Nassau, the large capital city of the Bahamas, is the gateway to the lifestyle and culture of the Bahamian islands. The city started its life as a popular pirate’s landing which grew into a large city of commerce and is now a major cruise destination. The Prince George Wharf Cruise Terminal is undergoing significant redevelopment with a $250MM investment from a consortium. When completed, the cruise port will be able to accommodate 8 ships and the new terminal area will be a hub for cruise guests to experience elements of Bahamian culture, entertainment, music and food.
From the terminal, visitors can head into downtown Nassau, or take a ferry or water taxi to surrounding islands. Downtown Nassau is walkable and a stone’s throw from the cruise terminal. It’s filled with the history of infamous pirates and Nassau’s ties to the British monarchy.
A trip to Nassau is always highlighted by a visit to the famous Straw Market. It was originally a local market and is now filled with visitors. Local handcrafted items are showcased and US currency is accepted. The market is located directly in the center of Nassau’s Bay Street and is surrounded by several high-end shops and boutiques. For a more food-centric shopping experience, Potters Cay is located under the Paradise Island Bridge and includes several stalls selling fresh delicacies from the sea and tropical produce. Downtown visitors will find the Ardastra Gardens, Zoo, and Conservation Center. This is the only zoo in the Bahamas, making it a busy and popular attraction. The birds of the zoo are the most interesting, from the famous marching flamingos to the free-roaming parakeets who will land on visitors to feed.
For the more historically inclined traveler, Nassau offers two major museums and several historical structures. The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas is located in the now renovated residence of the Chief Justice and offers a look at Bahamian art from the pre-colonial era to the present day. For a look into the pirate history that created Nassau, the Pirates of Nassau Museum is the way to go. This museum offers guided and unguided tours through a collection of real artifacts and recreations of a pirate town, pirate ship, and pirate battle. For historical sites, Fort Fincastle is an excellent start. There are tours through the grounds of this small fort built in 1793, where the remains of the fort and several historical cannons can be seen. After Fort Fincastle, visitors can head over to the Old Town which offers an interesting mix of abandoned historical buildings and bright Caribbean structures. The highlight of the Old Town is the pink Parliament House that features a statue of Queen Victoria in the front.
Of course, a visit to the Bahamas is not complete without experiencing the stunning blue waters these islands are so famous for. Blue Lagoon Island offers a chance to swim with dolphins and sea lions. Catamaran rides around Nassau harbor often take off from this small beach island. Balmoral Island is another private beach resort located just off the coast of Nassau. Balmoral offers a chance to swim with stingrays and dolphins and has a relatively private beach lined with bars and restaurants. If playing in the water is your thing a trip to the famous Atlantis Aquaventure waterpark is a must. Covering 141 acres, this waterpark has high-speed waterslides, a water play fort, 11 swimming pools, 20 swimming areas, a mile-long river ride and it’s a blast for the whole family.
For a more immersive Bahamian cultural experience, a trip during Junkanoo is the way to go. These colorful parades fill the streets with people in brightly colored handmade costumes dancing to cowbells, drums, and whistles. Junkanoo takes over the city for the day and includes judge’s awards. This spectacular festival can be experienced three times a year on January 1, July 10, and December 26.
With so much in one port, it’s no wonder Nassau is one of only three Caribbean cities to be recognized as a city of Crafts and Folk Art as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. It has long been a favorite on cruise itineraries and is expected to maintain its favored status for years to come.
Image credit: CruiseMapper