Cruising Marsh Harbour – Grocery Stores and Bicycles

Cruising Marsh Harbour – Grocery Stores and Bicycles

We must have looked like kids arriving at the fair for the first time as we sailed into Marsh Harbour.  We’ve heard this is the best town to stock up in the Northern Bahamas and I honestly don’t think we’ve ever been so excited to go to the grocery store.

However, our excitement stems more from curiosity than from the desire to replenish our fruit bowl.  We have this insane urge to walk through the grocery stores and price compare as if we were on a TV game show.  Which would no doubt be called, Is The Price Right?  Gone With The Wynns, come on down!

I guess it’s because so many cruisers have told us “prices in the Bahamas are insane”.  I figure if grocery prices are this intriguing to me, it must be a curiosity for others too…so you’re all coming shopping with us as we explore the town of Marsh Harbour.

Marsh Harbour seems to be broken up into two areas: The tourist section where people fly in and pick up their charter boats; and the locals section where, you guessed it, the locals live.  The tourist section is only a short few blocks but its unmistakable.  The dead giveaway is the decadent smell of fancy waterfront restaurants and loud bars filled with people drinking away a lazy afternoon.  Bliss, the little coffee shop we tried to visit is in this area.  It’s a cute part of town, and well kept, but one afternoon on the bikes was enough of that for us.

The locals side of town is where we found the small bakery we stopped into.  We didn’t give her a fair shot in the video because they were about to close for a long weekend so she was pretty tapped out.  If you plan a visit to Marsh Harbour, make sure you stop in or call in advance and ask for the coconut swirl bread.  We’ve heard rumors that it is divine, but you must order in advance.

We did notice a lot of people coming and going at the Union Jack Public Dock.  I think a good portion of the workforce in this town loads up on the ferry and boats over to neighboring islands such as Man-O-War and Hope Town.  One thing we didn’t get to do is hit up a good local bar or restaurant.  Based on the number of people that come and go on the ferry I bet the bars fill up in the evening with locals hashing out their days with friends over a cold one.

sailing marsh harbor bahamas

Comparison Grocery Shopping in the Bahamas

At a glance, Maxwell’s is comparable to a Publix in Florida.  They have a nice variety of fruits, veggies and organic options (which was a surprise to see).  The store is clean, it’s well-lit and the overall shopping experience is nice.  If you shop smart the prices aren’t horrible.  For example, we purchased apples because grapes, berries and other more delicate fruits were insanely expensive.  If you’re ok with standard cheese it’s double the price of what you may pay in the USA, but if you want gourmet cheese it cost 3x more than Costco.  For some of the items imported from Costco you can see the original price underneath the Bahamas price and its jaw dropping.

Abaco Groceries resembles a small Costco.  Like Maxwell’s much of their store is filled with the same products you’d find in the Florida Costco locations.  This grocery store is no-frills but their prices are good, I’d even say the prices are great for Bahamas standards.  This store has some of everything but not as large of a selection as Maxwell’s.  We noticed they were selling local pumpkins, squash, a mixed green salad, and a few other items that are grown in the islands.  Unlike Costco you do not need a membership to shop here and you are not required to purchase in bulk.  For example, the flat of black beans could be purchased in bulk or individually for a small price increase.

If you’re running low on booze and beer this is the place as well.  There are two liquor stores just up the block from the public dock.  If you remember at the end of our previous video I mentioned I was on the hunt for a specific rum. It’s JAB EXO and the did have it in stock.

The Big Shopping Takeaway

If you’re in the Abacos and need to provision this is your best bet.  The prices and selection on this island are even better than Freeport, Grand Bahama.  I would recommend you to visit Abaco Groceries first, then fill in the gaps at Maxwell’s…but hey that’s just my two cents.

If These Wheels Could Talk

folding bicycles on sailboat

Our bicycles have been through a lot with us.  They’ve endured frost heaves in Alaska, dust storms at Burning Man and half century rides in Santa Cruz.  That said we’ve heard from other cruisers that carry bikes and never use them, or their bikes rust out too quickly or they couldn’t imagine life without them.  We told ourselves if we don’t use the bikes during this Bahamas trip, or if we find they are a pain in the butt to deal with, then we will let them go.  This being our first bike experience I must say, I’m on the fence.  It takes time to load and unload, they take up a lot of precious storage space in our transom locker, but we really enjoy riding them.  I guess the real determining factor will be if they can withstand the harsh saltwater environment for the rest of this trip.  So far, so good.

More on our bicycles here:

A Dinghy Update

This provisioning experience let us know we 100% did the right thing by getting rid of that beast of a center console RIB that came with our boat.  Popping the benches off our dinghy is so easy and it gives us enough space to fit our bikes, loads of groceries and the two of us.

More on our dinghy here:

Keep Your Cool

I’m not sure if you noticed but I was dripping with sweat after our ride to Maxwell’s on the first day.  It may be winter but the temperatures here can be hot and humid year-round.  After wintering in Florida a couple times over the years, we knew this would be an issue so we’re prepared.  Our insulated cooler bags are durable and help keep things cool (or warm).  Paired with our awesome cooler packs, we’re good to go for most of the day. It seems ridiculous but with the heat and humidity fruits and veggies can die in just a short hour of travel.

More on our provisioning gear here:

Sailing Report

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here:

sailing the bahamas

Nautical Miles Sailed: No Name to Marsh Harbour 20.8 NM
Dates: November 25-28, 2016
Anchorage: Marsh Harbour – The anchorage is buzzing with boats going in and out all hours of the night.  You’ll want to light up your boat at night.  A lot of power boats don’t often look up for the mast anchor light.  We use the rechargeable Mantus snap-on lights and they easily last through the night.  It’s loud till midnight with the surrounding bars playing distorted, not-so-awesome music.  To be honest, I wouldn’t plan on staying here any longer than it takes to provision.
Cell & WiFi: Our BTC signal was good and even better with our booster on.

Other Gear Used In This Video

Cameras Used to Capture This Video: