Caribbean Tourism

Cat Island

Named after Arthur Catt, a British pirate who was in league with Henry Morgan and Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Cat Island, (pop: 1,698 1990 census) boasts Lucayan Indian caves near Port Howe, as well as the usual underwater sites of interest and beauty. Fifty miles long, it was once called San Salvador, and is a contender for the site of Columbus’ first landfall. It has rolling hills and the highest point in the Bahamas, Mount Alvernia, 206 ft above sea level. The island is a centre for the practice of Obeah, a Bahamian voodoo incorporating both bush medicine and witchcraft, which is indicated by bottles and other small objects hanging from the branches of the trees.


Most development has taken place in the south. New Bight is the capital and shares an impressive bay with the quaint Old Bight, the site of an early 19th-century attempt to establish a cotton plantation. You can see the ruins of Pigeon Bay Cottage, an old plantation house just outside Old Bight. New Bight has a few shops. The annual regatta is held here in August. Above the village you can climb Mount Alvernia and visit Father Jerome’s Hermitage. The Stations of the Cross are carved along a winding path leading to the Hermitage, built by Father Jerome, an Anglican priest who converted to Roman Catholicism and designed several churches on Cat Island and Long Island. Fernandez Bay, three miles north of New Bight and home to The Fernandez Bay Village Resort, has one of the island’s best beaches, a secluded cove with excellent sands. On the most southerly tip of the island are two beaches with facilities: The Cutlass Bay Club (tennis, water-skiing) has its own airstrip and a good restaurant. World famous bonefishing flats are within wading distance of the beach. Close by along the crumbling cliff tops are the impressive ruins of the Richman Hill plantation, with ruins of slave quarters, an overseer’s house and a plantation house. The original plantation stretched from the ocean to the inland lake. Another interesting ruin is Colonel Andrew Deveaux’ mansion at Port Howe. Granted land on Cat Island for delivering Nassau from the Spanish, he set up a briefly prosperous cotton plantation here. Early settlers in Port Howe lured ships on to the rocks in order to loot their cargoes. Today Port Howe is famous for its coconuts and pineapples, while the bread, cooked in Dutch or Rock wood-fuelled ovens, is said to be the Bahamas’ tastiest. The Greenwood Dive Centre at The Greenwood Beach Resort, Port Howe offers scuba diving and snorkelling. Run by Waldemar Illing, the hotel attracts German and other European visitors (T/F3423053). There are two boats taking 4-20 passengers on diving or snorkelling trips, but diving can also be done from the shore. Yachting facilities and activities are found at Hawks Nest Marina.

The main settlement in the north of the island is Arthur’s Town, but other than an airstrip there is not much else; there are no restaurants and only one shop which does not sell much. Local people rely on the weekly mailboat from Nassau for groceries. There are bars but none serves food. Two miles inland is a small lake surrounded by mangrove thickets. Islanders refer to it as a blue hole and tell stories of its supernatural inhabitants. The beaches in the north are excellent. Northside Beach, reached by dirt road, stretches for 20 miles but has no facilities at all and has the ubiquitous debris. Orange Creek is an attractive inlet three miles north of Arthur’s Town. Along the nearby shores are the ‘white sand farms’ with small scale farming of beets, potatoes and carrots.


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