Dreams of the Bahamas are usually comprised of an empty, white-sand beach, set on the shores of a deserted island that’s surrounded by a turquoise sea. Finding that beach can be tough, however, as much of the development located around Nassau leaves little sense of seclusion.
Just off the shore of Nassau, however, the uninhabited sands of Rose Island are closer to that tropical dream. A lone beach bar and a few palm trees that skank to the rhythm of the breeze, and an exclusive setting for snorkeling and sunbathing in a private corner of paradise. On a full day getaway to Sandy Toes, leave the first set of footprints in the white sand that has been wiped clear by the tide. Order a drink at the beachfront bar and swim in the crystalline waters, or colonize an empty, oceanfront hammock and not do anything at all. It’s a getaway from your getaway where you can completely press pause and soak up the relaxation, or ramp up the energy on the tropical holiday.
You might be surprised to find out that the most visited attraction in Nassau is a 31 m (102 ft) staircase. But the staircase's value resides not just in its 65 steps, but in its importance to Bahamian cultural history. The steps were carved out of solid limestone by slaves sometime between 1793 and 1794; a century later the staircase was renamed to honor the 65 year reign of Queen Victoria as well as her role in helping bring about the abolition of slavery in the Bahamas.
Today, come and marvel at the serene majesty of the steep, sloping staircase, still considered a remarkable construction feat. In order to carve the steps, the slaves had to cut through the rocks with axes and other sharp hand tools. The staircase leads to the back of Fort Fincastle.
High atop a hillside overlooking the harbor of Nassau is the British-colonial Fort Charlotte—the largest fort in Nassau. Constructed in the late 18th century for a battle that never took place, this historic site offers picturesque views, hidden underground passages, a waterless mote, remote dungeons and even authentic canons. Guides are available to help travelers navigate through subterranean halls far below the fort, but well-place signage and plenty of light means visitors can just as easily explore the grounds on their own.
Sitting atop Bennet's Hill, overlooking the city of Nassau, the hulking Fort Fincastle regally rests. The fort, though rather simple in appearance, is still impressive due to its huge brick walls with canons peeking out over the top.
Built in 1793 by Lord Dunmore, the governor of the island at the time, this 38.5 m (126 ft) tall fort was constructed to offer protection over the island. Today, you can climb to the top of the fort to explore the cannons and three rooms that are dug beneath the lookout. While the fort makes for a neat viewing opportunity, it is truly a must-see because of the spectacular panoramic views of the ocean it offers from the top.
This seafood paradise—ripe with fresh fish and strong drinks—is a destination for diners looking to truly taste Nassau. What began with a few tiny stalls selling locally sourced conch quickly grew to include a variety fish and a more extensive list of traditional Bahamian fare. Travelers line up for famous conch salad and crispy conch fritters that local cooks fry to order. But visitors can sample shrimp, lobster and snapper prepared street side, too. Be sure to request a hit of local hot sauce, made with the island’s special blend of spicy peppers and juicy limes.
Arawak Cay is a fun stop for an afternoon snack or a delicious local dinner. And since the streets come alive at dusk, this waterfront spot is an ideal destination for a frosty beer or a strong sipping sundowner to round out the night.
Built in 1806, the Government House is considered by many to be the leading example of Georgian Colonial architecture in all the West Indies. Its vibrant exterior gives this traditional building that sits atop Mount Fitzwilliam a uniquely island vibe, with a coral-colored paintjob that nods to Nassau’s famous conch. An impressive entryway, towering Ionic columns and a proud statue of Christopher Columbus lend a noble air to the mansion the visiting representative of the Queen calls home. Climb the hilltop for breathtaking views of Paradise Island or hang around the gates to catch the changing of the guards—both offer photo ops that are uniquely Nassau.
A library may not be the first place people plan to visit on a trip to the Bahamas, but in Nassau it should definitely be on the list. Here the public library is housed in a historic octagonal building from 1798 that formerly served as a colonial jail, making it a unique and interesting spot peruse the books, which are kept in the jail cells. The library also does double duty as a museum, with colonial documents, historic prints and native Arawak artifacts on display.
