There is much more to see and do in the Bahamas than just enjoy the beaches. Nassau, in particular, has a great variety of activities ranging from cultural festivals to pristine national parks, to man-made structures that are unique to this friendly, and hospitable island. Find all the best things to do in Nassau, here.
1. Junkanoo Festival
This dazzling cultural festival takes place in Nassau each Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, and during July. The origins of Junkanoo are disputed, with three popular theories taking most of the credit. One thing is for sure, though: the festival is a fun and exciting time to be in the Bahamas. The streets of Nassau become filled with colorful and towering parade floats, parade-walkers outfitted with extravagant and meticulously crafted costumes, all dancing and moving to the music created by an orchestra of percussion instruments. If you are looking for a lively cultural spectacle, similar to that of Carnaval/Carnevale in Rio de Janeiro or Italy, Junkanoo is a great option.
Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival
Website:Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival
2. Straw Market
I had the pleasure of visiting the Straw Market when I was a child. My cruise ship stopped in Nassau’s port, and we had a few hours to explore the island. I remember really wanting a set of bongo drums, but instead, I made off with a small jewelry box with a green gem on the top. The Straw Market can be considered more of a classic tourist activity, but if you are looking for an island souvenir from your travels, this is just as good a place to go as a traditional shop. The Straw Market is essentially a large flea market, some vendors sell original items and others sell items that have been purchased wholesale. Occasionally you can find a vendor, such as a woodworker or seamstress, crafting an item right there in the market.
Address: W Bay St, Nassau, The Bahamas
Opening Hours: Monday - Friday Open 24 hours, closed Saturdays and Sundays. Closed on public holidays.
Access: 24 minute car ride from Lynden Pindling International Airport, 12 minute car ride from Atlantis Paradise Island Rseort
Contact: +1 242-363-2000
Website: Straw Market
3. Parliament Square
Parliament Square is home to some of the main government buildings of the Bahamas. The buildings, built in 1815, are a good example of the colonial influences that are a part of the Bahamas history. When looking at the square from the street, the building on the right is the House of Assembly where Parliament holds its meetings. The Senate of the Bahamas and the Supreme Court meets in the center building, and the building on the left is home to the Leader of the Opposition. In the center of the square is a statue of Queen Victoria, and congratulatory pictures were erected when Queen Elizabeth reached her Diamond Jubilee a few years ago. Parliament Square is not a place guests need a lot of time to visit but it is something cultural and historic and neat to say you have been there.
Address: E Bay St, Nassau, The Bahamas
Opening Hours: Open 24 Hours
Access: 25 minute car ride from Lynden Pindling International Airport, 12 minute car ride from Atlantis Paradise Island Resort
Contact: +1 242-302-2000
Near by Food: Café Matisse
Website: Parliament Square
4. Clifton Heritage National Park
Clifton Heritage National Park is quite possibly one of the most important places for travellers to visit. Not necessarily to experience its educational and fascinating wonders, but rather because the park is under threat. In recent years, development companies have sought to build over the natural landscape that is an important cultural landmark. Your attendance at the park would show that people are interested in learning about history and its significant lessons. Guided tours are available through the attractions of the park, including its most popular attraction: Sir Harry Nuttal’s Underwater Sculpture Garden. This artistic marvel is home to the world’s largest underwater statue this side of the Prime Meridian. Guests can also visit the profound Sacred Spot, another artistic feature, this time playing homage to the slaves that passed through that very spot while being transported from the other side of the Atlantic. In addition to these attractions, there are great nature walks, and the very beach where Jaws: The Revenge, was filmed.
Clifton Heritage National Park
Address: South West Road, New Providence, The Bahamas
Price: from 40 USD
Opening Hours: Monday- Sunday 9am - 5pm. Closed on public holidays.
