While escaping to the the alluring Atlantis property on Paradise Island may seem tempting, I encourage you to stay in downtown Nassau to truly discover the beauty and culture behind this colorful island.
Rise and shine, and take a stroll through Parliament Square, which houses three of the buildings that make up the governmental system present in the Bahamas–The House of Assembly, The Senate Building, and the Supreme Court of the Bahamas. These pink structures are a symbol of the colonial architecture that dates back to the 1700’s and 1800’s. Fun fact: To date, Judges and even lawyers still dress in wigs and robes following in the footsteps of their British predecessors.
From the square, head over to the Queen’s Staircase. This marvelous set of steps serve as a direct route to Fort Fincastle, the highest point in Nassau. Rumor has it that the staircase, later named after Queen Victoria, was constructed to act as a means for the colonists to seek refuge to the Fort in the instance of an attack. Trek up the 65 steps to Fort Fincastle to take in some panoramic views of the island.
The Queen’s staircase pictured on the left; Fort Fincastle picture on the right.
After working up an appetite from all the walking, head over to Arawak Cay (cay pronounced “key”) for a true Bahamian food experience. The cay is home to various restaurants offering authentic island fare. Be sure to check out Goldie’s Conch House to sample some of the cracked conch, a local favorite of the island. To wash the food down, try the infamous Sky Juice drink, also popular to the island. This gin-based cocktail made with sweetened condensed milk and coconut water will be sure to quench your thirst (if you like gin, of course). While visiting the location, make sure to look for the “conch graveyard” found behind the restaurant.
Of note, Twin Brothers is another option at the Arawak Cay; however, it is a chain and usually a bit over-populated by tourists. If you somehow find it during a non-peak time, give it at a whirl.
Cracked Conch at Goldie’s Conch House pictured on the left; Mural of Nassau found at Goldie’s pictured in the center; “Conch Graveyard” pictured on the right.
After taking in some of the local food and culture, mosey on over to John Watling’s Distillery for a free guided tour of the distillery, where you can learn about the history and production of the infamous rum, exclusive to the island. Don’t forget to grab your complimentary tasting of the Pina Colada before the tour begins. When you are done with the tour, head to the tasting room to sip on a cocktail or straight to the shop where you can buy a bottle of the branded rum, which can only be purchased on the island.
John Watling’s Distillery pictured on the left; the Distillery’s infamous Pina Coladas pictured on the right.
For dinner, make your way over to the Poop Deck on the eastern side of the island. Don’t be fooled by the name; this place is nothing short of amazing. A cab will get you there from downtown for $12, or take one of the local buses for $1.25. It is not recommended to walk from the downtown area as it is a) far and b) not necessarily the safest option for tourists, especially at nighttime. Pro tip: Call ahead and make a reservation for this popular spot as the line forms quickly for dinner service. While visiting, make sure to try the conch salad (think: ceviche), as it’s an island favorite, and this locale has some of the best. You also cannot go wrong with the massive stone crab legs at this sought-after seafood establishment.
Wake up, and indulge in some shopping while taking advantage of the duty-free prices. Designer brands such as David Yurman, Fendi, Gucci, Cartier, Brietling, and many others can be found in stores lining the downtown area. If you’re staying in the Bahamas for 48 hours or more, you can take home purchases amounting to $800 or less if you have not used this exemption within the past 30 days. So have fun with the shopping spree, since you are technically saving some mula!
After shopping through downtown Nassau, stop in at The Bearded Clam for free wi-fi, drinks, and delicious food. Lunch options range from a burrito the size of your head (literally) to burgers and sandwiches to other local island fare. While waiting on your food, ask the bartender for a marker to leave your mark of the wall where many others before you have signed.
After lunch, head down to Junkaroo beach to walk off your food coma. Bask in the sun while taking in views of the pristine turquoise water and the Harbour Lighthouse.
If you’re a beer lover, make sure to stop and check out Pirate Brewing Company, as it’s the only craft brewery on the island. The company offers tours Monday through Saturday at 11:00am, and again around 2:00pm. Thirteen dollars gets you a tour, a flight of beer, as well as a snack. Live music can be found here on Friday nights, which can be enjoyed while playing a game of giant Jenga. If you’re not a fan of beer, the bartender can also whip you up a Bahama Mama or other cocktail using their selection of various rums.
To top off your pirate experience, head over to the Pirates of Nassau museum to learn about the history of pirates. For thirteen dollars, take yourself on a self-guided tour to observe what life was like for these raiders back in the day. Your admission also gets you 10% off the bill at the adjacent restaurant, Smugglers.
To end the evening and to top off your Bahamian trip, stop in at Lukka Kairi for another night of fresh seafood, or if you’re tired of seafood, try the Tropical Curry Chicken. The conch fritters are also a must. You can find live music at this local spot on Friday as well as Saturday nights. Best to make a reservation as this place gets hoppin’ as the evening goes on–especially on the weekends.
Things to know before leaving:
Currency: The Bahamas has their own currency; however, the US Dollar is excepted everywhere as the two currencies are 1:1.
Tipping: Nearly every restaurant as well as bar will include a gratuity of 15% on your bill, so no need to leave a tip, unless you wish.
Heads up: Formerly a British Colony, the cars in Nassau drive on the left side of the road as they do in Britain.