Approximately 325 miles southeast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Cat Island feels away from it all. This remote part of the Bahamas isn't one you can reach easily via cruise ship or Airbus. In fact, getting here might require a prop plane. Although daily nonstop flights on larger airlines arrive in New Bight Airport (TBI) from Nassau and Fort Lauderdale, many opt to take a charter plane. You can also arrive via mailboat, but these ships tend to be sparse and slow.
For travelers who want to test the outer reaches of civilization while dipping their toes in turquoise water, the island's seclusion is a great thing. Only about 150 square miles, with a population of just over 1,500 people, Cat Island is much less built up than other touristy areas of the Bahamas. Also, if you come looking for feral felines, you may be surprised to learn that the destination was named after Arthur Catt, a frequent visitor who was also a pirate and friend of Blackbeard. The first European settlers moved to Cat Island around 1783 - loyalists hotfooting it from the American Revolution. Many of them built thriving cotton plantations, and the ruins of their mansions can still be found on the island's wavy hills.
The temperature ranges between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, with the summer months falling on the warmer side and winter dropping down to the lower end. You'll want to be mindful of rainfall, which is relatively low from December to April and climbs up through the spring and summer, eventually peaking in October. Below, we put together a complete guide to Cat Island, including what to do, when to visit, travel safety and more.
Best time to visit Cat Island
Cat Island's year-round temperatures range from the 60s in the winter to the low 90s in the summer, so there's no real bad time to visit. That being said, June to October is the rainy season, with the largest amount of precipitation in October. Humidity also rises during this time of year. Rain tends to come in periodic downpours, so there's a good chance the entire day won't be lost. If you decide to visit in June, be sure to check the dates for the annual Rake and Scrape Festival, which celebrates the Bahamas' indigenous music, traditionally made with washboards and accordions, though the genre has expanded to include other sounds.
High season stretches from mid-December to mid-April, when hotel prices are at their highest. March and April are also when spring breakers make their way to the Bahamas, so don't expect peace and quiet. Low season, which runs from mid-April to mid-December, is the best time to search for a better rate on hotel rooms. November can be an unexpectedly good time to stop by.
Best things to do on Cat Island
Chances are, you're visiting Cat Island to decompress, so there's no need to pack your day with activities. Spend some time coiled in a hammock, staring out into the waves or strolling along the eight miles of pink-sand beach. Visitors who want to get active can fish, swim, hike, and snorkel. Many locals describe Dean's Blue Hole as the deepest blue hole in the world. The natural saltwater pool extends 663 feet down into the ocean, and also boasts the world's second-largest underwater chamber. For those who don't want to trek to the ocean's depths, there are coral caves and tropical marine creatures to peep along the edge.
Bahamas Catamaran Charters organizes voyages to nearby islands and unspoiled cays for fly-fishing, snorkeling, and swimming. The island also boasts several hiking trails - namely, the walk up Mount Alvernia, the highest point in the Bahamas at 206 feet above sea level. The island's history dates back a few centuries, and there are a handful of notable structures to investigate. At the top of Mount Alvernia's Como Hill is the Hermitage, built by Roman Catholic priest Monsignor John Hawes. The stone, medieval-style monastery was created in 1939 as a place to pray and quietly reflect. The Deveaux Plantation Ruins offer up a relic of the island's past - a time in which antebellum style mansions dotted the hills overseeing large fields of cotton, often worked by slave labor. Today, the building is just the shell of its former self, but still an interesting piece of history. Movie buffs will want to stop just outside Arthur's Town to see where actor Sidney Poitier grew up. Visiting the area where he spent his formative years, which he once likened to a "garden," will make his journey to Academy Award winner seem even more impressive.
Restaurants on Cat Island make the most of their location and focus on fresh ingredients. Da Smoke Pot, named after the Bahamian tradition of burning green brush to keep bugs away, is known for its seafood dishes such as conch salad. Sammy T's serves up conch fritters for lunch and lobster and crab for dinner. Meanwhile, Da Pink Chicken is a colorful shack known for its distinctive drinks and walls, which are filled with signatures, wishes and graffiti from previous customers. The tagline for this spot is "a good place to do nothin'," which could also apply to the entire island. Keep in mind that it's only open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., so plan your visit accordingly.