OVERVIEW: Nassau is located on New Providence, the eleventh largest island of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Paradise Island is located less than half a mile away. Nassau, the capital of the archipelago nation, and Paradise Island, its neighboring resort and entertainment mecca, are connected by two 600-foot bridges. At Nassau Paradise Island, travelers can enjoy the islands’ famed white sand beaches, turquoise blue waters, a myriad of accommodations to meet any budget or style, acclaimed restaurants, shopping, nightclubs and popular attractions. Nassau Paradise Island, where English is the spoken language and U.S. currency is accepted, offers guests the convenience and ease of any U.S. destination, while still maintaining a true Caribbean experience.
LOCATION: Located on one of the 700 islands that make up the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, Nassau and Paradise Island are just 180 miles (55 minutes) off the coast of southern Florida. Flights from the East Coast average 2.5 hours, while non-stop service from Chicago, Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth is just three hours.
Air Service: The Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS), formerly the Nassau International Airport, lies 10 miles from downtown Nassau and is serviced by more than 40 non-stop flights from most major U.S. cities. JetBlue provides direct daily service to Nassau Paradise Island from Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, New York, Boston and Washington D.C. Other airlines offering non-stop service include American Eagle, AirTran, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Bahamasair, JetBlue, Silver Airways Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and U.S. Airways.
HISTORY: With a harbor that remained protected throughout history given its location between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, Nassau Paradise Island has experienced interesting arrivals during its time, including religious dissenters, pirates and runaway lovers.
However, the destination’s early history is probably best known for being Christopher Columbus’ first landfall in the New World. Here, he encountered the island’s original inhabitants, the Lucayans. In 1629, when the Spaniards began settling much of the Caribbean, Charles I of England claimed the Carolinas and the Bahamas.
During the American Revolution which began in 1775, the Bahamas was firmly established as an English royal colony, with many Loyalists choosing to migrate to the island destination. During the American Civil War, England and Nassau kept close ties with the South, where trade between the two countries was strong.
The Bahamas continued to operate under England’s reign until the Progressive Liberal Party, headed by Lynden Pindling, led the nation to vote for independence from England. The Bahamas became an independent nation on July 10, 1973.
Today the Bahamas has a parliamentary democracy, also known as a constitutional multi-party parliamentary democracy. Presently, there is no direct taxation, however there is an import tax.
BEACHES: The powder-white sand beaches of Nassau Paradise Island are said to be some of the most beautiful in the world, which comes as no surprise to locals and guests alike. The beaches of Nassau Paradise Island include:
- Cable Beach – A beautiful setting complete with impeccable sand and clear waters. A number of upscale resorts line this beach which went unnamed until 1907.
- Montagu Beach – Just east of Paradise Island is Montagu Beach. Located here is Fort Montagu which was constructed in the 18th century to guard the eastern entrance to Nassau Harbor.
- Paradise Beach – Formerly known as Cabbage Beach, this beach is an instant favorite because of its perfectly-groomed powder white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters.
- Sandyport Beach – Located west of Cable Beach, this beach also provides a bridge to the new Sandyport housing development and residential area.
- Western Esplanade – Known as the Long Wharf and located near downtown Nassau, this spot is a popular destination for spring breakers and locals hosting cookouts and other activities.
- Junkanoo Beach – Located a short walk or jitney ride from downtown, this spot is popular among hotel guests, cruise ship passengers and locals alike. Enjoy the beach’s bar, snack shacks and clear waters.
ACTIVITIES: Nassau Paradise Island offers unforgettable activities on both land and sea for visitors of all ages, including:
- Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Centre – Known for being the first zoo in the Bahamas, the Ardastra began as a garden in 1937 and now boasts of exotic plants and animals from around the world.
- Golf and Tennis – Between plush greens and sunny courts there are plenty of ways to remain active while still relaxing in paradise. The Atlantis Sports Center and the Ocean Club Golf Course offer more than 6 tennis courts and an 18-hole course combined, in addition to breathtaking views. The new Baha Mar integrated resort destination is home to an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, designed by the legendary “Golden Bear” himself. Baha Mar serves up some of the most stunning tennis courts in the Caribbean, featuring six professional hard courts, two Har-Tru clay courts, one grass court and a full-service Pro Shop where a dedicated team of tennis professionals offering top-of-the-line racquets and equipment.
