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Things to Do in Nassau

The sleepy, sandy pace of the Bahamas beaches recede in Nassau, the island nation’s only city. Travelers will find a bustling Caribbean port—once a haven for pirates searching for treasures, it's now a center for shopping and business. City tours offer insights into the historical and cultural highlights of this city on the sea, including stops at Fort Charlotte, Fort Fincastle, Ardastra Gardens, and the Government House. Climb down the famous Queen's staircase and stop by the perennially popular Straw Market and Arawak Cay to purchase locally made straw goods and other souvenirs to take home. Since Nassau is a deep-water port, it’s a popular cruise ship destination. Passengers disembark onto Bay Street, where you can select a tour to explore the island, or head straight to Junkanoo or Cabbage beach to enjoy the island’s aqua waters by snorkeling and swimming or revving up with parasailing, jet skiing, or underwater SUB adventures (which let you view the marine life without getting your hair wet). Explore the mostly flat island by bicycle or scooter, or simply eat your way around town: conch fritters, island-sourced spices, and barbecue are favorites. Nassau is also a top jumping-off point for deep-sea fishing charters and day trips to smaller Bahamian islands such as Pearl Island, Rose Island, or Exuma, all known for their pristine sands.
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Rose Island
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Rose Island is an idyllic private getaway off the coast of Nassau. Home to a coral reef and a lone beach bar, this tiny, tropical islet offers an exclusive setting for snorkeling and sunbathing on an 11-mile (18-kilometer) stretch of uninhabited, privately owned Bahamian beach.

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Queen's Staircase
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The Queen’s Staircase, one of Nassau’s most visited attractions, holds an important place in Bahamian cultural history. Around 1793, slaves carved this 102-foot (31-meter) staircase, comprised of 65 steps, out of solid limestone. Later it was named in honor of Queen Victoria’s 65-year reign and her role in abolishing slavery in the Bahamas.

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Fort Fincastle
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Overlooking the city of Nassau from its vantage point atop Bennett’s Hill, Fort Fincastle was built in 1793 to protect the island of New Providence from outside invaders. Much of the imposing building remains intact today. Visitors come to explore the fortifications and enjoy the view from the highest point in Nassau.

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Fort Charlotte
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High atop a hillside overlooking the harbor of Nassau is the British-colonial Fort Charlotte—the largest fort in Nassau. Constructed in the late 18th century for a battle that never took place, this historic site offers picturesque views, hidden underground passages, a waterless mote, remote dungeons and even authentic canons. Guides are available to help travelers navigate through subterranean halls far below the fort, but well-place signage and plenty of light means visitors can just as easily explore the grounds on their own.

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Government House
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Built in 1801 on an estate on top of Mount Fitzwilliam, Government House is often considered the best example of Georgian Colonial architecture in all of the West Indies. The mansion is painted a vibrant pink with a bright white trim (a nod to Nassau’s famous conch shells) and is the residence of the Governor-General of the Bahamas.

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Arawak Cay
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The evening fish fry is a much-loved tradition across many Caribbean islands, and Arawak Cay in Nassau, Bahamas, brings the custom to life. Find colorful huts selling fresh fish dishes, such as conch salad and lobster, along with vendors making tropical cocktails, and there’s often live music, too.

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Pirates of Nassau
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Get out your eye patch and peg leg and get ready to delve into one of the most infamous and legendary aspects of Caribbean history. During the Golden Age of Piracy, from 1690 to 1720, pirates patrolled the waters of the Caribbean, terrorizing merchant ships and no place played a greater role in illegal pirate operations than Nassau, home base to the world's largest concentration of swashbuckling seafarers.

A trip to Pirates of Nassau takes one back to the Golden Age when pirates ruled the Caribbean. A favorite of both adults and children alike, this museum is one you won't want to miss. It is said that when a pirate slept, he did not dream of heaven, but of returning to Nassau. Come and find out for yourself what made Nassau pirate paradise.

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Cable Beach
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Famous for its golden sands, the Bahamas' Cable Beach is a popular water sports and lolling destination for visitors to New Providence Island. This 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) stretch of idyllic beach is home to several massive resorts—including the Atlantis on nearby Paradise Island—each with their own claim staked in the sand.

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National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (NAGB)
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For a real taste of Bahamian culture, head to the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (NAGB) in Nassau. Housed in a classic 19th-century colonial-style building known as Villa Doyle in the center of town, the gallery displays paintings, sculptures, and other pieces by local artists from the 1850s to the present day.

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Straw Market
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The traditional craft of straw working is an integral part of Bahamian culture and industry. Each island has its own distinctive braiding style that locals use to create beautiful straw hats, baskets, and other goods. The Straw Market on Nassau is the ultimate place to pick up these traditional Bahamian souvenirs.

