Nassau & Paradise Island Tourism
About Nassau & Paradise Island
Nassau is a bustling city located in New Providence island and is the capital as well as the main commercial hub of the Bahamas. In fact the whole New Providence Island is commonly referred as Nassau. About 275,000 people live in New Providence which is about 70% population of The Bahamas.
Nassau as seen from the harbor
Photo: Roger W, flickr cc by-sa 2.0
The major cruise port (Prince George Wharf) and the main airport (Lynden Pindling International Airport) are both located in Nassau. The cruise port terminal is located next to downtown Nassau while the airport is at the western end of Providence island (about 15kms from downtown Nassau).
There are regular cruise and air connections between Nassau and the USA, Canada, UK and Europe. Therefore, most international tourists bound for the Bahamas first arrive at Nassau.
Nassau Cruise Port (Prince George Wharf)
Photo: Roger W, flickr, cc by-sa 2.0
Flights from New York take little over 3 hours while from Miami (Florida) take around 1 hour to get to Nassau. There are overnight cruises between South Florida and Nassau. Go through Getting to Nassau
to know how to reach Nassau from the US, UK, Canada and other places.
Paradise Island is a tiny (1.1 sq. mile) satellite island located off the northern edges of New Providence Island. It's only 3kms away from Downtown Nassau and joined with Nassau by two bridges built over the Nassau Harbor. The first bridge (i.e. the Eastern Bridge) was built in 1966 by Resorts International - a major resort development group which then owned Paradise Island. It was opened to traffic in 1967. The western bridge (known as Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge) was built and opened in 1998. Both bridges are owned by The Government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The two bridges to Paradise Island, Bahamas
Photo: BID Ciudades Sostenibles, flickr, cc by 2.0
Paradise Island was earlier lying undeveloped and was then known as Hog Island. Huntington Hartford, the heir of the erstwhile A&P Supermarket chain, acquired Hog Island after his visit in 1959.
He renamed the island as Paradise Island and started developing it as a playground for the rich and the famous. Hartford hired the Palm Beach architect, John Volk and the two of them built the golf course, Ocean Club, Hurricane Hole Marina for super yachts, installed the Cloisters and several other facilities in Paradise Island. The island was opened to the public in 1962 and gradually it became a tourist magnet.
The two bridges connecting Nassau at the other end
Photo: BID Ciudades Sostenibles, flickr, cc by 2.0
Today Paradise Island is mostly known for the ocean-themed luxury resorts of Atlantis. In fact, the name of the island is also interchangeably used as Atlantis Paradise Island, because it is this resort group which further developed the island into its current stature with its sprawling water park, walk-in aquarium, casinos, marina, and many restaurants & bars, and of course world class accommodations.
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Photo: James Willamor, cc by-sa 2.0
A Short Video
In Nassau you can use public buses (locally known as Jitneys) to get around, while in Paradise Island you need to mostly avail taxis (Jitney buses are not available there, but there is a free shuttle for Atlantis resort guests which completes a circuit every 30 minutes).
Since Paradise Island is at a short distance from Nassau, you can easily visit Paradise Island from Nassau by ferry boat (takes $4 and 10 minutes one way across Nassau harbor) or by a taxi. You can also walk over the bridge to get to Paradise Island, if you want.
Go through Local Transportation in Nassau
to know about all options of getting around Nassau an Paradise Island including transport fares, bus routes etc.
Things to see & do
In Nassau, tourists spend most of their time lounging at the beaches or taking part in various water sports at the popular Cable Beach
which is fringed with great resorts, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs and even the largest casino of the Bahamas. Junkanoo beach
is another popular beach which is frequented by the cruise tourists because of its close proximity to the cruise terminal.
Cable Beach, Nassau
Photo: NivCube, Shutterstock
Many tourists visit the popular Bay Street
in downtown Nassau which runs along the harbor and is lined with shops and restaurants. The Straw Market
is another popular place to buy souvenirs and gifts at relatively cheap prices. There are many duty free stores on Bay Street as well at several other places in Nassau and Paradise Island selling perfumes, cosmetics, clothes, jewelry, liquor etc.
You can take a short boat ride to Blue Lagoon Island
for Dolphin swim/encounter, or visit the Ardastra Garden & Zoo to watch some of the rare and endangered animals and see the amazing sight of 60 flamingos marching together.
