Most days in the Abacos — a group of idyllic white sand islands and barrier cays in the northern Bahamas — are a dream. But in 2019, Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas, turned paradise into a nightmare in one fell swoop.
The storm hit Marsh Harbour, Abaco Island’s commercial hub, as a Category 5 hurricane with wind gusts of up to 220 miles per hour. Thirty minutes away, The Abaco Club at Winding Bay, where Exclusive Resorts has had residences since 2005, miraculously remained standing, sustaining only minor landscaping damage. With much of the island left underwater and without power, the team at The Abaco Club jumped into action, temporarily housing staff members and other islanders who were suddenly homeless. The resort immediately set up the Abaco-Winding Bay Relief Fund on GoFundMe — it’s raised more than $3M, all of which has been injected back into the community. Additionally, a fund was created by Exclusive Resorts, which was further supported by Club Members and employees.
The Abaco Club at Winding Bay reopened on October 29, 2019, and though challenges remain with COVID-19, according to Exclusive Resorts Manager Vandea Stuart, post-hurricane efforts have highlighted the resiliency of the community and the compassion and contributions from Exclusive Resorts Members. The Abaco Islands have long lured visitors with world-class fishing, sailing, and golf, but the warmth of the locals is what keeps people coming back year after year.
Stuart has been arranging calls with first-time Members to set expectations upon arrival. “Everything at The Abaco Club is just as it was, if not better, but as far as Marsh Harbour, the restaurants and bars are all but gone.” Signs of rebirth, however, are noticeable every day. The main supermarket, Maxwell’s, is open and fully stocked with fresh produce and other essentials. And businesses that lost their spaces, including the local bank and cable company, moved into Maxwell’s while being rebuilt.
Exclusive Resorts Regional Manager Cody Crowe recently visited Abaco and explains, “More things are coming on line in the areas surrounding the resort, but as far as The Abaco Club is concerned, which is only 20 minutes from the airport, it’s just as you remember it.” The bonefishing, he adds, is spectacular. “The area is famous for bonefishing, and currently there are fewer people, which means less pressure on the fish, and all the more reason to book a fishing trip.”
Stuart says the island experience still shines. The Abaco Club menus have been met with rave reviews, and the beach activities center has added a new marina and additional water sports equipment. Just a 10-minute drive from the resort, the new Abaco Yacht Club at Little Harbour is a coveted locale for boat owners. Members can also day-trip to Hope Town for lunch, and about seven restaurants on the outer cays have reopened. “We send Members to fish and island hop,” she says. And the beloved beach bar, Pete’s Pub, has bounced back, too. “When you decide to come and visit, your vacation really makes a difference,” says Stuart.
Day in the Life
7 A.M. | Wake up and paddleboard to the tiny island right offshore Abaco’s three-mile beach, where you’ll spy sea turtles and rays.
9 A.M. | Enjoy an al fresco breakfast at Flippers Beach Bar, which frames the cerulean waters and pristine beach.
11 A.M. | Have your personal Concierge arrange a private boat charter and experience crystal-clear snorkeling near scenic cays.
1 P.M. | Your boat pulls into Pete’s Pub, where you’ll sip a rum-infused Blaster cocktail, enjoy a conch burger, and learn about Grand Abaco’s bonefishing lore.
4 P.M. | Happy hour! Take in the view of Winding Bay with an island-inspired cocktail at The Cliff House.
5 P.M. | Time for pampering at The Abaco Club Spa. Favorite wellness treatments include sugar and salt scrubs.
7:30 P.M. | It’s back to the scenic Cliff House for a decadent dinner experience. Opt for the fresh lobster, blackened grouper, or the signature conch chowder.
“The golf course is reopened and is immaculate,” says Exclusive Resorts Regional Manager Cody Crowe. You may just be teeing off next to Ryder Cup captain and golf champion Darren Clarke, who owns a home at The Abaco Club. Golfers will be perfectly challenged as they play tropical links—designed by renowned golf course architects Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie — alongside a gorgeous seaside setting.
Where To Stay
The Abaco Club on Winding Bay
The Abaco Club on Winding Bay features an 18-hole Scottish-style golf course, state-of-the-art fitness center and full-service luxury spa, infinity edge pool, and all-weather tennis courts.
Residences: 6 | Bedrooms: 4 | Bathrooms: 4.5 | Sleeps: 8