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Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas Travel Guide
Last Updated: Jul-11-2014, Hits: 6,975, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas Travel Guide Hotels and Lodging (7)
Vacation Rentals (1)
Restaurants (12)
Bars and Nightlife (6)
Attractions (9)
Services (10)
Maps (2)
Links (3)
Additional Articles (1)
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Location: Caribbean
Geography: Island, Beach
Vacation Type: Relaxation, Adventure
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path
Costs: Moderate
Attractions: Scenery, Boating, Fishing, Scuba & Snorkeling

Facts and Stats:
Island Population: 450
Land Area: Approximately 1.5 square miles
Elevation: Sea level
Country Dialing Code: +001 (inbound), +011 (outbound)
Area Code: 242
Languages: English
Electricity: 110V
Currency: Bahamian Dollar/US Dollar
Time Zone: Eastern (EST) UTC-5/UTC-4 (Summer)
Current Time:

Located in the Abaco Island chain 3 miles off of Great Abaco, Green Turtle Cay is a popular yachting stopover that sports several beautiful beaches. The main settlement of New Plymouth is an 18th century colonial-style town with architecture unique to the area.

Green Turtle Cay is an "out island" located just 170 miles east of West Palm Beach, FL and 118 miles north of Nassau, and about 5 miles from Treasure Cay on Great Abaco Island. Green Turtle Cay is one of a series of cays that flank the eastern side of Great Abaco and form the barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the shallow Sea of Abaco. Just off the eastern shore is the 3rd largest coral reef in the world. This barrier reef provides excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities.

Green Turtle Cay is approximately 3.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. The settlement of New Plymouth is on the southwestern side of the island on a bay referred to as "Settlement Creek".

Green Turtle Cay is the first inhabited island north of Whale Cay/Don't Rock Passage (more later) making it an important stopping point during the rage (bad weather that prevents passage to the southern islands) for boats heading south.

Brief History:
The first inhabitants of the Abaco Islands were the Lucayan Indians, described by Columbus upon his discovery of the New World in 1492, as gentle and kind. Like everywhere in this part of the world, the Spanish explorers, who called the island "Habacoa", forced the Indians into slavery and took them to Hispaniola (Haiti/Domincan Republic). The Lucayan Indians died out sometime around 1550 due to overwork and European diseases.

Abaco was not permanently settled again until 1783 when The Loyalists who had fled the U.S. during The Revolutionary War, were promised large tracts of Crown Land in the Bahamas. Most of the men were decorated British officers in the war against the states who left their plantations in New York, Florida, and other states for the uninhabited Abaco Islands. Some 600 refugees from New York founded Carleton, the first Loyalist settlement in the islands on Great Abaco near the present-day resort of Treasure Cay. Remnants of some of their plantations still exist on Great Abaco.

By the mid 1850's, Green Turtle Cay's economy centered around salvaging wrecked ships (wrecking), and by the 1880's pineapples and citrus were exported from New Plymouth to the United States. When the United States annexed Hawaii, the pineapple industry in the Bahamas died off. Residents engaged in a number of different industries over the years including sponging, sharking, exporting sisal, ship building and fishing.

In 1932, a massive hurricane destroyed 50% of New Plymouth's buildings. This decade also saw the end of sponging due to blight, and many of the island's approximately 1,600 residents at the time moved to Nassau and the USA.

In the early 1970s came the movement toward Bahamian independence which was completed in 1973. The white population of the Abacos remained fiercely loyal to Britain and they even tried to secede from the Bahamas.

Today, there are still a handful of fishermen left, however, most of the economy is largely based on tourism.

The island was named after an abundance of green turtles that once inhabited the area.

People & Culture:
As one would expect, Green Turtle Cay is on island time, and its residents are very laid back and friendly. The terms "happy" and "helpful" are also often used to describe the locals.

The population of Green Turtle Cay is approximately 50% white and 50% black. Many of the white residents are descendants of the original Loyalists who settled the islands, thus surnames such as Sawyer, Roberts, Russells, Curry, and Lowes are very common. The African settlers were either free blacks or former slaves who were promised freedom in exchange for supporting the British. However, slavery reared its ugly head in the islands until emancipation in 1838. The 2 cultures have lived in harmony for many decades. The Loyalist heritage and African roots are celebrated annually at the Island Roots Heritage Festival on the first weekend in may.

Another popular event is the national Junkanoo Festival which occurs annually on January 1st. Junkanoo has a carnival like atmosphere with a parade of costumes, music and dance.

