Grand Bahama Island is home to the Bahamas’ second largest metropolitan area, the joined-at-the-hip towns of Freeport and Lucaya. As the island continues working through an identity crisis, now is a good time to visit because it is much more affordable and less crowded than Nassau, the nation’s biggest city. And like Nassau, it is fairly easy to get to with direct flights from many U.S. airports.
The larger, 96-mile GBI has more variety to offer in a destination than does Nassau. Its superlatives include dive operation UNESCO, long stretches of deserted beaches, small fishing settlements like West End and High Rock, Lucayan National Park with caves and trails to explore, freshwater kayaking, and long drives through Caribbean pine forest. And like all the Bahamas islands, there’s that incredible palette of gem-like blues and greens painting the pure, clear water.
The modern destination began, however, as Freeport — a mecca for gamblers and got-rocks guests like Howard Hughes in the 1960s. Go back a little further in time, and you would find West End the hot spot for rum-runners and got-rocks frequenters with names like Rockefeller. West End died when developers built a tax-free shipping port and resort area in the island’s central part.
Now fast-forward to the 1990s and the building of Lucaya’s harbor, marketplace, and resort scene. Freeport lost some of its steam then as its Aladdinesque resort and casino became dated by Lucaya’s colorful Bahamian look.
A hurricane delivered Freeport tourism’s final blow, just as it was being rejuvenated. Lucaya still holds its vibrancy and guests are discovering and appreciating more and more the island’s natural attributes. Tours take them kayaking through the national park and picnicking on its Gold Rock Beach. Heritage tours help them discover old-island ways and tempos on excursions to the West End or East End.
All told, one can find a lot of different things to do on the island. Besides spending time at such glorious strands as Taino Beach and Xanadu Beach, visitors can party with the locals at weekly fish fry – an eating, drinking, and dancing tradition – at Smith’s Point and Eight Mile Rock’s Sunset Village.
In the Port Lucaya Marketplace, music happens nightly in Count Basie Square. From its docks, all manner of water sports excursions depart for snorkeling, diving with sharks, fishing, dolphin interacting, and boozing.
The variety of resort scenes ranges from showpiece Lucayan Grande and all-inclusive Wyndham Viva Fortuna to secluded outposts like Paradise Cove with its own swim-to reef and exclusive Deep Water Cay, a bonefishing resort on its own island off the East End. On the West End, Old Bahama Bay recalls the settlement’s days of wealthy boat-in visitors. One casino remains on the island once famous for its gambling junkets – a sign not only that gambling has lost its glamor in the islands, but also that visitors focus their attention on the outdoors, as rightly they should.
Garden of the Groves and Rand Nature Centre have been getting visitors outside since the ’60s. One other remnant from the early glory days, two 18-hole golf courses and one nine-hole course challenge golfers. Two others remain closed down for the time being, but island officials are hopeful with the new upswing in the economy that the island will come back to its original status as a top Caribbean destination. With its metro scene and its Out Islands temperament, GBI is certainly already one of the most balanced Bahamas destination.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We donât want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US?.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $25 per person
$$ => Tickets $25-50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $50-100 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $100-250 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $250 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $15-30 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $30 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $50 per person
$$ => Tickets $50-100 per person