In the early days, Rum Cay was home to Arawak Indians. But by the start of the 16th century, after the arrival of Christopher Columbus, a majority of the Indians had left the island. Evidence, such as cave drawings, bowls and utensils, suggest that a small group of them lived in Hartford Cave before departing. By 1901, Rum Cay had five distinct settlements, with a majority of residents calling Port Nelson home. Today, Port Nelson is the only inhabited village remaining on the island. Tourism plays a significant role to the few island residents, who warmly welcome seafarers and other visitors during chance encounters and while socializing in their quaint restaurants and bars.
Two stories abound regarding the origin of the island's name—one says that a West Indian ship wrecked with a cargo of rum during the rum-running 1800s; the other that it was named in honour of the Isle of Rhum in Scotland.
Rolling hills, stunning coral reefs, miles of pure sandy beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, exhilarating surf on the north coast—all of these combine to make the island unique and stand out from its sisters with its multiplicity of offerings.
Originally called "Mamana" by the original inhabitants, Rum Cay was renamed "Santa Maria de la Concepción" by Christopher Columbus, who made his second stop here during his voyage to the New World in 1492.
The street signs in Port Nelson are made in the shape of the island, the only place in The Bahamas where you will see that. The Bahamas' first Governor General, Sir Milo Butler, was born on the island and is remembered by the town square named for him.