After George Washington visited The Bahamas, he wrote that they were "Isles of Perpetual June." Today, the 1,220km-long (760-mile) chain of islands, cays, and reefs is rightfully known as the playground of the Western world. The northernmost island is Grand Bahama, whose western point is about 120km (75 miles) almost due east of Palm Beach, Florida. The southernmost is Great Inagua, some 97km (60 miles) northeast of Cuba and less than 160km (100 miles) north of Haiti. (Henri Christophe, the onetime self-proclaimed Haitian king, supposedly built a summer palace here in the early 19th century.)
There are 700 of these islands, many of which bear the name "cay," pronounced key. ("Cay" is Spanish for "small island.") Some, such as Andros, Grand Bahama, Great Abaco, Eleuthera, Cat Island, and Long Island, are fairly large, while others are tiny enough to seem crowded if more than two people visit at a time.
Rising out of the Bahama Banks, a 181,300-sq.-km (70,000-sq.-mile) area of shoals and broad elevations of the sea floor where the water is relatively shallow, The Bahamas are flat, low-lying islands. Some rise no more than 3m (10 ft.) above sea level at the highest point, with Mount Alvernia on Cat Island holding the height record at just above 60m (200 ft.).
In most places, the warm, shallow water is so clear that it allows an easy view of the bottom, though cuts and channels are deep. The Tongue of the Ocean between Andros and the Exumas, for example, goes thousands of feet down.