The larger, 96-mile Grand Bahama Island (GBI) has more variety to offer in a destination than does Nassau. Its superlatives include dive operation UNEXSO, 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. It lost some of its steam as its Aladdinesque resort and casino became dated by Lucaya’s colorful Bahamian look in the 1990s. However it still attracts visitors with shopping, dining and golfing.
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 a 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 glamour 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 destinations.