A Travellerspoint blog

January 2015

Green Turtle Cay, Happy New Year to me

One thousand one hundred and ninety nine reasons why I love Green Turtle Cay.

sunny 80 °F

Why would anyone take off after Christmas to a place that takes a four hour drive, 2 planes, an island taxi, a ferry and a golf cart to get to? Because it's magic and we're a little crazy. That's how we ended up on Green Turtle Cay, a tiny 3-mile-by-one-mile island in the Abaco islands of the Bahamas. Here are some reasons why I love this special, wonderful little island...

The signs are all handpainted, stickered and really just for suggestion...because you really can't always get there from here. But you don't care because you've never had so much fun getting lost.


But does that mean I can't drive down it? I'm so confused!


STOP. Or not. Or if you see someone you want to chat with. Then you can stop.


The roads will rattle your brain, chatter your teeth and shake your kidneys loose test your patience and lead your sputtering, tempermental little golf cart to beautiful vistas. Gentlemen, hold on to those floppy parts, and ladies, let's just say a good support bra is a beautiful thing. I mean really, there's only so much rake and scrape a person can take.


Think I can't get to North Beach? Oh yeah, I can.


Gillam Bay. Low Tide. Best dead end ever.


Did I drive to Gilligan's Island? Because really. This is so gorgeous I may have to fan myself, Lovey.


If you're traveling between New Plymouth and the Green Turtle Club you're OK. If you keep going, hang on to your kidneys and you'll probably end up with your teeth intact. OK, most of your teeth. Think it looks pretty smooth? You'd be wrong.


But then after you've rearranged every bone in your body, introduced Advil as a major food group, hit a swig (or two) of rum and sworn off going down this road ever again, you get to the end of the road and see this. All is forgiven and life is good.


If you visit at Christmas, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is in the Christmas spirit. There are more lights than Rockefeller Center, leading one to wonder, "Where do they get all of that electricity from? Santa?"


The social highlight after Boxing Day on December 26 is a community BBQ/potluck and golf cart parade. Which leads one to wonder, "Where do they get all of those decorations?" It takes tiny planes and boats to get here and there are NO FedEx trucks. No cars at all. That's a lot of flamingos is all I'm saying.


This might also cause one wonder, "What the hell is Boxing Day?" And "Why is the liquor store closed?" This, we have found, is due to a lovely little tradition dating back to the British Isles, in which the servants of the wealthy were given presents or time off the day after Christmas. It's now an official bank holiday in Great Britain and other countries like the Bahamas. Which really doesn't matter because A) I don't have any servants, B) the bank on Green Turtle Cay is hardly ever open anyway, and C) did I mention the liquor store is closed?

Seriously, who can't love a little island in which my favorite breakfast place, bar and center of gossip is LITERALLY also the liquor store? Where else can you order 2 eggs, chicken souse, a bloody mary AND two three four bottles of wine? I mean, why even move?

Take the time to stop into New Plymouth Liquor and Café. Bring your best local gossip and pull up a chair.


The only settlement, New Plymouth, founded 1786, is a picture postcard village more reminiscent of Nantucket than the Caribbean. Even though it's been nearly destroyed in more than a few hurricanes, they keep rebuilding. Every house is painted like a baby shower favor and the streets are no bigger than a golf cart can fit through. OK, a golf cart can't fit through some of them. Trust me on this.


And did I mention they have more flowers than a Kardashian wedding?


And a real, honest to goodness, growing in the ground poinsettia tree. Who knew those things grew outside of Home Depot at Christmas?


Apparently it is a requirement that everyone on Green Turtle Cay is awesome. Amanda and Tom from California bought Amanda's ancestors' original cottage in a frightful state of disrepair, and are slowly and lovingly (and stressfully!) restoring it to its original and much-improved beauty. I'm talking electricity and running water here folks.

Amanda has chronicled their journey to 'Fish Hooks' Cottage in her blog, Little House by the Ferry. You should read it. Go ahead. I'll wait.



