When you think of the Bahamas and Nassau, its capital, you often think of Atlantis, the all inclusive, heavily advertised, dream resort. We were headed to Nassau for a working vacation so we were looking for something more quiet, less glitzy and definitely less expensive. Nassau can be very crowded in the daytime as there are usually five or so cruise ships docked there on any given day, seven days a week. We found that it is possible to have a quiet experience and keep all the hub bub of crowded Nassau to a minimum. Our goal was to still feel relaxed at the end of our work/play vacation.
3 Places to Go
Straw Market and Downtown shopping
Shopping is what downtown Nassau is all about. The Nassau Straw Market, open since the 1940’s, is famous for Bahamian crafts, straw hats, bags, carvings, conch shell jewelry and other souvenirs. Haggling is definitely permitted, but it’s important to go around and check prices. There are some great hand-carved wood sculptures of Bahamian life, but lots of things are similar in the 100+ stalls. The market is located on West Bay St, the main drag of Nassau shopping, open 9:00-5:00.
Other shopping includes tons of duty free shops featuring jewelry and high end items, interspersed by tourist shops and restaurants. Its worthy of a look-see. Go down some of the alleyways for a little less expensive stores and some unique jewelry. There is a Harley Davidson store for those that are into all things Harley.
If you love fun jewelry and stones from other places, Larimar is a beautiful blue milky stone that you’ll find in several stores. Like colors of the waters of the Caribbean, it’s very pretty. Again, check prices from a few stores before you buy. Marahlago is an exceptional designer of jewelry with Larimar stones. larimarket.com
Queen’s Steps/Fort Fincastle
The Queen’s Steps or 66 Steps lead up to the highest point in Nassau, Bennet Hill. They were carved out by 600 slaves in the late 1793. The British had colonized the island, but were afraid of intruders so they built three forts on Nassau, all still standing. The stairs are a handy connection from the lower area of Nassau to Fort Fincastle on top of Bennet’s Hill. Queen Victoria tried to abolish slavery in 1837, thus the name, Queen’s Steps. Slaves used pick axes and hand tools to carve the 102 steps out of limestone which took 16 years. This attraction is free, but friendly docents at the bottom of the staircase will tell you the complete story of the steps and clearly hope for a good tip. Open Daily, Elizabeth Avenue South.
Fort Fincastle, erected in 1793, is located at the top of the Queen’s Steps and is fun to walk around, especially to look at the incredible views of the water, Nassau and all the yachts and cruise ships. Open Sunday to Saturday 8:00-4:00, There may be a small charge to walk through the fort.
Beaches – Sunsets
The beaches are gorgeous on the island of Nassau. The water is ten different colors of blue and turquoise and the white sandy beaches make this island a beach lover’s dream. Junkanoo Beach is very close to the town of Nassau and close to where the cruise ships dock. It is fairly crowded, but offers beach bars and restaurants. If you have transportation, I suggest you start to drive west out of town for gorgeous views and less populated beaches such as Cable Beach or Love Beach. The water is typically around 80 degrees and the sun shines 300 days a year. Snorkeling, boating, fishing, jet skiing and scuba diving are all available. Paradise Island beaches are known for shallow waters, white sand, coral reefs and snorkeling. Several movies have been made on these famous beaches including Pirates of the Caribbean. The seaside hotels also lay claim to their own stretch of white sandy beach.
Drive to the west end of the island for amazing sunsets, less people and tucked away places to relax.
Pirate Museum – a small downtown museum dedicated to interactive displays and fun facts about pirates, Bahama Island Prints – This company has been making its own island style fabrics and purses since 1966. Open weekdays 10:00-4:00.
3 Places to Eat
Delicious Greek food featuring souvlaki, gyros, moussaka, kabobs and several kinds of seafood. This restaurant has a great second floor balcony right on Bay Street. Charlotte & Bay Street, Open Monday-Saturday, 9:30am-6:00pm, Sunday 9:00am-4:00pm for breakfast and lunch.
Olive’s Meze Grill
Meze is a trendy, quiet Mediterranean restaurant where you can relax in soft lights and enjoy fresh organic vegetables, fresh fish, lamb and beef. Lunch is a bit cheaper and includes a variety of salads, sandwiches, pitas and gyros. Lunch, Mon-Sat 10:30am – 4:00pm, Closed Sun Lunch, Serving Dinner Mon-Thurs 6:30pm-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 6:30pm-11:00pm. W Bay Street, http://www.olivesgrill.com
Aquafire Bar & Grill
This is a great restaurant for an evening meal. With both indoor and outdoor seating, you can choose a cozy inside table or catch the outdoor sea breeze while enjoying really awesome ribs, snapper, duck, blue crab or even gourmet burgers. You’ll enjoy the atmosphere, the ocean air and the great food! 1.5 miles West of Blake Road on West Bay Street. 11:30am-10:00pm, Mon-Sat, 9:00am-10:00pm, Sun. http://aquafirebahamas.com
Swiss Pastry Shop (Yum!) – Cable Beach, The Fish Fry is a row of relatively inexpensive traditional Bahamian restaurants – Curly’s is the restaurants I recommend. It offers the famed conch fritters and conch salad as well as many other kinds of foods for those that aren’t too sure about conch and fried foods. Awarak Cay. Poop Deck – a local restaurant known for their seafood, Zio Gigi’s Restorante & Pizzeria – classic Northern Italian food and thin crust pizza, Caves Village
1 Place to Stay
A Stones Throw Away B&B
Sometimes you have the good fortune of finding a perfect place to stay. For us, for this trip, A Stone’s Throw Away was that place. You enter through a stone alcove to find several steps leading up to the main rooms of the inn. It was built fairly recently, but has been designed to look old so it has that distressed feel. Rooms are on the small side, but space is well used. French doors open either to the lovely garden & poolside or the spectacular ocean side. Breakfast is made to order on the patio and warm cookies are always available. Marcie, the inn’s manager, takes awesome care of all her guests by arranging everything from golf to scuba diving offering transportation suggestions and restaurant tips as needed. Tropical Gardens Road, http://www.astonesthrowaway.com
If you decide to visit Paradise Island and Atlantis, you will not be disappointed. It is a beautiful resort! It is possible to park at the small shops across the street and walk over. The restaurants and shops on the Atlantis property are very nice, but expensive. We decided to eat in the hotel at a sports bar only to find splitting a pulled pork sandwich and fries would set us back $35. Uhh…no thanks. We will save the experience for another time. To put it into perspective, Marcie from A Stone’s Throw Away mused, “You can eat 12 times at Wendy’s or once at Atlantis.” Something to think about.
It is possible to enjoy all the pools, slides and adventure area at the swimming facility for approximately $120 per adult per day. Check the prices when you go as they can change. Several people have discovered that you can book a room at the nearby Comfort Suites for around $200 with the use the pool facilities and food discounts included with the room. If you have a family, this could save some money. Towels cost extra as do drinks and snacks. Though fabulous, it can be an expensive day.
The Bahamas are so beautiful, so calm and relaxing. If you need sun and sand and a slower pace, Nassau is an island to consider. It doesn’t have to be an all inclusive resort experience. A quiet B&B, good restaurants, a little history and fabulous beaches can add up to a great getaway.