For those exploring things to do in Nassau, the vibrant capital of The Bahamas beckons with its enticing blend of Caribbean history and contemporary attractions.
This city, drenched in a turbulent past, showcases its colonial architecture today, exemplified by the pastel-colored structures of Parliament Square. These historic buildings bear witness to the region’s transformation from a pirate haven into a bustling cosmopolitan center.
Take a leisurely stroll through the lively Straw Market, immersing yourself in the local culture while searching for handcrafted souvenirs. Alternatively, embark on a visit to the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, renowned for its impressive water park and massive marine exhibits.
Snorkel on Sunny Pearl Island
A visit to Pearl Island, northeast of the city proper, is one of the best things to do in Nassau during your stay here. Pearl Island beckons with its natural splendor, making it a fun destination for everyone who visits.
Snuggled up against azure waters, this tiny, narrow island is home to two lovely beaches, coral reefs, plus a smattering of verdant—if sparse—tropical foliage.
This is one of the best places to go snorkeling in Nassau, and diving enthusiasts will be engrossed by its underwater wonders. Meanwhile, people who prefer leisurely island strolls can enjoy the small, white lighthouse, and cozy atmosphere the island offers its visitors.
So, pack a mask, some fins, and a snorkel, or maybe even opt for some kayaking, and experience Pearl Island’s pristine waters and shoreline.
Play at Atlantis Resort
On Nassau’s Paradise Island, you’ll find the often-photographed Atlantis Resort, an imposing testament to luxury, play, and adventure.
With a history dating back to its grand opening in 1994, Atlantis has continuously evolved into a world-renowned destination. The resort’s iconic Royal Towers dominate the skyline, offering stunning ocean views.
You can explore the Aquaventure Water Park, a sprawling playground of exhilarating water slides, the extremely steep, almost vertical Mayan Temple body slide, plus a network of lazy rivers. The resort’s large marine habitat will provide you with ample opportunity to interact with a diverse array of marine life as well.
From the thrills of the casino to the white sand beaches, Atlantis Resort is a haven of relaxation and exhilaration, making it a worthwhile visit during your time in Nassau.
Celebrate Fort Charlotte’s Panoramic Views
One of the best things to do in Nassau—especially if you’re the kind of person always chasing that “perfect” view—is to visit historic Fort Charlotte, west of the city center.
Fort Charlotte, named after Queen Saharia Charlotte, spouse to King George III, will offer you a window into the island’s storied past. Built in the late 18th century by the British, the fort is a sturdy citadel attesting to Britain’s former colonial prowess.
The structure’s large stone walls, cannons, dungeons, and subterranean passageways will offer you a glimpse into the strategic importance this fort once held during various conflicts on the island across the centuries.
The panoramic views of Nassau Harbor from the fort, along with the turquoise sea beyond are magnificent.
Steep Yourself in Culture at the National Art Gallery
The National Art Gallery in Nassau is a sanctuary for art enthusiasts and culture aficionados. The gallery is housed within the historically significant Villa Doyle, a two-level colonial mansion dating back to the 1860s.
You’ll be treated to a wide collection of Bahamian art, with exhibits spanning various media, including paintings, sculptures, and mixed media, providing a comprehensive view of Bahamian creative expression.
Some of the Bahamian artists whose work has been put on exhibition here include Amos Ferguson, Dominique Knowles, Max Taylor, Peggy Jones, and many others.
In addition to the strong Caribbean influences and the national exhibitions, you’ll also find collections focusing on African and European artistic styles, all of which reflect the historical and contemporary traditions that make the art scene in this part of the world so fascinating.
Ascend the Queen’s Staircase
The Queen’s Staircase, situated inside the Fort Fincastle Historic Complex, is a hypnotic slice of architectural brilliance, with a lot of historical significance.
Emerging from a heart of solid limestone, this British colonial staircase was meticulously carved out and sculpted—unfortunately by slaves—during the late 18th century. You can still ascend all 66 steps of the staircase to this day.
These stairs, created in reverence for the illustrious Queen Victoria, are enveloped by lush greenery, as well as the burly fort walls. On one side of the 66 steps, you note cascading water pouring down into a collection pool at the bottom, completing the cool, tropical vibe of Nassau’s most iconic stone staircase.
Visit Parliament Square
Parliament Square, with its delightful amalgam of history and governance, should be added to your list of things to do in Nassau if you’re intrigued by the island’s colonial past. The area was set up by American Loyalists who left the U.S. after the Revolutionary War.
Nestled amid a picturesque array of white and pink colonial buildings, this square has been the enduring heart of the Bahamas’ political life for centuries.
Within these elegant Georgian neoclassical structures, including the House of Assembly, the Supreme Court, and the Senate, you’ll discover the hallowed halls that have borne witness to pivotal moments in the nation’s history.
Parliament Square balances architectural splendor with political significance, creating an interesting fusion that becomes apparent upon your arrival. During your visit, check out the statue of Queen Victoria, majestically positioned in front of the House of Assembly, adding an extra layer of historical charm to this notable site.
Shop at Nassau’s Straw Market
Nassau’s Straw Market, conveniently situated on Bay Street, offers a delightful window into the artistic craftsmanship at the heart of Bahamian culture.
As the name implies, this bustling market is a trove of straw-themed treasures, from vibrant hand-woven straw baskets and hats to stylish bags and an array of other woven goods.
While you browse the offerings here, you’ll have the opportunity to engage with local artisans, watching as they weave straw into attractive goods right before your eyes.
Besides woven souvenirs, you’ll also find conch shell jewelry, wood carvings, dolls, paintings, and other knick-knacks inside the market for sale.
And do remember to bargain and pay in cash, which is part of the haggling process here. If you’re not apt at these kinds of negotiations, watch others as they (politely) haggle over prices before you try it for yourself.
