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23 Best Things to do in Nassau (secrets from a local)

23 Best Things to do in Nassau (secrets from a local)

The Bahamas are an excellent place to sit by the beach and relax. But when visiting Nassau there are so many things to do in Nassau and so much to see outside of Atlantis Paradise Island. My family is from Nassau so we know the best-kept secrets for visitors who want to see the real Bahamas lifestyle.

The island life is calling! Nassau is the largest tourist destination in the Bahamas. The international airport makes it easy for people from around the world to get there. There are also a number of airport transfers that make it easy to get downtown.

The sad part is that most visitors go to Atlantis and Paradise Island and never see the real Nassau. Don’t worry, I’ve compiled the best list of things to do in Nassau off the tourist agenda.

Before you go we recommend purchasing some travel insurance. Health care in the Bahamas is limited so you will want to be protected.

Nassau Island Highlights Tour with Rum Tasting
1. Nassau: Island Highlights Tour with Rum Tasting Top Recommendation

Looking to explore Nassau and try some delicious rum cake? This island highlights tour is perfect for you! Your guide will take you to all the must-see landmarks, like Queen Victoria's staircase and the Atlantis resort. You'll also have the chance to sample some local favorites at the Bahamas Rum Cake Factory. And of course, you'll learn all about Nassau's history and culture along the way.

Highlights of Nassau Tour
2. Highlights of Nassau Tour

See the highlights of Nassau without the hassle of trying to navigate on your own. Let Bigmama's Tours guides show you the ropes and ensure you have a great time while learning about the culture and history of this beautiful island. Travel between attractions with ease in an air-conditioned minivan, making this the perfect shore excursion for those with limited time. Round-trip transport from downtown Nassau is included, so all you have to worry about is having a good time.

Nassau Glass Bottom Boat Banana Boat and Snorkelling Tour
3. Nassau: Glass Bottom Boat, Banana Boat and Snorkelling Tour

Looking for an amazing way to see the coral reefs and all the sea life that calls them home? Then this Nassau: Glass Bottom Boat, Banana Boat and Snorkelling Tour is perfect for you! You'll get to enjoy the sights of the ocean from the comfort of a glass bottom boat. And if you're feeling adventurous, you can even snorkel with the fish and other wildlife. Afterwards, you can relax and soak up the sun on a banana boat ride.

Best Non-Touristy Things to do in Nassau

There is so much more to Nassau, Bahamas, and New Providence Island than beaches and Atlantis resort water parks – the people are friendly, the food is fantastic, and the culture is fun.

If you are a cruise ship visitor, take a guided tour (we highly recommend this tour for groups, and this one) to visit the top sights in a short amount of time.

1. Visit local shops on Bay Street

Bay Street
image by roger4336 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

One of the top things to do in Nassau, Bahamas is to stroll Bay Street, the main street in downtown Nassau. The best way to see it all is to take a guided tour where you can learn the history.

Walking along here you will pass the Straw Market (rebuilt from a fire) filled with souvenirs from local vendors and a few authentic shops.

The main street is a short walk from Prince George Wharf where the cruise ship port is. From here you can walk to most of the things to do in Nassau, Bahamas.

Many bars and restaurants, and some exquisite jewelers also line the street. If you continue on to West Bay Street you’ll find beaches and a lot of natural beauty.

2. Shop for Souvenirs at the Straw Market

A. Baker & Sons, Oldest Store in Nassau

The Straw Market is a Nassau tradition and a lot of fun for the whole family. Some shops have a lot of tourist-type t-shirts, but many shops are but local vendors and Bahamian artists.

Some shops at the Straw Market specialize in straw purses and hats, while others are wood carvers. Look around before you buy, there might just be a hidden gem by one of many talented local artists that you would have passed!

Check out the oldest store in Nassau, Bahamas, A. Baker & Sons. A family-run business for over 100 years, the shop is filled with Victorian-style British clothing (shipped directly from top stores in England), and an extensive hat collection.

The inventory is a bit old, but the shirts, hats, and cuff links are top-quality. This is also the place to go for Christening gowns.

3. Enjoy Local Rum

Nassau Rum Tasting Experience
image by GetYourGuide

Head down the street from A. Baker & Sons and stop at the Bahamas Rum Cake shop. They have free samples, rum, and fabulous rum cake. Bring home some rum cake for a souvenir, or for your friends and family.

