The fourth largest and second most populated island in the Bahamas, Grand Bahama Island has recently enjoyed a spurt of commercial growth. While the island was originally developed in the 1950s, the cruise ship traffic tended to bypass it in favor of nearby Nassau. However, lately ships such as the Discovery have begun to make Freeport their main port of call, revitalizing the tourist trade on this sleepy island.
Although 41,000 people live on Grand Bahama, they are spread out over such a wide area as to make the island seem nearly uninhabited in parts. Wide stretches of road and miles of white sandy beach are empty for days at a time. You can walk for hours without seeing anyone. On the other hand, if you travel a few miles to bustling
As far as tourists are concerned, Port Lucaya is the center of Grand Bahamas. The cruise ships dock here, the activity boats depart from here, and the night life is concentrated here for the most part, in the
The port itself is very busy during the daytime, all the way up to the sunset hours. During the morning hours, dozens of activity brokers, barkers and ship captains try to draw in customers for activities ranging from sport fishing to snorkeling to parasailing. Buses full of tourists from major hotels arrive at the port and line up for the
Nighttime options in Port Lucaya vary a tiny bit. There's live music in Count Basie Square, a half-dozen little bars (frequented by locals and tourists alike) and a few hotel lounges. Fortunate guests of the Lucayan can splash around in the gigantic rock-formation hot tub. For people who want to make a mellow night of it, several open-air restaurants and casual sweet shops are open till around 10p. Enjoy dinner, a snack, or coffee with friends. Ice cream at
It's a toss-up whether this district or Port Lucaya is the hottest spot in Freeport. Since they're several miles away from each other, it doesn't make much sense to go to both districts in one day—especially if you're taking a cab (since there is almost no public transportation in Freeport, cabs are usually the best option). While the Bazaar doesn't have a busy harbor to draw people, it has something that is for some even more tempting, a Las Vegas-style casino. Located at the Resort at Bahamia, this
During the daytime, the Bazaar is a great choice for shopping. It has nearly 100 specialty shops and restaurants, many of them purveying duty-free goods such as liquor, perfume and fine jewelry. Most people who shop in the Bahamas are looking to buy either souvenirs or duty-free merchandise. At places such as
Another seemingly minor but actually important feature of this area is the 24-hour ATM located in the Casino at Bahamia. It's the only one on the island that is accessible on weekends. While this may not seem important at first, at midnight on a Friday night, it becomes the deciding factor in many people's plans for the night.
This is the epicenter of local business in Freeport. While it isn't nearly as aesthetically appealing as the pristinely manicured Bazaar area or the brightly touristy port, it is where the majority of locals choose to shop and conduct business. If you're looking for a lawyer, a doctor, a phone card or a bargain, this is the place to find it.
Two downtown businesses that draw a steady stream of tourists are the
The Cyber Café is another way of communicating with loved ones in far away places. About a dozen computers are in the café, and there's often a wait. However, pay-per-view movies play and snacks are for sale, making the wait fairly pleasant.
There are a few hotels downtown, including the
Aside from the three main districts on Grand Bahama Island, there are a number of small villages and beachfront resort communities. They are spread out around the perimeter of the island, and make for entertaining daytime excursions, if one is of a mind to sightsee. Most of the resorts offer a full range of amenities and activities, making it unnecessary for guests to leave the secluded property and venture into town.
Xanadu Beach is a very popular swimming and sport beach, and has two water sport companies located onsite. The
Mather Town and Fortune Beach are located about a ten minutes driving distance from Port Lucaya. A few restaurants are on the seven-mile strip of beach. Banana Bay and Margaritaville are popular with locals.
The West End and the East End of Grand Bahamas are both very secluded areas. What little tourism trade exists caters to nature lovers. Paradise Cove on the western tip offers some of the best snorkeling on the island, while the
One interesting thing to keep in mind while traversing Grand Bahama Island: Freeport is the main city on the island. For the purposes of addresses, it is also the only city. Every business, from the downtown BatelCo to secluded Old Bahama Bay, is listed as being in Freeport. Put simply, Grand Bahama Island is Freeport, and vice versa.
Grand Bahama Island likes to call itself a cosmopolitan center, but as of yet it hasn't reached that level. It does, however, boast an array of outdoor activities and natural wonders that are largely unspoiled by the human touch. It also has a decent amount of shopping and dining options. While no one finds it to be a whirlwind of activity, anyone who enjoys the outdoors and the early morning is going to find much to see and do on the island.