Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas. This tropical destination has it all: historic landmarks, duty-free shopping, iconic resorts and pristine beaches. Bring your sunglasses and bathing suit. You are going to have a spectacular vacation.

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1 Two Moored Cruise Ships in Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau is only 186 miles from Miami in the Atlantic Ocean, making it a popular destination for about 3.5 million tourists annually looking for sun, sand and warmth without the burden of extensive travel. Nearly 70% arrive for a single day aboard a cruise ship. The peak month is in March and the busy season extends into August. Surprisingly, November and January are relatively slow. This is when you can often get great prices on three or four-day cruises through the Bahamas.

Woodes Rodgers Walk & Parliament St, Nassau CR 56766, The Bahamas
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2 Welcome Sign in Nassau, Bahamas

As tourists disembark from the cruise ships at the Port of Nassau, they are greeted with this welcome board covered with decals. It is the first photo opportunity before starting your day in Bahama’s capital. Perhaps it should read, “Welcome Back and See You Again Soon.” 58% of visitors have enjoyed New Providence and Paradise Islands before and 88% say they are likely to return. With so much competition from the Caribbean Islands, those statistics are very impressive. After viewing this photo gallery, you will understand why tourists are so enthralled with Nassau.

Woodes Rodgers Walk & Parliament St, Nassau CR 56766, The Bahamas
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3 Festival Place in Nassau, Bahamas

After disembarking your cruise ship at the Prince George Dock, you enter Festival Place almost before you can return your room key to your wallet. The colorful facades are a backdrop for artisans, souvenir vendors, tour companies, taxis and hair braiders all competing for your money. As is typical of shops at port terminals, the offerings here are not your best bargain.

Woodes Rodgers Walk & Parliament St, Nassau CR 56766, The Bahamas
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4 Port Authority Building in Nassau, Bahamas

The most prominent landmark at Prince George Wharf is the yellow tower of the Port Authority Building. Their primary responsibility today is managing cruise ships, pleasure boats and freighters. While Nassau’s natural harbor has been used by sailors for centuries, it has often attracted those with dubious intentions. For example, in the early part of the 18th century, the island was home base for about 1,000 pirates. During the Revolutionary War, it witnessed an influx of Loyalists. In the prohibition era, the port was fancied by bootleggers.

Woodes Rodgers Walk & Parliament St, Nassau CR 56766, The Bahamas
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5 Bay Street Shopping in Nassau, Bahamas

If duty-free shopping is high on your vacation priority list, then Bay Street is the place for you. Frequent visitors to the Caribbean Islands will recognize jewelry stores such as Diamonds International and Little Switzerland. At the high end is Gucci. The street also offers boutiques, bars and restaurants. Bahamas’ currency is the Bahamian dollar but its value is the same as the U.S. dollar so the latter is gladly accepted. Just watch when you get change that the vendor does not slip in their coins. Of course, almost any credit card is gladly accepted with a smile.

Bay St & Bank Ln, Nassau, Bahamas
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6 Straw Market in Nassau, Bahamas

The façade of the Straw Market on Bay Street is far more attractive than you would expect. Inside is just as crowded, noisy and bustling as you might hope. Within its 4,500 square feet are over 100 local Bahamians selling their baskets, hats, crafts, wood carvings and every other imaginable souvenir. If you don’t get your fix haggling over prices here, then try the additional 100 booths at the Bahamas Craft Centre on Paradise Island. Two other shopping alternatives across the bridge are Marina Village near Atlantis and Crystal Court Shops.

Bay St & Market St, Nassau, Bahamas
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7 Senate Building in Nassau, Bahamas

The Bahamas became a British Crown colony in 1718. In 1973, the archipelago of nearly 700 islands became an independent commonwealth yet retains loyalty to the U.K. monarchy. As its capital city, Nassau is the center for government functions. The parliamentary constitutional monarchy is managed by a governor general, prime minister plus a senate (upper house) and house of assembly (lower house). Most of these activities are conducted in pink, colonial structures surrounding Parliament Square on Bay Street. This center one is the Senate Building. Within the pediment is the coat of arms of the Bahamas. The shield is flanked by a marlin and flamingo.

Bank Lane & Bay St, Nassau, The Bahamas
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8 Garden of Remembrance and Supreme Court in Nassau, Bahamas

In the center of the Garden of Remembrance is a cenotaph memorializing Bahamian soldiers who died during World War I and II. In the background is the Supreme Court. This neo-Georgian building was constructed in 1921. Interestingly, the judges for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal and most barristers (lawyers) who appear before the bench still wear white horsehair wigs and robes. This courtroom tradition begun in England in the late 17th century.