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More Things to Do in Nassau

Blue Lagoon Island

Blue Lagoon Island

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With its stretch of white sands fringed by coconut palm trees and a lush rain forest, Blue Lagoon Island, or Salt Cay, is an idyllic escape from the crowds of Nassau, offering everything you'd expect from a tropical island. Bring the whole family along for a day of fun in the sun, or take it easy for a day of pure beachy bliss on Blue Lagoon Island Beach.

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Atlantis, Paradise Island

Atlantis, Paradise Island

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The Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas is the ultimate resort and water park. Accommodations range from standard hotel rooms to villas and condos to the Bridge Suite (once ranked the world’s most expensive hotel suite). And even if you’re not a hotel guest, you can still enjoy some of the resort’s amenities, such as Dolphin Cay.

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Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre

Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre

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With tropical birds, lemurs, jaguars, iguanas, and more, the Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre in Nassau is educational fun for the entire family. The zoo is also home to a marching flamingo show, where the salmon-colored birds show off their marching skills, and popular lory and other animal feedings.

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Parliament Square

Parliament Square

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The island of Nassau is the seat of the Bahamian government and the four bubblegum pink buildings that house its key branches lend a distinctly island vibe to what’s known as Parliament Square.

The pastel Georgian-style buildings of the Supreme Court, the Public Library and Museum and the Houses of Parliament surround the square, where a statue honoring Queen Victoria stands. This government center is within walking distance from the main cruise ship ports, as well as numerous shops and restaurants, making it a perfect stop to learn a bit of history while touring the town.

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Nassau Cruise Port

Nassau Cruise Port

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The colonial city of Nassau is an excellent introduction to the Bahamas. Just 180 miles (290 kilometers) off Florida’s southern coast on the island of New Providence, Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas and its 29 islands.

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Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

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The Gothic-style Christ Church Cathedral has become one of the island’s most famous houses of worship. Its brilliant white stone tower, vaulted mahogany ceilings, detailed altar and handmade stain glass windows draw travelers to this Anglican church. Memorial plaques from the 1800s explore the history of Nassau’s previous residents, while the 400-year-old grounds and Garden of Remembrance offer travelers wandering town or docking at port for a day with a quiet, contemplative place to escape the noise of city streets.

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Paradise Island

Paradise Island

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Just across the water from the Bahamas’ main island of New Providence, Paradise Island is a fun-filled destination with stylish resort hotels, beautiful beaches, restaurants, casinos, and more. Visitors come to take in a show, try their hand at the blackjack tables, or enjoy some wet-and-wild exhilaration at the world-famous water park.

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Nassau Public Library & Museum

Nassau Public Library & Museum

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With its pink exterior and unusual octagonal shape, the Nassau Public Library is a well-loved local landmark. Although you might not think to visit a public library while on vacation, a detour to see this building is well worth the effort. The library once served as the town’s jail, and the books are housed inside the former jail cells.

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Heritage Museum of the Bahamas

Heritage Museum of the Bahamas

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Learn the history of one of the most storied set of Caribbean islands at the Heritage Museum of the Bahamas. See relics of the plantation era, when many slaves were brought to the islands; artifacts from the days when pirates patrolled nearby waters, and memorabilia from days of the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson.

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Junkanoo Expo Museum

Junkanoo Expo Museum

On December 26 and January 1 the streets of Nassau erupt with bursts of color, festive masks and lively music during Junkanoo—an island festival similar to Mardi Gras and Carnival. Originally created to celebrate the temporary freedom granted to slaves in the three days following Christmas, Junkanoo has now become a beloved part of the nation’s holiday celebrations and cultural traditions.

The Junkanoo Expo Museum, located in an old customs warehouse on the wharf, offers visitors who can’t make the trip during the holiday season a chance to still experience the wonder. The vibrant museum houses a vast collection of intricate costumes, richly-detailed parade floats and other memorabilia from throughout Junkanoo’s history, giving visitors a taste of the celebration any time of year.

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Aquaventure at Atlantis Paradise Island

Aquaventure at Atlantis Paradise Island

The sprawling Aquaventure water park is spread out over 141 acres (57 hectares) of the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island. Head there for a day trip to enjoy a huge variety of water slides, which range from kid-friendly options to exhilaratingly fast drops, as well as lazy rivers and dozens of pools and play areas.

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Marine Habitat at Atlantis

Marine Habitat at Atlantis

The Marine Habitat at Atlantis is the largest open-air marine habitat on earth, with over 50,000 animals and 250 different species, from rays to alligator gar. The aquarium features 14 lagoons, which contain roughly eight million gallons of ocean water and are filled with picturesque caves and underwater ruins.

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