Cat Island: The Underrated Gem of the Bahamas
The stereotypical image one paints when he hears the words “The Bahamas” is that of a long stretch of white sand beaches dotted with coconut trees blessed with a scenic seascape overlooking nearby islands and cays…. What the general public needs to know is that this island nation has more to offer than just their perfect coastline.
Because of its colorful history, The Bahamas is also known to be a cultural melting pot in the Caribbean. The islands have gone through so much economically and politically, that each island has a unique story to share. Among these islands, the most number of tales to unfold would be that from Cat Island.
With its prime location in central Bahamas, the fishhook-shaped Cat Island is home to many natural and historical landmarks. Originally called San Salvador (which is the name for another island), the island is said to have derived its name either from the pirate Arthur Catt or from the feral cats that abound the area. Although British loyalists established residency on the island, much of today’s inhabitants still practice traditional activities like weaving straw handicrafts.
Since it is located near the Tropic of Cancer, the beaches of this island enjoy a warm climate throughout the year. However, with its neighboring islands and cays offering more water activities, these rose-colored beaches remain unspoiled by tourism.
Aside from being a peaceful beach paradise, Cat Island is also home to Mount Alvernia, the highest elevation in the Bahamas. At 206 feet above sea level, adventure-seekers will find the view absolutely breathtaking, making it an interesting stop on their Bahamian trip. Additionally, on top of the hill rests The Hermitage, a stone monastery hand-carved by architect Father Jerome. This is one of The Bahamas’ most well-known historic landmarks.
Other notable attractions on the Island include Armbrister Plantation, the Griffin Bat Cave, the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Old Bight, and the ruins of the Deveaux House Mansion. Other ruins of cotton plantations can be seen on the island and on other nearby islands. Visitors who wish to discover more about the island’s unique history may want to visit The Columbus World Centre Museum for a day of fun and learning.
Those who wish to explore the hidden secrets of the island will not be disappointed. The Boiling Hole, a lake near Armbrister Creek, is a notable spot to see baby sharks, spy rays, and various bird species. Diving enthusiasts may also explore the island’s hidden coves, ship wrecks, and blue holes. To add to the excitement, local folklore believes that the 10-ft deep Mermaid Hole is actually home to a mermaid, while the Big Blue Hole houses a horse-eating monster.
The main settlement of Arthur’s Town also offers many opportunities for travelers and locals to mingle. Cat Island is also home to Rake and Scrape, the indigenous music of The Bahamas, making it possible for visitors to enjoy its beat all year round – it even hosts the Annual Rake and Scrape Festival during Labour Day weekend. Additionally, the childhood home of Academy Award winning actor Sir Sidney Poitier in South Bight is also one of the town’s main destinations.
Holidaymakers can easily choose from the different accommodation types offered on the island. There are secluded resorts that offer a peaceful countryside feel. On the other hand, some guests may prefer to stay in beachside cottages where they have easy access to the sea. Cat Island vacation options are abundant, but there are no five star hotels here. This is a place off of the beaten path!
Reaching Cat Island is possible via air and sea transportation. There are scheduled domestic and international flights to the island via the Arthur’s Town Airport and the New Bight Airport. Guests may also opt to fly via chartered flights upon request. By sea, a public mailboat service travels to the island from Nassau per week. The island is also home to a marina, so guests with private boats are also welcome to dock there – just make sure that all the necessary requirements with the Customs and Immigration have been cleared.
Because of the island’s relatively small size, taxi services are also limited. Guests are advised to have prior arrangements to have taxis pick them up from the airport. Also due to this limited amount of cabs, rental cars are the preferred mode of transportation within the island.
To summarize, Cat Island is not a stereotypical Caribbean island. True to being a Bahamian island, its rosy-white beaches are truly pristine and picturesque. It is home to various land and aquatic species, and several natural and historic landmarks. The mystery beyond its deep waters and blue holes will always keep guests wondering about what lies beneath. The island’s rolling hills also offer the perfect hiking spot, as well as a breathtaking view over the town. More than just being a cultural hotspot, it is one of the Bahamian islands with an underrated beauty.