What began as a collection of extensive coral reefs transformed into the famous islands of the Bahamas after sea levels drastically dropped centuries ago. Today, the Bahamas is comprised of approximately 700 land masses that come together to create one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean.
You won't find rivers or mountains on these islands made entirely of calcium carbonate, but you will discover thrilling attractions and a stunning place to vacation. Widen your browser to see more of the map.
The Bahamas are a collection of scattered islands with a rich past; this means there are unlimited shorelines to explore—both popular and secluded—as well as a long list of cultural and historical relics. The best-known attractions are concentrated toward the middle of the map, on Grand Bahama and New Providence Island, though many out-of-the-way gems can be found on the less popular Out Islands.
Grand Bahama has numerous natural attractions, many of them beaches. Gold Rock Beach is part of Lucayan National Park, about 25 miles from Freeport. Visitors say its worth the trip to see the low tide reveal a rippling “welcome mat” of sand. Lucayan Beach in Freeport is located in a very popular resort area, so there are lots of watersports to choose from, while nearby Taino Beach is part of a park with nature trails that wind through a bird sanctuary. Grand Bahamas' other sites include the Rand Nature Center in Freeport and Peterson Cay National Park, located on a small island just off the coast.
The Queen's Staircase is one of Nassau's most iconic attractions. The limestone steps, which are over 200 years old, serve as both a shortcut and a memorial to the slaves who built them. Also in Nassau are Forts Charlotte, Fincastle, and Montagu. Paradise Island is home to Versailles Gardens, where visitors will find interesting landscaping, old statues, and parts of a 14th-century French monastery brought from overseas. There are plenty of beaches in the Nassau area too, including Cable Beach, which backs up to a famous strip of hotels and resorts.
The Out Islands offer plenty of sites worth exploring, including plantations, caves, and historic churches. However, many say the Out Islands' highlights are their beaches. Treasure Cay Beach in the Abacos is a long, bright white stretch of sand known for its beauty. Pink Sands Beach at Harbour Island is also one of the very best in the Bahamas, named for the color of its sand. This beach was just one of the reasons that Harbour Island was ranked at number 32 on Travel + Leisure's 2013 list of the "World's Best Islands."
Many more national parks and reserves can be found throughout the Bahamas. These parks are natural habitats for many species of birds, sealife, wildlife, and plants. The Inagua National Park on Great Inagua Island is the world's largest breeding ground of West Indian Flamingos.
Nassau, located on New Providence Island near the center of the map, is the most popular tourist destination as well as the capital of the Bahamas. Bay Street is the town's main thoroughfare, where there's a mix of historic landmarks, shopping, and unique downtown restaurants. Nassau has numerous upscale hotels and all-inclusives, particularly along the northern coast, as well as some inland areas spotted with smaller inns and chain hotels.
Paradise Island is connected to its neighbor, Nassau by bridges. It's very small, and wholly tourist-oriented, featuring beautiful resorts, as well as the nightlife, family activities, and attractive outdoor sights that go with them. There are several lodging options here, most notably the massive Atlantis resort complex.
Just over 50 miles from the shores of Florida (on the left side of the map), Grand Bahama is one of the northernmost islands in the Bahamas. Freeport is the main city center, where resorts are typically attached to marinas or popular beaches. Lucaya, considered a suburb of Freeport, is where travelers will find some of the best accommodations and attractions in the area. West End is the true capital of Grand Bahama, where a large marina was recently renovated.
The Out Islands are the name for the remaining islands in the Bahamas. Locals sometimes call them the Family Islands, because Bahamian families reside there, where tourism is not a focus, and their traditional culture still flourishes. Visiting these islands makes for an authentic experience.
The Abaco Islands, with spots favored for sailing and multiple national parks, is a relaxing place to return to nature. Harbour Island, also known as Briland, features historic sites, New England architecture, and pink sand beaches. The Abacos are just west of Grand Bahama, while Harbour Island, part of the Eleuthera island collection, is approximately 60 miles from Nassau. Both have some hotel options.
The largest of the islands, Andros Island is also one of the least touched. About 30 miles west of Nassau, it has one of the biggest barrier reefs in the world, making it a secret paradise for fisherman and divers. Despite its seclusion, there are a few small lodging options to choose from.
The airports most often used in the Bahamas are Grand Bahama International (FPO) in Freeport, and Nassau International (NAS). The latter is the larger facility, but both are large airports serving the United States, as well as other Caribbean destinations. Abaco Island also has its own international airport. There are other airports scattered throughout the Bahamas, but they are mostly for small regional flights, and for private use.
There are two major cruise ports: Prince George Wharf in Nassau, and the Lucayan Harbour Cruise Facility on Grand Bahama. However, several of the cruise lines have purchased small cays where they have built facilities used exclusively for use by their ships. It's also possible that your ship may arrive in a place like Little San Salvador Island, where a tender boat will take you ashore.
The best way to hop between nearby islands is by boat, and luckily there are harbors or marinas at almost every destination. Your options may include catching a ride on a scheduled ferry or cargo-carrying mail boat, or chartering a private ride.
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