The Hidden Capital of Cat Island

Introducing Cat Island

Cat Island is located in the central Bahamas and is one of the districts of the Bahamas. It is situated about 210 miles southeast of Florida and 125 miles southeast of the Bahamian capital of Nassau. The island is 48 miles long and 4 miles at its widest point. Cat Island has a total land area of 150 square miles, making it the 5th largest island in the Bahamas.

The island has several shallow lakes that are home to flamingos and other bird life. There are miles of undeveloped beaches on Cat Island as well as lush inland hills and wetlands. The island’s main population center is New Bight at the northern end of the island.

Cat Island offers a remote and rustic island experience compared to busier tourist destinations like Nassau. With its pink and white sand beaches, fishing villages, and laidback atmosphere, Cat Island provides a tranquil Bahamian island getaway.


History of Cat Island

Cat Island has a long history of human habitation. Archaeological evidence indicates the island was settled as early as 1,000 BC by the Lucayan people, who were the indigenous inhabitants of the Bahamas before the arrival of Europeans.[1] The Lucayan name for the island was Guanahani.

In 1492, Cat Island was the first Bahamian island encountered by Christopher Columbus. He made landfall at a site he named San Salvador, although there is debate over whether this was actually Cat Island or another nearby island.[2] After Columbus, the island saw periods of Spanish occupation.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, Cat Island was a popular refuge for pirates and privateers. In the 18th century, Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution established cotton plantations on the island, bringing enslaved Africans to work the land. After Britain abolished slavery in 1834, many freed slaves remained to work in agriculture, fishing, and boat building.

Today, descendants of these early settlers continue traditions like storytelling, bush medicine, basket weaving, and boat building that blend African and European influences.

Demographics and Economy

Cat Island has a small population of only 1,678 people as of 2010 ( -only cite here). It’s one of the least populated islands in the Bahamas, stretching over 150 square miles of land area. The main settlements are New Bight, Arthur’s Town, and Dumfries.

Fishing and small-scale agriculture are the main industries and economic activities on Cat Island. Conch, lobster, snapper, and grouper are caught and exported. Farmers grow citrus, bananas, potatoes, and other crops. Tourism related to fishing and diving also provides income. Overall the economy is very small-scale and localized due to the tiny population.


Getting to Cat Island can be challenging due to its remote location in the Bahamas. There is no airport on Cat Island, so visitors must fly into nearby islands and take additional transportation to reach Cat Island.

The main way to reach Cat Island is by flying into Nassau or Eleuthera and then taking a mail boat, ferry, or charter flight to Cat Island. Mail boats offer the cheapest option but take much longer. The ferry from Eleuthera only takes an hour but runs infrequently. Chartering a plane is the fastest way to reach Cat Island directly but can be quite expensive.

Once on Cat Island, there are limited transportation options. Taxis can be hired to drive visitors around the island, but many opt to rent a car or golf cart. Bicycles and scooters are also popular for getting around the small island. There is no public transportation system on Cat Island.

The main roads extend along the coastline, connecting the small settlements on the island. Most of the interior is undeveloped and accessible only by rough dirt roads. Drivers need to exercise caution on the winding, uneven roads.

Getting to the more remote parts of Cat Island like Hawks Nest Creek or the Hermitage requires a 4×4 vehicle or boat. Navigating the island can be part of the adventure.


Cat Island is known for its beautiful beaches, diving spots, and fishing areas, making it a popular tourist destination. Some of the top attractions and activities include:

Snorkeling and scuba diving among colorful coral reefs and shipwrecks. Popular spots include Hawksbill Creek and Devil’s Point.

Deep sea fishing for tuna, wahoo, marlin and other sport fish. Charters and guides are available to take visitors fishing.

Relaxing on beaches like Cotton Bay Beach, considered one of the top beaches in the Bahamas with its soft white sand and azure waters.

Experiencing local culture by touring small villages, sampling cuisine, and shopping for traditional handicrafts.

Kayaking through mangrove estuaries to spot birds and wildlife.

Visiting historic landmarks like the Hermitage Plantation and Mt. Alvernia Catholic Hermitage.

Enjoying annual festivals and events like Regatta and Rake ‘n’ Scrape.

Geography and Climate

Cat Island has a varied terrain consisting of forests, wetlands, beaches, and rocky cliffs. The island is located in a tropical region with warm weather year-round. Much of the island is covered in pine forests and scrublands, but mangroves can be found along the coast (Cat Island). The beaches range from secluded coves to long stretches of white sand. The highest point on the island is Mount Alvernia at 206 feet above sea level. This mountain offers panoramic views from its peak.