Supreme Court of The Bahamas, Bank Lane, Nassau, The Bahamas
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9 Ansbacher House in Nassau, Bahamas

The pink hue of the Ansbacher House signifies its role as a Bahamas government building. Inside is The Registry, five civil courtrooms and offices for the judicial department. Fans of Cameron Diaz may recognize this as a bank in the 2014 movie “The Other Woman.” That portrayal seems appropriate because the Ansbacher House is located on Bank Lane.

Bank Lane & Shirley St, Nassau, The Bahamas
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10 Public Library in Nassau, Bahamas

This four-level, octagon-shaped building was a goal (jail) from 1800 until 1873. Then the dungeon and cells were converted into book shelves for the Nassau Public Library. Even if you are not interested in checking out a book, it is worth visiting to see artifacts dating back to Colonial times. Another treat is standing on the balcony for a view of the surrounding rose-colored government buildings.

Bank Lane & Shirley St, Nassau, The Bahamas
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11 Gregory’s Arch in Nassau, Bahamas

Gregory’s Arch is a passage cut through a thick limestone hill along Market Street connecting downtown Nassau with the Over-the-Hill district. The latter was the neighborhood for emancipated slaves during the 19th century. The 20 foot tall archway and bridge was constructed in 1852 in the middle of the term of Governor John Gregory and hence bears his name.

Market St & E Hill St, Nassau, The Bahamas
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12 Government House in Nassau, Bahamas

Perched on Mount Fitzwilliam hill overlooking downtown Nassau is the residence of the Governor General. The conch pink, colonial-style building opened in 1806 and was significantly rebuilt after a 1929 hurricane. In front of the Government House is a 12 foot statue of Christopher Columbus from 1830. Cristóbal Colón discovered the New World on October 12, 1492, when he set foot on San Salvador Island and was greeted by Lucayans natives. The Catholic Monarchs of Spain – Ferdinand II and Isabella I – also appointed him as the first governor of the Indies, an office he held until 1499.

Duke St & George St, Nassau, The Bahamas
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13 Villa Doyle Now National Art Gallery in Nassau, Bahamas

Born in Nassau in 1823, Williams Henry Doyle built this residence in the 1860’s while the Chief Justice and later President of the Legislative Council of the Bahamas. After being knighted in London in 1873, he became the Chief Justice of Gibraltar and later the Leeward Islands. Twenty years later, it was converted into The Priory by the Order of Saint Benedict. After an extensive renovation in the 1990s, Villa Doyle became the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. The museum features permanent and rotating exhibitions of Bahamian art.

West & West Hill Sts. W Hill St, Nassau, The Bahamas
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14 St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Nassau, Bahamas

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral is devoted to a 16th century missionary from the Kingdom of Navarre (now part of Spain) and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He relentlessly spread Christianity in India and the Far East. This first Catholic church in the Bahamas was established in 1885. Four years later, the Sisters of Charity opened an elementary school named the Parish Free Church, an accomplishment recognized in the statue on the right. In 1893, the Benedictine monks formed a priory across the street in Villa Doyle, the former house of Sir Williams Henry Doyle. In 1934, a modern extension was added to the church. Two years after it was designated as a pro-cathedral.

West & West Hill Sts. W Hill St, Nassau, The Bahamas
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15 Fort Charlotte in Nassau, Bahamas

After the Spaniards largely destroyed the Old Fort of Nassau in 1782, British governor Lord Dunmore ordered its replacement in 1789. Fort Charlotte was finished in 1819. This massive stronghold encircled by a dry moat is part of a 100 acre complex consisting of two other forts: Stanley and D’Arcy. Tours are available to learn their history while displaying great views of the western harbor. The stronghold’s namesake is Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the wife of King George III of the United Kingdom and the mother of his 15 children. The fort cannons have never been used in battle. However, there is a salute every day at either 11:30 or noon.

