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2005-10-28 15:30:53

Cruising The Bahamas

The Bahamas are the Magic Kingdom of cruising destinations.

Just over the horizon from South Florida, only 50 miles from Miami, are 700 islands and nearly 2,500 cays spread across 10,000 square miles of ocean. From the Abacos to the Exumas, the fishing, the diving and, above all, the clarity of the water are breathtaking. Solitude, nightlife, fine food, great accommodations, casinos, deserted beaches, perfect anchorages... it's all there. Head for the waypoints on the following pages to experience these magical islands at their best.

9 Great Hotels
Atlantis Resort
· Atlantis, Paradise Island. A "wow" resort with a mega-marina.
· One and Only Ocean Club, Paradise Island. The former home of zillionaire Huntington Hartford, now a posh getaway.
· Four Seasons Resort at Emerald Bay, Great Exuma. The only full-service resort in the Exumas has a new marina.
· Pink Sands, Harbour Island. Only 25 rooms and an incredible beach.
· Westin & Sheraton, Lucaya, Grand Bahama. Three hotels, two great beaches and a full-service marina.
· Abaco Beach Resort, Great Abaco. The biggest hotel in Marsh Harbour overlooks Boat Harbour Marina.
· Abaco Inn, Elbow Cay. Small, sophisticated and with an ocean-level pool.
· Compass Point, New Providence. Cottages on stilts overlook the water in high style.
· Green Turtle Club, Green Turtle Cay. "In" spot where the villas have docks and the marina is famous.

4 Unforgettable Watering Holes
· Nipper's, Great Guana Cay. Above one of the best beaches in the Bahamas, has a split-level pool.
· Compleat Angler, Bimini. A whole room devoted to Ernest Hemingway.
· Hummer's Lounge, Marsh Harbour. The coziest bar in the Bahamas, even has a fireplace.
· Miss Emily's, Green Turtle Cay. Famous for its goombay smash; finding it is half the fun.

9 Top Marinas
Sampson Cay Marina
· Treasure Cay Marina, Great Abaco. Great beach, a golf course and very well-protected.
· Old Bahama Bay Marina, Grand Bahama. Great stopover when entering the Bahamas; magnificent "infinity" pool.
· Boat Harbour, Abaco. Largest in the Bahamas; a serious gathering spot for sportfishermen.
· Sampson Cay Marina, Exumas. Sits in a natural hurricane hole.
· Hurricane Hole Marina, Paradise Island. Within walking distance of Atlantis or Ocean Club.
· Highbourne Cay Marina, Exumas. Small and attractive, with good services; gateway to the Exumas.
· Lucayan Marina, Grand Bahama. New, full-service center with free shuttle service.
· Atlantis Marina, Paradise Island. Spectacular and meticulously maintained, with many services.
· Marina at Emerald Bay, Exumas. New, with access to Four Seasons Resort and Greg Norman links.

11 Tempting Restaurants
Graycliff Restaurant
· Luciano's, Grand Bahama. Cognac-flambČed scampi.
· The Landing, Harbour Island. Lobster in banana leaves.
· Aqua, Old Bahama Bay. Beef, veal and lobster in a peppercorn sauce.
· Abaco Inn, Elbow Cay. Try the frittata breakfast.
· Pink Sands, Harbour Island. Salmon in a herb crust.
· Rock House Restaurant, Harbour Island. Tiger shrimp spaghetti.
· Mangoes, Marsh Harbour. Mango grouper is unforgettable.
· Club Soleil, Elbow Cay. Great Sunday brunch.
· Green Turtle Club, Green Turtle Cay. Ginger lobster medallions.
· Bluff House, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco. Lobster quesadillas are a house specialty.
· Graycliff, Nassau. Lobster Graycliff in white wine sauce.

Local Foods To Try
· Boil fish. Grouper with salt pork, onion, pepper and spices.
· Rice and peas. As much of an island classic as Bahamian bread.
· Souse. Pigs feet, chicken parts and sheep tongue simmered in a spicy broth.
· Stew fish. Tasty grouper in brown sauce.
· Cracked conch. So fresh you'll hear the chef banging in the kitchen.

Tourist Stuff You just Can't Resist
· Dolphin Encounter, Nassau. Your chance to get up close and personal with Flipper.
· Hartley's Undersea Walks, Nassau. Walk on the sea bottom with lightweight diving helmets.
· Albury's Sail Shop, Man-o-War. Shop for locally made canvas totes, duffels and more.
· Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay. Photograph the landmark seen on Bahamas postage stamps.
· Junkanoo. Attend this Mardi-Gras-style festival that's held on most islands in December or January.
· Atlantis Marine Habitat, Paradise Island. View 50,000 species in this aquarium.

6 Spectacular Beaches
· Pink Sands, Harbour Island. Three miles of powder-fine pink sand protected by reefs.
· Stocking Island, Exumas. No crowds and clear water.
· Tahiti Beach, Elbow Cay, Abacos. Isolated, with great pickings for shell collectors.
· Sandbar near Musha Cay, Exumas. When the tide's right, this patch of sand off a very exclusive resort is paradise.
· Treasure Cay, Great Abaco. Consistently rated among the world's best.
· Great Guana Cay, Abaco. A wild, untouched stretch that goes on and on.

Bahamas On The Screen
Photo: M16-The Home of James Bond 007
· Splash. Daryl Hannah as a mermaid.
· Darker Than Amber. Rod Taylor as Travis McGee.
· Help! The Beatles on Paradise Beach.
· Flame of the Islands. Yvonne De Carlo smolders with Jim Arness.
· Jaws IV, The Revenge. Underwater sets remain off Clifton Pier.
· Speed 2. Sandra Bullock in disaster film reprise.
· Sea Hunt. 1950s TV series with Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson.

James Bond Loved the Bahamas
· Never Say Never
· Thunderball
· The Spy Who Loved Me
· You Only Live Twice

6 Great Diving Spots
Divers enjoy great visibility.
· Bimini Wall, Bimini. A vertical wall with black coral trees that seems to drop to infinity.
· Current Cut, Eleuthera. A wild ride for skilled divers through a narrow opening with currents up to eight knots.
· Stocking Island, Exumas. This tiny island off George Town is ringed with undersea caves and coral gardens.
· Lucayan National Park, Grand Bahama. The longest underwater caves-seven miles-in the world.
· Andros Wall, Andros. This barrier reef drops more than 6,000 feet.
· Walls of San Salvador, San Salvador. Many sheer, straight drop-offs.

Best Ways To Enjoy Local Lobster
· Steamed
· Breaded
· Sauteed in butter
· With grated cheese
· Minced with tomatoes, green peppers and onions.

6 Angling Adventures
Anglers hit the Bahamas for bonefish on the flats.
· Bahamas Billfish Champion-ship. Compete in the tournament series that showcases the top big-game boats and crews.
· Tuna Alley. The legendary waters between Cat Cay and Bimini produce bluefin over 700 pounds.
· World-Record Wahoo. Hit San Salvador for wahoos that push 160 pounds. The high-speed Bahamas Wahoo Championship also gets under way in November in Port Lucaya.
· Bonefish Heaven. Shimmering schools of speedy bonefish cruise the Abaco Marls and the flats off Andros and Grand Bahama.
· Trophy Grouper. Pick a reef, nearly any reef, in the 700-island chain, and troll up tasty grouper using deep-running plugs.
· Troll for Billfish. The Tongue of the Ocean just beyond the Great Bahama Bank is one blue marlin hot spot. The area east of the Abacos is another.

By Chris Caswell from Motor Boating

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