Nassau/Paradise Island, Bahamas
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know…?
- Nassau was a base for pirates until the Spanish and French emptied the hornets’ nest in 1703.
- Cable Beach was the entry point for the first U.S.-Bahamas telegraph cable (1892), hence the name.
- At least six James Bond films, beginning with “Thunderball” (1965), have filmed scenes in Nassau.
- Atlantis, Paradise Island has the world’s largest open-air marine habitat, 141 acres, accommodating more than 50,000 animals.
- Paradise Island was previously called Hog Island.
Pink (buildings) and blue (water)
Even if Nassau did not offer outsized shopping opportunities, even if it were not linked to a mega hotel, casino and entertainment complex on Paradise Island, even if it did not have a historic city center and defensive forts from colonial days, the city would remain an appealing destination.
It would be left with its natural features: a mild climate, broad beaches, fish that tempt anglers, dolphins for swimming companions, coral reefs that must be seen and waters suited to all sorts of activities. Access is handy, too — Nassau is about 180 miles off the coast of southern Florida.
However, Nassau does have the shopping, entertainment and historical features listed above. As a result, it is a very popular tourist destination, exemplified by the numbers of cruisers who show up. Several large ships can call in Nassau simultaneously, which means downtown can be crowded at certain times.
The city is well known for its Straw Market, good for island curios and original handicrafts, and for duty-free shopping, where good buys may include English china and crystal, plus liquor. One can fill in the gaps with shopping arcades and smaller craft markets.
Several resorts offer casinos, shops, restaurants and entertainment, but the Atlantis on Paradise Island is the country’s largest resort. Accessible from Nassau via bridge or water taxi, it features a 50,000-square-foot casino, numerous shops, some very fine eateries, nightclubs, theater and the 141-acre Aquaventure Waterpark. Still more, the Atlantis hosts marine habitats and aquarium exhibits — and offers interactions with dolphins and sea lions.
As to the history, there are a dozen fortifications on New Providence Island (Nassau’s location) and Paradise Island recalling the days of pirate attacks; three — the forts Charlotte, Fincastle and Montagu — are of touristic and historical interest.
In Nassau’s downtown, top colonial sights include the pink Government House, home of the governor general; the octagonal and pink Nassau Public Library and Museum, a former prison; Christ Church Cathedral, and the wooden and quintessentially Bahamian Balcony House, also pink.
Criminals sometimes target tourists. It’s best to avoid walking alone at night or in deserted areas. Be sure to use official taxis, too.
Things to do for Venturers
- Before leaving home, plan to join the People to People Program, which could include a home-cooked meal with a Bahamian family, for example.
- Don that diving gear in order to view coral reefs, blue holes, caves, shipwrecks and sharks.
- If you like a party, come to town in July for the Junkanoo Summer Festival. Time that for the event’s Heritage Celebration, highlighting Bahamian music and food.
- Get very active on the water, with jet skiing, kiteboarding and/or parasailing.
- Rent a scooter for your sightseeing. Or take an off-road biking tour.
- Fish for big game, and charter your own boat to go after your quarry.
Things to do for Centrics
- If you are in town on the last Friday of a month, join the tea party on the porch of the Government House, hosted by the governor general’s spouse. You’ll encounter a mix of English tradition and Bahamian folklore — and Bahamian people.
- Take a scenic excursion by horseback from Coral Harbour.
- Take a surrey ride around the historic downtown.
- Order boiled fish and grits for breakfast. Order seafood at any meal. Have the signature seafood — conch.
- The opportunities for shopping are legion. Of course, check out the Nassau Straw Market, but then, leave the crowds to shop at one of the smaller craft markets on Paradise Island or at Cable Beach.
- Join a bird-watching trip. More than 100 species breed in the Bahamian islands.
Things to do for Authentics
- Avail yourself of the numerous choices for golf and tennis.
- Play hard at Aquaventure, a major water-themed attraction in the center of the waterscape development at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island.
- Take the kids to the Pirates of Nassau museum, for a chance to experience history in an interactive way. Then, see some of the dozen real fortifications on New Providence and Paradise island. Fort Charlotte, Fort Fincastle and Fort Montagu are of major historical interest.
- Go to the beach. There are plenty of choices here. Fort Montagu is at Montagu Beach. Swimming with dolphins is an option, too.
- Devote serious time to the local duty-free shops. Look for cigars and perfume, handicrafts and crystal, or jewelry and leather accessories.
- Take a sightseeing cruise aboard a glass-bottom boat. Or cruise in a bigger way, arriving at Nassau as a passenger on a cruise ship.
For more information, consult the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board at www.nassauparadiseisland.com