Around Nassau Town

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25° 3′ N / 77° 20′ W  (published August 2014)

Nassau, in the Bahamas, has a rough reputation, and locals confirmed that I should watch myself as I rambled alone around the city. In the marina area east of the bridges to Paradise Island, people have had jewelry snatched off their necks by local toughs with fast hands and faster feet. The police maintain a visible presence in the blocks surrounding the cruise ship docks, and plain-clothes policemen and bicycle cops patrol the main thoroughfares of the city. That said, in three weeks of walking alone around Nassau I had no trouble, and many friendly, interesting encounters with local people.

For $125 a day you can have full access to the grand Atlantis resort, with its whimsical architecture, mosaic domes, water parks, gardens, shops and beach. The aquariums were a highlight, showcasing local reef fish, sharks, rays and jellyfish illuminated to enhance their otherworldly morphology. Even for an experienced diver, there was much to admire.

The colonial-era center of Nassau fans out from the cruise ship docks. The oldest building, Balcony House Museum, dates from around 1700 and many coral stone Georgian and Victorian structures still nestle along narrow streets. Stately government houses and parliament buildings painted flamingo pink are adorned by fine marble statues of Columbus and Queen Victoria. Horse-drawn surreys clip-clop by. The Queen’s Staircase, cut by slaves into the living stone, climbs steeply to the heights of Fort Fincastle. Up Blue Hill Road, you pass through older areas of town to the Graycliff Hotel. Built by a reformed buccaneer in the early 1700’s, the mansion is now furnished with antique furniture, and cool lush gardens. Nearby is the Art Museum of the Bahamas, showcasing Bahamian fine arts in various media.

DSCN6372 You can enjoy good local food at Fish Fry Beach, just west of downtown. Originally it consisted of little shacks cobbled together from odds and ends. Later, the businesses were improved with government grants. Now tidy and colorful, they are popular with locals and visitors alike.

DSCN6386  Another great place for lunch is “Under the Dock”, located beneath the easternmost span to Paradise Island. At many small shops you can get fresh conch salad and a local Sands beer for around $12. The fishing and conch boats moor there at Potter’s Cay, selling fresh conch, cobia, snapper and other fish. The market ladies nearby can provide the vegetables you’ll need to make your own conch salad back on the boat.

DSCN6939    The friendliness of the local people I met who kept me safe and shared their stories, recipes and customs, certainly made my visit to Nassau a memorable one.