Church is an important institution on the island and there are 4 of them in New Plymouth to choose from (Anglican, Gospel, Church of God, and Methodist). Many businesses are closed, or offer limited hours on Sundays as a result.

August through the end of October is low season and many business, including resorts, close during all or some of this period. Many residents leave the island to visit family in Nassau or on other islands. As a result, this isn't a good time to visit as the island is sleepy enough during high season.

Food & Nightlife:
Most of the food you'll get on Green Turtle Cay centers around what is locally available, and that's seafood including conch, grouper, and lobster (crawfish). Other staples include chicken, peas n' rice, mac n' cheese, and cole slaw. Most places also offer traditional American dishes such as hamburgers and sandwiches. For more upscale dining the 2 resorts at the north end of the island offer local cuisine with a European flair. These are your best bets for finding steak and other high end meats as well. Pizza can be found in a couple of locations.

If you are staying in a rental house and wish to take advantage of your kitchen, there are several fully stocked grocery stores in town (see the services link above). When staying on some of the other Abaco Islands such as Great Guana, it might make sense to get groceries on Great Abaco, however, in this case it does not. The GTC ferry on Great Abaco is not near the closest grocery stores in Treasure Cay. So, you would have to take a taxi to and from the grocery store which would wipe out any savings (if any), not to mention the wasted time. Best just to shop at the local stores unless you absolutely want/need something that can only be found on the main island.

When visiting GTC, you may be tempted to buy bottled water for fear of Montezuma's revenge. However, most of the bottle water is the same as what comes out of the taps which is either purified sea water or filtered rain water.

As for the nightlife, this isn't Nassau. There are no dance clubs or casinos, and the nightlife here is pretty hit and miss. There are a number of watering holes, but most close early unless there is an event or other reason to stay open later. One reason is when the local and esteemed band, The Gully Roosters, plays.

The national drink of the Bahamas is the Goombay Smash which is more of a description of what it does to you than what it is. This drink was invented right here on Green Turtle Cay by Miss Emily, former owner of the Blue Bee Bar. It is said that due to religious reasons, she never even tastes her creation. She passed away in 1997, and her establishment is now run by her daughter. While the drink is made all over the Bahamas, the original secret recipe can only be had at the Blue Bee Bar.

As for beer, Kalik, Kalik Light, and Kalik Gold are the local beers. Heineken, Guinness, Budweiser and a few other beers are very common as well.

Money & Costs:
Bahamian money is on the same scale as the American dollar and you can use both while here. In other words, 1 Bahamian dollar is equal to 1 American dollar. Make sure that you use all of your Bahamian money while you are there, or exchange it before you leave, because you will get a worse exchange rate (in the USA at least).

There is a FirstCarribean Bank branch in New Plymouth with an ATM. The branch is open from Mon-Thu: 9:30am-3pm, and Fri: 9:30am-4:30pm. Not all, but many establishments accept credit cards. It is definitely a good idea to have some cash on hand.

The costs of visiting Great Guana Cay are fairly moderate depending on what you do and where you stay. Unless you are sailing, there will be taxi and ferry fees both ways to the airport, optional golf cart rental, option boat rental, etc. which can all add up. Fuel, food, and beer are expensive here, especially beer. A case can run you $50 or more, and we're not talking about the best beers in the world. On the other hand, liquor is very reasonable and can be obtained from Plymouth Rock Liquors in New Plymouth.

Tipping is 15%. Make sure you check your bill as many places will add it in automatically.

Entry Requirements:
U.S. visitors staying for 8 months or less need a return ticket plus a passport. Naturalized citizens require naturalization papers and photo identification. Permanent residents (green card holders) require their green card and a valid passport from their place of birth. Canadian visitors not staying more than three weeks need the same identification as those from the U.S.. All others need a valid passport. Some visitors may also require a visa.

Getting There & Around:
A good number of visitors to GTC arrive via yacht. For those who wish to fly to the area, there are now flights available to Treasure Cay Airport (TCB) from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Treasure Cay Airport is the destination of choice as it is a short cab ride to the Green Turtle Cay ferry dock. If you must fly into Marsh Harbour (MHH), it will cost you an additional 25 minute (and fairly expensive) cab ride to the ferry dock. The Marsh Harbour airport does service more airlines and could be a better choice in some situations. Charter flights are available to both airports.