If you like rum…book this tour with GetYourGuide“Stroll downtown Nassau, stopping to taste Caribbean rums and rum-infused desserts on a 2-hour walking tour. Journey back to pirate-plundering and rum-running days, when rum and other spirits played a colorful role in Bahamian history.” 

A local will take you on a walking tour of Nassau and you can experience all the best rums! It is two hours long, the perfect amount of time to explore the rum culture and get back on with your own local tour!

4. Drink like a Pirate at Pirate Republic Brewing

Pirate Republic Brewing
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Another great local spot for cruise ship visitors, Pirate Republic Brewing is a short walk from Prince George Wharf and has some of the best craft beer in town.

The brewery offers all different types of beers and some bar food. It is a fun spot to cool off after visiting the national parks or the beach.

Visit Historic Nassau Landmarks

Many visitors fail to notice that there are historic landmarks in Nassau. You won’t find a water park but you will earn about Bahamian culture!

There are several Nassau attractions and historic forts that were built back when international lands wanted to gain control of the Caribbean.

The best part about these landmarks is that tourists rarely visit – they prefer to be at the beach. So you can view historic sights without all the crowds, and learn a little while you are there.

You can even book a historic landmark walking tour!

5. Visit Parliament Square in Nassau Bahamas

Nassau Government Center

Unlike the large, stone government buildings in other countries, Nassau’s government center in Parliament Square is perfectly pink in the Caribbean style.

Nassau gained its independence from Great Britain in the 1960s. The government is set up similar to that in England, with a Parliament and court system.

The Prime Minister sits at the head (like an American President), and the cabinet is made up of many members like the Minister of Education, Minister of Finance, and Minister of Tourism. Fun fact, my grandfather was the Minister of Education in the 1960s. We like to visit and see parts of his legacy remain.

Parliament Square is worth visiting to see the pink government house buildings with swaying palm trees, and a very old library nearby.

Behind the government house building are the courts. You can still see lawyers and judges dressed in traditional English gowns and white-haired wigs.

Nearby the government house is the library.

A small round building (nearby Cafe Matisse, keep reading for that!), in the center of a park, has old and new books alike. A fun spot to tour, or just to take pictures of, it is away from the crowded streets and quite peaceful.

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6. The Queen’s Staircase

Queen's Staircase
image by Banja-Frans Mulder is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Probably the most-visited landmark in Nassau, the Queen’s Staircase is over 100 feet of solid limestone steps. The Queen’s Staircase was built in the 1700s by enslaved people, and it took over 16 years to make.

The Queen’s Staircase was later named for Queen Victoria who abolished slavery when she took the throne.

The Queen’s Staircase is one of the best things to do in Nassau because it is free to visit and climb! At the top of the stairs you can visit Fort Fincastle, keep reading for more about the historic forts!

7. Visit the Old Forts built to Defend Nassau

One of the lesser-known things to do in Nassau, Bahamas is to visit the old forts. Fort Charlotte is the easiest to walk to, Fort Fincastle has panoramic views, and Fort Montagu is the oldest fort. Each of these historic sites is worth a visit.

Fort Charlotte

Fort Charlotte
image by reivax is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Fort Charlotte is built on a hill overlooking Nassau Harbour. From on top of the hill, you can see Paradise Island and the expansive ocean. It is nearby downtown Nassau, a short walk from where the cruise ships dock. This is the largest fort in Nassau, Bahamas, and has great views. Perfect for that Instagram shot!

Fort Charlotte was built in the late 1700s to attack the invading Spaniards. Here you can see a moat, dungeons, hidden passageways underground, and dozens of cannons.

Stop by on a Wednesday or Friday at 11:30 am to see a live play of people dressed in period wear and act what life would be like in the late 1700s! They even fire the cannon!

Fort Fincastle

Fort Fincastle
image by Taugenichts80 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Located on top of Bennet’s Hill, up the Queen’s Staircase, Fort Fincastle towers above downtown Nassau. Fort Fincastle makes the list of the best things to do in Nassau because you get panoramic views of Nassau Harbor and the colorful buildings of downtown Nassau.

