Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know…?
- The island’s western tip was a haven for gunrunners during the U.S. Civil War and rum runners during Prohibition.
- The Caribbean yellow pine is the most common tree on the island.
- Grand Bahama provided film locations for two of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.
- Freeport got its rather obvious name for its duty-free status.
- Bottlenose dolphins, weighing an average of 1,100 pounds, can swim at more than 18 mph.
Conch cracking and bonefishing
The Bahamas is an archipelago of hundreds of islands and islets spread across 100,000 square miles, just southeast of Florida. Among the group’s major islands, Grand Bahama is the closest to the U.S., at less than 90 miles.
Grand Bahama, like all Bahamian islands, is in the North Atlantic but shares many characteristics of Caribbean islands. It has the sunny days, long sandy beaches and come-hither clear waters suitable for diving, fishing and snorkeling, but not so many swaying palm trees. Uniquely, Grand Bahama and a few other Bahamian islands are noted for their pines.
It also has the tourist infrastructure with restaurants and accommodations that run the gamut, including high-end luxury; a busy and welcoming cruise port; golf courses; plenty of duty-free shopping, and the travel firms that make it possible to ride horses, snorkel in a quiet cove, see the island in a Jeep, fish for the big one and more.
Grand Bahama is a long, narrow island with three distinct destination areas, West End, Freeport/Lucaya and East End.
Old Bahama Bay on West End was the island’s original tourist site and is still its capital city. Bonefishing on the flats is popular on both the West End and East End.
Most of the action is between these end points, on the southwest corner of the island, at Freeport/Lucaya, which is really two cities, with Freeport the inland business center and Lucaya the waterfront development set up for tourism. Lucaya is where cruise ships call and site of the Port Lucaya Marketplace.
Goombay, a summer festival that celebrates Bahamian music and dance, crafts and food, is staged each year on several islands. The Grand Bahama venue for the outdoor event, sometimes called Junkanoo, is Taino Beach in Lucaya.
On the other hand, McLean’s Town Conch Cracking Festival is specific to Grand Bahama and involves live entertainment, lots of foods featuring conch (a marine snail) and, of course, a conch-cracking contest, among others. McLean is at the eastern end of the island.
Things to do for Venturers
- Sign up for scuba lessons and get your PADI certification. For the certified, shark dives are an option.
- Take a self-drive Jeep safari along the old heritage trail east of Lucaya.
- Time your visit to coincide with the island’s Goombay Summer Festival, aka Junkanoo, a Mardi Gras-style street carnival that celebrates the Bahamian heritage.
- Compete in the autumn Conchman and Ironkids Triathlon at Taino Beach in Lucaya. As the name suggests, the kids can compete, too. Or, consider the Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament in Freeport, a springtime event for those who would reel in game fish from the deep while in a kayak.
- For a uniquely Bahamian experience, complete in McLean’s Town Conch Cracking Festival. This is a test of speed and skills at cracking and cleaning the conchs, and there is a category for visitors. Then, eat lots of conch-themed food, which is available at the autumn fest.
- Outfitters offer the option of stand-up paddle boarding. Give it a try.
Things to do for Centrics
- The 100-acre Rand Nature Centre, in Freeport, is described as a bird-watcher’s paradise. Pick up the binoculars and find out.
- Get married in an ideal tropical setting on Grand Bahama.
- Go horseback riding on the beach. Or, choose guided sightseeing on horseback (a trail ride through pine forests), in a kayak or on a bicycle.
- At UNEXCO Dolphin Experience, choose the dolphin encounter that works for you, ranging from standing in shallow water to pet the gregarious animals to swimming with them in the open ocean.
- Test your luck with bonefishing on the flats on Grand Bahama’s East End or West End. Or, shift the action to other waters for deep-sea fishing.
- At Paradise Cove, a secluded beach, rent the snorkel gear and head into the water for a look at Deadman’s Reef.
Things to do for Authentics
- Shop for duty-free brand-name products at the Port Lucaya Marketplace. Check out the island’s artisan shops and inexpensive straw markets, too, for a different kind of memento.
- Eat fresh seafood at every opportunity. Order conch at least once; it can be prepared in many ways.
- Take a tour on a glass-bottom boat for a look at what is under the water.
- Join a free tour of the Perfume Factory in Freeport and, for a small fee, mix, bottle and name your own fragrance.
- Take a dinner cruise. Or, consider the Robinson Crusoe cruise, which “strands” you for the day at a spot where you can snorkel, sunbathe and have lunch.
- Find your way to a casino and, perhaps, a little good luck, too.
Fore more information, consult the Bahamas Tourist Office at www.bahamas.com