Photo by Chelle Koster Walton

Nassau Itineraries

Nassau for Families

Nassau: Bahamas' center of commerce and culture

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The first place most people flash on when the word “Bahamas” is spoken, Nassau is not only the capital of the island nation, it is the center of its history and culture. But let’s not forget the beaches and water sports, the number one reason it attracts visitors.

Overlooking Nassau Harbour on the northern shore of New Providence Island, the destination shares the spotlight with Paradise Island, which it faces on the other side of the harbor and vital cruise ship port.

Downtown Nassau & Beyond

Nassau dates back to the days of pirates and post-Revolutionary War Loyalists fleeing America for their lives. Sloping upward from the harbor, it boasts a multitude of historic forts, churches, government buildings, and other commercial structures dating back to colonial days.

Curious explorers can find a treasure trove of attractions to discover on the flipside of their playing on the beach and in the waters. Art-lovers should head to the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, housed in a beautifully restored hilltop colonial mansion. In a different colonial home nearby, rum-lovers can tour John Watling’s Distillery and sample the wares.

The Graycliff Hotel complex resides in the same neighborhood, providing opportunity for visitors to tour a cigar factory, a chocolate factory, and an artisans’ village; and to dine in glorious historic luxury in the inimitable Graycliff Restaurant. Other don’t miss sights downtown include the Queen’s Staircase and adjacent Fort Fincastle, Government House (where the public is invited to tea with the governor twice monthly) and Fort Charlotte.

At harbor level, visitors find the duty-free stores, shops, restaurants, and famed Nassau Straw Market on Bay Street. On both sides of the harbor (in Nassau and Paradise Island), water sports charters take enthusiasts fishing, boating, snorkeling, and exploring private islands offshore.

Outside of the downtown area to the west, Cable Beach is resurrecting as the sexy resort beach scene it once was before Paradise Island’s Atlantis stole its thunder. The in-progress BahaMar mega-resort promises to be Atlantis’ latest competition, where visitors will find the island’s only golf course and casino.

History & Nature

Farther west, at island’s end, a trip to Clifton Heritage Park flashes back to Nassau’s plantation era and further to prehistoric times. It appeals to both history and nature buffs with ruins, a beach, and trails.

Nature lovers find a different brand of respite at The Retreat gardens and nature preserve at New Providence’s East End. For a taste of the Bahamas Out Islands, keeper of traditions, visit Arawak Cay, just west of downtown Nassau – a cluster of restaurants and bars that serve the conch salad, cracked conch, fresh fish, Bahamian lobster, guava duff, and other dishes signature to the Bahamas.

Or head to an old-time settlement along the island’s south coast such as Adelaide Village.

For Beach-Lovers

When it’s beach time, you won’t have any problem finding one that fits your sun-and-sand fantasy – from partying Junkanoo Beach in Nassau to secluded Love Beach to the west and resort-lined Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island. Of course, Atlantis Resort is the main attraction on Paradise Island, and even non-guests can buy day passes to enjoy the plethora of beach, water park, animal interaction, casino, shopping and dining attractions on property. Another 18-hole golf course at One&Only Ocean Club is accessible to guests.

When To Go

Nassau is a year-round destination thanks to mild climates and sea breezes year-round. Cruise ships come in to port throughout the year. See “High & Low Season” and “Weather & Climate” to help you decide what time of year is best for your visit.

High and Low Season

High tourist season kicks in around Christmas (during the popular island Junkanoo festivities) and peak during spring break through Easter. Hotel rates are highest then, and traffic is at its peak.

Summer tourism remains strong with cruise ship traffic, yachting tourism, and family travel, but prices are generally lower for accommodations. Fall months are the slowest.

Weather and Climate

Nassau weather tends to be warmer than its Florida counterparts in winter, despite its location just offshore, thanks to its insulating surround-waters. It also stays cooler in the summer, thanks again to insulation and also trade winds.

Nassau does experience seasonal changes. Winter temperatures can dip into the 50s, but average around 70 degrees. Those temps, however, mean warmth to visitors from colder climes up north.

Summer brings temperatures in the 90s and also the threat of tropical storms. The most pleasant climes occur late spring – March and April – and early fall – late October through November.

Events and Holidays

In the Bahamas, Cricket Season runs March through November at the Haynes Oval Nassau Cricket Club, across the street from Arawak Cay. Matches take place every Saturday and Sunday throughout the season. A restaurant and bar at the Cricket Club looks out on the oval.

Rugby Season starts the end of September and continues through April at Winton Rugby Field off Prince Charles Drive.

Nassau Race Week , three days. Sailing and partying go together, including a Miami to Nassau race.

Junkanoo Summer Festival Experience a taste of this holiday parade tradition on the beach.

