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Pantone-blue seas, 300 days of sunshine and a ceaseless supply of rum: there are a thousand reasons to visit Nassau in The Bahamas. We’ve narrowed it down to just nine.
A tropical petridish of sugar-white beaches fringed by turquoise waters, The Bahamas has been described by astronauts as the most beautiful sight from space. It’s made up of 700 islands and cays, but only 30 are inhabited – 31 if you include the swimming piggies of Big Major Cay. Nassau, on New Providence Island, is the buzzy, cosmopolitan capital, joined by a bridge to Paradise Island – which is exactly as it sounds.
It’s full of carnival capers
Bahamians love a fiesta, especially Junkanoo, when everyone dresses up in colourful costumes and dances through the streets. A lively celebration of Bahamian culture and history, Junkanoo – named after a West African prince, John Canoe – is held several times a year across the islands, including Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Independence Day. The biggest parade is on Bay Street in Downtown Nassau. A cacophony of tooting horns and goatskin drums, it’s loud, lively and oiled with lashings of local rum – a must-see when you’re in The Bahamas.
Explore the Bahamian art scene
Look beyond Nassau’s heavenly beaches and crystal-clear waters and you’ll discover a vibrant art scene. First stop is the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas in Villa Doyle, which showcases classical and contemporary Bahamian art. Meanwhile, the Heritage Museum of The Bahamas at Graycliff displays treasures that date back to the days of Columbus. Don’t miss the Doongalik studios, either – a champion of Bahamian art for 30 years, it’s the place to pick up colourful ceramics to take home.
It’s packed with history
Founded in 1670 by British noblemen, Nassau is a mash-up of Caribbean and British heritage. Take a cycling tour of Downtown to enjoy the pastel-hued historic architecture. Stop by Government House, home of the Governor-General, where you’ll find a statue of Christopher Columbus, who landed on San Salvador Island in 1492. For sweeping views of Nassau Harbour, climb the 31m (102ft) flight of solid limestone steps, known as the Queen’s Staircase, to reach Fort Fincastle. This historic defensive structure was built to protect Nassau against pirates in 1793.
For exhilarating shark adventures
From snorkelling over Ocean Atlas, the world’s largest underwater art installation, to big-game fishing for blue marlin, tuna and sailfish, there’s plenty of reason to get wet in The Bahamas. While the balmy, gin-clear water of The Bahamas is home to a colourful array of sea life, nothing beats the thrill of swimming with sharks. Spend a day observing these sleek ocean predators on an extreme adventure from Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas, in Coral Harbour on the southwest coast.
For those oh-so-heavenly beaches
With more than 300 days of sunshine every year, Bahamian beaches are the main reason folk flock to these shores year after year. New Providence, the gateway to The Bahamas, is home to the palm-fringed Cable Beach, Love Beach and Montague Beach, while Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island is, well, simply paradise. Surrounded by coral reefs, it’s a place where you can go snorkelling direct from the shore to witness the colourful underwater life. No filter necessary.
For brilliant Bahamian booze
There’s little chance of going thirsty in Nassau. Home to some of the finest breweries and distilleries in The Bahamas, taste your way around the island on a booze-infused tour. Learn about the production of small-batch rums at the John Watling’s Distillery, which offers free tours and tastings daily, or sample banana or cherry-chocolate flavoured rums at Luna Rum Distillery. Beer lovers flock to Rip Ty’d Brewery to sample fruity craft beers like Wild Passion, with a hint of passion fruit, and One in a Melon, infused with watermelon.
To experience a traditional fish fry
Friday fish fry is a Caribbean custom and the best place to experience it in Nassau is Arawak Cay. Colourful beach shacks, funky food trucks and rickety, hand-painted bars serving pints of rum cocktail, this laidback beach enclave is the real deal. Friday night is the best time to visit, as locals wolf down platters of conch fritters, cracked fish and plantain, and dance to live music until the early hours. But Bahamian cuisine is not all fried fish. Nassau’s culinary delights range from Grammy’s fried pork chops at Bahama Cookin’ to dining at Dune at the Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, Bahamas, with Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Learn about pirate shenanigans
In the late 17th century, Nassau became a Pirate’s Republic thanks to fleets of Jolly Rogers who docked here ready to ravage the Caribbean. It was run by Benjamin Hornigold and Henry Jennings – who went on to mentor Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard – and you can learn about its piratical legends at the Pirates of Nassau museum and see cutlasses, flintlock pistols or walk down the quayside, a reconstruction of old Nassau, scented with tar and gunpowder.
To taste authentic conch salad
From Nobu at Atlantis Paradise Island to Dino’s Gourmet Conch Salad shack on West Bay Street in Nassau, conch salad is a Bahamian specialty. Pronounced “conk”, the Caribbean ceviche has been eaten here since Lucayan times (the original residents of The Bahamas), who used the shells as tools, weapons and tooting horns. Conch flesh has a sweet, mild flavour, not unlike clam, and is tenderised with fresh lime and scotch bonnet peppers, mixed with chopped onions and tomatoes.
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