By Athena Mabon
The pretty red and white striped light house at Hope Town on Elbow Cay is an important landmark in the Abaco chain of islands where second home ownership and real estate are the mainstays of the economy.
Built in 1864, the Hope Town light house supports the last manually-operated light powered by kerosene in the world. Lovingly maintained, it’s symbolic of the community spirit that binds the people of this Abaco island and makes living here so special.
Charming cottages, homes and villas painted in the soft pastels of nature, miles of stunning white powder sand beach on the turquoise tinted Atlantic and an industrious, friendly people fuel the demand for Hope Town real estate.
The picturesque village of Hope Town sits on the boomerang shaped island of Elbow Cay just off the Great Abaco mainland.
This historic treasure is far away from crowded tourist resorts, yet it is located only 200 miles east of West Palm Beach, Florida, or approximately 100 miles north of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.
Hope Town is blessedly devoid of large hotels or cruise ships. Small boutique island hotels, local craft shops, seaside grills and bistros and a couple of good gourmet restaurants are threaded throughout the narrow streets of the golf cart and bike community.
A small, but well stocked grocery store on Elbow Cay offers anything from homemade coconut ice cream to fresh baked bread, Angus beef and rack of lamb – something to please just about every home owner.
Offshore Elbow Cay, there is an amazing barrier reef to snorkel, great fishing, tons of private coves, beaches and satellite islands to explore and all manner or water sports.
After a day in the sun, there is always the tranquillity of a Hope Town home to return to, a rocking chair on a covered porch or Adirondack chairs in the garden with bright tropical flowers spilling over trellises.
Hope Town is approximately 4.5 miles long and very narrow, affording a lot of the houses and villas sea views. Hope Town real estate covers anything from magnificent beachfront property to harbour side homes and land.
Hope Town on Elbow Cay has a colourful history. Passing fishermen, pirates and wreckers flitted in and out of the Abaco islands as they did elsewhere in the Bahamas in days of yore.
The first full time home owners we know of arrived on Elbow Cay after the American Revolution in the 1700s, political refugees forced to leave because they were loyal to the British Crown. We can assume the settlement was named Hope Town for good reason.
The first recorded Loyalist, widow Wyannie Malone, landed in Hope Town from Charleston, South Carolina in 1785, bringing with her four children. The offspring of the early settlers are fiercely loyal to their past, so much so that when an Abaco newspaper pulled an April Fools prank claiming the Hope Town light house had been sold and would be relocated, they were set to rebel. The second home owners, predominantly North Americans, stood by their Abaco neighbours.
And that is what Hope Town on Elbow Cay is all about – a happy mixture of locals and second home owners, who love nothing better than to work together to preserve monuments, beautify the island and hold festivals and cook-outs.
Nothing demonstrates the strong spirit of community more than during the aftermath of a hurricane when everyone gets together to repair homes and clean-up property until everything is spic and span and neat as a pin.
Hope Town on Elbow Cay has come a long way since the days of Wyannie Malone when the settlers made a humble living off subsistence farming and fishing. Hope Town real estate sales, second home ownership and vacation homes and rentals are likely to remain the engines that drive the Elbow Cay economy on an island that proudly protects its past while enjoying the comforts of modern home ownership.
© Athena Mabon