Built in the late 1700s, Fort Fincastle is built out of limestone to protect Nassau. It is the highest point on New Providence Island, it functioned as a lighthouse for the first part of its life.

Fort Montagu

Fort Montagu
image by JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Fort Montagu dates back to the early 1700s. It was built to defend against the Spanish. And it’s a great free thing to do in Nassau. Free tours are available daily from 8 am-3 pm.

Fort Montagu is a great spot for views of the ocean and to learn a little history.

Nassau, Bahamas, and the Caribbean are both well-known for pirates, but the Bahamas was also a center for international powers to try to take over the Caribbean and several forts were built to defend against intruders. It is cool to see old forts still present today.

Who knows, Blackbeard could have visited the forts one day!

8. Pompey Square

Pompey Square
image by Joy C/TripAdvisor

Pompey Square is right in downtown Nassau. The square is named after an enslaved person who led a revolt against slavery. Pompey was essential in moving forward with the Emancipation Act in the Bahamas.

The square is home to the Museum of Slavery and Emancipation as well as shops and dining spots.

SECRET TIPOn Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Pompey Square has an open-air marketplace where you can shop for authentic Bahamian crafts and art.

9. Wander the French Cloister Relics

Versailles Gardens and Cloisters
image by Rüdiger Stehn is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the most unique things to do in Nassau is to visit the Cloister. The Cloister was originally built in France as a monastery in the 1300s. It was moved across the Atlantic and now sits on the Four Seasons property. The Cloister is a remarkable Roman-style structure that frequently hosts events.

The Cloister is worth visiting because this type of structure is rare in the Caribbean where heat, hurricanes, and humid weather tear down many buildings. And it is one of the very few French structures to be moved from France across the Atlantic.

10. Check Out Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral
image by roger4336 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Built on the same site as the first church in Nassau, Christ Church was built in 1841 and is still in use today.

Christ Church Cathedral is one of the most historic things to do in Nassau, Bahamas because the congregation dates back to the mid-1600s. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 am-5 pm and offers several regular church services.

The Christ Church Cathedral has beautiful stained glass windows and intricate wooden carvings – including a tiny church mouse! The coolest part of Christ Church Cathedral is the tablets along the walls. Each tablet traces a trial of a Nassau citizen for over the past 100 years.

And the gardens of Christ Church Cathedral have an old graveyard with stones as far back as the 1760s.

11. “Blackbeard’s” Tower

Blackbeard's Tower
image by JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD  is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Blackbeard’s Tower is a rumored outlook for Blackbeard in Nassau. It was built in the late 1600s, and early 1700s, and is free to visit. It is a fun spot to bring kids to, they can pretend to be pirates!

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Check out Local Museums of Nassau, Bahamas

Museums may not be on every tourist’s list of things to do in Nassau but the museums house a lot of great information.

12. Pirates of Nassau Museum

Pirates of Nassau Museum
image by JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Pirates of Nassau Museum is a super fun place to visit. Its interactive exhibits take you back in time to when Nassau, Bahamas was the epicenter of pirate activity.

The Pirates of Nassau Museum displays old pirate flags, a pirate ship, and different exhibits that immerse you into the “old” days. Make sure to check out the escape room called “Blackbeard’s Escape.”

13. National Art Gallery

National Art Gallery Building
image by ArnoldReinhold  is licensed under CC BY 4.0

The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas is located in downtown Nassau, Bahamas nearby the government house. The Bahamas National Art Gallery was founded in the early 2000s and few tourists make the time to stop in.

At the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, you can see different exhibitions including some that are immersive and interactive. It is a great spot to learn about Bahamian culture and art!

The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas is closed on Mondays, but is open the rest of the week until 5 pm.

Enjoy Amazing Food

Trying the true Bahamian food must be on your list of things to do in Nassau. There are a lot of great restaurants to experience. And no, Senior Frogs is not on this list.

14. Try Real Bohemian Food at the Fish Fry

Nighttime Fish Fry  Shop in Nassau

A true Bahamian tradition. The fish fry is a long street filled with fun restaurants serving up platters of traditional Bahamian food. Peas and rice anyone?

