Using planes, boats and bridges, this author revisits two of her favorite islands: New Providence (better known as Nassau) and quite Harbour Island.
When I was invited to join an “Island Hopping Through the Bahamas” press tour, I could not resist the opportunity to go back to some of my favorite childhood vacation spots. The biggest and busiest island we visited was Providence Island, better known as Nassau, linked to Paradise Island by a high arch bridge. Nassau/Paradise Island is less than an hour’s plane ride from Grand Bahama Island aboard Bahamasair, the islands’ national airline.
Busy Nassau & Paradise Island
Points of interest include a scary dark walk through a museum called the Pirates of Nassau (242/356-3759 – Open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm, Sunday from 9am to Noon), where pirate-clad actors pop up between wax figures of bad guys from the seas.
Doongalik Studios (242-394-1886) consists of historic buildings, an art gallery, sculptures and costume displays from Junkanoo Festival, a colorful national cultural festival that dates back to times of slavery, held on Boxing Day – Dec. 26th and New Years Day – January 1st, annually. It’s located at 18 Village Road, Nassau
Nassau-based Educulture Bahamas Ltd. (242/328-DRUM) offers families exciting and informative activities. The Ride-And Learn Tours bring Nassau’s history and culture to life for youngsters of all ages. The Junkanoo Workshop offers families an opportunity to learn about the sights and loud drum sounds of the festival and best of all, make souvenirs using Junkanoo costume techniques. Kids can make a mask, wall hanging, or hat after they tour the Junkanoo Museum, watch a video presentation, and sip some complimentary juice. The museum is located at Ivern House on West Street in the historic district. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Ardasta Gardens (242/323-5806) has a small zoo with native iguanas, monkeys, snakes and rare birds, but the main attraction is the flamingos on parade – long pink legs choreographed in unison. Having had so much trouble training my one dog, I was in awe of the flamingo ‘handlers’ feats. The Gardens are open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Other tourist sites include Fort Fincastle and Arawak Cay, where food stalls are filled with fish fry and conch salad, a delicious and economical way to feed your family lunch.
Of course, the towering pink Atlantis is one of the most popular resorts on Paradise Island, but if you’re looking for something a little quieter, stay at elegant Sheraton Grand Resort, right next door. Kids (ages 3-12) staying at the Sheraton are allowed to participate in the wonderful Camp Lucaya (for a fee). The Sheraton Grand hosts its own children’s activities during the holidays.
Quiet Harbour Island
Harbour Island is an out-island just one mile off the northern coast of Eleuthera, famous for its pink sand beach. We could hardly wait to board the Bahamas Fast Ferry (242/323 2166) for our two-hour boat ride to this quaint island, known locally as Briland. There isn’t too much to do on Briland, and that suits visitors wanting rest and relaxation just fine. A great way to discover this three-mile-long, half mile wide charming landscape is by golf cart. Four-and-six-seater carts are readily available for rent at the ferry docks or through local hotels.
The island’s first major settlement, named after the 18th-century royal governor of the islands, Lord Dunmore, was the original capital of The Bahamas. If you can tear yourself away from the powdery pink, sandy beach, you’ll discover pastel-colored board homes edged by white picket fences and tropical flowers.
The Plateau and the Arch are both giant coral structures densely populated with marine life, and natural magnets for serious divers from around the world. You could do Harbour Island in a day or stay over at one of the cozy properties including the Romora Bay Club, the very chic bungalows at Pink Sands or Coral Sands. Enterprising citizens owning horses offer rides on the beach.
Who let the Dogs Out?
The Baha Men aren’t the only friendly locals from these islands. The Ministry of Tourism provides a wonderful way to experience the Bahamian way of life with its “People-To-People Program.” Families are matched with volunteers with children of similar ages and compatible interests for a day or evening.
Activities might include boating, fishing, shopping at the local outdoor market, taking a “back-street-tour” or having a traditional meal of Peas ‘n Rice, fried fish and Guava Duff at your hosts’ home.
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