Also apparently everyone on the island is either named Sawyer, MacIntosh or Lowe. Not exactly sure which one is which except Mr. MacIntosh who took us in his taxi to Treasure said the lady at the hardware/souvenir store is his cousin but Yvonne at Pineapples is just a friend, and he's not related to the guy who rents the boats but the guy who offered to loan us his spear to catch lobsters is his brother. Or something like that. Either way, these are some fine people. Everyone waves, everyone smiles.


Yvonne is awesome AND she has a beautiful smile. Just don't piss her off or you'll never drink again. You can kiss Pineapples goodbye.


OK I cheated, this is not a local, it's my husband Paul. He smiles A LOT. Especially when he is having a Goombay Smash at the end of Parliament Street.


Sundowners is a great place to have a beer and well, watch the sunset. Once or, OK, five times. Maybe 6.


The thing about Green Turtle is that it didn't take long to find out a couple of other really cool tidbits about Sundowners.

1: the owners, Brian and Caroline Sawyer, are great people who introduced us to a wonderful charity called 'Every Child Counts.' Kids with special needs who participate in Every Child Counts make and sell things, get counseling and education, and a chance to succeed on their own merits. We were lucky buy a very-cool-and-most-excellent Junkanoo shaker that was handmade by the kids. Crafted out of driftwood, flattened bottle caps, shells and string, they make the most delightful sound, almost like Christmas bells. My favorite souvenir ever.

Make sure you watch the 'Every Child Counts' movie. Grab tissues. And get out your wallet. You need to donate. I'll wait.




2. Little did we know Sundowners has the only viable TVs on the island for watching sports (and don't even THINK about asking Yvonne to turn off her music at Pineapples for the game. Ain't gonna happen. Not even for bribes. Been there, done that). We try really hard to not watch TV ever on vacation except in cases of emergency. But this time there were two emergencies: Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl and the Detroit Lions vs. the Packers for home field advantage in the playoffs. You see, there is the real reason for the word emergency. Anyone who knows NFL football knows the words DETROIT LIONS and PLAYOFFS DO NOT belong in the same sentence.

At any rate, I digress. My husband goes to Sundowners at 1:00 to look for the Lions game. Sundowners is closed until 5:00. "Check with Brian," someone says. He's next door at a family party because his daughter and grandbabies are in town. We go find Brian, he comes back, turns on the TV, hands my husband the remote, gives him a Kalik and says, "see ya later!"

This is a picture of the happiest man on Green Turtle Cay.


Same thing for the MSU game a couple of days later. We run into Brian and his family having brunch at the Green Turtle Club and without even asking, he comes to Sundowners after they eat, turns on the TV and tells someone
to find Paul and tell him the Michigan State game is on. And did I mention the bar is NOT EVEN OPEN?

I told you Paul smiles a lot. Even when the Lions lose to the Packers and especially when the Michigan State Spartans win in the last minute. Take that, Baylor!


Oh and apparently Sundowners has a restaurant as well. No sign, but it looks to be open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Check it out. 554-9364.


If you take the aforementioned godforsaken roads out to the edges of the island, you'll find some of the honest-to-goodness-not-even-kidding most beauteous beaches you will ever see. Miles of white sand, vodka rum gin clear water (oh, sorry, drinking reference again) and nothing but sky.

North Beach, where Coco Bay meets the Atlantic. Just add Johnny Depp and you'll be asking "Why is the rum always gone?" Becaue I'm so freaking happy to be here, that's why.


You know how you read about places on the internet and see super duper blue-skies-clear water-perfect-beaches that in reality, are only so-so when you get there? Well that NEVER happens here. Reality is ten times better. I had read about Gillam Bay and someone said you could actually walk out to a private island, more than a mile offshore, at low tide. "How cool is that?" I thought. Well, let me just say that when we mapped out the tide chart, packed our bag, rode our golf cart over teeth rattling, bone jarring ruts a picturesque little road and landed at that beach, I just about passed out. It was THAT pretty. We walked across that bay. And walked. And walked. And it was worth every step. We stopped at the sandbar and played like 6 year olds. We stepped on the little beach at Pelican Cay but headed back since A) although beaches in the Bahamas are all public, it is technically a privately owned island, and B) the thought of swimming all the way back as the tide was rising was a little too 'Open Water' for me. That beautiful bay will live in my dreams forever.


