Best Attractions in Nassau

Best Attractions in Nassau

nassau-white-lighthouse

An escape to Nassau has everything you could want from a vacation—paradisaic beaches, beach resorts and most importantly, relaxation. Contrary to popular belief, Nassau is home to more than the Atlantis and Baha Mar resorts. Whether visiting with your family, as a couple or with friends, the capital of the Bahamas has something for everyone. Momentous landmarks, museums, national parks and underwater excursions round off Nassau as a tourism hub brimming with history. This year-round destination is the most popular of all the islands in the Bahamas with flights from the United States departing daily.

If you want to see beyond your resort and get more than a tan on your vacation, check out these top Nassau attractions

1

Clifton Heritage National Park

Head to Clifton Heritage National Park for a day of Bahamian history and underwater fun. Snorkel to the largest underwater statue in the northern hemisphere and the underwater wrecks of “Jaws” and “Thunderball.” This national park is located on the far western edge of New Providence Island, a perfect day trip from Nassau.

2

Primeval Forest National Park

Venture to Primeval Forest National Park for a break from the tourist scene and a glimpse at a hidden gem even many of the locals don’t know about. Limestone caverns, sinkholes and lush greenery encapsulate this otherworldly national park. Expect to see exotic animals, air plants and foliage different than what you typically see on the island. You can visit this park on your own but for a truly enlightening excursion hire a guide that’s knowledgeable of the native flora and fauna. The park is a 30-minute drive from downtown Nassau and only takes an hour to explore—just be sure avoid Sunday when it’s closed.

3

Pirates of Nassau Museum

Learn about Nassau’s history as a former pirate base in the 1700s—Blackbeard, booty and all. The Pirates of Nassau Museum takes you through the Golden Age of Piracy, noting the most famous pirates and their exploits, all the way to their ultimate demise at the hands of the British. Once your appetite is as strong as a pirate who’s been marooned, head to Smugglers Restaurant for their signature conch salad. Don’t miss the artifacts exhibit where authentic pirate treasures are on display. If the history doesn’t shiver your timbers, just head to the museum bar. This downtown Nassau attraction takes less than an hour and is popular among children and adults.

Pirates of Nassau Museum, Nassau, Bahamas
4

Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation

Visit Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation for a look at the Bahamas’ grimmer history. Named after Pompey, a slave who led a revolt on the island of Exuma, this building used to be an actual slave auction site in the 1760s. This pink building is close to the National Art Museum and Queen’s Staircase if you want to hit all three attractions. Visitors say it is a refreshing change of scenery from the usual activities and gives you a real glimpse of the Bahamian people’s resilience and history.

5

Nassau Public Library and Museum

Spot the pink octagonal-shaped building in Parliament Square and you’ve arrived at the Nassau Public Library and Museum. This former jail was converted into a library and reading room over a century ago; books now fill the cells that once held prisoners. The free admission and proximity to the Straw Market and Queen’s Staircase make this attraction a must visit.

6

National Art Gallery of the Bahamas

The historic Villa Doyle mansion holds an art gallery that captures and preserves the Bahamas history and local talent through art. Established in 1996, everything at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas is a treat for the eyes, from the artwork to the grounds. The gallery closes at 5 pm, making it a perfect stop before you explore the nearby shops and head to Graycliff Restaurant for dinner. Don’t miss the gift shop—it has great little gifts that you won’t find elsewhere. It’s within walking distance to the Nassau port of call for those visiting by cruise ship.

Courtesy of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas
7

Nassau Straw Market

The Nassau Straw Market is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs. This open-air market is constantly bustling with visitors and vendors, and becomes very crowded. Prepare for a trip by having cash on hand, light clothing (it gets hot) and your bargaining skills ready. While you’ll notice that most of the stalls carry the same items, you can find handmade straw goods if you keep an eye out.

Courtesy of Arnold Reinhold
8

Junkanoo

Every December 26 and January 1, the streets of Nassau are splashed with colorful costumes, dance and music for the Junkanoo parade. This outrageous festival happens all over the Bahamas, but Nassau hosts the biggest party. The exact origins of the celebration are unknown, but all can agree that Junkanoo is a time to feel the beat and have some fun on the streets! Be sure to buy tickets in advance for this attraction, as the best parts of the parade happen between 1-6 am, and the bleachers fill up quickly.

Courtesy of Empress
9

Fort Charlotte

If you only have time to visit one fort, this is the one. Fort Charlotte is the largest on New Providence Island, located just one mile from downtown Nassau. Named after the wife of King George III, this fort has a moat, dungeons and 42 cannons. Book a tour guide for a more in-depth history of Fort Charlotte or read the plaques throughout the grounds. You’re sure to work up an appetite climbing the fort’s many steps—satiate your hunger at Fish Fry, it’s located just across the street.

