Wrench yourself from the beaches for a half or full day and meander around the small downtown of Nassau. Finish the day at Arawak Cay a/k/a Fish Fry and you will see the pastel colored buildings which decorate this souvenir filled corner of the world and you will take notice of how the kindness and charm of the locals will refresh you in the heat. Be aware though that here in Nassau there are a number of dilapidated properties as of late. Admittedly, it made me a little sad to see them looking so forlorn and lonely until I saw what some of the locals want to do with the buildings 😉 (See below.)
So without further ado, stop in the following few places on your day into town and you will get a much better feel for what Bahamian life is all about and pick up a little history lesson or two.
This was the highlight of my trip into town but largely because of Antonio. Antonio is a disabled man that sits at the bottom entrance of the Queen’s Staircase on the left when you are facing the stairs. You MUST stop and talk to him so you can learn the history behind this important historical site. He will tell you about the Governor who used over 6,000 men, women and children as slaves to work for him in the quarry 14-16 hour days only allowing them to use their hands as tools for fear there would be a rebellion. He will explain how freed men built the staircase in honor of Queen Victoria who freed the slaves in this former British Colony. He will share some secrets you wouldn’t otherwise learn like about the prodigious banyan tree that sadly watched over the slaves during their times of oppression and then happily watched over the freed man reclaim their lives. And, Antonio will do all of this while making you laugh. It will make your visit here more memorable and all you do is give him a tip. I gave him $5.00 as that is what I had in small bills. You can also stop at the Water Tower and the ruins of the fort when you reach the top of the Queen’s Staircase. It is an easy climb up the stairs and there is a beautiful waterfall too. How many stairs you ask? I’ll give you a hint: it’s the number of years Queen Victoria reigned.
You certainly can’t come to Nassau without learning a bit about the fascinating history of the pirates that ruled the roost in these parts so stop in the Pirates of Nassau Museum. If nothing else, you will find it to be a much needed air conditioned break from the heat and humidity. It will take you about 30 minutes and the cost is $13.00USD. Children will really like it as they have a pirate boat built into the walls and a little “town” to walk thru so you’ll get an entertaining sense of what it was like during this period in Bahamian history. I can tell you this for certain though – I myself will never accept another date from a pirate again. After a few bottles of rum, he got a little obstreperous.
Slavery is obviously a huge part of Bahamian history so take a peek inside this museum while in downtown as well. Again, it only takes a little of your time and cost you $3.00USD and you’ll leave paradise with a better understanding of its local people which I can assure you will be difficult to get at those expensive resorts I’m guessing most of you will choose to stay at. Note that I learned the hard way that it is closed on Sundays.
4. Straw Market
Do your souvenir shopping at the Straw Market as you can barter there some vs in the stores. Moreover, you can meet a lot of great local people. They will ask you to come visit their shop or if you need something but they won’t hassle you at all. Right outside the Straw Market on the small street to the left if you are facing the cruise ship dock is a must see wood market where the locals there are hand carving some of the most incredible wood sculptures – both big and small and both charming or a bit macabre – all or some of which is bound to catch your interest given how remarkable the work is.
Take a saunter up Graycliff Street and either dine for cheap(er) at the fantastic little pizzeria there and follow it up with some cigar shopping at the Graycliff Humador or chocolate tasting at the Graycliff Chocolatier or you can deplete your children’s college savings and eat at the famous Graycliff Lodge. Either way, you are likely to enjoy a delight or two.
Come check out this local hangout and try the traditional food of The Bahamas – conch (pronounced conk). Have conch salad or conch fritters or cracked conch but have some conch! Also, try the famous Sky Juice or a Bahamian soda or the Bahamian beer – Kalik. If you are lucky like I was you will get some Bahamian live music and if you are really lucky you will get to see or maybe even learn some junkanoo dancing.
Some things to know when traveling to Nassau:
A. Take the public bus. It’s a $1.25 for most places in Nassau and $2.50 for the airport. Taxis here are atrociously expensive $25-$45 each way. But if you do need a taxi call Angelo at +1-242-821-8294. He and his wife Jade and their two delightful young children will take great care of you!
B. If you really want a beautiful view of the ocean and to have the sand and swimming and snorkeling right at your feet, a truly relaxing and peaceful stay in Nassau and to not have to mortgage your house to visit The Bahamas, stay away from tourist highway a/k/a Bahamar and Atlantis and the like on Paradise Island as well as Sandyport and stay on West Bay at BahaSea. You won’t regret it and neither will your wallet. I paid $45/night for the dormitory but they also have plenty of private rooms with balconies overlooking the turquoise sea. Sandyport across the street only has a view of the ‘not so incredible’ small bay and cost $243/night and you will spend hundreds of thousands at Bahamar and Atlantis and the Four Seasons etc. on Paradise Island. Food at those places for just noodles or a couple slices of pizza for one person ran me $55 per meal for one person. Each drink will cost you $18.00. Plus, the crowds and the service are terrible at these high end places especially the Dune at the Ocean Club.
C. If you stay at BahaSea you will also have a clear view of storms that roll in over the ocean like the one depicted above. Talk about hanging out with Mother Nature.
If you have any questions or can add something about Nassau or The Bahamas in general, I would love to hear from you so submit same via the form below. Then go unlock the Travelirvana in you.