Freeport, Bahamas

Freeport is the largest city on Grand Bahama, the most northern island in the Bahamas and the closest to Florida. Its tropical climate and pristine beaches are only two of its idyllic features. The island is a haven for winter vacationers or as a one-day ship port. These photos were taken one month after Hurricane Matthew struck on October 28, 2016 so you will see lingering damage. But its natural beauty still shines along with the sun.

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1 Welcome to Grand Bahama in Freeport, Bahamas

These colorful beach bags are a potential memento of your vacation to Grand Bahama, the most northern island in the Bahamian archipelago. It is also the closest to Florida located about 55 miles east of Palm Beach. Freeport is the largest city on this 530 square mile island. However, the tourism center is Port Lucaya on the southern coastline facing the Northwest Providence Channel. The airport is about a ten minute drive (on the left side of the road) and the distance to the cruise terminal is about 12 miles.

Freeport Cruise Port, Freeport, The Bahamas

2 Duty-free Shopping at Cruise Port in Freeport, Bahamas

Cruise ships dock at the Lucayan Harbour Cruise Facility at the west end of Grand Bahama. The terminal offers a duty-free shop, a few other retailers and a straw market. These will only maintain your interest for a few minutes while waiting for transportation into Port Lucaya. The island’s official currency is the Bahamian Dollar. Don’t worry about the currency exchange. It is equal to the U.S. dollar and these are readily accepted.

Freeport Cruise Port, Freeport, The Bahamas

3 Golden Age of Piracy in Freeport, Bahamas

This namesake of this duty-free liquor store at the Freeport Cruise Terminal is Tortuga, an islet off the coast of Haiti. Beginning in the mid-17th century, this was a haven for the Brethren of the Coast pirates including Captain Morgan. The Bahamas was also active during the Golden Age of Piracy. The most notable was the Republic of Pirates established in Nassau from 1706 through 1718. The flag for these seagoing bandits was the skull with crossed swords known as the Jolly Roger. The most famous female pirates were Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Two notorious buccaneers from Grand Bahama prior to 1720 included Blackbeard and Captain Kidd. This island was also used as a location for filming the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Freeport Cruise Port, Freeport, The Bahamas

4 Pinder’s Point Lighthouse in Freeport, Bahamas

Pinder’s Point was built in the 1960s shortly after a creek was dredged to create the Freeport Harbour (now called the Lucayan Harbour). The 40 foot, cinder-block lighthouse has three red and three white, horizontal stripes. This Grand Bahama Heritage Site is currently inactive. It replaced an early 19th century lighthouse named Eight Mile Rock Lite.

Pinder’s Point Lighthouse, Pinder's Point Rd, Freeport, The Bahamas

5 Beach Options in Freeport, Bahamas

All of Grand Bahama’s best beach options are along the island’s southern shore. Some have restricted access, like this one in front of the Princess Isle gated community. Others have limited facilities. So many day trippers elect to purchase a day pass from a resort with full amenities such as equipment rentals, swimming pools, restaurants, etc. Popular choices are the Paradise Cove Beach Resort to the west of the port and the Grand Lucayan on Lucaya Beach across from the Port Lucaya Marketplace. Another option with fewer services is the Junkanoo Beach Club at Taino Beach. Shuttles are available from the cruise terminal.

Dundee Bay Dr Freeport, The Bahamas

6 Cooper’s Castle in Freeport, Bahamas

This fairytale mansion would be noticeable anywhere but especially among Grand Bahama’s nondescript architecture. That is precisely why the 46 acre property on the island’s highest elevation has become a symbol for determination and hard work. The owner was born into a poor family in 1931. As an adult, Reverend Harvard Cooper became a successful entrepreneur. He owned franchises for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King and Pizza Hut plus other businesses including a chicken farm. His family still lives in the estate. Tours are available. The castle can also be rented as an event venue.

Beachway Dr Freeport & Bahama Reef Blvd, Freeport, The Bahamas

7 Weather in Freeport, Bahamas

Snowbird wannabees love vacationing on Grand Bahamas because of the weather. The island’s average high temperature is 83° Fahrenheit. During the peak winter months, it is in the high 70s with a water temperature ranging from 72 to 78°F. The climate is classified as a tropical rainforest. The rainy season peaks in August and September. The lowest precipitation occurs from December through April. In short, all you need to pack is your bathing suit, sunglasses and suntan lotion. Maybe add a sweater if you get chilled at night.

Sea Gate Ln, Freeport, The Bahamas

8 From Reality to Paradise in Freeport, Bahamas

Reality consistency gets in the way of having fun. The remedy? Book a short flight or cruise to Grand Bahama. Then don your beach apparel sans shoes and go for a barefoot stroll with your best friend. Feel the warmth. Smell the ocean. Listen to the surf. Soon real life disappears as you savor your private paradise.

Sea Gate Ln, Freeport, The Bahamas

9 Coral Beach in Freeport, Bahamas

There are three beaches just to the west of Port Lucaya. Lucaya Beach is anchored by the Grand Lucayan Resort. A day pass gets you access to their amenities. Next in line is this one: Coral Beach. The sand and aquamarine surf are equally grand. However, do not expect to find niceties such as a restroom. Further to the west is Silver Point Beach. This coastal stretch is among the least traveled by tourists. Lucayan National Park has one of the best beaches on the island. This 40-acre reserve also features underwater caves and nature trails. But its distance from the cruise port requires a commitment.

Sea Gate Ln, Freeport, The Bahamas

10 Lucaya Lighthouse in Freeport, Bahamas

Most lighthouses were constructed to help sea captains safely navigate through coastal waters. This one was constructed as a picturesque marquee for Lighthouse Pointe. The highly-rated, all-inclusive property opened in 2015 as part of the Grand Lucayan Resort. The “Classic Bahamian Experience” includes all meals, liquor and entertainment to compliment an infinity pool and rooms with seaside views.

