Nassau Attractions That Won't Bust Your Budget
As the capital of the Bahamas, Nassau is packed with tourist attractions that vie for a hefty chunk of your vacation budget. With a little planning, however, you'll discover a fair number of free things to do that are suitable for the whole family. Focusing on historic and natural treasures is a smart approach to avoiding entry fees and elevated ticket prices. Fortunately, Nassau and its vicinity offer many such enticements. Here are five of the best:
Bask on Those Beautiful Bahamian Beaches
You don't need to stay at a resort with a private beach to experience some of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the Bahamas, because public beaches abound within easy reach of downtown Nassau. If your family enjoys a bustling, party atmosphere, head to Cable Beach, the most visited on the island. Goodman's Bay, to the east of Cable Beach, is popular with locals for beach parties and dancing to reggae and calypso music. It features a children's playground and often has food vendors selling local specialties. Delaporte Beach, known for its clear waters, and Junkanoo Beach near downtown Nassau, are both quieter spots where you can escape the crowds and claim your own stretch of soft, white sand.
Climb the Queen’s Staircase to Fort Fincastle
The Queen's Staircase (Elizabeth Ave. S, Nassau, Bahamas) combines a historic landmark with the natural beauty of the island, courtesy of unmatched panoramic views from their pinnacle on Bennet's Hill. Climb the 66 well-worn, shaded stone steps and consider their incredible origins: the 102-foot staircase was hand-carved out of solid limestone during the late 18th century by some 600 slaves, a task that took more than 16 years. The structure was created to directly link Fort Fincastle, a hilltop garrison built to defend the Bahamas from pirates, with the city of Nassau. There is a small charge to go inside the fort, but you're welcome to explore the grounds and take in the views for free.
Visit Versailles Gardens and the Cloisters
Because the beautiful terraced Versailles Gardens, along with their stunning architectural landmark, the Cloisters, are owned by the One & Only Ocean Club (Paradise Island Dr., New Providence Island, Bahamas), they appear to be a private attraction. However, visitors are welcome to enjoy the gardens at no charge simply by checking in at the security gate. Views of Nassau Harbor, brilliant bougainvillea and other blooms, picturesque stone pathways, statues and fountains are all among the enchantments of the place. The real centerpiece, though, is the Cloisters, the preserved remains of a 13th-century French monastery that were originally purchased and brought to the United States by eccentric newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Local bigwig Huntington Hartford had the stones reassembled on his private Nassau estate during the 1960s, and there the Cloisters still stands, making a stunning backdrop for family vacation photographs.
Plan Your Own Self-Guided Walking Tour
With a guidebook, printed map or an app on your phone, you can be your family's own personal guide for a walking tour of Nassau. It just takes a little research beforehand to customize a route that incorporates the landmarks you know your family will find the most interesting. Plus, without the structure, or ticket price, of a guided group tour, you can be completely flexible with the route and duration.
Many websites suggest routes for walking tours of Nassau. Most include Rawson Square in the center of town, where the prime minister has offices inside the Churchill Building, and Parliament Square with its statue of Queen Victoria and pink-hued 18th-century parliament buildings. Stop in at the Nassau Public Library and Museum, which was formerly the city's jail and uses old cells to house its books. The Straw Market is bustling with vendors selling all manner of souvenirs, but also makes a great spot for people-watching and admiring straw-weaving artisans at work. Other historic attractions to feature on your tour include the circa-1670 Christ Church Cathedral, the pink-painted Government House, Fort Charlotte and Graycliff, a famous hotel that counts Winston Churchill and numerous royals among its former guests.
- Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board: Beaches are Better in the Bahamas
- Frommers: Bahamas Beaches
- CruiseRadio: 6 Free Public Beaches in Nassau
- Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board: The Queen's Staircase
- Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board: Forts: Embark on a Magical History Tour
- Fodor's Travel: Versailles Gardens
- GPSMyCity: Landmarks in Nassau, Nassau
- Frommer's: New Providence Walking Tours
A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.