Some of the best things to do in Nassau, Bahamas are completely free, which makes this a great family destination whether you’re only in town for a day on a cruise or have an entire week to enjoy this Caribbean island.
Sparkling white sand beaches, turquoise bays, luxury resorts and water sports await, along with British colonial buildings, historic forts and stately, brightly-painted homes.
Nassau is the country’s capital, and an important transportation hub for all of the islands as it’s home to the main international airport and cruise ship harbour. For that reason, even visitors travelling onward to other islands like The Exumas, Grand Bahamas Island or Eleuthera usually end up here at some point during their trip.
From enjoying the local flavours at a lively fish fry to relaxing on the best beaches, here’s what to do in Nassau, Bahamas.
Explore Nassau downtown attractions, Straw Market and Fort Fincastle
Historic downtown Nassau is a hub of activity, especially when giant cruise ships are in port. The waterfront is lined with souvenir shops, including the maze-like Straw Market which is jam-packed with everything from wood carvings to glassware to beach apparel.
Head up to Fort Fincastle, a fortification perched high on Bennet’s Hill near the old town.
Built in 1793 to protect the city against attackers, it’s fashioned from limestone that was cut in the shape of a paddle-steamer ship. Visitors can still see the old cannons, climb up for panoramic views, and learn more about the fort’s history from the interpretive signs.
Globe Guide tip: If your timing is flexible, check out this schedule of how many boats are expected in port each day to avoid visiting downtown when there are lots of cruise ships since the city can get congested.
Admire the Queen’s Staircase, Nassau’s most photogenic spot
Another one of the main Nassau historic sites is tucked away just off one of the roads near the fort: The Queen’s Staircase.
Sometimes referred to as the 66 steps, it was built by slaves between 1793 and 1794 who shaped it out of limestone rock to provide a direct route from Fort Fincastle to Nassau City. The site was later named in honour of Queen Victoria, and is absolutely enchanting thanks to the lush vegetation surrounding it.
Globe Guide tip: Visit first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon, to photograph the steps without many tourists around.
Visit the Nassau museums
Another one of the top activities in Nassau (especially on a rainy day) is checking out one of the many museums.
- Learn about the impact of slavery at Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation
- Channel your inner gold digger at the Pirates of Nassau museum
- Take a walk back in time at the Heritage Museum of The Bahamas, The Bahamas Historical Society and the Antiquities, Monuments & Museums Corporation
There’s also the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, which has exhibits inside as well as an Art Park where a path winds through native trees and shrubs accented with sculptures to tell the history of the Bahamas through art and botany.
Wander through the colourful Graycliff area
One of the top things to do in Nassau is head up to Graycfliff, which is one of the city’s most photogenic districts featuring brightly painted doors, pastel walls and a canopy of bright red umbrellas.
The street’s history dates back to the early 18th century, when there was a private mansion owned by Captain John Howard Graysmith. Over time, the property changed hands and underwent several renovations until being transformed into a hotel.
The Graycliff Hotel has been operating ever since, hosting distinguished guests such as Sir Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Beyonce.
There are 20 unique guest rooms, and the five-star Graycliff Restaurant which consistently wins awards for its world-class cuisine.
The Graycliff Cigar Factory is another iconic attraction, and one of the few remaining factories in the world that still produces cigars entirely by hand. Visitors can tour the factory, watch artisans roll cigars and even participate in a cigar-rolling lesson.
Across the street you’ll find Bahama Barrels, the first winery in the Bahamas which was inspired by a trip to the vineyards in South Africa. It’s housed in one of the oldest and most historical buildings in the Bahamas, a former church built in 1937.
There’s a tiny tasting room inside, wine tours, and a shop for purchasing your favourite bottles.
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Rum place distillery
Sampling cool cocktails at the historic John Watling’s Distillery is one of the most fun things to do in Nassau for those who live by the motto ‘it’s five o’clock somewhere!’
Located in the historic Buena Vista Estate which dates back to the 1780s, the distillery offers visitors a glimpse into the art of rum-making and the rich history of the island. The charming, colonial-style building features antique copper stills, which are still used to create their signature rums.
During a tour of the distillery, visitors can learn about the traditional methods of rum-making, from the fermentation process to the ageing of the spirits. The knowledgeable guides provide a fascinating insight into the history of rum on the island and the importance of the industry to the local economy.
Of course, no visit to John Watling’s Distillery would be complete without tasting their award-winning rums, and there’s also a snack shack outside with delicious conch fritters.
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Play on Paradise Island
Paradise Island is a small island located just north of Nassau, connected by two bridges and home to several high-end resorts including The Royal, The Cove and the world-famous, dusty pink Atlantis.