Quite frankly, this is one of my absolute favorite things to do in Nassau, Bahamas. All the local restaurants are good, you really can’t go wrong. Stroll along the fish fry until you find a spot that suits you.

Order well, and maybe split a meal. Depending on where you go portions can be quite large. Just make sure to pair your order with our favorite drink – sky juice!

On our latest trip, we stopped in at Drifters for dinner and it was great. The portions were huge though so we had to split! We’d recommend coming to the fish fry in the late afternoon to dusk. It is a bit up the road, and you’ll need to head back to Downtown Nassau before it gets too late.

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15. Dine at the best local restaurants

Whether you are coming on a cruise ship or staying on Paradise Island, you have to take the time to try the restaurants in Nassau, Bahamas. There are a lot of great restaurants downtown and just outside. These are a few of our favorites.

You can also go on a food tour, like this one or this one, to experience a lot of different local foods.

Upscale Dining at Café Matisse

Cafe Matisse, Nassau

An upscale Italian restaurant located in Parliament Square, Café Matisse is a place to see and be seen. The food is fantastic and you will likely see top government officials dining here.

Their back patio is serene and picturesque. The food is fantastic, portobello mushroom gratin with gorgonzola cheese and Osso Bucco grace the robust menu of Italian fare.

The wine list is surprising, and the dessert is traditionally Italian. I come here every trip and am always pleased with the wonderful service and dining options!

The Poop Deck

Sunset view from The Poop Deck, Nassau, East Bay Street.

A casual restaurant overlooking the harbor and Paradise Island, The Poop Deck (at East Bay Street) catches fresh fish and brings them straight from the ocean to your plate.

One of our favorite restaurants-we go every visit!

The Poop Deck’s fresh catch is on display, you choose it, and they cook it perfectly. They are well-known for their snapper, but we love their crab claws!

Sip tea at Graycliff Manor & Hotel

Graycliff Hotel Dining Experience
image by Booking.com

All the locals know that Graycliff Hotel (or Graycliff Manor) is the place to go for a traditional British experience. Back when Nassau, Bahamas was under British rule this historic manor was adorned with exquisite furnishings and linens.

We highly recommend enjoying afternoon tea here. You can reserve your visit and afternoon tea time here, and sit back and relax while enjoying traditional British decor with excellent tea and snacks.

If tea isn’t your thing, you can visit Graycliff Manor for a wine luncheon complete with a tour of the wine cellars. Book in advance here, time slots fill up fast!

16. Explore Clifton Heritage National Park

Clifton Heritage National Park
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Of all the items on this list, Clifton Heritage National Park is one of the most unique things to do in Nassau, Bahamas. Located on the west side of New Providence Island, Clifton Heritage National Park boasts colorful coral reefs and an epic snorkeling experience.

Clifton Heritage National Park offers winding trails with cliffs, dunes, coastal wetlands, sandy beaches, and coral reefs. It is also a wildlife conservation center. Bring your camera with you. The panoramic views from the cliffs are breathtaking.

Visiting the park can be a short visit or you can take a full day trip to see all of it. It is great to see Nassau, the Bahamas protecting its natural beauty.

17. Peek in Primeval Forest National Park

Staircase in Primeval Forest National Park
image by iAmEesh/TripAdvisor

You don’t need to go on any day trips to see the old habitat at Primeval Forest National Park. Nassau boasts this very small national park on the southern side of New Providence Island. It is nearby Clifton Heritage so you can see both on the same day.

This small national park is a very old patch of Blackland coppice and karst. The locals know that Primeval Forest National Park is an untouched time capsule of what the Bahamas used to be – evergreen tropical hardwood forests.

Visiting Primeval Forest National Park is like stepping back in time. You can feel the presence of pirates in the true natural habitat of old Nassau, Bahamas.

Enjoy Local Beaches

Visiting beaches is part of Bahamian culture, but you want to go to the right spot for your non-touristy things to do in Nassau. Most of these beaches offer jet skiing and other water sports.

18. Cable Beach

Sunset at Cable Beach

Cable Beach is one of the longest and most popular beaches for visitors and locals alike. The views and activities make Cable Beach one of the top things to do in Nassau.

Cable Beach is over a mile long and houses all the top resorts on New Providence Island. From Cable Beach, you can take boat tours, go snorkeling, and even parasailing. Cable Beach also offers the largest casino and an exquisite golf course.