- Spa – Relaxing in paradise goes one step further with a visit to the spa. Baha Mar is home to the Caribbean’s first and only ESPA spa, which offers treatments that are inspired by local holistic traditions and abundant natural resources. Additional resorts with spas include:
- Happy Trails Stables – Since 1977, the stables have been offering scenic horseback riding excursions for visitors and locals from its location in Coral Harbour. Excursions take place six days a week and the location is only 25 minutes from downtown Nassau. Pickup times from Paradise Island and Nassau hotels are available.
- Nassau Botanical Garden – This luscious 18-acre tropical garden is filled with 600 species of trees and shrubs and hundreds of other scenic tropical plants, palms, fish and ponds.
- Tru Bahamian Food Tours – The Tru Bahamian Food Tours lead guests on a culinary adventure through downtown Nassau. Participants visit seven authentic food-and-drink tastings at both local restaurants and one-of-a-kind specialty food stores to get a true taste of Bahamian cultural and culinary traditions. Their latest addition is a Cooking Class held at the Graycliff Hotel where you can prepare a 3-course Bahamian feast with local chef in a 5-star kitchen.
- Islandz Tours – Combines local flavors of tasty treats and rum with cultural attractions and historical facts in a walking tour of downtown Nassau restaurants, bars and art galleries.
- Pirates of Nassau – Pirates of Nassau museum in the heart of downtown Nassau is the perfect activity for a family vacation. The interactive museum allows visitors to experience the Golden Age of Piracy, a time when Nassau had the greatest concentration of pirates in the New World.
- Graycliff Chocolatier Factory – Located in the historic Graycliff Hotel, the Graycliff Chocolatier Factory is The Bahamas’ first interactive chocolate factory. From tasting tours to children’s activities, Graycliff Chocolatier offers something for everyone to experience chocolate in a new way.
- Graycliff Culinary Academy – The Graycliff Hotel is also home to the Graycliff Culinary Academy, where visitors can take interactive cooking classes with the hotel’s five-star restaurant’s Executive Chef Elijah Bowe and his team.
- Graycliff Cigar Rolling – Vacationers can tour the award-winning Graycliff Cigar Company and even take a cigar-rolling lesson with one of the company’s 16 master rollers.
- John Watling’s Distillery – The founders of John Watling’s rum are sixth-generation members of a rum-producing family, making the complimentary tour of the John Watling’s Distillery and historic Buena Vista Estate a perfect activity for rum lovers and history buffs alike.
- Segway Tours – Guests can see the natural sights of Nassau Paradise Island from a different point of view on segways.
ON THE WATER
- Aquaventure – Located in the center of the Atlantis’ recent waterscape development, this 63-acre water-themed attraction is one of the largest in the world. Containing 20 million gallons of water, slides and rivers, Aquaventure provides the ultimate water wonderland.
- Blue Lagoon Island – Located just three miles from Nassau, Blue Lagoon Island is a private tropical island open to visitors. The island offers many water sports, such as paddle boarding, snorkeling and underwater scooters and visitors can swim and experience Bahamas animal life first-hand.
- Boating and Sailing – With its clear skies and vast shorelines, Nassau Paradise Island is the perfect boating destination. Visitors can choose from catered trips, day trips and half-day trips.
- Diving – The crystal clear waters provide divers with the unique opportunity to view coral reefs, blue holes, caves, shipwrecks and sharks.
- Dolphin Cay – This vast 14-acre dolphin habitat located at the Atlantis, Paradise Island is the largest of its kind and provides opportunities for up-close interaction with its friendly swimmers. Guests can share in their playful shallow water antics or experience their speed and agility first-hand in the deeper waters. The dolphins of Atlantis welcome all to share in their fun.
- Exuma Escapes – Uninhabited by humans, Big Major Cay (also known as Pig Island) in The Bahamas is home to a variety of exotic wildlife – none more special than the swimming swine. Guests can set sail with Exuma Escapes on the farthest offshore excursion to operate out of Nassau. Upon arrival, visitors can feed friendly iguanas, sit in a sunken plane, swim with sharks and get up close and personal with these swimming pigs in Paradise.
- Fishing – Whether experienced or a first-timer, bonefish or deep-sea, there is always an outfitter and charter captain available to assist anglers.
- Snorkeling – Enthusiasts can explore the region’s famed coral reefs, including: the Rose Island Reefs, the Gambier Deep Reef, Bobby Rock Channel and the Goulding Reef Cays.
- Water Sports – Fun is always in store as kayaking, paddle boarding and paddleboats, which are available at most beaches.
