“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 THREE / Ask your butler to pack a light gourmet breakfast to go; today you’re taking an enjoyable 45-minute scenic trip down the coast road along the southwest corridor of the island, a road rarely traveled by visitors.
You can’t leave the Bahamas without diving into the baja mar (the name, meaning “shallow sea,” was given to the area by the Spaniards on Columbus’ first stop in the New World). Whether you want to don dive tanks or just snorkel on the surface, Stuart Cove’s Dive South Ocean, on South West Bay Road, is the premier dive shop, offering access to a range of reefs and wrecks for all levels. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask about the snorkel tours of the famous wrecks filmed for James Bond movies.
No doubt you’ll have an appetite after some snorkeling, so head to the Poop Deck at Sandy Port, farther along South West Bay Road. Here you can enjoy the fresh catch of the day prepared any way you want it. Call ahead and speak with Frederick, or “Sir Fred” as he’s also known, and tell him you’d like to take your lunch beachside so you can wiggle your toes in the water while you eat.
Save room for dessert, because a little farther up the road is Pasión Tea & Coffee Boutique. Keep an eye peeled for the quirky sign, and then take a left turn onto a private road with no name. Owner Julie Hoffer has created a café whose entrance mimics the one from the film The Secret Garden, where overgrown ivy and bush invite you into a world of fruit- and rum-infused teas to complement such native confections as guava duff and pineapple coconut flan. Try the mojitos with home-grown mint, which gives Hoffer’s cocktail an extra kick.
Continue west on the “backside” of the southwest interior of the island and discover Goodfellow Farms on Nelson Road—equal parts organic farm, stables, country kitchen, and store rolled into one special place. You’ll find Ian and Karin Goodfellow running the farm, which keeps the best restaurants on the island supplied with fresh vegetables. It’s also where the residents of nearby, exclusive Lyford Cay shop for sundries. Pick up some homemade marmalade or marinara sauce or some of the unique pottery or prints handmade in the Bahamas for the Goodfellow boutique.
You’ll be returning to your hotel after an active day, but before resting up for dinner, hit happy hour at The Green Parrot Bar & Grill at Hurricane Hole Marina on Paradise Island. This classic outdoor bar is cruising-club central, where sport fishing and yacht enthusiasts get their grub and sip sip—what the Bahamians call gossip.
Tonight’s dinner is at Dune Restaurant, the crown culinary jewel created by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Dune serves a fusion of French-Asian cuisine with a bit of Bahamian flavor. For the full experience, try the chef’s tasting menu for both main dishes and dessert—snapper crusted with nuts and seeds, succulent rack of lamb dusted with seven spices, and warm Valrhona chocolate cake with coconut sorbet that will melt in your mouth.
Back at the Ocean Club, stroll down to the beach, pull up a sandy seat atop the bluffs, and gaze out to where the night sky meets the horizon. Sitting there on Paradise Island, it’s easy to believe that paradise really does exist. Tish Johnson owns a home in the Bahamas and recently moved to another center of Caribbean-region culture: Miami.
The Gulf Stream gives the Bahamas a subtropical climate. December features minimal rainfall, daytime temperatures near 80 degrees, and water temperatures in the upper 70s. Lightweight clothing is a must, but pack a sweater in case of a sneaky cold front. During the wet season (May through October), brief downpours provide 75 percent of Nassau’s annual rainfall. During the dry season (November to April), it rains four to seven days a month.
Weather information is provided by The Weather Channel. For more Bahamas climatological details, visit weather.com.
Once you’re on Paradise Island, the easiest way to get around is by taxi or free shuttle. From the airport you’ll find plenty of taxis to escort you to your hotel for about $30 one way, or arrange with the One & Only Ocean Club for private transfer by town car, $138 roundtrip, or limo, $206 roundtrip. There are also the ferryboats or water taxis that go to Paradise Island Harbour from Prince George Wharf at Festival Place. Tickets are $6 roundtrip. The water taxis leave approximately every half-hour, but they generally depart once the boats are close to full. Plenty of rental cars are available; remember to drive on the left.
A Ardastra Gardens & Zoo (Tel: 242-323-5806) An eclectic mix of birds and animals in a garden environment, famous for flamingos
B Surrey Ride/Carriage Tours (Tel: 242-326-9781) Horse-drawn carriage rides through historical Nassau’s main and side streets
C Dolphin Encounters (Tel: 242-363-1003) A close-up look at these intelligent marine mammals
D Atlantis Marine Habitat/Aquatots Program (Tel: 242-363-6068) An interactive indoor/outdoor sea world