Cat Island

Overview

Introduction

Named for British sea captain (some say pirate) Arthur Catt, remote and little-visited Cat Island is one of the most beautiful islands in the Bahamas with its tranquil rolling hills and lush green forests.

Barely a mile/kilometer wide in places, this 50-mi-/80-km-long isle is a peaceful retreat that offers a quiet, laid-back way of life. Time goes by slowly in the local communities that cling to age-old cultural ways. Electricity and running water are luxuries. You don't need more than a pair of shorts, a bathing suit and some sandals (if you choose to wear shoes at all).

The island's residents make their living farming or fishing, and visitors (many of them sailors yachting through the islands) spend their days swimming off long, windblown beaches, hiking, diving (try the shoal at Columbus Point), visiting the ruins of colonial plantations or simply contemplating the great natural beauty of the island.

Mount Alverina is hardly a mountain (206 ft/62 m tall), but it's the country's highest point. There, you'll find the Hermitage, a miniature abbey built by hand by Father Jerome Hawes as his home in the early 1900s. The Stations of the Cross are marked along the steep path that snakes up to the ascetic abode where Father Jerome lived a true hermit's life. The local Catholic churches still conduct yearly pilgrimages up Mount Alvernia during Holy Week.

Explore the Arawak Indian caves and plantation ruins near Port Howe. The tumbledown villages of Old Bight and Arthur's Town are worth a browse for their plantation-era buildings and quaint churches. There are small resorts at Pigeon Cay, Fernandez Bay and Hawks Nest. Beyond the resorts, restaurants are limited to simple seafood options used mainly by locals; call ahead to let them know you're coming.

Two days is sufficient to explore Cat Island in-depth or to satisfy a beach-lover's craving.

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