After arriving at either airport, take a taxi to the Green Turtle Cay ferry dock where a 20 minute ferry ride will land you in New Plymouth or White Sound. Click here for more information including the schedule. Charter ferry times can be arranged. This ferry also brings mail to the island on Thursdays.

Once on Green Turtle Cay, you may be met by someone to take you to your accomodation depending on where you are staying. The main method of transportation on the island is via golf cart, and there are several rental agencies in New Plymouth. It is probably a good idea to reserve well in advance to make sure one is available. If you are staying in a rental house, it may come with a cart. The resorts up north can arrange rentals as well.

You must be 17 and have a valid license to drive a cart. Drinking and driving is legal, so grab a couple of cold ones for the ride. Make sure you pay attention to the fact that driving is on the left side of the road as this was once a British colony.

Bicycling and walking are also common methods of transportation. New Plymouth is small and very walkable.

One of the best activities in the Abacos is island hopping. If you aren't already doing that in your yacht, you can rent a boat to explore the many other nearby cays. The boat rentals on GTC are comparatively affordable. Again, it is a good idea to reserve well in advance just in case. Also, make sure you read our article, Abaco Islands Boating Tips for more information and resources for safe boating here.

Low season in the Abaco Islands is from June to October - no coincidence that this is also hurricane season. It is also the hottest, wettest and most humid time of year. The waters in the Sea of Abaco and the Atlantic are much rougher and you are more likely to experience rain and storms, some of which can be very strong. High season is from November through May.

Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Green Turtle Cay.

Below are the weather averages for the Abaco Islands.

Month High Temp Low Temp Water Temp Rain
January 77°F 66°F 70°F 2"
February 77°F 65°F 71°F 1.6"
March 78°F 67°F 74°F 1.4"
April 81°F 69°F 76°F 1.6"
May 82°F 70°F 79°F 4.3"
June 82°F 70°F 80°F 4.3"
July 87°F 75°F 85°F 3.8"
August 88°F 76°F 86°F 4.4"
September 88°F 75°F 85°F 6.2"
October 84°F 74°F 82°F 7.4"
November 81°F 71°F 79°F 2.6"
December 79°F 67°F 74°F 2.2"

Services and Contacts:
  • Emergency - VHF channel 16 or 911/919 on phone.
  • Police - 242-365-4450
  • Government Clinic - 242-365-4028
  • Marsh Harbour Medical Centre - 242-367-0049
  • Post Office - 242-365-4450
  • Tourist Office (Marsh Harbour) - 242-367-3067
Tips & Additional Information:
  • The Out Islands of the Bahamas are on extreme "island time". Don't go there if you want things done in a hurry including food service.
  • Most communications in the Abacos are via VHF radio. You will likely have one in your rental home and will definitely have one on your boat. To use the radio, first change the channel to 16. Next push the talk button and announce who you are trying to get in touch with, who you are, and the channel you will meet them at. Typically, this will be channel 11-14. Do not attempt to have your conversation on channel 16 as it is used for emergencies and will prevent others from setting up their conversations on other channels.
  • GTC has decent cell coverage. Check with your provider to find out if your phone will work there.
  • There is Wi-Fi on the island. Most of the resorts and hotels have it on site, although not necessarily accessible in your room. Some rental houses have access, and there are roaming plans for yachters. The connections are on the slow side, but improving. For services check out Bahamas WiMax and OII.
  • Be careful! The Abaco Islands are a very bad place to get hurt. There is a clinic in New Plymouth and in Marsh Harbour, but the closest hospital is in Nassau.
  • Watch out for Portuguese Man-O-War (hence the name of Man-O-War Cay) and jellyfish. We were all stung by small translucent packs of jellyfish and saw another group of them while snorkeling. We have been unable to identify what type these are. The pain is unique, but fortunately it didn't last very long. It is reported that there are other, more painful, types of jellyfish arriving in the area. Summer is typically the worst time, likely because they are breeding closer to shore.
  • There are many sting rays in the Sea of Abaco and you will likely see them swimming in the shallows. They are beautiful creatures who won't mess with you if you don't mess with them. The biggest danger is stepping on one that has buried itself in the sand. It is a good idea to shuffle your feet as you walk in the water.
  • Don't touch the coral reef. It's bad for the reef and bad for your karma.
  • Watch out for Lionfish. They are not indigenous here, but have been showing up in increasing numbers and are reeking havoc among the local fish species. The locals have been fishing for them and serving them in restaurants. There is even an annual Lionfish Derby event whereby boaters catch as many as they can. If stung, put some vinegar on the wound.

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