Nassau, Bahamas

Where can you find beautiful beaches, turquoise tides, and delightful dolphins? On the white sand beaches of Nassau in the Bahamas. You know, they have a slogan that says, ‘It’s better in the Bahamas.’ So I ask, “Well what’s better?” Is it the weather? Well, 75-80o year round is better. Is it the beaches? White sand is better. Is it the food? Well, seafood right out of the ocean, that’s better. Or is it shopping? Duty-free, definitely better. You know, I think they’ve got something here. So, if you’re ready, let’s see all that is better that Nassau has to offer.

Located on New Providence Island in the Bahamas, Nassau is known for its natural beauty and tropical climate, which is why it’s one of the most popular destinations in the world. And it seems it has always been that way. Of course, we’ve all heard of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but there really were pirates in the Caribbean. Especially in Nassau!

Nassau was founded by the British in the mid 17th century, and during the 18th century, it became a popular hide-out for pirates. It was so popular, in fact, that they ran off almost all of the civilians and claimed Nassau as a privateer’s republic, naming the famous pirate, Blackbeard, as their leader. Well you won’t find any pirates here today, but you will find many historical places that have been preserved for visitors to see. The British influence dominates the Nassau style, however there are many West African influences here as well.

Government House sits on the island’s highest point, over-looking the island out to the sea. The British appointed governor generals have resided here since 1801. They erected a statue of Christopher Columbus at the front of the building in 1830, to commemorate his discovery of the New World. Here you can see the pomp and pageantry of the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, which takes place every other Saturday, and watch the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band perform. If you are here at the end of the month, you can join the Governor-General’s spouse at a Tea Party on the last Friday, but be sure to make reservations ahead of time. Now that would be fun, for sure!

If you are in for some exercise, you’ll want to plod up the Queen’s Staircase the leads to Fort Fincastle. This is Nassau’s most visited attraction, with 65 steps carved out of solid limestone by slaves in the late 18th century. The 102-foot staircase was named in honor of the 65 years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The climb up the stairs culminates near Nassau’s Water Tower and Fort Fincastle.

Before the climb, I discovered the national flower of the Bahamas. It’s yellow elder and the reason they picked it was for the color, it’s the same yellow color that’s on the national flag and you can find it all over the family islands. Well the yellow elder was discovered right at the base of Fort Fincastle.

The fort was originally built atop Bennett’s Hill as a lookout to keep watch for marauding raiders. And you can see why, the view is fantastic! It was built to look like the front of a ship, but from aerial views, to me it looks like a giant ice cream cone! There are real cannons on the walls, ready for loading, but from the day they were brought up here to today, they have never been fired! At the highest point, you’ll find the Water Tower, also offering some amazing views.

Before the stairs were built, the fort was totally inaccessible, except for a secret tunnel. It was kind of blocked up to hide it from people coming in. But, if the soldiers were attacked from above, which they never were, they could have come down this tunnel, pushed out the rocks and escaped down to the sea where a ship was waiting for them. Now that was strategy!

Now Fort Fincastle is not the only fort on the island, and you’ll want to be sure and visit the best example of a military compound the islands has to offer. Fort Charlotte is by far the largest compound, covering 100 acres. Located on a hill overlooking the far west end of the harbor, Fort Charlotte commands an impressive view of Paradise Island (the adjacent island connected to Nassau by a bridge), a good part of Nassau and the harbor. Built in 1788 by Lord Dunmore, this fort has a moat, dungeons, underground passageways and 42 cannons, which have never been fired in an act of aggression. They certainly were prepared, and this formidable, the marauders dared not to attack. There are tours here with full history of the fort and Nassau town.

The great thing about the Bahamas, and especially Nassau, is there is so much to do here. You can have whatever kind of vacation you want, from lounging around on the beach, to gambling, to shopping, to scuba diving and many other water sports. Nassau has it all. And, when you think of the Bahamas, the first thing you think of is the beach!

With wondrous white sands and tranquil turquoise waters, Bahamas’ beaches are the perfect picture of paradise. Wow! Great photo ops abound! It’s gorgeous everywhere you look. You know, here in Nassau, to have a really good time, you’ve got to get out on the water. Whether it’s snorkeling, fishing, scuba, whatever. But here, I found an adventure you’ve probably never heard of. Submersible diving, or sub diving, lets you explore the ocean floor in your very own personal submarine!

It all takes place at Stuart Cove, which has an array of water sports and activities like snorkeling and diving for swimmers, and their unique submarine program where non-divers and even non-swimmers can actually go underwater, drive in their own submarine around a reef amongst all the fish. It’s pretty cool. It blows people’s minds. I’ll say!

But what will really blow your mind is how these things work. This is a one-man submersible sub. It is an inverted bubble. This machine works and operates on the same principle as if you were turning a drinking glass upside down on the sink, trapping that air inside. Now once they turn that tank on and it starts to flow air into the bubble, from that point on, it is impossible for water to get inside the bubble. Actually, up close, these tiny subs are kind of cute. These smooth riding subs are so simple to control, you’ll be skimming the ocean floor like a pro in no time. And what you’ll find is truly amazing!

The underwater sites are great from this perspective. Beautiful coral reefs that are teaming with fish, angel fish, snapper and grouper. There are shipwrecks, lots of shipwrecks. The same shipwrecks you saw in the James Bond 007 thrillers. They’re all fully intact so you can snorkel on top of them and see them or you can dive through them.

Not only that, they have areas where there are sharks. So you get in the water and interact with Caribbean reef sharks and barracudas in the area. I don’t know if I’d call running into a shark lucky, but this is certainly one experience you won’t forget! You’re going to love it.

