Last Updated on January 29, 2023
Why would I come to the tropical beach paradise of the Bahamas if I prefer dry land? Yes, I love to stroll on the beach, collect shells and take a quick dip in the ocean, but then I’m ready for my next adventure. My husband and sons, on the other hand, love scuba diving. On our visit, I was thrilled to send them off for a day of father-son bonding leaving me plenty of time to explore everything Nassau, Bahamas downtown offers.
Nassau, Bahamas Food and Drink Tours
If experiencing local food and drink is your thing, a day or two could easily be spent sipping and sampling your way through Nassau, Bahamas downtown. Tru Bahamian Food Tours introduces visitors to the varieties of local flavor. They have several tours run by locals who share their knowledge of the culture, stopping at small cafes and noting historical sites along the way.
I chose the Food Tasting and Cultural Walking tour and learned about the city between conch fritters and bites of steamed chicken with peas and rice.
Historic Nassau Graycliff Hotel
One of the stops on my tour, the Nassau Graycliff Hotel, is worth a much longer visit. This colonial mansion was built in 1740 by pirate Captain John Howard Graysmith with the spoils of his ocean plunders. The hedonistic pirate retreat high on a hill overlooking Nassau eventually became an inn in 1844, furnished with elaborate gardens, ornate chandeliers and richly decorated halls. Over the years it has hosted royalty, movie stars, and other famous guests including the Beatles and Sir Winston Churchill.
You don’t need a pirate’s bag of gold however to enjoy this opulent hotel. Cooking classes are available, guests can create their own confections at the onsite chocolate factory, take a cigar-rolling lesson, or explore the wine cellar. The 250,000-bottle collection is one of the largest in the world, and the hotel offers a five-course gourmet lunch with carefully selected wines including a tour of the cellar.
You can even blend a bottle of your own wine next door at Bahama Barrels. Once used as a convent by the Sisters of Charity, Nassau Graycliff revitalized the church grounds into a winery.
…and a Bottle of Rum (or beer)
Still haven’t had your fill? Take a free tour of John Watling’s Distillery and see how rum is produced on this 200-year-old estate overlooking the harbor. Another tour is available at Luna Rum Distillery which began as rum cake factory and now distills small batch artisanal rum with flavors like Calypso Cherry Chocolate.
More of a beer drinker? Drop in to Rip Ty’d Bahamian Craft Beer and sip some suds in their nautical-themed tasting room or hit Pirate Republic Brewing Company for an Island Pirate Ale.
Eat Like a Local
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, hop in a taxi from Nassau, Bahamas downtown to the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay where vendors sell made to order conch salad and fried fish. On weekends locals congregate here soaking up the seaside atmosphere with friends and while draining a cold drink.
Closer to town, authentic island flavors can be found at Bahamian Cookin’ Restaurant, operated by three generations of Bahamian women. Try the sampler with steamed grouper or chicken and plantains; add a cup of conch chowder – smooth, smokey and delicious. Amazing!
Discovering Nassau’s Art and History
If you prefer drinking in art or history, Pirates of Nassau offers an interactive swashbuckler experience in the heart of the old town. Admire the stained-glass windows and vaulted wood ceilings at nearby Christ Church Cathedral. The Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation was unfortunately closed during my visit; this important museum is built on the historic site of the former slave trading auction house.
A quirky place to rest your feet and take in art is the Towne Hotel. Grab a seat in the lobby and say hello to Max, the resident parrot. The owners have collected art from around the world to display in the lobby and Talking Stick Bar. The few pieces by local artists are especially notable.
Walking uphill through old town to Hillside House you’ll see colorful houses and murals. After arriving, walk through the lush courtyard to the back and find a small museum and studio of Nassau’s most celebrated artist and sculptor, Antonius Roberts. After enjoying the art in this centuries-old house, relax in the breezy courtyard and admire the orchids and sculptures.
Head to Paradise Island
Tired of walking or looking to get out on the water without getting in the water? I highly recommend taking a ferry boat ride from downtown Nassau to Paradise Island. Small skiffs leave from the cruise ship terminal about every 30 minutes. For $5 one-way you’ll feel the breeze in your hair while the captain regales passengers about the history of the Bahamas and shares juicy local gossip.
For instance, you’ll learn which movie stars live in all the fancy mansions and how much it costs to stay in the so-called Michael Jackson suite at the Atlantis resort. Docking at Paradise Island, it’s a short walk to the Atlantis and lunch at Margaritaville or Cabbage Beach.
Marina Village on Paradise Island boasts a collection of 20 designer shops and a handful of restaurants. It’s easy to combine shopping with a stroll past the luxury yachts to Atlantis where you can explore the lobby shops and restaurants.
Browse the Famous Straw Market
On the hunt for souvenirs? Browse the popular Straw Market in Nassau, Bahamas downtown before or after hopping on the ferry to Paradise Island. Remember to bring your bargaining skills, the Bahamians expect it and it’s all part of the experience.
After all this exploring it’s time to put on your swimsuit and take a quick dip in the pool or stroll along the sand and savor your memories from the beautiful city of Nassau …all beyond the beach.