Whether you are spending your entire vacation in the capital of The Bahamas, Nassau on New Providence Island (Nassau is used to refer to both the city and the entire island), or only stopping by en route to one of the Out Islands, you’ll find an abundance of things to do on this 21-by-7-mile island.
“The Bahamas is small and it can feel like almost everyone is here in Nassau, but what will surprise you are all the different pockets of communities,” says Nassau-born filmmaker Kareem Mortimer, whose 2017 film, Cargo, was The Bahamas’ largest film production to date. “There’s a salsa dancing community, an art scene, an indy film theater, and some really good restaurants,” says Mortimer, “And every part of the island is a little different.”
British Colonial-influenced downtown Nassau is a good place to start exploring, with buildings in hues of peach, lemon, and lime and the Queen’s Staircase—66 steps carved by slaves into the limestone back in 1793—among the favorite photo backdrops.
Stop for a lunch of reimagined Bahamian food and excellent salads at Biggity, along Bay Street’s duty-free shopping zone. Then hop over to the excellent National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, where cutting edge traveling exhibits and a permanent collection of fine Bahamian art is housed inside a 19th-century mansion
An atmospheric retail experience awaits in downtown Nassau at the historic Graycliff Hotel, said to have been built in 1740 by a true pirate of the Caribbean, Captain John Howard Graysmith. In addition to its luxury hotel rooms, Graycliff is a complex of several restaurants, a wine cellar with over 250,000 bottles from around the world, and an onsite cigar factory and chocolatier. The new Heritage Village at Graycliff project on West Hill Street is evolving into an atmospheric pedestrian shopping area. Visit artists’ studios to purchase made-in- The -Bahamas works and take wine-blending classes at Bahama Barrels, the Bahamas’ first-ever winery that’s housed inside a church from 1937 (the grapes come from Italy and Argentina, but the wines are bottled onsite).
Before you leave downtown to explore Nassau’s western reaches, take a break on Junkanoo Beach at Tiki Bikini Hut, a beach club with views of Nassau Harbour where you can chill with a Sands beer and some cracked conch. “It has really good food and prices, and a real beach culture to it,” says Mortimer about the open-air hut.
CABLE BEACH AND BEYOND
The $4.2 billion Baha Mar Resort is behind the renaissance of Cable Beach, one of the longest beaches on the island that’s become Nassau’s it spot. “In addition to the resort, there’s a really great art gallery there, Current, featuring shows with young-and-new as well as established artists,” says Mortimer.
If you hit just one of the many Baha Mar restaurants, you want to make it the Philippe Starck-designed Katsuya, which serves sushi that has everyone talking, and it lives up to the hype.
A few miles west of Baha Mar, a mostly expat and Bahamian crowd tucks into authentic Mediterranean-influenced tapas at Pink Octopus, where the Israeli chef does a sublime whole snapper and sources local ingredients from island farms whenever possible.
Continuing a few more miles west along the water on West Bay Street, it’s hard to miss the collection of Skittles-hued cottages for rent along the low sea cliffs at Compass Point Beach Resort. Formerly owned by Chris Blackwell of Island Records, the property is an old school Nassau haunt with a classic waterfront bar serving rum cocktails accompanied by sunset views.
Finish your explorations of Nassau’s western reaches on an unexpected note near the tony community of Lyford Cay. Here, the 30-room Island House boutique hotel has a 46-seat art house cinema where you can escape the sun with an indy Caribbean film screening or the latest from Hollywood. The hotel even hosts its own film festival every January, The Island House Film Festival, spotlighting Bahamian premieres and other independent films from across the Caribbean in a setting so intimate you’ll likely rub shoulders with producers and filmmakers.