As the Islands of The Bahamas celebrate 50 years of independence this year, there’s never been a better time to explore these laid-back, breezy, unbelievably blue islands smack-dab in the middle of paradise.
But with around 30 inhabited islands, it can be hard to decide where to go when visiting The Bahamas. Do you stick to the main tourist hotspots like Nassau, Grand Bahama Island, and Bimini, or branch out to the Out Islands and visit the Abacos, the Berry Islands, Cat Island, Eleuthera, and the Exumas?
“Once you visit the Islands of The Bahamas, besides the beaches, there is so much beauty to explore — perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors and adventures,” says influencer and Eleuthera local Maradona Tinker (@bahamamara). “There’s all kinds of cute little watering holes and blue holes you can discover.”
Here are 21 of the best things to do in The Bahamas, from Nassau to the Out Islands and back again.
The best things you can do in this stunning Island country!
See the world’s largest underwater statue
The Bahamas has no shortage of incredible diving and snorkelling spots, but Ocean Atlas, the world’s largest underwater statue, is one of its most unique. Crafted by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, Ocean Atlas is located off the western coast of New Providence (the same island where Nassau, the capital, is located). It’s only 16 feet submerged, so snorkelers and divers alike can enjoy swimming around this piece of art; the statue depicts a young girl carrying the weight of the ocean above her as a nod to the Greek myth of Atlas, who was condemned to hold up the heavens for eternity.
Do the leap of faith at Aquaventure at Atlantis Paradise Island
Atlantis Paradise Island is perhaps the most famous resort in The Bahamas; even Prince William and Princess Kate stayed there on a recent visit. However, 90s kids know the massive hotel for another reason: “Holiday in the Sun.” Recreate your Mary Kate and Ashley dreams by tackling the 60-foot, near-vertical water slide drop from atop the pyramid. Immediately following the terrifying descent, you’re rewarded with a quick shoot through a clear underwater tunnel with marine life swimming around you.
Become a winemaker for a day at Bahama Barrels
Wine may not be the first alcoholic beverage you associate with The Bahamas, but in downtown Nassau, you can take a wine blending class with a California winemaker and create your own bottle of wine at Bahama Barrels. You’ll get to taste plenty of wines (for inspiration) during the process.
Go snorkelling or scuba diving
The clear blue depths of The Bahamas are perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving. With colourful reefs, tropical fish, and thriving marine life filling these warm, stunning seas, sinking below the surface is a must on any Bahamas visit. The Andros Barrier Reef is the third largest in the world.
Go deep-sea fishing
People travel from all over the world to go deep-sea fishing in The Bahamas. The Abacos in particular offer some of the best fishing in the world thanks to their prime location along major migration routes, and with depths dropping to 5,000 feet just a half-hour boat ride away, avid anglers go crazy for the chance to hook lunkers like sailfish, marlin, and wahoo.
Visit the Garden of the Groves
According to Alannah Vellacott, Grand Bahama Island native and coral restoration specialist at Coral Vita, Garden of the Groves is “a botanical garden and café that runs a small farmer’s market on Saturday mornings from 8 to 11 a.m.” Vellacott recommends getting there early to get the best produce. Located in Grand Bahama, Garden of the Groves has trails, a labyrinth, waterfalls, fountains, and even a hilltop chapel; expect to see both indigenous and migratory birds and butterflies in a rainbow of colours.
Go bonefishing in the Out Islands
The Out Islands of The Bahamas are home to some of the best bonefishing in the world, with miles of flats and seagrass beds forming the ideal habitat for bonefish big and small. In fact, the schools of bonefish in The Bahamas are so large that when they kick up sand from the bottom while feeding, it’s visible from a plane. Sam Teicher, Coral Vita’s co-founder and “Chief Reef Officer,” recommends booking with H20Bonefishing. “It’s run by Jason Franklin, who also owns Bones Bar. He is one of the best bonefishing guides around. Where he takes you (north side, east end, etc.) depends on the weather.”
Check out the Freeport fish fry
Gator Halpern, co-founder and president of Coral Vita, recommends the Freeport Fish Fry for a fun cultural experience in The Bahamas. “You’ll eat lots of local fresh seafood … [one spot] has a circular bar called Gullywash. Be sure to step inside and have a laugh looking at the drink names on the wall. Wednesday night is the party night — get there by 6:30 for the full food options.”
Tack a bill to the wall at The Dollar Bar
Head to The Dollar Bar at the Green Turtle Club to listen to the Gully Roosters, sip a Tipsy Turtle Rum Punch and join in the tradition of tacking a dollar to the storied walls. The walls have been covered with autographed bills since the club’s opening; retired World War II fighter pilots used to leave signed bills so friends who visited the club in the future could have a drink “on them.” Even former President Jimmy Carter signed one.
