Looking to go beyond the beach on your next holiday — but still want to enjoy beautiful sands and idyllic seascapes? Nassau Paradise Island is a perfect place to find tropical paradise, and much more.
There are endless holiday options for those who just want to flop down in the sunshine somewhere warm; the trick is to find a place that lets you tick that box while also opening your horizons and nourishing body, soul and mind.
If that sounds like you then Nassau Paradise Island — made up of Nassau, capital of The Bahamas, and Paradise Island just across a 600yd bridge — is an ideal choice. It’s a glorious dot on the map where food, culture, history and a sense of adventure are just as important as the beach life. It’s also a place that you can fly to six days a week with British Airways. Here’s what to expect from a trip, whether you’re going as a couple, a family or a larger group.
Where else can you start but with the beaches themselves? The Bahamas are a true island paradise, with endless stretches of soft, white sand fringed by palm trees, leading down to achingly perfect turquoise water that’s as clear as any in the world. It was in The Bahamas that Christopher Columbus first made landfall in the New World; it’s wonderful to imagine what those first European visitors must have thought when they dropped anchor amid such beauty.
As well as being beautiful, the beaches of Nassau Paradise Island are also plentiful. There are seemingly endless miles of perfect strand, so much so that you’re always able to find a stretch of quiet sand all to yourself. Laze back and enjoy the view, take a dip in the sea, or strap on a mask and snorkel and spot some of the varied marine life — it’s all there for you.
Many of the finest hotels on Paradise Island and elsewhere on Nassau are located right on the sand, from big resorts to smaller, more intimate spots. If you’re heading to The Bahamas with the kids, for example, then Atlantis Paradise Island is one of the former, a large hotel with pools, waterslides — including one that runs down a Mayan pyramid — and five miles of beach. If such watery thrills appeal, then two other resorts have their own waterparks: Baha Mar, with the newly-opened Baha Bay, and Margaritaville, which boasts the Fins Up Water Park that has its own surf simulator.
Couples, meanwhile, are spoilt for choice with romantic spots such as The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, which was used in the filming of Casino Royale, while there’s a couples-only option, Sandals Royal Bahamian, re-opening in January after a multi-million dollar renovation. Those seeking something smaller and full of character might prefer the old world-style of the famed Graycliff, which has hosted everyone from Winston Churchill to The Beatles amid lush gardens in the heart of Nassau.
Over the past five centuries The Bahamas have been subject to a huge range of influences from across the world, from English and Spanish to Dutch, African and American, and each one has left its mark on the food of the islands. The result of this melting pot is a unique cuisine that’s a huge source of pride and pleasure for Bahamians — and Nassau Paradise Island is the perfect place to sample what’s on offer.
Fine dining has arrived in a big way, with high-profile chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten (at the Four Seasons) and José Andrés (The Cove at Atlantis) having restaurants here. One place you can’t afford to miss is the gorgeous restaurant at the aforementioned Graycliff: not only is the food a spectacular mix of local and European specialities, it also has a truly world-class wine cellar. Small wonder that it was voted the best restaurant in the Caribbean in 2019.
Nearby is another true Nassau institution that couldn’t be more different: the Arawak Cay Fish Fry on West Bay Street in downtown Nassau. This isn’t one restaurant but an entire street of them, serving seafood plucked fresh from the balmy waters around the island, each one frequented by locals and visitors alike.
You can join a tour if you like, or else just spend a happy couple of hours exploring and enjoying the delicacies on offer, from lobster and snapper to the conch that’s served either ‘cracked’ (battered and deep fried) or ‘scorched’ (spiced with lime, onions and peppers).
The history and culture
Columbus might have been the first European to set foot on The Bahamas when he made landall in 1492, but there were settlers here long before. The Taino Indians beat the Spanish to it by 500 years, while later in their history the islands were claimed by the British in the early 17th century. Nassau became an important British naval base, and the remnants of the island’s colonial past are everywhere.
The architecture of Nassau’s oldest buildings is the most obvious sign you’ll see, but there are historic sites too, such as the wonderfully-preserved Fort Montagu and Fort Fincastle, the latter boasting the dramatic ‘Queen’s Staircase’ that leads to higher ground.
You’ll also find plenty of evidence of Nassau Paradise Island’s piratical past. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Nassau was the unofficial pirate capital of the world, with the likes of Edward Teach – the terrifying Blackbeard — among those who based himself here. This was also the hub of the trailblazing — albeit short-lived — ‘Republic of Pirates’, a confederation of outlaws who created their own code of conduct and rules for division of wealth that was in many ways more egalitarian than anything to be found in the chilly European nations that most of the pirates came from. The Pirates of Nassau museum tells these stories in just as much bloodthirsty detail as you’d hope; the kids (of all ages) will love it.
That’s just part of the story, though. Nassau has been a true crossroads of the Caribbean for centuries, and there are strong West African, Dutch and French influences. One thing that you’ll not be able to escape (nor will you want to) is Junkanoo, a Christmas and New Year festival that’s The Bahamas’ equivalent of Carnival, a riotous celebration of life that sees thousands of people don spectacular hand-made costumes to parade through the streets of Nassau. If you can come here for the festival itself so much the better, but there are regular Junkanoo-style events held throughout the year to give you a flavour of the experience.
The things to do
The sun shines 320 days a year in The Bahamas, and it’s certainly true that you could visit Nassau Paradise Island and simply make it a pool-and-beach holiday. Yet there’s so much to do here that it would be a real shame not to do a little more.
The trickiest part is probably knowing where to start. How about a boat trip out to the uninhabited Exumas islands just off-shore, where friendly wild pigs swim happily in the sea? A visit to John Watling’s Distillery, where some of the best rum in the region is made? Horseback riding on the beach? The full range of watersports, from sailing to scuba diving through shipwrecks?
Golfers in particular are spoilt, with several fabulous courses — and one, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Royal Blue at Baha Mar, which is rated in the top five in the Caribbean.
For thrill seekers there are options across the spectrum for adrenaline rushes of all kinds. But which is more likely to get the pulse racing: swimming with sharks or risking a bundle of chips on the spin of a roulette wheel at one of Nassau Paradise Island’s plush casinos?
No matter what you choose, you’ll also be able to wind down at night in one of the beautiful bars and nightclubs, whether it’s a sundowner at Marcus Samuelsson’s rooftop cocktail bar, the bustling nightlife of downtown Nassau or the opulent Jazz Bar at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.
Find out more about Nassau Paradise Island at nassauparadiseisland.com. British Airways fly direct to Nassau every day of the week except Mondays — book at www.ba.com/bahamas
Nassau, the city on the island of New Providence that's capital of The Bahamas, isn't just a beautiful Caribbean spot:
The Bahamas is justly famous for it's crystal-clear waters, flour-soft sand and 320 days a year of sunshine, but a