British Loyalists settled the charming and idyllic island of Hope Town on Elbow Cay (pronounced KEY) during the American Revolution. A group that included Wyannie Malone, a widow from South Carolina, officially founded the settlement at Hopetown in 1785. Descendents of Wyannie and her four children continue to live throughout the Bahamas, including in Hope Town. A trip to the island is not complete without a visit to the Wyannie Malone museum, where the rich history of the island – complete with pirates, Rumrunners and more – comes alive.

 

Long before the Loyalists arrived, Elbow Cay attracted sailors because of its protected harbour. During the 18th & 19th centuries, “wrackers” (salvagers) lured unsuspecting sailors onto the offshore reefs by running up and down the beach with lanterns. In 1864, England decided to build a lighthouse, despite the protests of the ‘wrackers’. The lighthouse was completed the next year, and, though it has gone through a few alterations, today the famed Candy Striped Lighthouse is one of the last manual lighthouses in the world, and its light can be seen from 17 miles away. Those who climb the tall spiral staircase to the top will be rewarded with magnificent 360-degree views of the area.

More than 200 years after its founding, Hope Town remains a charming village of historic buildings and pretty, pastel houses. Those who’ve visited the island over the past fifty years will find it little unchanged in character, though it has 21st century comforts, including free WiFi in most establishments. Once mostly a pedestrian village, golf carts are now permitted. Walking and biking remain the predominant mode of transport, however.

Many of the residents are descended from the original Loyalists and retain a hint of a British accent. Fishing and native crafting have given way to tourism as the primary industry on the island, and the locals are warm and welcoming. They fully understand that what attracts visitors to Hope Town is the quaintness, and they have actively kept large-scale resorts and cruise ships from encroaching on the peaceful atmosphere.

Hope Town is that rare destination where one can enjoy a quiet stroll along the picturesque streets, inhaling the sweet scent of tropical blooms one minute, and sit at a lively seaside bar enjoying a chat with a local the next. There is just enough activity for those who like to socialize, without ever feeling the crushing noise and activity of a resort.