10

Fort Fincastle

Lord Dunmore created this limestone fort in 1793 to protect Nassau from pirates. Located at the top of the Queen’s Staircase, the fort provides panoramic views of New Providence Island as it’s situated on the highest point, Bennett’s Hill. Have cash on hand for the small entrance fee and wear comfortable walking shoes.

Courtesy of Taugenichts80
11

Fort Montagu

Fort Montagu stands on the east end of Nassau Harbour and is the oldest fort on the island. This small, limestone fort is worthy of a quick look, but it’s quiet Montagu Beach that keeps visitors around. Keep your eye out for local fishermen selling their catch or head to the nearby Fish Fry.

12

Queen’s Staircase

Regarded as the most historic place in all the Bahamas, you can’t help but feel the history when you climb the Queen’s Staircase in Nassau. Named in honor of Queen Victoria, the 66 steps (only 64 today because two are paved over) were hewn out of limestone by slaves between 1793 and 1794. This spot is perfect for a break from the sun, providing shade, restrooms and the sound of water lapping at the shore. Whether you’re staying in Nassau or stopping by the cruise port, the staircase is accessible. Most Nassau tours include the Queen’s Staircase, but if you visit solo and want more information, guides walk around ready to share the history in exchange for a tip.

Courtesy of Oscar Flowers
13

Government House

Visit the Governor General of the Bahamas at his pink, palm-tree-surrounded residence on Mount Fitzwilliam. This Bahamian landmark is right in downtown Nassau, close to the port. A statue of Christopher Columbus stands tall at the front of the building, commemorating his landfall in San Salvador in 1492 when he sailed the ocean blue.

Architecture lovers will enjoy this site—a circular drive and stately columns show the influence of American colonial architecture while the pink and white paint reveal the building as distinctly Bahamian. Book a tour and learn all about the region’s history, or simply take advantage of the photogenic backdrop and walk around the property.

14

Blue Lagoon Island

Sea lions, dolphins and stingrays, oh my! Get up close and personal with friendly ocean critters at Blue Lagoon Island. After a short boat ride from Nassau, you’ll arrive at the private island made with vacationers in mind. Blue Lagoon Island has specially designed facilities that let you swim and interact with marine animals. Before every animal encounter, trainers teach you how to safely play with the animals, so everyone feels comfortable. Kiss a sea lion, swim with the dolphins or hold a stingray while learning about their habitats. After your animal adventure, enjoy the beach and snorkeling around the island. Not many people can say they’ve had a stingray skim over their fingertips, will you be one?

15

Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Center

Escape the concrete jungle and dance with the “ballerinas in pink” at the one and only Bahamas zoo. This four-acre oasis of lush gardens houses reptiles, birds and an assortment of mammals right in Nassau. Kids love feeding the birds and the flamingo show, but even if you skip over the animal attractions, the magnificent gardens make the visit worthwhile. Flamingos walk the premises freely, making photo ops plentiful. Ardastra is the perfect place to feel like a kid again!

16

Aquaventure – Atlantis, Paradise Island’s 141-Acre Waterscape

Aquaventure – Atlantis, Paradise Island’s 141-Acre Waterscape gives everyone in the family an unforgettable experience. This $800 million project wows guests with its beaches, water park, animal adventures, aquarium and entertainment. Swim with dolphins, snorkel alongside sharks and rays or unwind on the white-sand beach. Renowned as one of the most famous waterparks in the world, this popular resort has plenty to keep adults busy too. The large casino, laden with artwork, Aura nightclub, Mandara Spa and Ocean Club Paradise Island Golf Course give parents a break from the sun and noise. Stay at the resort or experience the magic with a day pass.

Courtesy of Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas
17

John Watling’s Distillery

Tour the famous John Watling’s Distillery and taste one of the best rums in the Bahamas. The distillery location on the Buena Vista Estate right in downtown Nassau makes it a must-see for anyone visiting. The short outing has outstanding reviews with visitors reporting they were surprised by how much they enjoyed the 10-minute tour. The rum is made with the Caribbean-sourced ingredients, Fire Water and Kill Devil. After a small taste, most guests can’t help but buy a bottle in the gift shop or enjoy a drink right there at the Red Turtle Tavern. Be sure to have world-renowned mixologist Uncle Will make you his famous Rum Dum—the drink that’s “not too overly sweet and can be served in a tumbler.”

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