HISTORY, ARTS & CULTURE: Given the island’s deep-rooted history and unique blend of English and Bahamian culture, it comes as no surprise that the destination is brimming with a variety of museums providing insight into the island nation’s early roots through to its present day. Top museums include:
- Bahamas Lighthouse Museum & Gift Shop – A historical and unique space dedicated to the preservation of the 10 lighthouses located within the Islands of the Bahamas. Visitors can view architectural drawings dating back to the 1800’s and 1900’s, buoy lanterns, navigational instruments, knot tying displays and more.
- Bahamas Historical Society Museum – This institution emphasizes the collection and preservation of historic, anthropological and archaeological Bahamian artifacts. It includes displays depicting Bahamian history from the days of Columbus to the present.
- Bahamian Heritage Centre – At the Bahamian Heritage Center, guests can see authentic Bahamian artifacts, hear about local legends, and discover Island traditions like the Maypole, Greasy Pole, and Domino Square
- Balcony House – This 18th-century restored historic structure (1788) is the oldest wooden residence still standing in Nassau and is a fine example of a tropical colonial house. The interior has been restored using both period antiques and objects original to the house. Among the antiques on display are a mahogany set of swan-neck chairs, four poster beds, a drop-front desk, china and crystal and hand-worked brass valences. Guided tours are available.
- Christ Church Cathedral – This stone cathedral is located just off of Bay Street and was built in 1670. In 1861, it was granted cathedral status and gave the settlement of Nassau the right to claim city status. The church continues to hold multiple services on Sundays at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 11:15 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
- Doongalik Studios Art Gallery – Originally formed in the 1970s to promote The Bahamas’ artistic talent, Doongalik Studios Art Gallery now showcases the work of dozens of local artists throughout the year, exhibiting everything from paintings and sculptures to ceramics and quilts.
- Educulture Junkanoo Museum – Staged from room to room in their repurposed home, the museum’s exhibits depict an informative and interesting history of Junkanoo and The Bahamas, featuring costume pieces, traditional fabrics, music, and more. The Educulture Junkanoo Museum also offers a memorable interactive experience where you can make colorful masks, dance to Bahamian music, and maybe even meet a Junkanoo queen.
- Graycliff Heritage Museum – Located in the historically preserved Mountbatten House on West Hill Street, the museum offers visitors an in depth look at the history and heritage of the Bahamas, ranging from the pre-historic times to today.
- Graycliff Heritage Village Artists’ Studios – These studios have been designed to display Bahamian art and crafts at their finest while preserving the history, heritage and architectural elements of these spaces. Guests are able to meet and interact with some of the Bahamas’ most talented local artisans and purchase first-edition, locally created art pieces.
- Government House – The official residence of the Governor General of the Bahamas since 1801. This pink and white building boasts a commanding presence on Duke Street. Visitors can watch the changing of the guard ceremony every second and fourth Saturday of the month. The governor’s wife even welcomes visitors for tea on the last Friday of every month (January-November), as part of the People-to-People program.
- National Art Gallery of the Bahamas – Located at the historic Villa Doyle, a 19th century mansion which has been recently restored, the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas includes paintings, sculpture, works on paper, textiles, ceramics, photography and other mixed media works with notable pieces from Amos Ferguson including his painting Snowbirds.
- Pirates of Nassau – This world-famous pirate attraction located in the heart of downtown Nassau is an excellent way to experience history in an interactive, family-friendly environment.
- Pompey Museum – The museum houses slavery history and artifacts in the historical Vendue House located on Bay Street in downtown Nassau.
FESTIVALS/SPECIAL EVENTS: Multiple times throughout the year, the destination showcases its culture and traditions through a series of music, art and food festivals that are ideal for the whole family, including:
- Bahamas International Film Festival – This world-renowned film festival attracts many Hollywood celebrities, as well as up-and-coming directors to showcase their films. The event will include screenings, panel discussions and gala events. December.
- Bahamas National Trust Annual Wine and Art Festival – This festival is a celebration highlighting new seasonal wines and works of Bahamian artists, new and old. Held at the Bahamian National Park called The Retreat, all proceeds from the event support the National Park System which includes 25 protected areas and is managed by the Bahamas National Trust.
- Bahamas Music and Heritage Festival – An entertaining time for the whole family. This festival features an exciting lineup of The Bahamas’ most popular and talented musicians. Guests can also enjoy arts and crafts, Bahamian cuisine, storytelling, singing, and poetry reading. This premier Family Island jamboree lasts for three days and kicks off the destination’s festival season. March.