Swim with Dolphins at Blue Lagoon Island
Blue Lagoon Island, situated to the north of Nassau, is a tranquil sanctuary. With its alluring cobalt waters and natural allure, this island, originally named Salt Cay, has evolved into a coveted destination for those seeking relaxation and aquatic adventures.
The island’s immaculate beaches and its crystal-clear blue lagoon make it one of the best places to swim in the world, and it also provides a remarkable opportunity to snorkel alongside dolphins. Once frequented by pirates for salt collection to preserve their provisions, Blue Lagoon Island has transformed into an ideal locale for snorkeling and kayaking enthusiasts.
Moreover, Blue Lagoon Island offers an exceptional opportunity to share the pristine waters with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and savor your time with California sea lions.
Stroll & Snack at Potters Cay
If you have a penchant for authentic local flavors, one of the absolute must-do experiences in Nassau is a visit to Potter’s Cay.
Tucked beneath the bridge that connects Nassau to Paradise Island, Potter’s Cay is often overlooked by tourists. However, if you do venture to Potter’s Cay, you will be rewarded with a combination of hospitality, fresh produce, and delectable conch dishes.
As you meander through the stalls, your senses will be delighted by a kaleidoscope of seafood delicacies, ranging from the refreshing conch salad to fried fish, all artfully prepared with the captivating flavors of the Bahamas. This vibrant waterfront marketplace is renowned for its exceptional food.
Potter’s Cay is your ticket to mouthwatering dishes, all while escaping the hustle and bustle of typical tourist spots. You’ll be enveloped in the warm camaraderie of local cooks and chefs who take pride in their work, taking you on your very own gastronomic adventure.
Take a Dip, Then a Sip at Junkanoo Beach
Junkanoo Beach has masses of Bahamian appeal, sandy beaches, and cerulean blue waters.
While it’s true that you’ll find no shortage of people here, it’s still a great spot to jump into the water for a refreshing swim before you grab a Bahamian drink, a bite to eat, or hit the shops next to the beach.
At Junkanoo, an array of non-motorized water sports awaits, including kayaking, paddle boarding, and pedal boats. Additionally, you can immerse yourself in the world beneath the waves with snorkeling or engage in some friendly beach volleyball matches.
With the perfect blend of Bahamian food, beverages, the shimmering sea, powdery sand, and endless fun, what more could you ask for?
“Defend” Nassau at Fort Fincastle
Settled on top of Bennet’s Hill in Nassau, Fort Fincastle stands as an enigmatic tribute to the Bahamas’ historical military significance over the years. Bennet’s Hill also happens to be the tallest summit on the island.
This 18th-century fortress, built out of coral limestone, offers panoramic views of the island and its tropical coastline. You can head up to the fort via the Queen’s Staircase. The fortification’s idiosyncratic shape, resembling a ship’s bow or paddle steamer, adds a unique touch to its strategic silhouette.
With its blend of history, stunning views, and capacity to deploy 68 cannons, Fort Fincastle is an essential stop for anyone riveted by sweeping views, historical hilltop fortifications, and Nassau’s colonial heritage.
Learn About Rum at John Watling’s Distillery
John Watling’s Distillery is a must for rum aficionados. Named after the 17th-century “gentleman” pirate John Watling, who adhered to a code of ethics even on the Sabbath, this downtown Nassau gem offers complimentary tours on a daily basis.
Explore the historic Buena Vista Estate, a colonial-era mansion adorned in red and white, where you’ll discover the rich tradition of Bahamian rum-making, blending timeless techniques with modern craftsmanship.
Wander through oak barrel-filled chambers for an intimate view of the entire rum-making process, from fermentation to distillation. Explore the estate’s lush gardens and cobblestone pathways while enjoying complimentary tastings of handcrafted rums during your visit to Nassau’s iconic John Watling’s Distillery.
Swim & Relax at Cable Beach
Cable Beach is one of the best beaches in Nassau, boasting 2.5 miles of stunning white sandy shoreline, along with a touch of technological history. In the 1890s, this beach was the site of the first submarine telegraph cable connecting Nassau to Florida.
Today, you can enjoy relaxation, swimming, and water activities like snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters here. This area is also renowned for its luxurious resorts, casinos, and upscale dining.
Indulge Your Sweeter Side at Bahamas Rum Cake Factory
The Bahamas Rum Cake Factory in Nassau is one of the best things to do in Nassau for those with a sweet tooth and an appreciation for history.
Overlooking Paradise Island and popular spots like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Restaurant, this charming establishment offers a fusion of culinary creativity and Bahamian heritage.
Here, you can witness the artisanal craftsmanship involved in creating the world-renowned Bahamian Bundt rum cake, from the blending of local ingredients to the slow-baking process that imparts each cake with its irresistible flavors.
You can even pick up a six-pack of 6 oz rum cakes to bring these delightful rum-infused treats home with you. That is, of course, if you can resist the temptation to tuck into them yourself before reaching your next destination.
Travel Back in Time at Fort Montagu
A visit to the 18th-century Fort Montagu will offer you a fascinating journey into the island’s colonial history, which ranks among Nassau’s top attractions for history enthusiasts.
This formidable fortress, constructed in 1741, is the second oldest on the island. It’s built from limestone and equipped with cannons for defense, which played a pivotal role in safeguarding Nassau against potential threats coming from the sea.
Explore the fort’s interior, then savor the excellent vistas of Nassau Harbor and Paradise Island, ideal for photographs. Today, you’ll only encounter cruise ships, commercial vessels, and pleasure craft out on the water—but in the past, pirate ships once loomed on the horizon, met with the firepower of 6 and 18-pounder cannons.
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