Hopetown is the only settlement on Elbow Cay – a narrow island in northern Abaco, Bahamas. Its about 6 miles long with the Atlantic Ocean on its east side and the Sea of Abaco on its west side. The Cay was almost divided in two at its narrowest part by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Elbow Cay is located 185 miles east of West Palm Beach, FL, and 110 miles north of Nassau. The nearest “big” island is Great Abaco, about 4 miles to the west. Locally, Great Abaco is called “the mainland.”
Hopetown has no airport, so you have to arrive by boat. You can bring your own boat – as we did.
Or you can get here on the Albury ferry – all named Donnie – from Marsh Harbour, on Great Abaco, the nearest airport. The ferry boats were built on Man O’ War Cay, the next island to our north.
The ferry will back right up to the Lower Public Dock, or the Post Office (Upper Public) dock, or the Lodge dock. Or maybe even right across the dock from where we keep Motu Iti. This time it is off-loading the Sax Man – who played at the Marina last week.
Here is the ferry leaving the harbor.
You can see the shallow water – it looks white; when we have a supermoon low tide, that white part is all bared sand. The entrance is marked with little red and green buoys, to keep you in the deeper water. Some boats have to approach at high tide in order to not run aground.
The Albury ferries move people, letters and small packages. For the big stuff, you need the freight boat. If you look closely, you can still see “US ARMY’ under new paint.
The freight boat mostly visits a dock near the Lodge, at the far end of the harbor. It brings in everything from eggs and toilet paper to washing machines and golf carts. The freight boat recently delivered a new replacement engine to a friend of ours for her sailboat.
There are three grocery stores and three (maybe more) liquor stores on the island and they are all supplied by the freight boat. If it’s not in the store – wait until the freight boat comes in.
Hopetown/Elbow Cay is often described as “sleepy” or “at a slow pace.” According to travel websites, it suffers from a lack of amenities, irregular business hours and random electrical outages. It has one bank – open on Tuesdays for about four hours – and no ATM. You can’t rent a car. To us, these are some of the GOOD things about Hopetown. And do the so-called travel gurus mention the spectacular beaches, fascinating and friendly people, community spirit, iconic lighthouse, and spectacular sunrises and sunsets???
No, they complain that the only cuisine is Bahamian. Like conch fritters, chicken souse, grouper nantua, and Vernon’s coconut pie aren’t special and unique.
Like you could get this fabulous food anywhere – just try.
And of course the websites don’t mention its wonderfully protected harbor, which is a natural gathering place for cruising sailboats as they travel up and down the island chain. Many boats stay on a mooring.
We elected to stay at the Hopetown Inn & Marina, where we stayed in 2013. It’s across the harbor from town. Of course the slips have water and electricity. We fill our 70 gallon tank about every three weeks or so, (it’s reverse osmosis water made locally), and most of our electrical needs are supplied by our solar panels. The marina has a laundromat – there is only one other one on Elbow Cay; both are $11.00 to wash and dry one load. The marina also has two pools, a restaurant, a local phone and showers ($5.50/each). We prefer to take our showers on our boat, using a solar shower – a plastic bag filled with water that heats up in the sun.) The marina also runs a pontoon boat shuttle to take folks across the harbor to town, although we often take our dinghy instead. And we have internet – such as it is. The marina folks are very friendly and helpful.
We like our slip, which is away from the busier parts of the marina and quieter. In the early morning, we can watch the sun rise across the harbor.
Except sometimes there’s another boat between us and the harbor and then this is our view.
Yikes! That’s more electricity than we use in a month.
The real story is that Hopetown is a beautiful settlement of friendly people, brightly colored cottages:
Little curly tailed geckos
And stunning sunsets.
Come visit: fly from your nearest airport to MHH, then 20 minutes on the Albury ferry. Bring chocolate.