The Bahamas’ Most Historic Towns

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The Bahamas is a country rich in history. After all, these islands were the first point of the colonisation of the Americas. When Columbus landed in 1492, he claimed the islands in the name of the Spanish crown. Despite this, the Spanish never settled on an island. The French also claimed some islands. While they attempted to settle at one point, the settlement failed. The English finally arrived in 1648. They established the first permanent population after the extirpation of the indigenous Lucayans. After, they went throughout the archipelago, establishing a great number of towns as their exploration expanded. In addition to this, many towns were established by different groups of settlers. Many of these towns have become The Bahamas’ most historic towns. These towns were very important to the settlers and today are still important to many Bahamians.

The Bahamas’ Historic Landmarks in Governor’s Harbour & Cupid’s Cay

Governor’s Harbour is the capital town of Eleuthera. Cupid’s Cay is a tiny island connected to Governor’s Harbour by an extremely short causeway. You can explore both in a day. Permanent habitation of The Bahamas after Columbus began in 1648. The Bahamas became an inhabited colony of the British Empire at that time. The settlers established a town on the harbour of Cupid’s Cay. That town became the seat of government. That’s how Governor’s Harbour got its name.

You’ll love historic landmarks like Wesley Methodist Church on Cupid’s Cay. According to church records, it was built in 1847, though other sources say it was built after that. St. Patrick’s Anglican Church is another historic landmark. It was established a year after Wesley Methodist in 1848. 

According to church records, St. Patrick’s is home to the oldest organ in the country. The Haynes Library is just one other historic landmark you can explore. It was built in the late 1800s and named after former Bahamian Governor, William Haynes Smith. It is the oldest government building on Eleuthera.

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Dunmore Town & its Historic Relics

Dunmore Town is another one of The Bahamas’ most historic towns you can visit. It’s Harbour Island’s only settlement. You can take a short 5-minute ferry ride from mainland North Eleuthera to get to it. The town was named after John Murray, Earl of Dunmore. He served as Governor of The Bahamas. Dunmore Town became the capital of The Bahamas after Governor’s Harbour. This makes it among the oldest settlements in The Bahamas.

You can visit historic homes like the Little Boarding House, the Loyalist and Dunmore Cottage here. The Little Boarding House was the site of the island’s first Catholic mass. The Loyalist and Dunmore Cottage are the oldest and second oldest homes on the island, respectively. You can point out the Dunmore Cottage by its white walls and blue colonial shutters. It was the Earl of Dunmore’s summer home. St. John’s Anglican Church is another historical landmark. It was established as a mission in 1737. It became a church and political parish by an Act of Parliament in 1768. This bright pink church describes itself as the oldest religious institution in the country. You can also find the second oldest Bahamian library in Dunmore Town.

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From Great Harbour to Hope Town

Hope Town’s original name was Great Harbour. It’s the only settlement on Elbow Cay (in the Abacos). It was established in 1785 by Wyannie Malone. Wyannie arrived with her three sons after the American Revolutionary War from South Carolina. The original settlers survived mainly off of fishing and salvaging goods from wrecked ships. In 1864, the Hope Town Lighthouse was constructed by the government because of the frequent wrecks. Residents opposed its construction because they made a living from the shipwrecks.

Today it’s become the most recognisable landmark for Hope Town and all the Abacos. The lighthouse is the last manually operated lighthouse in The Bahamas. It is also one of the last in the entire world. The Wyannie Malone Museum preserves much of the settlement’s rich and diverse history. The Cholera Cemetery is another historical landmark. All the island’s residents who died during a cholera outbreak in the 1800s were buried there. A monument dedicated to mariners who lost their lives in the waters off of the island is also found in the cemetery.

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Matthew Town & its History

Matthew Town is the only inhabited town on Great Inagua. It’s the island’s capital. Established in 1844, it was named after George Matthew, another former Bahamian governor. It was the first planned town in all the Bahamian out islands. When established, it was the only town in the out islands that had roads suitable for horse-drawn carriages. Thus, you can see how this is one of The Bahamas’ most historic towns you can visit.

In 1848, the Morton Salt Company was established here. It was the first corporation in The Bahamas. It’s one of the largest saline operations in all the Americas. This town was also the home of one of the first new papers printed outside of Nassau. It was called the Inagua Record. The Great Inagua Lighthouse is another historical landmark. It was constructed in 1870 after many shipwrecks. It was manually operated but is now automated. Also, you can see Cuba in the distance from the top of the lighthouse on a clear day.

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The History of Red Bays

Unlike Matthew Town, Hope Town & Dunmore Town, Red Bays is not the only town in Andros. However, it is the only town that’s found on Andros’ west coast. A group of indigenous Seminoles & escaped slaves founded Red Bays in the early 1800s. They became known as Black Seminoles. Because they feared re-enslavement, the group fled Florida & rowed across the Gulf Stream in dugout canoes. Today, there are still the descendants of black Seminole Indians living here. They’re the only such group in The Bahamas. They lived in isolation from the remaining Androsian population for almost a century. Today, the town is home to a unique blend of Bahamian & Native American culture. Thus is it one of The Bahamas’ most historic towns.
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If you enjoyed this, check out Four Lesser-Known Out Island Attractions You Didn’t Know Existed. Follow me on Instagram to keep up with my explorations throughout The Bahamas and learn more about the country’s history.

Kris Ayala-Strachan

A wannabe photographer & lover of all things Bahamian.

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