferty, who often stands in as a group counselor. That means hanging out on the rocks and throwing a line out. No poles, no rods, no reels.
The idea is to demonstrate local ways. One day the Abaconian kids might shinny up a coconut tree to pick some nuts, then show how they smash and husk them to harvest the different products inside – coconut water, jelly, and meat.
In Your Bucket Because…
- You’re looking for a true-true Bahamian Out-Island experience.
- You want your children to learn more about an island than its beaches.
- Great for: families and watersports enthusiasts
Another day they may demonstrate how to take a conch out of its shell for making conch salad, fritters, or cracked conch. Another day might be devoted to making a headdress for Junkanoo, the Bahamas’ signature holiday festivities.
“It depends upon what the family wants,” said Andrew Sweeting, resort co-owner. Recently, some families wanted to go lobster hunting, so Sweeting, who grew up in Abaco, took them all – parents and kids – out on a boat to spear and net lobsters for feasting upon that evening.
Like all things Bahamian, the Bahama Buddies program is loosely structured – offered to families with children ages 5 to 15 during seasonal weekends and holidays when the most kids are around. Plans are to add a Bahamas Buddies tab to the resort’s Facebook page dedicated to the newly made buddies, so they can continue their friendship beyond the person-to-person experience.
Whatever day, whatever month, families can act Bahamian at Abaco Beach Resort, because being Bahamian usually requires just adding water. The main island of Great Abaco stretches behind a trellis of cays that beg to be explored. Some hold colonial Loyalist settlements of sherbet-hued cottages, others nothing but beach and wildlife.
Families can easily rent a boat or charter a guide through the resort to go cays-hopping for fishing, snorkeling, shopping, lunch, and beach time.
At the 40-acre resort itself, a white sand beach planted with sway-back coconut palms and a playground make staying put a popular option for the travel- and cold-weary. One of its two pools has a bar and lunch service (don’t miss the lobster salad wrap!).
Anglers Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with both local and American cuisine that overachieves in the “hotel food” category. Plus, the family friendly restaurants of capital town Marsh Harbour are a short walk away.
Cottage-style villas and condos make the best option for families, but those on a budget can make the suites and standard rooms -– all with sea views -– work nicely.
Beyond the penthouse condos, there’s nothing luxurious or even fancy about Abaco Beach Resort, which makes it a perfect fit with the Bahamian Out-Island M.O. Away from Nassau’s hype and high-profile resorts, it feels like an old flip-flop with sand ingrained in its sole… and in its soul.
Abaco Beach Resort at Boat Harbour. Although high season hits late spring throughout summer, rates remain the same year-round.
Direct flights to Marsh Harbour, Abaco’s capital, depart from Miami and Fort Lauderdale.