Things to do in Nassau: Best excursions, attractions, beaches, shopping
Though the island itself is very small, New Providence offers visitors quite a large selection of different activities to partake in. These activities, along with the gorgeous beaches that call the Bahamian island home, are the reasons why this particular island in the chain has come to be known as one of the more popular islands to stay on. The city of Nassau, also noted as the capital of the Bahamas, is known for being different things, one of them being a very popular cruise ship stop.
With that said, you may find that a long stay on the island to be a bit on the boring side. Unless you’re perfectly content with lounging on the beach day after day, you’ll find that a stay longer than a week to be long and unnecessary. Most visitors visit the island for a few days, such as a long weekend. Rarely do vacationers stay past 5 to 7 days. No matter how many days you intend to visit for, below you’ll find a list of the best excursions, attractions, beaches and shopping that the island offers.
Best excursions in and around Nassau
There are lots of great excursions to choose from, though most of them are ocean based. If you love the ocean, you’ll be very happy with the selection available. Each excursion is designed to impress and well worth your money. However, since you won’t have time to partake in each one, here is a short list of the best of the best.
Offering tours for those who love birds and nature, Bahamas Outdoors is a renown tour company that has been offering tours to both visitors and locals for quite some time now. These tours include access to The Retreat Gardens, Bonefish Ponds National Park, Botanical Gardens and others. With the option of either taking a half day tour or a full day tour, guests will enjoy access to a guide, binoculars, field guides and various refreshments that satisfy on those hot island days. Full day tours include a picnic lunch.
- Adult: US$79.00 and up
- Child: US$79.00 and up
Blue Lagoon Island Segway Safari Tour
During this fun tour, you’ll guide along on your segway as you explore the island while visiting sites, beaches and more. First you’ll take a 30 minute boat trip from Nassau Harbour to the island. After you arrive on-site, you’ll be met by your local guide who will then teach you how to operate your segway. You’ll then begin your tour where you’ll cruise around some of the island’s most noted historical sites and beaches. With this tour, however, you’ll want to take note of the minimal age allowed. This age is 12 years old. If you’re visiting with young ones, you’ll want to pick another kid friendly tour instead.
- Adult: US$80.00
Best nature themed attractions in and around Nassau
Though you’ve likely already heard of the famous Paradise Island and the Atlantis Resort, there are other great attractions in the area that aren’t spoken of as much in international advertisements. Even though they may not be as popular in the media, they are just as much fun. The ones listed below focus on the natural aspect of the island and Nassau, creating fantastic visits for the nature enthused.
Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Center
Offering a lot to do and see all in one attraction, the Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Center is a fantastic attraction for all ages. Noted as the only zoo in the entire island chain, this zoo gets you up close and personal with a wide variety of animals, including the beautiful flamingos. In addition to the zoo’s animals, visitors will get the chance to enjoy the gardens as well. With over 4 acres of jungle to enjoy, you’ll get the opportunity to learn about both local and regional plants while coming across various timber framed animal habitats. This zoo is open everyday of the year, outside of Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
- Adult: US$18.00
- Child: US$9.00
Sea Lion Encounter at the Blue Lagoon
If you aren’t afraid of a little animal interaction, then this attraction is made for you. Here you’ll get the chance to partake in an encounter with a few impressive and large California Sea Lions. During this attraction, you’ll not only get to see these creatures face to face, but you’ll have the opportunity to learn about their lives, food intake and natural habitats. Adding to the fun is the transportation to and from the attraction, which is via a double decker catamaran.
- Adult: US$109.00
- Child: US$109.00
>>>Tickets to the Sea Lion Encounter at the Blue Lagoon
Primeval Forest National Park
A great find for those who love walking through nature, the Primeval Forest National Park is composed of an old growth woodland, sinkholes, limestone caverns, boardwalks, steps and multiple bridges. In total the park spans a notable 7.5 acres, providing you with entertainment for a few hours if you stop to look at the plants and animals frequently. The park is only open part of the week however, meaning that you’ll want to check the days you’ll be in town before planning a trip here. The days it is open are Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If you’re looking to explore the park with a guide, then you’ll have to plan your visit for a Saturday as there are no guided tours the other operation days.