W Bay St & Chippingham Rd, Nassau, The Bahamas
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16 Christ Church Cathedral in Nassau, Bahamas

In 1684, while the Bahamas was an English colony, the Parish of Christ Church was the first to offer Christian services on the island. It was soon destroyed by the Spanish. Three replacements were built during the 18th century. The fifth and current Gothic structure was constructed with limestone in 1841. The impressive clock tower dates back to 1830. The Christ Church Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican faith in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Christ Church Anglican Cathedral George St, Nassau, The Bahamas
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17 Pompey Museum of Slavery in Nassau, Bahamas

The British transported more than three million Africans to the Americas and their West Indies territories until the import practice ended with the Slave Trade Act of 1807. In 1833, the U.K. Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act aimed at emancipating slaves. Yet active trade continued in Nassau at the Vendue House (a French word meaning sold) for several more decades. In 1922, this former slave marketplace became the Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation. Its namesake is a rebellious slave from the John Rolle Plantation. In 1830, Pompey defied his owner and became a hero for the cause of freedom.

Bay St & George St. Nassau, The Bahamas
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18 Water Tower in Nassau, Bahamas

The Water Tower stands 126 feet on the top of Bennet’s Hill, giving it a commanding view over downtown Nassau and the harbor. This 1928 imposing structure is the first thing you see while catching your breath after trudging up the Queen’s Staircase. This 102 foot staircase, named in honor of Queen Victoria, was carved into the cliff by slaves during the late 18th century to provide access to Fort Fincastle. It is one of the most popular attractions on the island.

Prison Lane & Greenwich St Nassau, The Bahamas
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19 Fort Fincastle in Nassau, Bahamas

Few people left more historical fingerprints on Nassau than John Murray, better known as Lord Dunmore. He was the British governor of Virginia when he offered male slaves their freedom in exchange for fighting in the Revolutionary War. A few years after the British defeat, he became Bahama’s governor from 1787 until 1796. Fort Fincastle, named in honor of his title Viscount Fincastle, is one of two fortresses he commissioned in Nassau during the late 18th century. The limestone exterior has a unique, ship-prow appearance similar to a paddle wheel boat. Inside are replicas of cannons pointing towards the harbor.

Greenwich St & Prison Lane Nassau, The Bahamas
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20 St. Mathew’s Anglican Church in Nassau, Bahamas

St. Mathew’s Anglican Church was founded in 1799 to give parishioners on the east side of the island an alternative to the Parish of Christ Church in the heart of Nassau. This church was built by Joseph Eve and opened in 1802. The steeple and clock were added in 1816. Although it has been renovated several times, its appearance remains little changed since the early 19th century. In the surrounding churchyard is a cemetery. St. Mathew’s is the oldest standing church in Nassau.

Sands Road & Elisabeth Ave, Nassau, The Bahamas
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21 Montagu Beach in Nassau, Bahamas

Most of Nassau’s famous and popular beaches are on Paradise Island. If you prefer your sun in relative solitude, then head towards the northeast corner of New Providence Island. There you will discover Montagu Beach. The sand is pristine. The shoreline is defined by four oval breakwaters that create shallow pools reminiscent of bathwater. Absolutely delightful! On the left is Fort Montagu. In the background across Nassau Harbour are the Paradise Harbour Club and the Marina Habour.

Fort Montagu, E Bay St, The Bahamas
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22 Fort Montagu in Nassau, Bahamas

Fort Montagu is the oldest but also the smallest of Nassau’s three fortresses. It was built by Peter Henry Bruce in 1742 to protect the eastern flank of the harbor on what is now New Providence Island facing Paradise Island. This less than formidable, pillbox-shaped citadel had a dubious track record in battle. It was attacked three times – by Americans in 1776, the Spaniards in 1782 and the British the following year. Each time it was quickly defeated.

Fort Montagu, E Bay St, The Bahamas
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23 Cannon Inside Fort Montagu in Nassau, Bahamas

When Fort Montagu was built during the mid-18th century, it was equipped with 23 cannons to ward off attacks by the Spaniards. Yet it was the Americans who attacked it first in 1776 during the Battle of Nassau. Their mission was to seize gunpowder for use against the British during the Revolutionary War. After firing three warning shots towards the advancing fleet, the soldiers abandoned the fort before the amphibious troops landed on shore. The Americans helped themselves to the town’s gunpowder, weapons and alcohol.

Fort Montagu, E Bay St, The Bahamas
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24 Atlantis Paradise Island Properties in Nassau, Bahamas

Three of the six Atlantis Paradise Island properties are shown in this view from the Sidney Poitier Bridge. The colorful villas in the foreground are part of Harborside Resort. On the right is the iconic Royal Towers. Their most expensive room – the Bridge Suite – features a 1,250 square foot living room with a grand piano plus a private staff of seven. Don’t ask about the rate. You can’t afford it. On the left is The Cove Atlantis. This all-suites tower opened in 2007.

