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As a major cruise port and tropical destination for thousands of travellers, Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, offers a wide variety of unique tourist attractions. Located on New Providence Island, Nassau was founded in 1656 and has a rich history with British, African, and even pirate influences. No matter what their hobbies or interests, visitors are sure to find attractions that will make Nassau the highlight of their vacation.
Things To Do In Nassau
Nassau offers exciting and unique attractions for all visitors. From pirates to dancing flamingos to dolphin encounters to historic forts, tourists will find a wide variety of attractions to pique their interest. With so much to offer, Nassau will quickly become a memorable highlight of any Bahamian vacation.
Natural tropical beauty and diversity give Nassau several delightful attractions. Ardastra Gardens, a lush tropical zoo, is a better-known site and features more than three hundred species of tropical creatures from the Bahamas and other Caribbean islands. A short walk from downtown, the zoo houses an extensive aviary, and the highlight is the flamingo flock. The flamingo is the national bird of the Bahamas, and the zoo is host to a trained cadre of marching flamingos that perform three daily shows.
Across the street from Ardastra Gardens, the Botanical Gardens feature winding paths through eighteen acres of hundreds of flowering trees and shrubs. Decorative ponds add variety and enhance the luxurious beauty of the Gardens, while numerous species of exotic orchids lend brilliance to the soothing green of the tropical canopy.
Blue Lagoon Dolphin Encounter
For the more adventurous explorer, the Blue Lagoon Dolphin Encounter is only minutes from Nassau, with convenient transportation easily arranged from a hotel or cruise ship. Different interaction levels are available, from sitting on a floating pier while the dolphins swim nearby to actually swimming with them in deeper water. Each encounter is prefaced with a trainer’s introduction that includes information about the dolphins and how to best interact with them.
With over three hundred years of history, Nassau has abundant historical attractions to tempt everyone from avid historians to curious passersby. One of the most noticeable is Parliament Square, located in the heart of downtown Nassau. The flamingo pink collonaded buildings house the Bahamian government, including two legislative bodies and the advisory cabinet. The buildings, painted pink in honour of the national bird, were constructed in the early 1800s, and today they surround a statue of Queen Victoria that was erected on her birthday in 1905.
With the Bahamas occupying a strategic location between the United States and other Caribbean islands, several forts were constructed both for protection and as lookouts for marauders. Fort Charlotte, completed in 1788 just to the east of Nassau, is the largest fort in the Bahamas and encompasses more than one hundred acres. A waterless moat, drawbridge, dungeons, and ramparts all evoke the image of a ruthless fort, and a visit to this historical site is a treat for both students and tourists.
Fort Fincastle is one of the most recognizable historical sites in Nassau. A short walk from downtown, the fort was completed in 1793 and served as a lookout post for the harbour. The accompanying water tower is one hundred twenty-six feet tall and is the highest point on the island, towering more than two hundred feet above sea level. Visitors can climb the stairway or take an elevator to the top of the tower for a nominal fee, which is well worth the stunning views of New Providence Island as well as other nearby islands.
To discover Nassau’s history in a more personable fashion, visitors can hire a surrey – a small horse-drawn cart – for a thirty-minute tour of downtown. Drivers are independent dealers and will negotiate prices, and the modest fee is quite reasonable for the intimate history of Nassau’s highlights, including Parliament Square, the shopping district, and several historic homes along the route. Surreys can be found adjacent to the cruise dock, near Parliament Square.
Every tourist destination inevitably offers novelty attractions based on local culture, history, and sheer commercial appeal, and Nassau is no exception. The Queen’s Staircase is one such attraction: a set of sixty-six steps carved into the limestone cliff at the base of Fort Fincastle. Slaves carved the staircase, named in honour of Queen Victoria, in the 1790s, and today it offers a dramatic approach to the fort and has earned accolades as an attraction in its own right.
Local crafts and unique Bahamian creations are easy to find in the Straw Market, located in the heart of downtown Nassau adjacent to the docks. Hundreds of vendors offer hand-made wares, and while visitors may be intimidated by the aggressive salesmanship, there is no ill-will toward anyone who is just browsing. Many items, from baskets and hats to frames and accessories, are crafted on-site, making this a worthwhile attraction even for non-shoppers.
Connected to Nassau by a pair of six hundred footbridges, nearby Paradise Island is host to numerous resorts, pristine beaches, and casinos, making it an attractive destination for energetic and ambitious travellers. The Atlantis Resort and Casino is one of the largest in the Caribbean, and its distinctive coral-coloured structure and unique architecture are instantly recognisable. Far more than a hotel, Atlantis features an aquarium, beach, underwater grottos, and viewing tunnels, and is a must-see attraction for many tourists. Visitors are not required to be hotel guests, and passes are available to visit more secluded parts of the resort.