Sun and surf are the main attraction in the Bahamas, and if you want to get up close and personal with the local sea life, Nassau has something else that’s really unique. Ever dance with a dolphin? Well, at Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island, you can do just that! Your own private island with dolphins! That’s right! Just a short boat ride away from Nassau, there is a secluded island, the perfect home for Flipper and his friends! This is a substantial habitat to give the animals room to do their stuff safely. This amazing lagoon is home to 19 Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins and six sea lions, all trained to show visitors the time of their lives.

After a short tutorial, you get to suit up and meet the dolphins face to face. You’ll have the opportunity to interact with the animals in many different ways. From kissing and hugging to swimming and dancing, you’ll have a very special play date with your dolphin. You also get to do the incredible foot push where you fly across the water like Superman.

While a day at dolphin encounters is sure to be the experience of a lifetime, the trainers also give visitors something special to take with them. They teach people about marine mammals and that makes them take an active role in protecting the ocean because they were here. So it’s an education and as well as entertaining.

Once you’ve experienced the water and beaches, take some time to explore Nassau the town. One of the best ways to get a quick view of the city is by taking a surrey ride. Sure beats walking and the kids will love it.

If you come in by boat, don’t worry (be happy), Nassau’s main industry is tourism, so, of course, the biggest cruise ship port in the Bahamas is right here. You know what’s great about the location of the cruise ship terminal, is you’re only a block away from the main shopping and restaurants. It’s so convenient, walking distance to all, you’re right in the center of town. Nassau is a colorful place, and full of friendly, colorful people. And you won’t be able to sit still, either, once you see all the great places to shop.

The main shopping area is on Bay Street. You’ve got your upper crust watches like Rolex and Fendi. Then the big name fashion boutiques. Add in the island wear and swimsuits. Shop ‘til you drop!

You don’t have to worry about changing money in the Bahamas. The US dollar and the Bahama dollar are interchangeable. In fact, the first time that I got my change back, I went, “What is this?” I got a Bahama 10, a US. 5, a Bahama 5, but don’t worry mon, be happy! It’s all good money.

Now when you go hunting for authentic Bahamian souvenirs, it pays to go exploring. You might miss some of the best shopping if you don’t know where to look. They have these little alleys or arcades between Bay Street and the harbor. Make sure you find them because you might see your next treasure. From souvenirs to jewelry to local arts and crafts, you can find some of the most amazing things in these shops. Fantastic straw bags and Bahama mama dolls, all hand made from palm straw by the locals. They can even put your name on your hat while you wait, so no one can claim it but you!

That’s what’s great about shopping in Nassau, you can find things that are truly one of a kind. Take their hand-crafted instruments that sound great and come with a personal touch! They take a bunch of old cans and make a really cool little toy. Boy, what a great way to recycle! There are guitar tuners that are really pop tops. The cans are fresh, you can still smell the soda inside.

After a day of fun in the sun, you’ll be ready to relax. And, there’s no better place than at the Wyndham Nassau Resort Hotel’s beach lagoon. Right in the middle of Cable Beach, long time known as having one of the best beaches anywhere. Originally owned and operated by a cruise ship company, this fabulous resort was designed to be a one stop shop for the perfect vacation.

From the blissful lagoon to the fantastic crystal beach club pool with its spiraling water slide, to the swingin’ nightclub for some evening entertainment, this amazing resort has it all including a Las Vegas style casino! They also have some great places to dine with fare from round the globe. Their spa is not to be missed, they have stone massages and all kinds of treatments to relax and refresh you. With all of this in one amazing resort, why would you ever want to leave?

Sand, surf and shopping are great fun, but when you’re ready to eat, get ready for something really special. Nassau is home to some of the best seafood around. For the best the island has to offer, head to the historic Graycliff Hotel.

Built in the 1700’s, graycliff was one of the first inns on the island. Today it embraces the finer things in life with an incredible wine cellar, award winning cigars and a fantastic five-star restaurant. Here you’ll find continental French and Italian cuisine with a Bahamian flare using local spices and delicacies from the sea. Lobsters, stone crab, grouper, snapper, whatever is available fresh off the boats. Those spices give this seafood a sensational touch!

Something I found rather unique is there trendy water menu. Yes, water, as in the processed kind! There are 54 brands of designer water on the menu. Just name it and they have it.

And the water isn’t the only menu that’s extensive. They have what may be considered one of the best wine cellars in the world, with about 225,000 bottles on the racks. They also boast probably the oldest bottle of wine in the world, vintage 1727. Whether it is the best in the world, I don’t know, but they have a very, very, very good selection of wines from all over the world.

Well with a wine cellar that big, you’ll just have to take a look. When you go down there, you find what they call the secret dining room, right there in the wine cellar. I can’t tell you how many a-list celebrities have had dinner down there. There’re all these little rooms, be careful or you’ll get lost in the maze of wine rooms. Needless to say, you have the pick of the wine crate whether you dine in the secret dining room or in the main dining hall upstairs.

Well, now that you’ve made it out of the wine cellar, you should celebrate with one of Graycliff’s world famous cigars. Hopefully, you’ll be lucky enough to go on a tour of the factory to see just how cigars are made. If you happen to enjoy cigars, you’ll be in league with some rather famous people. Graycliff makes cigars for former President Clinton, Michael Jordan, Jay Leno, and Pierce Brosnan, to name a few.

Well, there you have it. Nassau is one of the most spectacular places to visit. Whether you’re relaxing on the beach, gambling, or playing in the water, it’s true what they say. It really is better in the Bahamas! The turquoise waters of the Caribbean are not a myth.