Lighthouse Pointe, 1 Royal Palm Way, Freeport, The Bahamas

11 Port Lucaya Marina in Freeport, Bahamas

If you arrive to Freeport by boat, your first choice for docking is at the Port Lucaya Marina. This protective harbor has 150 slips to accommodate pleasure boats up to yachts for a day or the season. If the open sea sounds appealing but you don’t have a boat, you can charter a sightseeing cruise or hire a fishing captain to help you hook a wahoo or kingfish. If all you need is a breather from shopping at the adjacent Port Lucaya Marketplace, then smell the ocean air while strolling along the wooden boardwalk.

Port Lucaya Marketplace, Freeport, The Bahamas

12 UNEXSO Dolphin Swim in Freeport, Bahamas

This statue of three breaching dolphins is the entrance to the Underwater Explorer’s Society near Port Lucaya Marketplace. The favorite excursion at UNEXSO is Swim with Dolphins. This is unlike most experiences where the marine animals are captive in a pool. Instead, you travel by boat to a nine-acre lagoon in Sanctuary Bay and then swim among bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitat. Other options include snorkeling and scuba diving.

Port Lucaya Marketplace, Port Lucaya, Freeport, Bahamas

13 Community Art Mosaic in Freeport, Bahamas

The Community Art Mosaic proudly shows a Bahamian man (shown) and woman in the center of the Port Lucaya Marketplace. This colorful tessellation contains over 22,000 tiny stones. The eight-month, volunteer project was designed by Jackie Boss and installed in 2013.

Port Lucaya Marketplace, Sea Horse Rd, Freeport, The Bahamas

14 Dining Options at Port Lucaya Marketplace in Freeport, Bahamas

You are bound to get hungry and thirsty while shopping at Port Lucaya Marketplace. Select from one of the 16 restaurants and four bars. An example is the Bateman’s Big Easy, a seafood eatery with a New Orleans theme. Or if you prefer to eat on the run, the island’s largest retail center also has quick-serve vendors offering ice cream, snacks and seafood.

Port Lucaya Marketplace, Freeport, The Bahamas

15 Port Lucaya Marketplace Stores in Freeport, Bahamas

Shopping aficionados must put the Port Lucaya Marketplace at the top of their “to do” list when visiting Grand Bahama. Within the 9.5 acre, outdoor complex are over 100 vendors plus 40 boutique stores. They include a straw market and this row of merchants offering authentic Bohemian crafts. You will find anything you are looking for, from high-end merchandise to low-priced souvenirs.

Port Lucaya Marketplace, Freeport, The Bahamas

16 Damaged Pier at Taino Beach in Freeport, Bahamas

Hurricane season in the Bahamas runs from June through November. Grand Bahama was pounded by two major storms in 2004: Hurricanes Francis (category 4) and Hurricane Jeanne (category 3). Most of the damage was repaired. Then Hurricane Matthew struck on October, 2016, less than a month before these photos were taken. This pier on Taino Beach is a small sample of the destruction caused by the sustained winds of 145 miles per hour. Yet the 47,000 people on this island are resilient. They are committed to rebuild and welcome tourists. Their motto is fitting: “Forward, Upward, Onward Together.”

Jolly Roger Dr. & W Beach Rd, Freeport The Bahamas

17 International Bazaar in Freeport, Bahamas

This red Chinese paifang gate is the marquee for the International Bazaar. Its approximately 70 stores within ten acres are divided into country sections such as French, Scandinavia, Oriental, etc. This shopping complex is the only attraction near downtown Freeport of interest to tourists. The rest of the island’s largest city is mostly designed for local Bahamians. The marketplace was heavily damaged during recent hurricanes. Inquire about its status before going for a visit.

Bazzar Rd, Freeport, The Bahamas

18 The Perfume Factory in Freeport, Bahamas

If you enjoy wearing perfume, then you will love visiting The Perfume Factory. The store is housed in this quaint replica of a Bahamian mansion adjacent to the International Bazaar. The fragrances are as unique as the island-themed names. You will have fun touring a portion of their manufacturing facilities. Then mix and name your own heavenly scent.

West Sunrise Highway & East Mall Drive, International Bazaar, Freeport, The Bahamas

19 Grand Bahama Port Authority in Freeport, Bahamas

Grand Bahama Island was largely undeveloped until the arrival of Wallace Groves in the early 1940’s after serving two years in a federal prison for mail fraud. In 1955, this former NYC securities executive was granted 211 square miles of the island for tax-free development in the Hawksbill Creek Agreement. He also founded the Grand Bahama Port Authority as a private enterprise. This vehicle, along with payoffs to influential citizens known as the Bay Street Boys, helped Mr. Groves build three casinos plus resort properties. He also had reputed criminal and money laundering activities with the Mob in Miami. In the late 70’s, he sold the Grand Bahama Port Authority to Charles Hayward. The GBPA is still privately owned by Hayward’s descendants.

Pioneer's & East Mall Drive, E Mall, Freeport, Bahamas

20 Golf Course Options in Freeport, Bahamas

Travelers who spell vacation as “GOLF” have three options on Grand Bahama. The oldest is this Ruby Golf Course. Joe Lee was the co-architect of this 18-hole course in 1964. He also helped lay out the par 36, 9 holes at Fortune Hills Golf and Country Club. The best rated and most challenging is The Reef Course. The 18 holes with over 6,900 yards of greens were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. in 2000. These links frequently host national championships.

Santa Maria Ave & Charles Chillingsworth Ct., Freeport, The Bahamas