There are two theories on how Cat Island got its name. The first is that it was named after British sea captain and pirate Arthur Catt. The second is that the English discovered the island to be inhabited by wild cats, descendants of domesticated felines abandoned by early Spanish colonists.

Whatever the reason for its name, Cat Island certainly holds its own as one of the jewels of the Bahamas, with its lush, forested hills and 60-mile stretch of deserted pink-and-white sand beach. Its beauty is best appreciated from Mount Alvernia, which is the Bahamas’ highest point at 206 feet.

Mount Alvernia itself is the site of Cat Island’s most famous landmark, The Hermitage, a stone monastery of Greek and Moorish architecture built by architect and Roman Catholic priest Jerome Hawkes.

The residents of Cat Island are noted for their musical ingenuity, as evidenced by their “rake and scrape” folk music, which involves making musical instruments from any materials at hand. For example, a conch shell replaces a horn; an old comb covered with paper becomes a harmonica; a piece of wood, fishing line and an old tin tub are transformed into a bass instrument; and a real smoking drum is produced by stretching goat skins over wood and heated by fire.

Cat Island is the birthplace and home of actor Sidney Poitier.


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