A day on Green Turtle Cay

Senior associate editor Rebecca Tobin visited the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. Her report follows:

am a city gal by nature, so my heart gave a little leap when I stepped off Albury's Ferry onto Green Turtle Cay to the lapping of the waters of the Sea of Abaco.

The Bahamas' Abaco Islands, of which Green Turtle Cay is one, are a very good sell for clients who want to stay close to home but still want the experience of an exotic destination.

The Abacos are an hour's flight from Florida, and the islands accept U.S. currency, but the big draws here are snorkeling and fishing for marlin and bonefish.

For rest and relaxation, there's karaoke and Kalik (a Bahamian beer; pronounce it "click" and you'll do just fine) in the oceanfront bars.

Once on Green Turtle Cay, my first order of business was to secure a golf cart, the main mode of transportation. For about $40 for the day, a visitor can absorb all there is to see on this tiny slip of land.

For those who want the exercise, bicycle rentals also are available.

Great Abaco Island is surrounded by little cays such as Green Turtle, which is 15 minutes by ferry from the Great Abaco dock.

It's a half hour across the water from the hotels in Marsh Harbour, the Abacos' main city, making it an interesting day trip for guests there.

Life moves slowly on Green Turtle Cay, where bicycles vie with golf carts as modes of transportation. I puttered around New Plymouth, the only town, where pastel-colored houses look as though they were transported from New England or Key West, Fla.

The green turtles that gave the island its name are not easy to spot, I was told, and I didn't see any. (The cay was once a breeding ground for the now-protected species.)

The history of Green Turtle Cay dates to the end of the American Revolution, when pro-British loyalists landed in the Abacos and made their way to New Plymouth in 1783.

Snippets of Bahamian lore are found in the Memorial Sculpture Garden, one of the few attractions on the cay.

Down the street from the sculpture garden, visitors will find a cemetery dotted with headstones that bear dates from as early as 1800.

Across from the cemetery is Ye Olde Jail, where 19th century Abaconians locked up their criminals.

Around the corner from the ferry dock is Vert's Model Ship Shoppe, where Vertram Lowe has built intricate model boats for the past 16 years.

Lowe learned the trade from his father, Albert, whose bronze bust occupies a prominent position in the Sculpture Garden.

The nearby Albert Lowe Museum contains historical photos, artifacts and more model boats.

New Plymouth has a few restaurants. The Captain's Table restaurant in the New Plymouth Club and Inn was recommended by our hosts. The hotel and restaurant close for September. Call (242) 365-4161 for information.

It was worth a jolting half-hour drive in the golf cart to eat at the restaurant in the Green Turtle Club and Marina, which boasts what it calls the "best rum punch in the Caribbean." It was, as far as I was concerned. It also was very strong, so visitors should taste-test at their own risk.

Rates for a two-night plan at the resort, valid through Feb. 28, start at $179 per person, double.

To book, call (242) 365-4271 or visit www.greenturtleclub.com.

Across the harbor and a few more miles down another bumpy road is the Bluff House, which has a restaurant and guest rooms.

The last ferry back to Great Abaco Island leaves at 5 p.m. It runs hourly every day from 8 a.m., and the fare is $12 roundtrip. Passengers can pay on the boat. Call (242) 367-3147 for additional information.

On Great Abaco, renting a car is cheaper than hiring a taxi. The price for a midsize car from Rental Wheels in Marsh Harbour starts at $75 per day. For details, call (242) 367-4643.

Golfers can drive to Treasure Cay Golf Club, the only course in the Abacos.

Rates are $60 for 18 holes, $40 for nine. For details, call (800) 327-1584 or visit the Web at www.golfbahamas.com.

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