Hawk’s Nest Resort and Marina is a tropical beachfront paradise on the southern tip of Cat Island, Bahamas. As its name suggests, the coveted tourist destination features a 28-slip marina and is widely regarded for its relaxed pace and world-class fishing. Not only are mariners welcomed here, but aviators are also, as there is a private 3,100-foot long paved runway.
Robert Moss, whose family presently owns the resort, advised that the resort’s airstrip (MYCH) was burdened with an interesting past. This was one significant hurdle that the previous owner, Moss’ late father-in-law Jerry Clayton, had to overcome when he purchased the resort in 1995.
“My father-in-law was in the convenience store business, and owned 180 locations at the peak, and bought the place after selling his stores,” Moss said. “When he got out of the c-store business, he said, ‘Well, what do I want to do?’ He looked all over. [trying to find an existing resort or a suitable spot to build one], in Panama, Costa Rica, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, and other countries. He stumbled across this place and fell in love with it immediately.”
The reason the resort was for sale, Clayton learned, was that the remoteness of Cat Island served as an attractive spot for drug runners to stage their illicit cargo. Their activities attracted unwanted attention and threatened the future of the resort.
“At least what I know about the airstrip is that it has an interesting and sordid history,” Moss said. “When Jerry discovered the property, the resort was basically shut down. The reason why was that the owner at that time was under indictment for drug distribution, and that airstrip was a place where they fly in drugs under cover of night. There were some bad things going on there.
“My father-in-law was dealing with the son of the gentleman that was in trouble, and they worked out a deal for Jerry to buy it. But in doing that we had to have meetings with the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] and had to satisfy them that we were above board. We just wanted to run it as a legitimate resort and marina and got their blessing on the deal.”
Negative attention from the government was only some of the baggage for the property. There was a substantial amount of work that needed to be completed to get the resort back on its feet.
“From that point on, we took a lot of care in renovating this place,” Moss said. “When he bought the property, he renovated the hotel rooms (10 rooms between five bungalows), the clubhouse, and the bar, as well as resurfaced the airstrip, and expanded the marina by double—from 14 slips to 28. He also added a little six-home subdivision to the property and sold off a few of those.”
Outside of these improvements and continued maintenance over the years, the resort of the turn of the century does not look much different than the Hawk’s Nest of today. This visual familiarity is headlined by Jennifer Holder, the resort’s general manager celebrating her 24th season on-site in 2024.
Both the marina and airstrip represent significant draws for visitors, according to Holder, especially considering the rarity of having both amenities in such close proximity.
“Our ultimate customer is someone who has a vessel, as well as a plane,” Holder said. “They can fly into our airstrip and be on their boat in only seconds. One of the biggest attractions is that you can put [fishing] lines out right outside the cut because of the depth of the water. Only a hundred yards away, there is an 800-foot drop-off. Anywhere else, you usually have to travel pretty far [to find a suitable deep-water fishing spot]. You don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn here to get a good day’s fishing in. You can just go out at 9 in the morning, catch some fish, and be back within a few hours, ready to spend the rest of the day on the beach.”
Some common species found offshore of Cat Island include blue marlin, sailfish, mahi-mahi, white marlin, yellowfin tuna, and several others. Whatever is caught can be cooked fresh any way desired at the on-site restaurant. Hawk’s Nest is not only a jumping off point for those looking to enjoy a casual day of casting and reeling, it also hosts annual tournaments, including the Wahoo Championship from January 21 to 24. The waters surrounding the resort are also favorable for other pelagic activities, such as bonefishing, free diving, kayaking, paddleboarding, shark “show feeding,” and snorkeling.
“Hawk’s Nest is a place to completely decompress, because you’re forced to,” Holder said. “We don’t have Wi-Fi in the rooms as of yet, but we do have it in the clubhouse. And we don’t have television or phones or any of those distractions in the rooms, either. Families love coming here because of that. They’re playing checkers, chess, or other games and are forced to talk. You can’t find a lot of places like that anymore.”
Holder has found that the refreshed pilots that stay at Hawk’s Nest are apt to spread their wings and experience more of the Bahamas’ nearly 700 islands.
“But most of the pilots, they use our airstrip as a temporary home base to explore the southern and central Bahamas,” she said. “They will go have lunch in Stella Maris (MYLS), or fly around the Exumas, then come back here in the evening to enjoy the down-home Bahamian feel that our staff provides. They have all been there for as long as I have, so their service is consistent and very welcoming. It is like coming home for the pilots that stay with us.”
One pilot who has spent his fair share of time on Cat Island is Robert Chavez, who formerly flew a Cessna Grand Caravan for Clayton. Chavez provides an overview of what it’s like flying to the resort from eastern Florida, including required customs procedures.
“It is about a two-hour flight from Treasure Coast International Airport (KFPR) in Fort Pierce, which was where we would handle all of our eAPIS and customs stuff,” Chavez said. “We would leave Florida in the morning and clear the ADIZ. You fly a straight line from Fort Pierce to Cat Island and go over the top of Freeport, by Great Abaco, [some other islands], and then you see Cat Island. You will be flying low over the water and having a great view all the way there.
“The first part you see of Cat Island is Arthur’s Town, which is on the north end of the island. We would head straight into New Bight [Airport (MYCB)], which is about halfway up the island, and that’s where we had to clear customs, since it’s the port of entry. Then it is about an easy 10-minute flight over to Hawk’s Nest, which is on the south end, or the ‘toe’ of the island. You land there, and then it is a short walk from the strip to the clubhouse or the resort. They also have a restaurant and bar there and bicycles you can use to go all over the island. Everything is conveniently located.”
Chavez also provided details about the runway itself, which he said is 80-foot wide and flanked by roughly a dozen and half tie-down spaces. The largest airplane he has seen use the airport was a Dassault Falcon 900. There is no fuel available on site, with the closest airport having it being Exuma International Airport (MYEF), roughly 30 nm southwest.
Moss picked up where Chavez left off, noting that the 370 acres that make up the Hawk’s Nest footprint are prime for further development. He and his wife, Nicol, along with her sister Kathy Parker and her husband Charlie, assumed ownership of the resort after Clayton’s death in 2021. To their dismay, existing work and family commitments make it difficult for them to make the trek from their home bases of New Mexico and Texas, respectively, as frequently as they would like. So, they have decided to list the resort for sale and hope that a passionate owner continues building upon its storied legacy—the legal part, at least.
The music video for country singer Kenny Chesney’s song ‘Save it for a Rainy Day’ was filmed at Hawk’s Nest. A seaplane makes several appearances in the video, showcasing the clear blue water surrounding Cat Island.