Sunbathe on a pink sand beach
Beaches come in an array of colours, but the rosy-hued shores of Pink Sands Beach in Harbour Island are especially striking. Located along the eastern side of the island, the three-mile (4.82 km) stretch is coloured by microscopic coral insects with bright pink or red shells.
Book your stay at The Cove Eleuthera via Booking.com
Book your stay at The Cove Eleuthera via Agoda.com
Drink a Goombay Smash at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee bar
Three generations of women have run Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar in Green Turtle Cay for over 60 years. Still, the must-try menu item to order remains Miss Emily’s famous Goombay Smash, a memorable and easy-sipping concoction of rum, pineapple, coconut, and love.
Eat a USD 45 lobster quesadilla at Sip Sip
Sip — local slang for “gossip” — was a go-to lunch spot overlooking the pink-sand beaches of Harbour Island. The family-owned joint closed after a long run serving fresh Bahamian fare, but the tradition lives on at a Sip Sip location at Marina Village at Atlantis. Order the world-famous lobster quesadilla — it’s the best USD 45 (INR 3,723) you’ll ever spend on a quesadilla.
See the wild swimming pigs
The original swimming pigs of The Bahamas live on Big Major Cay, though no one’s quite sure how they got there. You can interact with these wild animals on an excursion from nearby Great Exuma or even Nassau.
Take a food tour
Let a local lead you around to sample Bahamian fares like conch fritters, baked macaroni and cheese, peas and rice, rum cake, and more on an adventure around Nassau with Tru Bahamian Food Tours. You’ll even get to take home recipes shared with you by the chefs, artisans, and small business owners you meet around the island.
A cacophony of colours and sounds, Junkanoo is a grand parade through the streets of Nassau (and some Out Islands) in celebration of Bahamian culture and history. The main celebration takes place the day after Christmas and on New Year’s Day, though Junkanoo festivities also take place on Saturdays throughout the summer. Another fun celebration is the annual Pineapple Festival in Eleuthera in early June.
Go island hopping
Waterborne adventures are the best way to explore The Bahamas’ 700 islands and cays; sailing or boating through these crystal-clear waters will leave you breathless. Book a chartered tour with an experienced local captain who will show you around with stops to snorkel, swim, and visit beaches along the way, maybe with a stop for a BBQ beach cookout on an uninhabited island.
Explore Lucayan National park
Located on Grand Bahama Island, Lucayan National Park is home to one of the world’s longest charted underwater cave systems as well as preserved remains of the Lucayan people. According to Vellacott, “There’s small caves to explore, mangrove forests with boardwalks, and a really beautiful beach at low tide. Bring snorkel gear — if you swim out to the rock offshore (about a 20-minute swim in good conditions), there’s lots of coral around.” Spend the day seeing the world-famous Gold Rock Beach and pine forests, mangroves, and coral reefs.
Tour John Watling’s distillery
Rum is synonymous with The Bahamas, and at John Watling’s Distillery, the spirit is hand-crafted in small batches in downtown Nassau (the rum is named for the English “pious pirate” who refused to plunder on the Sabbath). Go for signature Bahamian cocktails and free tours of the 18th-century Buena Vista Estate.
Climb the Queen’s staircase
This landmark was hand-carved from solid limestone rock by enslaved people between 1793 and 1794 to provide a direct route between Nassau and the Fort Fincastle Historic Complex. The Queen’s Staircase, eventually named for Queen Victoria, has 66 steep steps visitors can climb while surrounded by the lush foliage of the islands.
Swim or dive into blue holes
The Bahamas has hundreds of blue holes, or underwater cave systems, most of which are concentrated on and around Andros. These mystical natural features are shrouded in Bahamian legend. Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island, which is surrounded by a stunning beach, is the deepest in the world; at Hoffman’s Cay Blue Hole in the Berry Islands, you can jump off a 20-foot cliff into the inky blue waters below.
Try conch from Tony Macaroni
Since 1992, Tony Macaroni has been converting conch sceptics at his famous shack overlooking Taino Beach in Freeport. He takes conch straight from the ocean and transforms them into delicious delicacies like ceviche, conch burgers, and more, served up with a side of homemade hot sauce and weekly live jazz.
Book your stay at The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort via Booking.com
Book your stay at The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort via Agoda.com
(Hero and feature image credit: Mosslight Fine Art Photography/Getty Images)
This story first appeared on travelandleisure.com
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