Nassau and Paradise Island Bahamas
New Providence is home to Nassau–the nation’s capital is the center of industry and commerce in the Bahamas and serves an interesting blend of old world colonial architecture, vast straw markets, and an abundance of people combined with sophisticated new world luxury reminiscent of the 007 movies.
Formerly, Charles Town, it was burnt to the ground by the Spanish in 1684, but later rebuilt and renamed Nassau in 1695 to honor King William III (formerly Prince of Orange-Nassau)
Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas, located on New Providence Island offers a variety of experiences from non-stop excitement to peaceful relaxation. Nassau is the center of industry, commerce and communications and presents a special charm which captures the elegance of the old world while at the same time incorporating up-to-the-minute modern features. Here one will find well-preserved colonial buildings, exciting attractions, duty free shopping, one of the largest straw markets in the Caribbean, thrilling land and sea sports, pristine beaches, delightful cuisine and unique cultural activities.
Linked to Nassau by bridge is the famed Paradise Island–home to luxurious beaches, a world class golf course, the most plush hotels in the Caribbean, gigantic casinos and of course world class entertainment.
In 1670, England’s King Charles II granted the Bahamas to six British noblemen, or Proprietors. The Proprietors brought British settlers to New Providence, where they built a fort named Charlestown, in honour of King Charles II. Most of Nassau’s population were pirates, privateers or wreckers. Charlestown was burnt to the ground by the Spanish in 1684, but later rebuilt and renamed Nassau in 1695 to honor King William III (formerly Prince of Orange-Nassau).
In 1718, the British declared the Bahamas a crown colony and named Woodes Rogers its first Royal Governor. His mission was to rid Nassau of the pirates. He did so successfully. Rogers eventually opened the first House of Assembly in The Bahamas and presided over the colony until his death. The assembly adopted Rogers official motto, “Expulsis Piratis, Restituta Commercia,” or “Pirates Expelled, Commerce Restored.”
In the 1950-60s, tourists flocked to the new resorts just west of Nassau at Cable Beach (named for the first telegraph cable laid there in 1892).
In the 1960’s Huntington Hartford — heir to the A&P supermarket fortune — bought Hog Island and was used primarily for farming, and developed it into the 684 acre Paradise Island. More recent investors have included Merv Griffin and Sol Kirzner who developed Atlantis.
Points of Interest
Parliament Square in downtown Nassau is the center of the Bahamian government, where you will discover picturesque pastel buildings erected in the early 1800s by Loyalists, including the Houses of Parliament, the old Colonial Secretary’s Office, the Supreme Court, surround a marble statue of Queen Victoria. Each season, the Opening Ceremonies of the Supreme Court fill the square with pomp and pageantry. Further downtown stands Fort Charlotte. Built in 1788, it is complete with moat, open battlements and dungeons.
Cable Beach, with its casinos, luxury hotels, and sandy white beaches, got its name from the laying of transatlantic telephone cables in 1907 linking the Bahamas to the rest of the world.
For encounters of a different kind, venture east and cross the bridge from the town of Nassau to “Paradise,” with resorts, casinos and exciting nightlife on an island formerly called “Hog.” Its transformation is not unlike Cinderella’s putting on the glass slipper. For years the island stood completely undeveloped, its beaches and tropical splendor unnoticed by the world. Suddenly, with the addition of luxurious hotels and a sparkling casino, it was transformed into one of the most glamorous and celebrated resort centers in the world, combining exclusive tranquillity and lots of action.
West of Coral Harbour, lies Adelaide, a tiny village with narrow streets. It was one of the first Black settlements established after the abolition of slavery. The area offers a fine spot for fishing and swimming.
At the tip of New Providence Island, is Lyford Cay, an exclusive residential enclave. Home to stars like Sean Connery.
Golf on Nassau, New Providence Island
South Ocean Golf Course
Western tip of New Providence Island
18-holes, 72-par, 6707 yards; Joe Lee-designed. Famous oceanfront golf course.
Golf on Paradise Island
Paradise Island Golf Course
Paradise Island Drive, Paradise Island
18-holes, 72-par, 6,776 yards; Dick Wilson-designed; five bunkers per hole; water / ocean on 11 holes. Championship-challenge golf course
The Straw Market
Bay Street Nassau, New Providence Island
The Straw Market is located on the western end of Bay Street, next door to the International Bazaar. The market offers items with a special Bahamian touch, which make good gifts or souvenirs. The market is the main attraction of Old Nassau and is one of the largest markets of its kind in the world. Hundreds of people show and sell their work – including brightly colored, hand-decorated straw hats, bags, baskets, totes, mats, slippers, wall hangings, and dolls.