- Adult: varying
- Child: varying
Best cultural attractions in Nassau and on the island
From museums to forts, you’ll find plenty of cultural attractions in and around Nassau to keep you busy and entertained for a few days. If you’re looking to learn as much as possible during your vacation, you’ll have the chance to easily visit each one as they are all relatively close to one another, making it so that you won’t be spending hours driving from one to the next.
The Heritage Museum of The Bahamas
Only newly opened in 2014, the Heritage Museum of The Bahamas offers visitors a look back into time while they learn about the Bahamas’s heritage. Most of the pieces here are from Hamilton White, a British antiques collector. You’ll find pretty everything here, with collections ranging from fossils to artifacts. This museum is open Monday through Saturday and is open to all ages.
- Adult: US$18.50
- Child: US$12.25
Standing the test of time, Parliament Square is a beauty that warrants a visit. Built in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, this structure is still used today and is situated in downtown Nassau, making it easy to visit. The pink buildings currently house the Supreme Court of the Bahamas, the Senate Building and the House of Assembly. If you love politics, you’ll be interested to know that if the House is in session, you are allowed to venture inside to watch the debates from the gallery. If politics aren’t your thing, the buildings themselves make for some pretty impressive photos.
- Adult: free
- Child: free
Located on a hill overlooking Nassau’s harbour, Fort Charlotte was built in the late 18th century by the British. Today, visitors will find a fort that spans over 100 acres with a moat, various passageways, tunnels, 42 unfired cannons and a few different dungeons. This is a great attraction to bring your camera to, so don’t forget it at your hotel. If you’d like, you can hire a guide to walk you through the fort, or you can do it on your own. Making this attraction even more enjoyable are the staff members dressed in period costumes and the cannon firing ceremony that occurs every day at 12pm.
- Adult: US$5.00
- Child: US$5.00
Best beaches near Nassau
Because Nassau is on a Caribbean island, you’ll find beach after stunning beach wrapping the entire city. These beaches wow with fine white sand and crystal clear waters just beyond the surf. All of the beaches are public as well, making them easy to walk, whether you choose one right off of your resort in Nassau or one on the other side of the island.
Located just east of downtown Nassau, this beach is one of the more popular beaches on the island and for good reason. A semi-busy beach with a long stretch of white sand, you’ll find a mixture of locals and tourists enjoying the scene. Because this beach is found right along By Street, you’ll find that there is a lot to do nearby. Guests will also find views of the Atlantis resort just beyond along with a collection of boats enjoying the area as well. Because of all the boats nearby, this isn’t the best beach for swimming but is great for a morning walk or an afternoon picnic.
- Adult: free
- Child: free
Though the name may be a little scary, the beach is anything but. The reason behind the name is interesting however, as this beach was the site of the last Jaws movie. In reality, Jaws Beach is part of the Heritage park acreage and is a great choice for families with little kids due to the plentiful amount of natural shade and swallow water. Visitors will also find a few different trails to explore. Because of the mixture of white sand and rocks, this particular beach is very photogenic, meaning that you’ll want to bring a camera along with you.
- Adult: free
- Child: free
Best shopping in Nassau
In Nassau, and the entire island, you’ll find lots of different places to shop at. From small vendors to big shops, you’ll find it all. However, if you’re looking for a one in kind shopping experience, you’ll want to make sure to save ample time for the shopping excursion listed below.
Heritage Village Artists’ Studio
Different from your typical shopping experience where you brows through various trinkets and nick knacks before making your way up to the cashier, here you’ll get the chance to meet and interaction with the local artisans. Also, instead of buying re-prints and the like, you’ll instead be purchasing first-edition pieces that have been crafted locally. This brightly colored market is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
- Adult: free
- Child: free
Photos provided by Flickr users Tim Li, Fredric and Kimberly Mitchell, Boris Kasimov, Mike Burton, Norman Walsh, Reuben Whitehouse and Blue Skyz Studios.