Nassau City Guide
The capital of the Bahamas, Nassau, is a bustling city on the scenic island of New Providence and a major stop for all cruises passing through the Caribbean. With a busy airport and an even busier international harbour, Nassau is easy to reach and difficult to leave. As you can expect, there are plenty of banks, duty-free shopping and white sandy beaches, but that's not all. Elegant streets, verdant vegetation and plenty of Bahamian delights, such as tropical drinks and mouthwatering seafood make the capital a must-visit.
Sun, sea and sandy stretches
Lined with modern hotels and casinos, Cable Beach is always busy but so is almost every sandy stretch on the Bahamas. The sand is fine, and the sea is warm, and the choice of water sports is excellent. An undisputed favourite of locals and visitors alike, however, remains Junkanoo beach, which is only a stone's throw away from the bustling downtown area and the busy port. Wherever you choose to go for bathing, diving and suntanning, you won't be disappointed, so why not try both beaches?
Sightseeing and Attractions in Nassau
Nassau is a little treasure trove of picture-postcard, old-time architecture. Timber houses painted in pastel shades line the streets. Many homes also boast lush gardens where locals chill out. Stroll down to Parliament Square to see the elegant government buildings dating to the 19th century or amble past the noble Government House – an impressive pink mansion that is the official residence of the governor-general of the Bahamas. A statue of Christopher Columbus sits on the steps in front of the mansion as a reminder that the explorer landed on nearby San Salvador on his way to “India.”
Travel back in time by climbing the Queen's Staircase, which was hand-carved by slaves. The stone staircase cuts through a scenic canyon full of verdant tropical vegetation nourished by a waterfall. It leads to Fort Charlotte, a fortification built to protect the island from attacks. Its historic moat, cannons, dungeon and underground passages make it an exciting attraction for kids and adults alike.
Nearby the fort lies the Ardastra Gardens, yet another family-friendly attraction with a zoo and a botanical garden. The place is a favourite playground for local kids and a lovely spot where to get acquainted with the Bahamian flora and fauna. The lush botanical gardens are filled with palms and bright, tropical flowers, while the zoo is home to all sorts of animals, from tiny colourful parrots to graceful flamingos.
If you are feeling a little lazy and want to save yourself, the walking get a ride on a horse-drawn carriage. The friendly coachmen will point out all major attractions you pass on your thirty-minute tour that start's and ends at the harbour. For good views head to the Water Tower on Bennetts Hill, which is the highest point on the island.
Shopping, dining and amusements
The hot weather calls for chilled refreshments and in Nassau they come in the gallons. Plenty of outdoor bars serve drinks prepared with fresh fruits right in front of you. Juices and Cocktails will quench the thirst of the health-conscious traveller but to the connoisseur of fine spirits, the ultimate stop in Nassau is the Buena Vista estate, home to John Watling's Distillery. Named after an infamous Caribbean pirate, this historic distillery produces one of the finest hand-made rums in the Bahamas.
You won't stay thirsty in Nassau, but if you are feeling hungry the juice bar won't do, neither will the distillery, so head straight to Arawak Cay. The best traditional dishes are served in the restaurants of the cay. Seafood is a big thing in the Bahamas, and you can try some exotic delicacies, like conch meat which is prepared in a variety of different ways.
Off-duty shopping makes Nassau a magnet for shopaholics. Bay Street, the main thoroughfare in the capital, offers plenty of international luxury and high-street stores. The popular Straw Market is also located along this street. At the market locals offer traditional handicrafts and cheap items, and you are more than welcome to haggle over souvenirs if you enjoy that kind of thing.
The definitive Bahamian event is Junkanoo carnival. Traditionally the festival has been held over the Christmas and New Year season, however, nowadays it's also celebrated in spring. The biggest Junkanoo parade takes place on the streets of Nassau as thousands of dancers in exuberant costumes dance from the wee hours of the morning till after sunrise. As the music grows louder and the celebration heats up, locals and onlookers also join in the dancing in the streets or on balconies. It's a celebration of Bahamian culture at its best.