Bahama Craft Centre
Across from Hurricane Hole Plaza Paradise Island
The Bahama Craft Centre has top-level Bahamian crafts, including a nice selection of authentic straw work. Dozens of vendors sell everything from baskets to shell cottages inside this vibrantly colored building – designed by noted architect Jackson Burnside of Doongalik Studios.
Parliament Street Nassau, New Providence Island
Kennedy Gallery sells watercolors, oils, sculpture, and other artwork by a wide variety of Bahamian artists – from the best-known to emerging young talents.
Marlborough Street Nassau, New Providence Island
Marlborough Antiques specializes in English furniture and ornaments, also known as bric-a-brac. You can also find Bahamian art, rare books, European glassware, and Victorian jewelry.
The Plait Lady
Bay Street at Victoria Avenue Nassau, New Providence Island
The Plait Lady spotlights many authentic arts and crafts. Everything in the store is made in the Bahamas. The owner of this specialty store travels throughout the area looking for interesting products – and her collection of straw weaves, known as plaits, is the best around. Shop for bags, baskets, hats, and briefcases. The most interesting object in the store is a straw water pitcher, so tightly coiled it’s leak proof. The staff works from long coils of the woven goods … creating custom-make straw items such as bags and photo albums for personalized, unforgettable souvenirs.
The Island Shop and Island Bookstore
Bay Street Nassau, New Providence Island
The Island Shop and Island Bookstore sells travel guides, novels, paperbacks, gift books, and international magazines, as well as clothing and souvenirs. Take a peek at the Bahamian Books section – where you’ll find texts on everything from history to cookery of the Bahamas.
Bay Street, between East Street and Elizabeth Avenue Nassau, New Providence Island
Nassau Arcade houses the Bahamas’ Anglo-American bookstore, a small storefront with interesting reading material as well as a few other small stores.
Prince George Plaza
Bay Street Nassau, New Providence Island
Prince George Plaza – which winds from Bay Street to Woodes Rogers Walk near the dock, just east of the International Bazaar – boasts about two dozen shops selling a variety of goods.
Bay Street Downtown Nassau, New Providence Island
A site with a colorful array of shops, restaurants, and bars.
Far East Traders
Prince George Plaza, Bay Street Nassau, New Providence Island
Silk pajamas, nightgowns, kimonos and slippers, hand-woven lace, embroidered linens, and much more.
Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas, located on New Providence Island offers a variety of experiences from non-stop excitement to peaceful relaxation. Here one will find well-preserved colonial buildings, exciting attractions, duty free shopping, one of the largest straw markets in the Caribbean, thrilling land and sea sports, pristine beaches, delightful cuisine and unique cultural activities.
New Providence: What To Do
Top of Elizabeth Avenue, off Shirley Street, Nassau
This 102-foot staircase was created to commemorate the 65 years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The staircase was carved from coral-based sandstone by slaves at the end of the 18th century. It is the most-visited and famous architectural sight in Nassau, the Queen’s Staircase is a flight of 66 steps linking Fort Fincastle to the Princess Margaret Hospital.
Top of Elizabeth Avenue hill, south of Shirley Street, Nassau
The Fort is a military site shaped like a paddle-wheel steamer, located near the top of the Queen’s Staircase. Fort Fincastle was completed in 1793 as a lookout point to prevent pirates from sneaking into the harbor. Its 126-foot water tower, which is more than 200 feet above sea level, is the highest point on the island. From here, the panoramic view of Nassau and its harbor is simply breathtaking.
Duke and George Street, Nassau, Paradise Island
The Government House has been the official residence of the governor-general of the Bahamas since 1801. This impressive pink-and-white building on Duke Street is an excellent example of the fusion of Bahamian-British and American Colonial architecture. The styles also highlight the influence some southern states like Virginia and the Carolinas had on the islands. However, the bright pink color, cross-laid cornerstones, and wooden shutters are typical models of island structural design.
West Bay Street and Marcus Bethel Way, Nassau, New Providence Island
This military site is an imposing fort built in the late 18th century. It comes complete with a waterless moat, drawbridge, ramparts, and dungeons. Lord Dunmore, who built it, named the massive structure in honor of George III’s wife. The fort is located one mile west of central Nassau.
Paradise Island Drive, Paradise Island
At the top of the Versailles Gardens stand the remains of a 14th-century French stone monastery. This landmark was taken to the United States in the 1920s by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. Forty years later, however, grocery-chain heir Hartford bought the Cloisters and had it rebuilt on its present site overlooking Nassau Harbour.
