The Bahamas have a bad rap. Nassau, Paradise Island, and all those cruise ships might be fun places to party, but they don’t exactly seem like an idyllic island escape. For that, you usually travel farther south toward the Turks and Caicos or the Caribbean. But you could look east, as well. That’s right. There are islands in the Bahamas that don’t have high-rise resorts, much less casinos or waterparks.
Crooked Island, an island you’ve surely never heard of, lies 240 miles southeast of Nassau. The boomerang-shaped district of the same name is made up of four islands that are home to less than 600 people combined. Many believe that Christopher Columbus made his second New World landfall here as he searched for gold; pirates followed him. The islands were eventually settled by American Loyalists in the 1780s. They established grand cotton plantations built upon slave labor. Sponge diving followed the cotton industry after emancipation and soil depletion closed the estates. Today, the quiet islands are known as a fisherman’s paradise.
Flights land on Crooked Island twice a week. The grocery and mail boat docks once a week. The few cars are greatly outnumbered by bikes and boats. While it’s rare for people to lock the doors of their houses. You did request a low-key destination. The best view of the island is from the airport on Colonel Hill, the district’s capital. The island’s history has been recorded at All Saints Anglican Church. The British built the Marine Farms Fortress during the War of 1812. The first post office in the Bahamas was located in Pitts Town. While Bird Rock Lighthouse allowed boats to safely pass through the narrow Windward Passage.
But it’s the island’s natural beauty that captures your attention. It arches around the Bight of Acklins, a large, shallow lagoon. Deep inlets, deserted beaches, and limestone caves line the coast. Flamingos wade through Big Pond and Salt Pond. Ospreys and egrets live in the mangrove swamps. Twenty-eight species of butterflies have been seen. Coral gardens, just offshore, are vibrant and pristine. The few scuba divers who travel this far find a 45-foot-deep wall, a blue hole cavern, and a handful of shipwrecks. Undisturbed flats are filled with bonefish. Plus Bathing Beach, the perfect place to watch the sun set, is known as “the largest swimming pool in the world.” This is what the Bahamas used to be.