Duration: Usually 2-3 hours
Access: 15 minute car ride from Lynden Pindling International Airport
Contact: +1 242-362-4368
Website: Clifton Heritage National Park
5. Ardastra Gardens and Zoo
Children can learn about the importance of conservation, and the roles humans have to play in the protection of animals, at this quaint conservation center that features small animals such as peacocks, parrots, lemurs, and the “world-famous marching flamingos”. The center features two interactive experiences. Guests can get up close to the simple yet majestic flamingos during the Flamingo Experience that happens three times daily. Another great activity is the Lory Encounter, where guests can enter the lorikeet exhibit and feed the cute birds themselves, with apple slices. Most of the center is wheelchair accessible, however, it does not have bathrooms with wheelchair facilities. There is also an onsite snack and gift shop.
Ardastra Gardens and Zoo
Address: Chippingham Road, Nassau, New Providence Island
Price: from 16.20 USD
Opening Hours: Sunday- Saturday 9am - 5pm. Closed on public holidays.
Duration: Usually 2- 3 hours required.
Access: 20 minute car ride from Lynden Pindling International Airport,
Contact: +1 242-323-5806
Website: Ardastra Gardens and Zoo
6. Queen’s Staircase
This historical landmark is located on the path to Fort Fincastle from Nassau. Construction on the stairs began in 1793 and finished the next year. It’s a surreal monument to the labor and story of the slaves that were put to work chiseling the limestone to create the structure. Travelers can go to the staircase for free on their own, or visit it during a scheduled tour, as it is a common stop, among many.
6. Queen’s Staircase
Address: Elisabeth Ave, Nassau, The Bahamas
Access: 30 minute drive from Lynden Pindling International Airport, 10 minute drive from Atlantis Paradise Island Resort
Near by Food: Café Matisse
Website: Queen’s Staircase
7. The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas
This gallery is the first establishment of its kind when it was opened in 1996. The museum’s extensive art collection is maintained by both the government and the community, with the goal of telling the cultural narrative of a nation finding its own identity after its period of colonization and slavery. The museum has a significant permanent exhibit as well as rotating features. The gallery has free Wi-Fi and is wheelchair accessible, with secure parking. There are group tours available, with a NAGB guide who is knowledgeable about the exhibits. It is asked that if a group tour is desired, for guests to contact Holly Byone at [email protected] with at least 24 hours notice. School tours are 35 USD in addition to the price of admission, and adult tours are 45 USD in addition to the price of admission. There is also a museum store where guests can get a souvenir to commemorate their visit to this important landmark.
The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas
Address: Villa Doyle West and West Hill Streets Nassau, N.P. The Bahamas
Price: Locals: 7 USD, International Guests: 10 USD, Students: 5 USD, Seniors over 65: 5 USD, Children under 12 are free
Opening Hours: Monday: Closed, Tuesday- Saturday: 10am-5pm, Sunday: 12pm-5pm. Closed on public holidays.
Access: 24 minute car ride from Lynden Pindling International Airport, 15 minute car ride from Atlantis Paradise Island Resort
Contact: +1 (242) 328-5800, [email protected]
Near by Food: Humidor Churrascaria at Graycliff
8. Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis Paradise Island
An iconic symbol of Nassau, and the Bahamas as a whole, this waterpark is a popular spot for visitors and for good reason: it’s an amazing attraction. Visitors don’t have to be staying at the Atlantis Resort to gain admission, although admission for non-hotel guests is limited. The waterpark features 18 water rides, including one that goes through a decorative Mayan temple and further, through a clear tunnel that features an aquarium filled with sharks. The waterpark also features a lazy-man river, and rapids, more pools than I can count (some adult only), beaches, and private cabanas. There are various up close animal encounters featuring dolphins, sea lions, and stingrays. The waterpark alone can take up a whole day with all of its available activities. It is truly a fantastic attraction even if it is more considered a tourist activity.
8. Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis Paradise Island
Address: 1 Casino Dr, Nassau, New Providence Island
Price: from 89 USD for children under 12, and 149 USD for adults 13 years and up
Access: 32 minute drive from Lynden Pindling International Airport
Contact: +1 242-363-3000
Website: Atlantis Paradise Island Resort
More than just a beach
Nassau has more to offer its guests than just beautiful beaches. The island’s activities have two distinct attitudes. One side is that of a historical marvel that needs to be preserved and appreciated. The other side reflects the island’s fun-loving personality. Both combine to create a truly unique experience that will give travellers plenty of fond memories to reflect upon when they bid the island farewell.
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