Bahamas: Main Sights
29 islands against a backdrop of blue
The array of beautiful beaches, choice diving sites and remote cays in the Bahamas is simply too vast to cover. San Salvador Island, home to only 500 people, has numerous fine beaches and was reputedly the place where Christopher Columbus first struck land in the New World, but is not even close to a major tourist spot. Nassau and Paradise Island are easily the most popular and tourist-thronged places in the Bahamas, while Andros Island and the Exumas offer two very different kinds of remote natural beauty. Grand Bahama is something a bit in between, while Harbour Island is probably the most charming and exclusive getaway in the entire group of islands. Suffice it to say that the Bahamas are overflowing with natural beauty, but are not for the budget minded traveler. Those with a bit of cash to spend, however, will have their choice of festivities, luxury, charm, pristine nature or a bit of each, in this beautiful Caribbean paradise.
Nassau and New Providence
Located on Providence Island, the capital and by far largest city in the Bahamas is Nassau, a bustling, though smallish, tropical municipality. Tours of Nassau offer a nice view of this historic, yet modern place, and include nearby Paradise Island, with its famous Atlantis resort, casino and aquarium. Among Nassau’s places of interest are the Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Center, the Bahamas’ only zoo (admission 9€), the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (located in the grand former house of the Chief Justice, 3-4€) and the Pirate Museum, a fun, if hokey recreation of an old pirate village (9€). Those interested in the colonial history of the Bahamas should definitely visit Nassau’s Old Town, with its collection of colonial buildings, some in typical bright Caribbean pastel and others in various states of disrepair. Other historical sites are Nassau’s three forts: Fort Montagu, Fort Charlotte and Fort Fincastle, which overlooks Nassau from a hill to the south and dates from 1793. Nassau has a lively international nightlife, lots of clubs, bars, restaurants and a variety of both urban and beach front accommodation. The beaches and waters around Nassau are beautiful, if busier than the more remote parts of the Bahamas. Cable Beach is a popular resort area just minutes from Nassau. Another spot outside of Nassau is the Bacardi Distillery, which offers free half hour tours and cheap prices on rum. It should also be said that Nassau has its bad side as well. Steer clear of the “Over-the-Hill" area south of downtown, be wary of tourist scams and exercise caution, especially after dark.
Paradise Island, just minutes from Nassau and connected to Providence Island by two bridges, provides a whopping 11% of the GNP of the Bahamas. Entrance is $1 per vehicle (0.71€) and hotel/resort prices are expensive. Dominated by the luxury tourist resort and casino complex Atlantis, Providence Island’s attractions are mostly exclusive to the resort’s guests, who are either staying there or renting day rooms while visiting the island. All beaches, on the other hand, are public in the Bahamas. Things to do on Paradise Island include visiting the spectacular aquariums in Atlantis (The Dig and The Predator Lagoon), gambling in the casinos and shopping in the pretty and pricey Marina Village, which also features Junkanoo Rushes (carnival parades) on Friday and Saturday evenings. Paradise Island also has plenty of bars, hotels and restaurants, and in some contrast to Nassau, is highly policed and very safe.
Grand Bahama is the island of natural parks and home to the Bahama’s second largest city, Freeport (pop. 27,000). It has three beautiful nature reserves: Lucayan National Park, with its underwater limestone caves, diverse selection of ecosystems including beautiful beaches and mangrove swamps, the educational Rand Nature Center (just outside downtown Freeport), and Peterson Cay National Park, which is a small island surrounded by coral reefs. All nature; animal and plant life on Peterson Cay is protected. Activities on Grand Bahama include scuba diving and swimming with dolphins, shopping at the Port Lucaya Marketplace and the International Bazaar, night clubbing and of course enjoying the island’s beautiful beaches and nature.
Andros, aka “The Big Yard” is the largest island of the Bahamas and also the most pristine. The island has the world's third largest barrier reef, which stretches over 230 km. Home to only 6000 people, Andros is the least densely populated major island in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and features a distinct lack of commercial tourism, though there are a few hotels and resorts. Andros Island is the best place in the Bahamas for true unspoiled wilderness and is also well regarded for bone fishing and diving. Highlights include a subtropical forest area and swamp land which contains over 50 different species of orchids, 200 types of native birds, and numerous “blue holes”, or water filled cave systems.
