“THE ISLES OF PERPETUAL JUNE” was George Washington’s impression upon his first visit to the Bahamas in the 1760s. Modern visitors make annual winter treks to this sunny clime for that same reason— the weather is simply sublime. With water that glistens like sapphires and sand so fine it clings to your toes like talc, Nassau offers the Bahamas with a surprisingly international flair. The Bahamas’ 700 “family islands” and cays tempt travelers with a laid-back lifestyle—perfect for an escape from a hurried pace. But Nassau, on New Providence Island, is the country’s capital. With great local foods, historical architecture, and contemporary art, it is as much a cosmopolitan city as it is a barefoot beach lover’s paradise. The real draw in the Bahamas, for returning travelers and people who have taken up residence here, is the Bahamian people. Their lively spirit and gift for making everyone feel at home can be summed up in the local phrase, “All of we is one family.” The Bahamas’ Caribbean-style culture (these islands are actually in the Atlantic) still reflects British influences from the country’s colonial status prior to 1973. Prepare yourself for three charming days in a place where the sun shines more than 300 days a year. And even if it rains, you won’t mind if you adopt the bright attitude of your Bahamian hosts.
Author Tish Johnson Photography Brooke Slezak
DAY TWO / Your quest for breakfast this morning will take you on a journey to Festival Place on Prince George Wharf. Sure it’s a favorite spot for cruise ships, but you’ve come because all the vendors feature products grown or produced in the Bahamas. Head first to Aunt Jane’s for chicken souse, a classic Bahamian breakfast dish. After your meal, visit BahamaSpa for handmade soaps; then try the shops that sell native spices and “straw” (palm frond) or conch crafts.
Head west on Bay Street and left on George and you can’t miss the Pirates of Nassau Museum on the corner of King Street. You’ll instantly be transported to 17th-century Nassau, where pirates were the “law” of the land. The atmosphere of the times is brought to life authentically by actors in period dress and special effects such as cannon fire that blasts unexpectedly.
Take a taxi and continue west toward Indigo Café on Skyline Drive off West Bay Street for lunch amid works by Bahamian artists. Choose from an international menu complete with sushi from a chef trained by a sensei in Japan. Sample the dream roll—a conch, white fish, and avocado roll—or the coconut curried conch chowder, which makes creative use of this national food treasure.
After lunch, it’s time to go to the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas on West Hill Street, where you’ll survey contemporary Bahamian artists pushing the envelope of tradition, some of whom you’ll recognize, like Antonius Roberts, from the walls of Indigo Café. Formerly a private residence called Villa Doyle, this is one of the most beautifully restored historical properties in Nassau.
Taxi back to Paradise Island, and, once there, call to have the spa send a specialist to your room for a Jetlag Reviver. This bath of calming essential oils will minimize the effects of long flights, time zone changes, and the wear and tear of a day of sightseeing. It will certainly energize you for dinner, which is at Graycliff on West Hill Street and Balliou Hill Road. Have a cocktail in the parlor of this classical Georgian mansion while you wait for your table, and then savor the cuisine—a perfect mélange of French and Bahamian. Order the succulent seafood medley, which gives you a global survey that includes Bahamian stone crab, spiny lobster, and Nassau grouper. In the mood for wine? With more than 175,000 bottles in the cellar, chances are good Graycliff will have exactly what you’re looking for.
Head downstairs to the Humidor, where the best tradition of Cuban cigar-making is kept alive in the Bahamas by Avelino Lara. Fidel Castro’s former personal cigar roller lends his talents to the Graycliff cigar factory. You’ll be able to impress your friends back home with some stogies—and a great story.
Finish off your night at the Atlantis Casino. The Rat Pack belongs to a bygone era, but you may notice a few celebs hanging out into the wee hours. When you’ve experienced enough glitz at this internationally known megaresort nightspot, head back to the quiet rustle of palms and sultry nighttime breezes of the stately Ocean Club.