The climate on Cat Island is tropical with hot, humid summers and warm winters. The average annual temperature is around 79°F. The weather is influenced by the northeast trade winds and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The rainy season runs from May to October, which sees brief, heavy downpours most days. The winter months tend to be drier but still see warm temperatures in the 70s and 80s F. Hurricanes and tropical storms occasionally impact the island between June and November (Best Time to Visit).


Cat Island is home to a diverse variety of wildlife. According to iNaturalist, over 200 species of animals, arthropods, insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals have been observed on the island.

Some of the native reptiles include the Bahama Boas, Pygmy Boas, Brown Racers, Curly-tailed Lizards, and Blue-tailed Lizards (Cat Island Check List).

The island has a vibrant bird population as well. Over 50 species of birds have been recorded at the Cat Island Wetlands IBA according to BirdLife International. Some notable birds include the Bahama Mockingbird, Thick-billed Vireo, Western Spindalis, Bahama Swallow, and White-crowned Pigeon (Cat Island Wetlands – BirdLife Data Zone).

In the surrounding waters, marine life like sharks, stingrays, parrotfish, bonefish, and sea turtles can be found. The island’s extensive mangrove wetlands also provide important nursery habitat for juvenile fish and crustaceans.

Culture and People

The local culture of Cat Island is heavily influenced by its history. Originally inhabited by the Lucayan people, the island was later settled by British loyalists and enslaved Africans in the 18th century. This blend of backgrounds shaped the unique cultural traditions found on Cat Island today.

One of the most iconic elements of Cat Island culture is storytelling and folklore. Generations of Cat Islanders have passed down tales and superstitions through vibrant oral traditions. Classic stories featuring tricksters, spirits, and magic abound. Storytelling preserves the history and identity of the people.

Cat Island is also known for its traditional handicrafts, especially straw weaving. The island’s plentiful natural resources allow artisans to create beautiful baskets, hats, bags, mats and more. Intricately woven pieces often feature bright, tropical designs. Straw craft is an important creative outlet and source of income for many locals.

Music and dance are integral parts of everyday life and special events on Cat Island. The island has a rich heritage of musical styles like Rake ‘n’ Scrape, a type of Bahamian folk music made with everyday objects like saws, nail hammers, and other tools. Junkanoo, an energetic festival music, is also popular. Traditional dance styles showcase the spirit and passion of the culture.

Local cuisine reflects a hearty blending of African, British and Caribbean influences. Staple dishes like stew fish, peas ‘n rice, johnnycakes and conch salad showcase the natural bounty of the island. Tropical fruits, herbs, spices and seafood come together in mouthwatering recipes passed down through generations.

The welcoming people of Cat Island proudly carry on these cultural traditions and are eager to share their heritage with visitors. Arts, crafts, food and music provide an enriching glimpse into this distinctive island lifestyle.

New Bight – The Capital

New Bight is the capital settlement of Cat Island located on the southeast peninsula. It was originally named Plantation but later changed to New Bight. The town has a long history dating back to the plantation era when it was a major cotton and sugar producing area. Some of the notable landmarks in New Bight include the Commissioner’s residence built in 1820, the Anglican church built in 1845, and ruins of old stone buildings and walls from plantations. The town overlooks scenic bays and beaches along the Caribbean. Visitors can see the old Cotton Ginnery chimney, the Seaside School established in 1885, and ruins of Armbrister’s Plantation Great House. New Bight has a population of around 1,000 and features small shops, restaurants, and inns for travelers. The town comes alive with Junkanoo parades and festivals

Why Visit Cat Island?

If you are considering a visit to the Bahamas, Cat Island is an excellent choice. With peaceful, laid-back vibes and stunning natural scenery, it offers a perfect tropical escape away from the crowds of Nassau and the busier islands. Here are some of the top reasons to add Cat Island to your Bahamas itinerary:

Secluded beaches with soft pink and white sand and clear turquoise waters. Cat Island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Bahamas, many of which see very few visitors even at peak times. You can find your own slice of paradise along the miles of pristine shoreline.1

Laid-back, friendly atmosphere. With a small local population, life on Cat Island moves at a relaxed pace. The people are welcoming and happy to share their island home.

Incredible diving and snorkeling. The waters around Cat Island offer excellent conditions for diving and snorkeling among colorful coral reefs, shipwrecks, and exotic marine life.

Fishing, boating, and eco tours. The island provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures like bonefishing, kayaking through mangrove creeks, and hiking to secluded caves.

Rich history and culture. Cat Island has a unique history as the first island in the Bahamas settled by Europeans. Visitors can explore historic sites, learn about local traditions, and experience authentic island culture.

A true escape to disconnect and unwind. With limited WiFi, cell service, and nightlife options, Cat Island is the perfect place to unplug from the stresses of everyday life.

If you’re seeking natural beauty, relaxation, and a peaceful taste of island life, Cat Island should be on your Bahamas bucket list.

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