- Junkanoo Carnival – Set against the backdrop of the stunning Nassau Harbor, Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival is a collection of several concerts, showcasing traditional Junkanoo Music, and a Bahamian masquerade street party. Junkanoo began as a temporary celebration of freedom for slaves who were given three days off for Christmas, and it blossomed into a massive celebration that takes place in Nassau Paradise Island on Boxing Day through New Year’s Day. The Carnival has added a midyear celebration to provide visitors another great way to experience and immerse themselves in Bahamian culture.
- Rum Bahamas – This special event is a celebration of rum, food and culture. Set in the gorgeous and historically significant Fort Charlotte, Festival RumBahamas invites guests to drink exotic rum and try creative local foods over a 3 day festival every February.
- Popeyes Bahamas Bowl – The Bowl, owned by ESPN events, is a mix of sun, sand and football. It is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)-sanctioned Division I college football bowl game played every December in Nassau’s 15,000-seat Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. It draws in crowds of over 13,000 and is the only current bowl game played outside of the United States.
- PureSilk LPGA Classic – An official LPGA Tour Tournament, the LPGA Classic features the best 120 female golfers in the world. Contestants compete for $1.3 Million Dollars in prize money at the beautiful Ocean Club Golf Course in Paradise Island.
- Marathon Bahamas – Taking place in January each year, the Marathon features 26.2 miles of history and beauty, with miles of ocean views. Marathon Bahamas offers participants the choice of a full marathon, a half marathon, a relay or a 5K.
- Junkanoo Parades – The celebration dates back to the days of slavery when slave owners, including one named John Canoe, gave their slaves these days off. The parade consists of elaborate costumes similar to those worn in Carnivals, plus drumming on everything from goat skin drums to cowbells. The parades are celebrated on December 26 and January 1 and cover several blocks on Bay Street and Shirley Street from 2:00 a.m. until about 9:00 a.m.
DINING: With a culture as rich as that of The Bahamas, one can be sure that there are culinary experiences to match. Though foods of every nation are available on the island, some of the delicious dishes are as unique as the island nation itself.
Seafood, of course, is a popular item. Tourists and locals both enjoy crawfish, land crabs, and fish such as grouper, yellowtail and red snapper. For breakfast, boiled fish and grits are a favorite, as is homemade island bread. Other popular dishes include Bahamian stew fish (celery, onions, tomatoes, spices and fish), Bahamian crawfish, and peas n’ rice (pigeon peas with salt, pork or bacon, tomatoes, celery, rice, thyme and pepper) and Johnny cake (bread made with butter, milk, flour, sugar, salt and baking power).
Epicureans will find indulgence in this region’s finest dining, from the Caribbean’s first five-diamond restaurant located at the Graycliff Hotel in Nassau, to celebrity-chef restaurants such as Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s Nobu, as well as Chef Jean George Vergichten’s Restaurant Dune at The Ocean Club, Fish by José Andrés at The Cove and Todd English’s Olives, located in the casino at Atlantis, Paradise Island.
For authentic Bahamian restaurants in a laid-back environment, Arawak Cay is the area to visit. Known locally as “The Fish Fry,” Arawak Cay dates back to 1969 and has become an iconic spot serving Bahamian fare to millions of locals and visitors alike. Nowadays, it also features an open stage and seating for performances and concerts.
With a name like “The Fish Fry” it is not surprising that Arawak Cay is home to a community of Bahamian restaurants that specialize in seafood delicacies. Guests enjoy everything from grilled shrimp, and lobster tails to fried snapper, served with sides like cornbread and mac and cheese. A signature, must-try dish is conch. Be it cracked (battered and deep fried) or scorched (spiced with lime, onions and peppers), it can be prepared in a variety of ways and is one of The Bahamas’ most popular foods.
Arawak Cay is a great spot to sample signature Bahamian beverages as well including Kalik, dubbed “The Beer of The Bahamas”, it is the country’s best-selling beer while Sands “Truly Bahamian Beer” is another popular choice with both locals and visitors. Visitors looking for cocktails can turn to the world-renowned Bahama Mama or Sky Juice – a combination of gin, coconut milk/water, sweet milk, sugar, ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg.
SHOPPING: Shoppers can spend an afternoon in the Nassau Paradise Island duty-free shops. Visitors will find what they’re looking for from cigars to handicrafts, perfume, crystal, jewelry and leather accessories.