Bay Street, Nassau
Parliament Square’s pink, colonnaded government buildings were constructed in the early 1800s by Loyalists who came to the Bahamas from North Carolina. The Square is dominated by a statue of a young Queen Victoria, erected on May 24, 1905, the day of her birthday. In the immediate area are six magistrates’ courts. Behind the House of Assembly is the Supreme Court. Its quarterly opening ceremonies (held during the first weeks of January, April, July, and October) are similar to the pageantry of the Houses of Parliament in London. A pass must be obtained in order to view these sessions.
The Changing of the Guards
Nassau, New Providence Island
The Changing of the Guards takes place every other Saturday at Government House – the residence of the Governor-General, representative of the Queen. The Royal Bahamas Police Force Band performs.
Market Street and Trinity Place, Nassau, New Providence Island
The Balcony House is an 18th-century landmark named for its overhanging balcony. Known as the oldest wooden residential structure in Nassau, this pink two-story house – and its furnishings and designs – re-capture the elegance of an era. Inside the house there is a mahogany staircase recovered from a ship during the 19th century.
Eastern Road, Montagu Bay, New Providence Island
Fort Montagu is the oldest fort on the island.
Village Road, Nassau, New Providence Island
A garden / arboretum with a diversity of species and tropical palm trees, The Retreat offers a serene, peaceful, and silent environment. Strolling through these peaceful grounds, visitors will also find smiling Buddhas. The park also serves as the site for the Bahamas National Trust.
Christ Church Cathedral
George and King streets, Nassau
Built in 1837, the Cathedral is a short walk from the main thoroughfare, and is worth visiting if only for its stained-glass windows. Inside the cathedral there is a glorious contrast between the white pillars and dark wood beams used to support the high ceiling. The Crucifixion in the center panel of the east window is flanked by depictions of the empty tomb and the Ascension. Before you leave, be sure to spend a few minutes in the small, flower-filled Garden of Remembrance.
Crystal Cay Zoo and Aquarium
Silver Cay, New Providence Island
Crystal Cay is a zoo / aquarium that occupies an entire island, and is linked to Arawak Cay and the mainland by bridge. Its observation tower rises 100 feet above the ocean surface. You can descend a winding staircase to a depth of 20 feet below sea level for a 360-degree view of coral, sponges, tropical fish, and other sea life – or wind your way along the Pleasure Reef snorkeling trail.
Royal Victoria Gardens
Shirley Street, Nassau, Paradise Island
The Royal Victoria Hotel was once the grand damme of the Bahamas. The hotel and its gardens were built during the American Civil War, finally closing in 1971. Shortly thereafter, a fire consumed the building. All that remained were the gardens and a sprawling, empty shell of pillars and stone. The resulting landscape is a stunning cross between a botanical garden and something resembling Roman ruins.
Junkanoo Festival Expo
Prince George Wharf, Downtown Nassau
This museum is dedicated to the Bahamas’ Junkanoo Festival – a colorful, musical, and surreal festival held on December 26. Watch Bahamian culture explode in a kaleidoscope of masks and sounds. Visiting the Expo is the next best thing to being in the Bahamas during Junkanoo.
In this 19th-century home, you’ll find a curious and colorful collection of artifacts recounting Bahamian history.
The Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation
Vendue House, Bay Street, Nassau
Vendue House served as the location for slave auctions in the 18th century, as well as a place where salvaged items from shipwrecks were sold. Today, the museum displays a fine collection of Bahamian history and art. A permanent exhibit portrays the slavery and post-emancipation eras of The Bahamas. In addition, work by local Bahamian artist Amos Ferguson is displayed in the art gallery on the second level.
The Bahamas Historical Society Museum
Elizabeth Avenue and Shirley Street, Nassau
The Bahamas Historical Society Museum showcases exhibits depicting the history of the Bahamas from pre-Columbus time to the present. In the museum there are many Lucayan-Taino-Arawak artifacts on display. Open Mondays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Closed holidays.
Paradise Island Drive, Ocean Club, Paradise Island
A garden filled with beautiful statues.
Chippingham Road, south of West Bay Street, Nassau
Showcases a garden, arboretum, zoo, and aquarium. Ardastra also home to a wide array of species and plants — from rare tropical birds to native Bahamian rock iguanas and flamingos. Catch a glimpse of the national birds of the Bahamas as they give parading performances daily.
Pirates of Nassau
Marlborough and George streets, Nassau
Pirate’s of Nassau is a world-class, swashbuckling venue located in the heart of downtown Nassau. Experience the true story of pirates in an amazing, historically interactive program that promises to teach and entertain.
Nassau/ Paradise Island Photographers
Mark Da Cunha Photography
World class professional photography — specializes in Bahamas destination weddings. An Atlantis preferred vendor.