Here you’ll find water parks, pools, golf courses, spas, restaurants and casinos, making this the ultimate playground for all-ages in Nassau.
In addition to the resorts, the beaches on Paradise Island are pristine and the most popular ones are Cabbage Beach, Paradise Beach and Cove Beach. Enjoy activities like snorkeling, jet skiing, sunset catamaran cruises and lounging in a private cabana.
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Oh, you can also swim with pigs. Yes, you read that right…
Swim with the Bahamas pigs
There are a handful of islands where you can swim with pigs in the Bahamas, including on neighbouring Rose Island…this travel experience is about as memorable as they come!
After a short boat ride over, guests get to meet the pigs and try feeding them carrots and bread, and snuggle the piglets. Just be warned, the pigs can be quite feisty and also poop in the water!
Make sure to treat the animals kindly if you go, and be careful if you’re holding food as the pigs will lunge for it and you won’t want to accidentally get bitten.
Book a tour to swim with the pigs on Viator:
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Play on the beaches in Nassau
The Bahamas boasts more than 2,000 beaches, with the best ones found in the Exumas, on unspoilt Long Island, and along Harbour Island which has stunning pink sand.
However, there are still some good beaches in the capital and they’re just a quick drive from the airport and cruise ship terminal.
One of the best beaches in Nassau is Cable Beach, a nearly four-mile long picturesque stretch of coastline which is home to grand resorts like Sandals and the Baha Mar. Aside from lounging on the sand, visitors can also go for an exhilarating jet-ski ride, a more leisurely jaunt on a banana boat and enjoy a birds-eye view by parasailing.
Other popular beaches in Nassau are:
- Montagu Beach
- Paradise Beach
- Cabbage Beach
- Sandyport Beach
- Junkanoo Beach
Sample Bahamian cuisine at the Fish Fry
Ask any Bahamian what’s a must-do in Nassau, and chances are they’ll send you straight to the Fish Fry.
This vibrant and lively spot is in the Arawak Cay area, and has been popular with both locals and tourists for decades. This is the best place on the island to feast on conch, and freshly-caught seafood like snapper and crawfish served with traditional Bahamian side dishes including peas, rice, sweet corn and conch salad.
The strip has a mix of sit-down restaurants and casual beachfront stalls, and the smell of meat grilling on barbecues wafts overhead. Be sure to try the conch fritters, which are finely chopped conch meat (shellfish) mixed with spices then deep-fried and usually served with a tangy dipping sauce.
Wash them down with a cold beer or rum cocktail, then dance the night away to live Junkanoo music.
Take one of the fun day trips from Nassau
Those who have longer than one day in port can head out on one of the Nassau day trips to surrounding islands, like Eleuthera which is best known for its dazzling rose-hued sand and also has friendly pigs.
Celebrities including Tyler Perry and Johnny Depp own entire islands over in the pristine Exumas, lured by the crystal clear waters, seclusion and blonde beaches.
Stunning sandbars and memorable moments like feeding iguanas and petting sharks are just some of the incredible things to do here, and hundreds of cays make this a prime sailing destination.
It takes a few hours by speedboat to get to the Exumas, so tours usually have multiple stops throughout the day to break up the trip. Another option is to book this excursion which includes a scenic flight over to the chain of islands, or charter your own boat for the day to enjoy the trip at a more leisurely pace.
Here are some of the most popular day trips from Nassau to Exuma:
Where to stay in Nassau
Sandals Resorts has more than a dozen luxury properties scattered around the Caribbean, including an adults-only resort on Cable Beach in Nassau.
More than 400 rooms and suites are spread across two larger towers, with a handful of two-storey villas in between. Two giant pools, hot tubs, bars and the restaurants are nestled in the middle, leading out to the expansive beachfront overlooking a pier and gem-toned bay.
Other perks of the all-inclusive resort include 10 restaurants, a penthouse gym, swim-up bars and even a private island just a five-minute boat ride from the beach. Click here to book
This family-friendly resort on Paradise Island in Nassau also happens to be one of the world’s most iconic hotels, thanks to its grand pink facade that can be seen for miles in every direction.
The resort has nearly 4,000 rooms spread between five different areas (The Reef, The Cove, The Royal, The Coral and The Beach), a casino, pools, restaurants, bars and a 10,000 square foot fitness facility.
One of its most popular attractions is Aquaventure, a 20-million gallon waterscape with a labyrinth of fast-paced waterslides and waterfalls. There’s a lazy river, 14-acre dolphin habitat, sea lions and stingrays, all accessible to hotel guests as well as visitors who purchase a day pass. Click here to book
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