[ Grand Bahama ] • McLean's Town
I decided that I wanted to get out of the house… So, I took my little sister on a road trip for lunch. We got dressed, hopped into the car and drove just about two hours from the City of Freeport to the easternmost settlement of Grand Bahama; McLean’s Town. I read that Grand Bahama Island is 96 miles wide. If that’s an accurate figure, then that would mean that Grand Bahama is wider than Long Island is long (it’s 90 miles long) and almost as wide as Eleuthera (the longest island in The Bahamas at 110 miles long) is long. As such, you can understand that I’m not exaggerating the time of the drive.
McLean’s Town is so far east, that it’s actually closer to the island of Abaco than it is to the City of Freeport. Getting there is pretty easy though, as you only have two options. The first is taking the Grand Bahama Highway (a.k.a. the Chicken Farm Road) east until going over the Sir Jack Hayward Bridge (a.k.a the New Bridge) and continuing in the same direction. The second is heading east on E. Sunrise Highway until reaching the roundabout where you’ll make a left turn going over the Casaurina Bridge (a.k.a the Old Bridge). From there you’ll continue along the road until reaching a second roundabout where you’ll make another left. At the end of that road, you make right. At this point, no matter which route you take, the only thing left to do is drive.
After leaving the city, you’ll pass a string of settlements starting with Freetown, until reaching McLean’s Town. Between them are other settlements like High Rock, Rocky Creek and Pelican Point. After passing UB North, there’s not much to see. Like, any other out island, the only thing you will see is typical Bahamian foliage in between settlements. And, as this is the Northern Bahamas, the dominating foliage are the massive Caribbean Pine forests or swamps. There’s only one (incredibly long and winding) road, so there’s no literally no way to get lost.
Pelican Point is the final settlement before reaching McLean’s Town which, technically, is on a separate cay from the mainland of Grand Bahama, due to the fact that you have to cross a land “bridge” that most people don’t even realise is a bridge of sorts.
Like 99% of all of the settlements in the out islands, McLean’s Town has only two roads. The one you came in on which, after taking a corner, splits into another (parallel) road. Also similar to the two roads in other settlements, one borders the water and one doesn’t.
The settlement itself was named after a Mr. Donald McLean. He was a Special Justice and member of the Board of Commissioners for Crown Lands and Woods. He established the area as a settlement for freed blacks in 1835, after the abolishment of slavery. He, along with another member of the board did the same with other settlements on the island of Abaco. Today, you’ll find homes of people whose family’s have lived in the settlement for generations scattered along both roads. The settlement is serviced by the Carrion Crow Harbour, which is the only naturally sheltered harbour on Grand Bahama. It’s named after the abundance of carrion eating turkey vultures that live in the area.
My plan was to get lunch from Ej’ Bayside Café. It’s on the harbour side road. I’ve gotten lunch from there before and it was actually pretty good. Unfortunately, they were having some work done and weren’t able to cook. So, I went to Cooper’s Restaurant instead which was on the other road. They have a normal take away restaurant menu and also serve dinners comprised of the cliché Bahamian fixings. The only thing is that it’s true Bahamian cooking and the food tastes better than most places in the city. My sister and I both got cracked conch. It was fresh conch, beaten nicely and fried dry (without me having to ask). Couldn’t ask for better.
Aside from the bars and restaurants, its main attraction are the spectacular fishing opportunities. This is owed to the abundance of mangrove flats, sandbars and tidal creeks in the area. There are also two ferry companies that offer twice daily ferries to Crown Haven in Little Abaco, which takes about 30 minutes to get to. That’s an inexpensive day trip idea. Though you’d only be able to explore Little Abaco, as there wouldn’t be enough time to get to Treasure Cay or Marsh Harbour in Great Abaco and back to Crown Haven before the last ferry leaves Crown Haven for McLean’s Town.
If you’ve got some free time (and a full tank of gas), use the opportunity to travel outside of Freeport while staying on the island. McLean’s Town, while far, is quaint and has an inviting atmosphere. If you’d prefer something more fast paced, the settlement is very busy during the Columbus/Discovery/National Hero’s/Whatever you call it Day Holiday when they have their annual Conch Cracking festival that draws in massive numbers.