Editor's note: This is the first part of a two-part series.
In all my years in the travel business I have never had such a low-key travel experience as I did this weekend to the Abaco Beach Resort at Boat Harbor located on Great Abaco Island, the second-largest island in the Bahamas archipelago.
The Abaco Islands are a cluster of 100 islands (most uninhabited) on the northern end of the Bahamas, about 165 miles east of West Palm Beach.
As we flew into Marsh Harbour, we found out how it got its name on our approach to the airstrip. We could see all of the marsh, as well as some of the smaller uninhabited islands.
We were very fortunate it was a clear day, as we could see for miles how the islands were situated. It is located 180 miles east of the coast of Florida.
There were seven of us. We arrived at Melbourne Airport at the Baer Air facility. We walked in the door and our pilot greeted us and gave us our Bahamas Immigration form to fill out and took our passport information.
We were offered refreshments while they pulled our plane up to the door (yes, pulled right up outside of the door).
The owner, Bill Baer, gave us an overview of the plane and our safety information.
We boarded and were in the air within 30 minutes of arriving, and an hour and 20 minutes later, we were landing in Marsh Harbour in the Abaco Islands. Within minutes of arriving we stepped into a building where the Bahamian Customs agent was seated in a small room. We were in a van within 20 minutes of arriving and on our way with the five-minute drive to the Abaco Beach Resort at Boat Harbor. Amazing!
We drove through the small town area of Marsh Harbour , a typical small town with a grocery store and a few other necessary businesses. We could feel the laid-back atmosphere that exists in the Bahamas.
We drove through the (guarded) gate of resort and through the tropical landscape to the resort office. At first when we pulled up, it seemed very small for a resort, but as soon as we walked through the door, we could see out the backside to the marina and the blue waters beyond.
The resort office was indeed small - it had a reservation desk along one side, relaxing furniture in the event one might have to wait in the middle. On the other side, a computer area for guests use and a small office for the Harbor Master for those arriving by boat.
We stepped outside of the resort office to a brick boardwalk of sorts that led to the left toward the condo units, and to the right to the lovely beach that I had already pictured myself sitting on.
The stretch of beach was surrounded by trees (some with hammocks hanging from them) and green grass that led up the small hill to either the hotel rooms or the small cottages.
Tucked in beside the Anglers Restaurant and the beach area was a huge tent for large group events. You hardly realized it was there until you were in front of it. We were told it could accommodate up to 300 people if necessary. The sides of the tent were up, and it was a very light and airy space. In inclement weather the sides can be dropped to keep you warm and dry.
I was impressed at the size of the marina (200 slips). There were not very many boats in it because it is the slowest time of the year, but I understand that it is the most popular marina in the Abacos, particularly with the harbormaster on property to check in all boats that pull in. Every year, loyal guests and boating enthusiasts enjoy this resort, and I understand it is full to capacity during their busy time, which runs from November through April.
In part 2 on this topic, I will go into more detail about the accommodations, as well as our wonderful experience at the resort and the activities we enjoyed.
A little about Baer Air: this airline offers convenience and luxury, with private air charters for both passengers and cargo to any destination in the continental U.S., Canada, Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean.
They operate twin-engine jet, turbo-prop and piston powered aircraft.
Baer Air has started nonstop service twice weekly to Marsh Harbour on Mondays and Fridays, departing at 9 a.m. From Melbourne to Marsh Harbour leaving at 10:30 a.m.; leaving Marsh Harbour at noon and arrive in Melbourne at 1:30 pm.
Baer Air, Melbourne Airport and Abaco Beach Resort have put together some incredible adventure packages for either three-night/four- day or four-night / five day packages starting at just $680 per person and includes airfare from Melbourne, Ocean front accommodations, breakfast each morning, snorkel adventure, ferry ride to Hope Town on Elbow Cay and more. These are for select dates October through December.
This is not a Sandals-type resort. It is a laid back, cozy property, and I would highly recommend this airline and resort for couples, girl's get-a-way, families, weddings and reunions.
Watch for part 2 for additional information on our experience.
Patty Toppa is a travel consultant with Gadabout Travel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.cruisetraveltours.com.