- Bay Street – This popular upscale shopping district runs through the heart of downtown Nassau. Just a short walk from many popular hotels, Bay Street is lined with shops, cafes, local and high-end stores including Coach, Fendi and Cartier.
- Festival Place – This shopping destination is a village of brightly colored shops designed by award-winning Bahamian architect Jackson Burnside. Visitors can choose from a variety of local art, crafts, gifts and edibles. On Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the atmosphere is filled with live music.
- Marina Village – This 65,000 sq. ft. open-air market has three plazas designed to resemble a Bahamian settlement. The village contains five restaurants, 21 retail outlets, local entertainment and carts that showcase the artistry of the Bahamas.
- Straw Markets – Nassau Paradise Island has a rich heritage for straw markets. The largest market is located on Bay Street, which was officially opened in December 2011 after being housed at a temporary site for nearly a decade. With hundreds of vendors, visitors have the opportunity to shop for homemade straw goods, jewelry, t-shirts, guava jelly and woodworking goods. There are also smaller craft markets on Paradise Island and Cable Beach.
- Shops of Crystal Court – Offering the finest in women’s and men’s fashions from world-renowned designers, Atlantis resort offers a comparable shopping experience to Rodeo Drive or 5th Avenue.
- Craft Cottage – Locally made home décor, glassware, jewelry, soaps, clothing, and artwork are just a sampling of what can be found at this charming shop and gallery. Featuring a wonderful array of Bahamian-inspired items, visitors can find keepsakes and gifts, crafted by a variety of Bahamian artists.
- Bahamian Art and Handicraft – Visitors can bring home visions of the Bahamas from this authentic craft shop. Popular items include o handmade jewelry, paintings, wood carvings, shell creations, sea glass and mosaics.
NIGHT LIFE: Though the day may be over, the nighttime provides a whole other opportunity for world-class entertainment. With a variety of options to choose from, Nassau Paradise Island can make anyone a night owl.
- Casinos – Spanning a seven-acre lagoon—with skylights and windows to bring the outdoors inside—the Atlantis Casino is an innovation in casino design. At 60,000 square feet, it features 90 table games, over 850 slot machines in denominations from one cent to $100, tournaments and events, and a newly renovated Race and Sports Book, as well as a range of exceptional gaming experiences available 24 hours a day.
The Baha Mar Casino is like no other, offering floor to ceiling windows that overlook the sparkling sea by day and dazzling light spectacles by night. Designed for every level, from casual players to high stakes rollers, at 100,000 square feet it is the Caribbean’s largest casino.
- Clubs – Atlantis, Paradise Island is home to the hotspot Aura. The 9,000 square-foot Jeffrey Beers-designed nightclub rises above the Atlantis casino and offers two bars, two VIP sections and a private VIP parlor. Additional clubs will be opening at Baha Mar in 2017/18.
- Lounges – There are plenty of great spots on both Paradise Island and in Nassau for guests to take in local music while enjoying a cocktail and munching on conch fritters or other local specialties.
MEETINGS: Nassau Paradise Island provides an excellent destination for all meetings and conventions with its state-of-the-art facilities, helpful hospitality professionals and beautiful venues. In addition, the government of the Bahamas has signed the Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the United States making it a tax deductible destination for American companies. With seven hotels offering more than 160,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, there is a venue for organizations of any size.
Meeting venues include:
- Atlantis, Paradise Island
- The Beach at Atlantis
- The Coral at Atlantis
- The Cove at Atlantis
- Harborside Resort at Atlantis
- The Reef at Atlantis
- The Royal at Atlantis
- Baha Mar
- Grand Hyatt Baha Mar
- Rosewood Baha Mar
- SLS Baha Mar
- British Colonial Hilton Nassau
- Comfort Suites Paradise Island
- Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island
LODGING: Nassau Paradise Island offers a wide range of options for a restful night after an adventurous day. With 17 select hotels and resorts on Nassau Paradise Island, ranging from value hotels to ultra-exclusive suites, there is a vacation retreat for everyone, no matter their budget or style.
Member Hotels include:
GETTING AROUND: While the islands are best explored by foot, there are several transportation options, including rental cars, taxis, ferries and private boats. In addition, there is bus service (known locally as jitneys) between the hotels and to and from downtown Nassau/ Cable Beach several times a day. (Jitneys do not go over Paradise Island bridge).
Lou Hammond Group