If you are in a family with kids and love to explore the seafaring history of Bahamas and its notorious piracy connections, visit the Pirates of Nassau Museum
. If you love arts, visit the most important art institutions of Bahamas - National Art Gallery
full of rich paintings, sculptures and other artwork.
Atlantis Resorts dominate the skyline of Paradise Island and can be seen from far. This vast resort complex houses world's largest Open-Air Aquarium
, a large Aquaventure Water Park
(141-acre waterscape) with many slides, swimming pools, a mile-long river ride, beach, casinos, dolphin interaction center at Dolphin Cay and many other entertainment.
While hotel guests have free entry to most facilities of Atlantis, others can also stroll around in the resort complex, explore the shops, or purchase a day pass to access the other attractions like aquarium, water park, pools, restaurants etc.
There are several other attractions in Paradise island including sprawling golf course, Marina Village
with its many shops and restaurants, lush public gardens etc.
There are numerous operators in Nassau and Paradise Island offering a host both land and water based activities and tours for the tourists. Below you will find the links to the best tours and operators:
While there are speed boat tours to visit the cays of Exuma (discussed under boating and sailing tours
), you can also fly from Nassau to Staniel Cay (in Exuma). Bahamas Air Tours
offers daily day trip from Nassau to Staniel Cay which is combined with boat tours to visit the Pig Beach for feeding swimming pigs, Bitter Guana Cay to feed iguanas, snorkel into the Thunderball Grotto, swim with nurse sharks at Compass Cay, visiting the sandbars at Pipe Cay, etc. You are also taken to Staniel Cay Yacht Club where you can take your lunch.
Although more expensive, an advantage of the air trip to the Exuma cays is that you can save a lot of time in travelling to and fro, and also get to see wonderful sights from the flight (all seats are window seats on these flights). It only takes 30 minutes by flight to get to Staniel Cay from Nassau while a speedboat takes about 2 hours each way. And therefore flight trip can enable you to visit lot more cays and attractions during the day trip. Secondly, the speedboat journey is often not smooth due to rough sea. Sometimes the boat trips get cancelled at the last minute due to inclement weather.
Below is the contact information in case you decide to take the Exuma cays day trip by flight.
Dining & Nightlife Venues
Being tourist hot spots, Nassau as well as Paradise Island offer a range of dining options. There are a number of casual eateries that operate out of stalls and food huts offering traditional Bahamian food such as conch fritters, fresh conch salads, jerk chicken as well as Jamaican food etc.
Conch fritters served with cocktail sauce
If you are in Nassau (or for that matter anywhere in the Bahamas), one of the must try is the fritters as well as the salads prepared with fresh conch. One of the most popular places to try out seafood including conch fritters & salad is Arawak Cay (also known as Fish Fry) located on the West Bay Street and at a walking distance from the cruise terminal.
Photo: sailn1, flickr cc by 2.0
For international food, you will mostly need to visit an upscale restaurant... several celebrity chefs runs their own restaurants here.
There are numerous nightlife options here... you can find some of the world's best casinos as well as lounges, night clubs, disco's and of course bars & pubs. The Baha Mar Casino at the hotel Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in Nassau and the Atlantis Casino (part of Atlantis Resorts) in Paradise Island are two great examples of fine architecture and grandeur that are tourist magnets.
You can find numerous brand stores in both Nassau and Paradise island offering branded apparels, jewelry, watches and accessories, and there are also many stores selling art & craft created by local artisans, locally crafted conch shell jewelry and stones, gifts and souvenirs.
Festival Place, Nassau
Photo: byvalet, Shutterstock
Popular shopping places includes the Bay Street (which is the main street through downtown Nassau) and full with tourist shops, the famous Straw Market in Nassau selling hand-woven straw items like bags and dolls at reasonable prices, Marina Village in Paradise Island with many boutique stores, the colorful shopping mall known as Festival Place near the entry to the cruise terminal etc.
Where to stay
If you arrive by air, you can choose to stay either at Paradise Island or Nassau. Although there are several luxury and mid-range resorts in Paradise Island, Atlantis has created a world of its own... you can plan for an all-inclusive stay here including entertainment. However if you like to explore more of Bahamian ways of living, then stay at Nassau (most of the popular hotels are on Cable Beach).
Atlantis Hotels, Paradise Island
Photo: Roger W, flickr, cc by-sa 2.0
Road Map/Location of Nassau and Paradise Island
Visitors' Reviews and Comments