Just as we were about to make it back to the beach, we spotted a school of cute little friendly fish. "oh, how fun is this?" We said. "Let's go play with the fishes!" We walked right into the circle of fish, and...


...forgot that when there are a zillion tiny fish swimming frantically in a circle, it is likely that there is a very BIG fish stalking them, and in this case, the bottom half of my legs as well. Hello, Barry barracuda. Goodbye, fishes!


Luckily there was medicinal therapy available for my traumatized self.


We stayed in a cottage above the Bluff House Beach and came to love the Tranquil Turtle and the lovely Bianca, aka "Snapping Turtles are Half off on Sundays and at Happy Hour!" Awesome setting and good food too. Good thing, because there are 5 kinds of rum in those babies.


5 kinds of rum. FIVE KINDS OF RUM. Whew. I needed a nap after a few of those.


Bluff House Beach is also a great place for spectacular sunsets. No description needed.


We had a few too many drinks ate a few too many meals at a fun little place on the water called Pineapples by the Sea. Pineapples is apparently a big cruisers' hangout in which people share stories, get hammered and talk really loud, share a few cocktails and fall in the pool hang out. Paul spent most of his time unsuccessfully negotiating with Yvonne for her TV and eating crack lobster. Not a bad gig.


And, it's for sale. If you buy it call me. Seriously. CALL ME.


Did you 'ack naughty' or 'ack nice?' Don't answer that.


Pineapples also has a big pile of conch shells. Takes a lot of cracked conch to feed those people.


There's a really beautiful place on GTC called the Green Turtle Club. It has a great marina and more pretty pastel cottages and as far as we could tell, in order to stay there you should wear A) pink and green, B) khaki pants and a collared shirt, C) a white polo shirt embroidered with the name of your boat, or D) a blue blazer even when it's 85 degrees. The Green Turtle Club has a world class lounge that is just drop dead gorgeous and really truly has a bartender named 'Sexy Debbie'. I mean, how cool is that?


The Green Turtle Club also plays host to one of the best bands you'll ever hear, the Gully Roosters. If you ever get a chance to see these guys, do it. Get online and buy their music. They're awesome. I took a picture but unfortunately I had way to much rum to focus it was dark so I didn't get a great shot of them.


Here's a link to my new favorite song on YouTube, 'Go Go to Abaco.' This a funny little short film that features many of the people and islands of Abaco and a guy who apparently decides to swim from London to Abaco so he can see the Gully Roosters. Smart guy.


Although New Year's Eve is great fun on GTC, complete with fireworks, everybody gears up for my favorite event of the year, JUNKANOO! Oh great joy and happiness, bring it on. The fun starts about noon, with street vendors setting up fabulous food booths and bars. Everybody eats drinks and socializes on the streets and gets ready for the parade. I wish New Year's Day on GTC was every day.


Prize for best use of the old jail: bleachers.


Dominos are banging on the table, Gully Washes and Goombay Smashes are flowing, and everybody's happy.


Here's Paul smiling again. You'd be smiling too if you had three cracked lobster tails for twelve bucks. Thanks, Wrecking Tree!


More joy and happiness ensued as the Gully Roosters started playing at the basketball court. Did I mention I love these guys?


Finally the big moment arrives. You hear the drums, the bells, the whistles, and see an explosion of colorful, sparkled, bedazzled and grinning faces coming down the street. Junkanoo is here! I am smiling like a kid who just learned his parents bought the candy store.


See, smiling again!


So there you have it. One thousand one hundred and ninety nine reasons why I love Green Turtle Cay. More later on the awesomeness of renting a boat from a guy named Donny, the misadventures of Nippers and swimming with the No Name Pigs. Can't wait to come back.

Happy New Year everyone!


Posted by traciekochanny 17:46 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches bahamas abacos green_turtle_cay out_islands junkanoo Comments (19)

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