If you ask the locals, Cable Beach was a quiet beach in Nassau, Bahamas. Today it is a booming beach with awesome views and a lot to do.

19. Junkanoo Beach

Junkanoo Beach Sunset

Junkanoo Beach is the local’s favorite beach to visit. Just a short walk from downtown Nassau you’ll find the public Junkanoo Beach. It connects downtown to the Fish Fry and is a great spot to relax during the day.

Junkanoo beach is one of the top things to do in Nassau because it is an easy beach to visit and swim at, and it’s just a short walk from downtown.

20. Cabbage Beach

Cabbage Beach
image by Rüdiger Stehn is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

If you’re looking for a beach with easy access to jet skis and parasailing, Cabbage Beach is the right spot for you. With its white sandy beaches and plethora of local vendors selling their crafts, Cabbage Beach is a great spot to relax.

Book your parasailing adventure here– it’s less expensive than buying from a vendor on the beach.

The water at Cabbage Beach is usually too rough to swim in. The waves are strong, so it’s best to stay relaxing on the white sand.

Honestly, who doesn’t have to relax on the beach on their list of things to do in Nassau?

The nearby Cove Beach is also a great spot to visit.

Go on a day trip from Nassau, Bahamas

There are a lot of unique day trips from Nassau off of New Providence Island that locals highly recommend. Of course, there are a lot of things to do in Nassau, but there is a lot to see just outside.

21. Sail to Rose Island

Snorkeling at Rose Island

Rose Island has pink sands, clear waters, and a private beach. They only allow a few boats to visit each day, so it feels like you have your private island.

Pack a travel backpack with some local beers (SANDS and KALIK) and cruise on over for one of the most perfect day trips from Nassau, Bahamas.

The boat ride takes about an hour or two and is gorgeous. Once you are at Rose Island, you can snorkel, swim, and relax on the beach.

I hear there is a bar on the island, but it was not open when I went. I took this tour with getting Your Guide, (book using this link for the best price) and it was excellent. Far away from downtown Nassau you can enjoy the sandy beaches and tropical island.

22. Visit Blue Lagoon Island

Blue Lagoon Island Aerial View
image by SallySwims is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Blue Lagoon Island is a private island about 5km from downtown Nassau. It was actually known as Treasure Island for a long period of time. This is one of the more touristy things to do in Nassau, but it is still a beautiful place.

At the Blue Lagoon Island you can experience Salt Cay and a lot of clear blue water. Pull up some beach chairs and enjoy looking out over the Blue Lagoon. Or you can rent clear-bottom kayaks to take in the Blue Lagoon from above.

23. Check out Paradise Island and Atlantis Resort

Atlantis Resort
image y roger4336 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Paradise Island is where all the tourists visit. It is the most modern and Paradise Island is great for families, there is a ton to do with Atlantis and other water parks. But it is very expensive and does not show the real Nassau.

To see both Paradise Island and Nassau, book this guided tour by a local. You won’t be disappointed.

The Atlantis resort is the most popular place to stay. Here there is a casino, an epic acquarium, and a crazy water park. Atlantis resort is a great spot for families and it really has it all.

We’ve enjoyed our visits to Paradise Island, but we are mainland Nassau fans to our core. But if you are staying on Paradise Island you can still enjoy some local aspects of Nassau. They do a weekly Junkanoo celebration with people dressed in traditional garb.

There’s a limited amount of restauran?partner_id=VDAXC0T&utm_medium=online_publisherts on Paradise Island. It’s sort of a place to solely live in a beach house with family or widdle through the massive complex that is called Atlantis Paradise Island.

One thing that Paradise Island offers is excellent beaches. It’s a great place to spend a day at the beach and get away from the city center of Nassau, Bahamas.

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Conclusion

There are a lot of fun things to do in Nassau, Bahamas that are less touristy. The best way to see them all is by a private tour like this one. Step away from Atlantis Paradise Island and you’ll discover the true Bahamian culture. Nassau is a great place to visit the true Caribbean lifestyle.

We promise that if you try true-Bahamian things to do in Nassau it will become your favorite destination. Let us know about your visit by tagging us @viatravelers or using #viatravelers

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