Your perfect island would have pastel houses, historic ruins, and friendly people. There would be underwater shipwrecks, bath-like water, and trade winds to keep you cool. Lookout points would feature breathtaking views of the bluest water you’ve ever seen. You’d stay at a little hotel, not a big resort. And don’t forget the beaches. It doesn’t matter if their sand is white, black, or pink. They should just be windswept and deserted. But these sorts of islands don’t seem to exist anymore.
Not so fast. An island like this does, amazingly, still exist. Cat Island, one of the Out Islands, was first settled by Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. They built cotton plantations and mansions on the Bahamas’ sixth-largest island. Plus a monastery was established on Mount Alvernia, the highest point on not only the fishhook-shaped island, but all of the Bahamas.
Today, the plantations, the mansions, and even the monastery are in ruins. But the island hasn’t been overdeveloped or overrun with tourists. A single main road, Queen’s Highway, runs from north to south. Pink-sand beaches and white-sand coves line either side of the poorly maintained road. Pastel houses fill New Bight, the small capital. Rake and scrape, percussion-based music, fills the air. The Columbus World Centre Museum, Academy Award-winner Sidney Poitier’s childhood home, and a beautiful church are the only man-made spots that can count as tourist attractions. The mail continues to arrive by boat. While the few hotels are charming, rustic, and still personally run by their owners.
One of these hotels, Fernandez Bay Village, sits just north of New Bight on the west coast. It has stone buildings and thatched roofs. The Clubhouse features a stone terrace, wicker furniture, and an honor bar. Freestanding cottages and villas flank either side of the hangout spot. They have garden bathrooms surrounded by tropical plants. Plus the hotel has a perfect beach. The one-mile stretch of sand is lined with coconut palms and seagrape trees. Sand dollars and footprints dot the sand.
You head to your room to quickly change. The Coconut Palm Cottage is adorable. It has more stone walls, a cool tile floor, a walk-in closet, and an ocean view, of course. From the patio, you take a moment to absorb your beautiful surroundings and breathe in the salty air. Back at the Clubhouse, salads and sandwiches are being served for lunch, though the chef offers to cook you just about anything. But right now, you’re happy with the fresh fruit and the cookies that have been left out. You’ll fill up on dinner—conch fritters, grouper almondine, and lobster—later. Right now, it’s time for a paddleboarding lesson on the beach.
With incredibly calm water, Cat Island is one of the best places to learn how to paddleboard. You also plan to go bonefishing, sea kayaking, and hiking while you’re here. While you’ll no doubt spend each evening in an Adirondack chair with a Kalik beer by the bonfire. It doesn’t get much more perfect than this.