One of the traditional crafts of the Bahamas, straw working has become infused into Bahamian culture and industry. Each island has developed its own distinctive plaiting or braiding style to create beautiful straw hats, baskets, etc.
The Straw Market in Nassau serves as the ultimate destination to pick up Bahamian souvenirs. Grab a hat to protect yourself from the sun, or maybe pick up a small wood carving as a trinket to take home to a family member. In addition to the authentic hand-crafted merchandise, the Straw Market also offers many other items. What makes the Straw Market a unique shopping experience is getting to bargain the prices down; just remember to never accept the first offer and have fun seeing how low you can get the price to go!
Get out your eye patch and peg leg and get ready to delve into one of the most infamous and legendary aspects of Caribbean history. During the Golden Age of Piracy, from 1690 to 1720, pirates patrolled the waters of the Caribbean, terrorizing merchant ships and no place played a greater role in illegal pirate operations than Nassau, home base to the world's largest concentration of swashbuckling seafarers.
A trip to Pirates of Nassau takes one back to the Golden Age when pirates ruled the Caribbean. A favorite of both adults and children alike, this museum is one you won't want to miss. It is said that when a pirate slept, he did not dream of heaven, but of returning to Nassau. Come and find out for yourself what made Nassau pirate paradise.
What a better way to experience the beauty of the Bahamas than by discovering the native flora and fauna? The Ardastra Zoo, Gardens and Conservation Park provides the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with the creatures of the Caribbean.
Home to more than 300 animals, many of them endangered species of the Caribbean and South America, the zoo boasts the largest collection of Bahamian animals in the world. While walking around, don't be surprised if you run into a boa constrictor, raptor, or parrot- their trainers regularly walk them on the pathways. The zoo is also known for its vast flamingo collection. The most stunning part of Ardastra may not be the animals, but rather a visit to the gardens. Step into a land full of exotic fruit trees, coconut palms, bromeliads, orchids, brilliantly colored bougainvillea and hibiscus blossoms of every hue, where temperatures rarely fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) or soar above 90° F (32° C).
Discover the natural beauty and the wildlife of the Bahamas at the Garden of the Groves, an idyllic botanical garden filled with lush plant life, native animal life, and plenty of photo opportunities.
The 12-acre park was dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Groves, the founders of Freeport, in 1973, and since that time, it has been transformed into the eden of the Bahamas: with over ten thousands plants and hundreds of birds and other animals, the Garden is the perfect place to take a stroll.
In addition to the exotic macaws, alligators, and iguanas that live on the grounds, there is a wonderful petting zoo that allows children to interact with the pot-bellied pigs and pygmy goats of the Garden. There is also a wonderful playground for the younger visitors.
Sure - hanging at huge resorts is fun, but if you’re looking for a dose of Bahamian culture, where you can learn about this scenic, Caribbean archipelago and the centuries of peoples who’ve inhabited it, carve out some time for a guided tour at the Heritage Museum of the Bahamas.
Located on the second story of the 19th Century Mountbatten House, this small, but intriguing, local museum has dozens of slave era relics, and also features Spanish armor and chunks of prehistoric meteors. See the opulent, colorful dresses that were worn by Plantation owners, or marvel at treasures that date back to days when pirates patrolled the coast. As part of the larger Graycliff Complex, the Heritage Museum authentically fuses history and culture with tourism, a place to stretch and exercise your mind.
Just 180 miles (290 km) off the southern Florida coast, on the island of New Providence, Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas and its 29 islands. When you dock at Prince George Wharf on the island’s north coast, it’s less than a 10 minute stroll to downtown’s boutiques, restaurants and, most importantly, your launch pad for an exhilarating snorkelling or diving shore excursion.
Getting into town is easy: either walk a little way south to the main shopping hub, Bay Street, or grab one of the many taxis waiting at the wharf.
Downtown Nassau is a colourful mix of colonial architecture and historic landmarks, boutique shopping and tropical gardens. Take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or ride a water taxi over to relax on Paradise Island’s golden beaches. A guided tour will show you the colonial highlights plus introduce you to flamingos and wildlife at the lovely Ardastra Gardens.