Sidney Poitier Bridge, Nassau, The Bahamas
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25 Transformation of Hog Island in Nassau, Bahamas

The phrase “Can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” was disproven in Nassau. Originally, the cay across from Nassau was called Hog Island. That changed in 1959 when Huntington Hartford – the grandson of George Hartford who converted the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company into A&P, formally the largest supermarket chain in the U.S. – purchased the 685 acre property. In 1962, he renamed it Paradise Island. His transformation included building the Ocean Club and a pro golf course. Later, in partnership with Resorts International, he added a resort, casino and a bridge connecting the islands. Since then, the island has evolved into a premier resort and vacation destination.

Predator Lagoon, One Casino Drive, Suite 52, Paradise Island, Bahamas
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26 Pegasus Fountain at Royal Towers of Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas

As you approach the pink, arched architecture of The Royal Towers, you are immediately impressed. When you arrive at the Porte Cochére entrance, the winged horses in the Pegasus Fountain are there to greet you. Sculptor Danie de Jager created the Flying Horses of Atlantis in 1998. This bronze ensemble was inspired by the winged stallion from Greek mythology. Pegasus was born from the union between Medusa and Poseidon, the god of the sea and horses.

One Casino Drive Suite #59, Paradise Island, Bahamas
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27 Paradise Beach at Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas

If you like water, you will love Atlantis Paradise Island. For starters, the property offers 17 swimming pools. The 141 acre Aquaventure features a mile long water ride, five themed water slides, 14 lagoons, more than 50,000 marine animals plus a marina. With all of that activity, the adjacent Paradise Beach is virtually empty. It is a perfect place for a relaxing stroll all the way to the lighthouse on the western edge of Paradise Island.

One Casino Drive, N-3728, Paradise Island, Bahamas
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28 Paradise Island Lighthouse in Nassau, Bahamas

The lighthouse on Paradise Island at the west entrance of Nassau Harbor was built in 1817, making it the oldest in the West Indies. Originally called the Hog Island Lighthouse, the 69 foot structure has a whitewashed, brick base with a red lantern. For a few years prior to its installation, Fort Fincastle at the top of Bennett’s Hill had the only beacon to help sailors navigate at night. That function was transferred to the neighboring Water Tower when it was built in 1928. Lighthouse aficionados might also enjoy seeing the 56 foot East End Point on New Providence Island.

Nassau Harbour Lighthouse, Paradise Island, The Bahamas
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29 Cabbage Beach in Nassau, Bahamas

The beaches along Paradise Island’s north shore are legendary and technically public. Yet most are difficult to access without being a resort guest or purchasing a day pass. Those on the east end are gated. If you want to leave your footprints in the sand without the cost, your best bet is Cabbage Beach. This two-mile stretch of coastline has one free public access near the Paradise Island Beach Club. If you arrive by cruise ship and just want a quick dip after a hot day of shopping, consider Junkanoo Beach near the western end of Bay Street. It is an easy walk from the port’s terminal.

6307 Casino Drive, Paradise Island, The Bahamas
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30 Activities Available at Cabbage Beach in Nassau, Bahamas

What is your perfect agenda for a day at the beach? Maybe it is sleeping in the sun while covered with lotion. A popular variation is sipping an exotic drink with a tiny umbrella while under an umbrella. Active types prefer jet skis, parasailing or snorkeling. If you are a child, fun is building sand castles and defying big waves. Regardless of your preferences, you will be accommodated along Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island.

6307 Casino Drive, Paradise Island, The Bahamas
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31 Gazebo at the Cloisters in Nassau, Bahamas

This circular gazebo supported with Corinthian columns has been the venue for countless weddings. That is not surprising. Its location on the southern shore of Paradise Island facing the harbor is exquisite. Surrounding it are the terraced gardens of the One&Only Ocean Club. Then when you add in the backdrop of The Cloisters – a 14th century French monastery – it becomes an irresistible settling for any bride who imagines a storybook exchange of vows.

The Cloister, Paradise Island Dr, The Bahamas
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32 The Cloisters in Nassau, Bahamas

The most beautiful architectural surprise in Nassau is The Cloisters. This was part of a 12th century monastery for Augustinian monks from Montréjeau, a small village in southwestern France near Spain’s border. In the 1920’s, this lovely colonnade was purchased by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. In the early 1960’s, Huntington Hartford acquired it as part of his development of Paradise Island. The reassembly across from Versailles Gardens was a two year project skillfully performed by J. J. Castremanne and finished in 1968. In the center is a white statue named Silence.

The Cloister, Paradise Island Dr, The Bahamas
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