Home to over half of the Bahamian population, Nassau brings to mind many things to many people. To some, it is the fine sand that ribbons the coast—so pure that it makes some think of baby powder, how smooth and white it is. To others, gambling comes to the fore, as the Bahamas are known for their world-class casinos. Others dream of their retirement in a colonial island paradise whose government increasingly recognizes that its inherent beauty is its economic strength. Yet for others, thoughts turn back to the 1980s, the days of the illegal substance cowboys exemplified by Don Johnson, Phillip Michael Thomas and the TV show "Miami Vice,"—the modern-day smugglers in high-speed chases from the American mainland to The Bahamas, as well as romance on the high seas. All this makes for a plethora of water sports and activities, superb shopping, excellent historic sites and a hopping nighttime scene.
But of course, the island of Nassau is so much more, it is an antidote for people needing relief from the day-to-day hassles and stress of life in the "real world", where the concern is not which reef to visit but which bill to pay. So the question is, "where do you go to best enjoy all these things?"
Downtown is the hub of activity in Nassau. Thousands of people visit daily, to shop, dine, sightsee and enjoy the bustling atmosphere of this port city. While the busiest part of Downtown is the Bay Street thoroughfare and the Woodes-Rodgers Walk, located across the street from the port and parallel to Bay, the area actually extends for several blocks in each direction. It starts at West Bay, around the Junkanoo Beach area. A few hotels and restaurants are located on West Bay, most notably
The pace in this district is busy, so it is frantic at times. Without a doubt, it gets the most foot traffic on the entire island. This place is perfect for recreational shoppers, sightseers and first-time visitors.
If Downtown Bay Street is known for its shopping, Cable Beach is the recognized hotel district. Five enormous hotels—two of them all-inclusive—are located on this strip. The area is also known for its dining options, the magnificent
This is a quieter, calmer place then Downtown. It's harder to walk from one place to another, and no one really wants to bother. It's much nicer to relax at a pool bar or splash in the waves. If things get boring, it's easy to catch a cab or a Number 10 bus and go to Bay Street.
Nothing can prepare one for the sight of the Atlantis, an enormous hotel/resort/aquarium/ water park modeled after the legendary sunken city. The rest of Paradise Island isn't at all shabby either. In fact, it is a veritable man-made oasis, built over what used to be a lackluster patch of ground known as Hog Island. The first resort to draw people to the island was the venerable Club Land'or. While this tiny club is very much in the shadow of the Atlantis, it still has many loyal fans. Golfers should check out the Clarion South Ocean Resort and Golf Club, while wealthy travelers desiring quiet will appreciate the
Paradise Island is stunning in some parts, lovely in others, and in some...well, it's not finished yet. There is constant construction and even more constant renovation as hotels strive to match up to the world-famous Atlantis. This is easily the most expensive and tourist-oriented place in all of the Bahamas, but no one would deny that it's a lot of fun. There's no bus over the Bridge. Drive, or take a cab or bus to the foot and walk.
There are many other parts of Nassau, however, they are strictly for locals; so there's nothing in the way of attractions, and very little interesting shopping. Anyone looking for a stereo, a pair of jeans or some inexpensive groceries can hop on a number 18 bus from the transit center and head to the
However, for sheer energy, activity and entertainment, a visitor could remain in the main three districts of Nassau for an entire vacation without ever getting bored.