The most picturesque of the “Out Islands”, Harbour Island in the Abacos is home to a 5 kilometer stretch of pink sand beach, an abundance of tropical flowers, and charming streets with pastel-color clapboard houses. Dunmore Town, the only town on Harbour Island, is a quaint place with a few historic sights to see, such as St. John's, built in 1768, the distinguished 1848 Wesley Methodist Church, and Loyalist Cottage, one of the original settlers' homes from around 1797. The eastern shore of the island is great for diving among the coral reef, and seeing colorful tropical fish and sunken ships.
Next to Harbour Island is the less busy Eleuthera, which is served by three small airports connecting the island with Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and the rest of the Bahamas. The island has no public transport, so visitors must get around via taxis or rent a car. Cycling, especially mountain biking, is also a popular mode of transport and recreational activity. Other recommended activities on Eleuthera include snorkeling, diving, surfing and exploring Hatchet Bay Cave.
Bimini is a district composed of two islands: North Bimini and South Bimini, which lie only 80 kilometers southeast of Florida. Once home to Earnest Hemingway, Bimini is a popular fishing destination, sometimes referred to as the "Deep Sea Fishing Capital of the World". Other activities on the Biminis include boating and simply relaxing. Bimini also has several bars, restaurants a few small beaches.
The Abaco Islands
A choice location for sailing and resort tourism, the Abaco Islands are located just east of Grand Bahama and are home to 4 national parks: Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park, Abaco Wild Horse Preserve, Man-O-War Cay, and Great Guana Cay. Treasure Cay is a town and peninsula on the island of Great Abaco. It is a new large scale real estate development and home to Treasure Cay Hotel Resort & Marina (including a notable golf course) and a beautiful 5.5 kilometer long beach. Historic Elbow Cay, Man-O-War Cay, and Green Turtle Cay are all easily accessible by boat.
The Exumas are comprised of 360 small islands, or cays, of which Great Exuma is the largest, with a popu-lation of around 2,000. Yachting, diving, coral reef and cave exploring are popular activities in the Exumas. Though most of the cays are privately owned, well-off visitors may take advantage of the remote luxury these islands have to offer. Places of interest in the Exumas include Staniel Cay Yacht Club on Staniel Cay, Fowl Cay Private Island Resort, Palm Bay Beach Club, and Saddleback Cay, a private island owned by Island World Adventures, a company offering day trips from Nassau for around 136€ per person. Saddleback Cay has seven beaches and shallow reefs which are good for watching nurse sharks.
Long island gets its name because it measures 130 km long by only 6 km wide. Sailing, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and lying on the beaches are all popular activities Long Island. Cape Santa Maria Beach is one of the top rated beaches in the world, while Dean’s Blue Hole is an underwater sinkhole near Clarence Town, plunging 202 meters deep. Other places of interest on Long Island include Clarence Town (capital of Deadman's Cay), Mangrove Bush (home of boat building), Hamilton's (famous for its cave tours), the Long Island Library & Museum, and Salt Pond (home of the annual Long Island Regatta).
Ok Alpha Recommendations for Bahamas
• 1 Bahamas National Trust Park
For hikers, birders, turtles and more than 50,000 flamboyant flamingos
• 2 Clarence Town
Beautiful churches watch over secluded bays and a 660ft deep blue hole
• 3 Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
Explore 365 cays by boat and snorkel
• 4 San Salvador
Adventurers will love the thrilling wall-diving
• 5 Cat Island
African heritage apparent in crumbling slave plantations and obeah practices
• 6 Harbour Island
Blushing pink sands, pretty Loyalist village and languishing beautiful people
• 7 Abacos Cays
Romantic idylls with secluded beaches, 18th-century villages and swimming pigs
• 8 Lucayan National Park
Kayaking, hiking, caving, horseback-riding, snorkeling and a gorgeous white-sand beach
• 9 Nassau
Enjoy the old grandeur, resorts and nightlife of this Bahamian metropolis
• 10 Bimini
Dive with wild dolphins, see possible Atlantis and fish with Hemingway’s spirit
• 11 Andros
Fishing-fans love the Bights while divers head for the world’s third-largest reef