Emancipation Day Bahamians celebrate their freedom from slavery on Aug. 3 with Junkanoo, religious services, games, music, and the “climbing the greasy pole” competition.

Regatta World Championship, 10 days starting mid-month.

Christmas Jollification, three days late in the month. Get jolly on holiday food and music and Bahamian arts and crafts.

Bahamas International Film Festival, one week mid-month. Films from the world over, workshops, and awards.

Beat Retreat, one day mid-month. The Royal Bahamas Police Force Band presents its drill display to traditional and Bahamian Christmas music.

Junkanoo, holiday time. It begins with Junior Junkanoo and National Junkanoo Competition Finals along Bay Street and in Rawson Square and reaches fever pitch on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) and New Year’s Day.

Time Zone

Nassau is located in the same time zone as the U.S. Eastern time zone and observes Daylight Savings Time (DST) same as in that U.S. zone.

DST happens in the spring (early March, on a Sunday morning at 2AM). It’s when clocks are advanced one hour so there is more daylight later into the evening. In the fall (late October or early November on a Sunday morning at 2AM), clocks shift back one hour to standard time. The entire Bahamas participates in this ritual of ‘springing forward’ and ‘falling back.’

To check the local time in Nassau, click here.

What it Costs

The Bahamas in general require a fair amount of cash to visit. Nassau is no exception, but if you avoid Atlantis resort and search for local places, you can find value.

You are, of course, paying for exceptional beaches, but also for food and supplies that are mostly imported. So look for local seafood at meal time. Potter’s Cay in Nassau, under the bridge to Paradise Island, offers it fresh and as inexpensive as you’ll find on the island.

For accommodations, places such as Coral Harbour Beach House & Villas or Nettie’s Different of Nassau are good alternatives to Paradise Island and Cable Beach high-end lodging.

Get outside of downtown Nassau to find cultural and natural attractions that won’t break the banks, such as  Clifton Heritage National Park, and The Retreat National Park.

As far as shopping, duty-free stores promise great savings, but not as significant as on other Caribbean islands. So if you’re cruising, hold onto your dollars for other destinations. On Nassau, buy cheaply at Nassau’s Straw Market. For authentic Bahamian crafts, seek out Doongalik Studios Art Gallery and Plait Lady.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality, and deals. We don’t 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, which is on par with the Bahamian dollar.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person

$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double

$ => Up to $15 for average entree at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $16-22 for average entree at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => $23 for average entree at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)

N/A => Not applicable

$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person

Currency Converter

The Bahamian dollar is exactly on par with the U.S. dollar and everyone accepts both. To avoid receiving change in Bahamian dollars, carry lots of small denominations.

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.

Bahamasair is the main carrier to and around the Bahamas, but American, Delta, Silver, and other domestic airlines depart from major U.S. cities – mostly in Florida – to the islands. A number of smaller airlines travel from Nassau to Grand Bahama Island and the Out Islands.

Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.

There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.

Did You Know: Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (i.e. unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upwards of $10/day.

Exchange Rates and Currency

The Bahamian dollar is exactly on par with the U.S. dollar and everyone accepts both. To avoid receiving change in Bahamian dollars, carry lots of small denominations.


Nassau lies 184 miles east and slightly south of Miami, an easy destination to reach from Florida and several U.S. airports. Historically, by-boat ranked as the primary mode of transportation in the Bahama Islands, and that hasn’t changed much over the centuries.

Getting There

Nassau International (NAS) Nassau/Paradise Island is only two-and-a-half hours by air from New York, little more than three-and-a-half hours from the Midwest, and less than 45 minutes from Miami. The following airlines provide service to Nassau from the U.S: Air Canada, American Airlines, Bahamasair, Continental, Delta, JetBlue Airways, US Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and a number of charter airlines.

Cruise lines that visit Nassau Harbour include Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean.

Getting Around

Taxi service and rental cars are available at the Lynden Pindling International Airport west of Nassau. Traffic downtown Nassau is a little crazy, but outside of town and Cable Beach, it’s fairly easy going. Just remember to drive on the left, which becomes tricky at the main roundabouts on the island, but you’ll get the hang of it after awhile.

A high bridge connects downtown Nassau with Paradise Island for a toll of $1 each way. A ferry travels between the two islands for $3 each way per person.

The best way to get around downtown Nassau  is by foot. Horse-drawn surreys do tours around downtown for up to three people and 25 minutes.

Transportation to other Bahama islands gives you the option of flying, fast ferry boats, or slow mail boat.


Twenty-one miles long, Nassau offers a lot of diversity that cruise-ship passengers and resort-ridden visitors often miss. Bahamians are friendly people who deeply appreciate when you show interest and gratitude for their culture, beauty, and food, so do try to dig beneath the beaches and casino level of tourism. Once you have been deemed “semi-Bahamian,” you know you fit it.


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