Nassau – The Bahamas’ capital city on New Providence Island – is by far the most visited destination in the Bahamas.
In fact, even though the country has more than 30 inhabited islands to visit, 60% of visitors in 2021 went to Nassau. But the thing is, many tourists who head to Nassau never leave their glitzy resorts.
Other travelers come through Nassau on a cruise ship into Prince George Wharf, and head straight to the nearby straw market on Bay Street, Senior Frogs, or Junkanoo Beach – some of the more touristy sites on the island.
While those may be fun, I was convinced that there must be more unique activities to offer its visitors. So on a recent trip, I spent a day in Nassau off the beach. I was pleasantly surprised.
If you’re thinking about heading to Nassau, you should know there are plenty of unique Nassau activities beyond the resort walls, and beyond the sand and sea.
Before we dive in, a quick word about transportation. Taxis in Nassau are easy to come by—but they can get expensive.
For example, the 10-minute ride from the airport to Baha Mar resort will run you $22 for two people. If you go farther, getting around Nassau by taxi could run you $35-$40 each leg.
To save a little money, I tried the Jitney bus, Nassau’s public minibus service. It’s only $1.25 per ride. Two of the main Jitney routes—the #10 and #12—run to some of Nassau’s most popular attractions.
Before you jump in a taxi, I recommend asking someone whether there’s a nearby bus route that might get you there.
With that said, here are my top recommendations for spending a day in Nassau off the beach.
This is a guest post by Lee from Mango Tree Travel. She helps families find the perfect family-friendly hotel for their Caribbean vacation.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through this link, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for keeping Stuck On The Go going!
1. Visit the Queen’s Staircase
Ok, let’s get started! A great way to start your day in Nassau would be with a visit to the Queen’s staircase. This is one of Nassau’s most popular tourist attractions, and for good reason.
Also called the 66 steps, the Queen’s staircase was hand-carved out of solid limestone by slaves in the late 18th century. The previously unnamed staircase was given its name in the 1800s to honor Queen Victoria for ending slavery in the British colonies.
The staircase is gorgeous, which is why so many people visit it for photos. It’s surrounded by a lush garden and a waterfall. The palms and cool limestone walls that enclose the stairs provide a much-needed break from the island heat.
If you want to take great photos here (and you wouldn’t be alone) try to arrive early in the morning to beat the tourists, and for the best morning light. Grab a coffee and climb the stairs for an energetic start to your day.
2. Visit Fort Fincastle
I’ll admit it, I’m not the biggest history buff when it comes to my Caribbean travel. But I do love a good Caribbean fort. Not only can you learn something about the history of the island, but most forts offer stunning views and shady areas, which are my jam.
Fort Fincastle is no exception. It was built on a hill in 1793 to defend Nassau against pirates, and later became a jail. The Queen’s Staircase leads you to Fort Fincastle, and it’s worth making a stop while you’re there.
The fort is small but mighty, with some expansive views of the city and harbor. It only takes about 20-30 minutes to explore and there’s no charge to enter.
On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Atlantis hotel on Paradise Island. Finish your coffee while you’re wandering around.
3. Explore GrayCliff Hotel and GrayCliff Heritage Marketplace Village
Exploring Gray Cliff Heritage Marketplace Village was a highlight of a day in downtown Nassau. I had kids along on my trip, and we easily spent an hour here.
But honestly, without kids, I would have stayed longer. I’ll definitely return to GrayCliff on my next trip to Nassau. These are the stops I would make on my return.
Wine Tasting at the GrayCliff Hotel
The Graycliff Hotel is a Nassau institution with roots dating back to the early 1700s. It was once the home of a renowned pirate but was converted into a hotel in the 1950s.
The historic charm really radiates from the building the moment you walk in the door. There’s nothing sleek or modern about the place: from the antique furniture to the rich tapestries and window treatments, it’s almost like stepping back in time.
Long trousers are required after 6pm, and a live pianist plays in the lobby lounge every evening. You’ll feel miles from the beach here.
My favorite part? The wine cellar. It used to be a dungeon when the property was owned by a pirate. Now it houses 250,000 bottles of wine, including one of the most expensive bottles in the world.
The hotel offers wine tastings at 2pm on weekdays, where you can taste 8 wines, each paired with cheese from around the world. Plus, you get a tour of the fortress of a wine cellar.
I am not personally into cigars but, if you’re traveling with someone who is, combine your wine tasting with a stop at the Graycliff Cigar Company.
It was founded in 1997 by the owner of the hotel, Enrico Garzaroli. Garzaroli fell in love with cigars while working in the food industry, but he was never able to find that perfect cigar to complement his taste.
GrayCliff Cigars began with a single cigar roller in the lobby of the hotel, but now has 16 master rollers and makes 5 brands of cigars.
Visitors can take lessons in cigar rolling and learn a bit of history about tobacco as well. They also offer rum and cigar pairing classes.
Regardless of your level of interest in cigars, visiting this shop is one more unique things to do in Nassau.
Graycliff Chocolatier is a must-visit for any chocolate lover. Not only can you purchase locally made gourmet chocolates, but you can also learn about the chocolate-making process.
If you’re feeling indulgent – and haven’t already splurged on the wine tasting or rum and cigar pairing – a chocolate and spirit tasting is offered each weekday at 11:15am. The tasting pairs homemade chocolate with premium rum, whiskey, port, and more.
GrayCliff Heritage Marketplace
Right across the street from the GrayCliff Hotel is the colorful Graycliff Heritage Marketplace. The colors start in the street, as you stroll under a canopy of rainbow umbrellas to get there.
You’ll wind through bright archways and inner courtyards, stumbling on a handful of local gift shops, ice cream, a Bahamian pottery shop, and even the first Bahamian winery. The market is a great place to find unique souvenirs.
I’ll admit I was skeptical of the winery. But I’ll give any wine a try, and was pleasantly surprised by the best-selling red. I bought a bottle (only $10!) and was so happy to have both supported a local winemaker and saved money on resort drinks.
4. See Some Local Art …
Two minutes down the road from the GrayCliff Hotel is that National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. The gallery’s mission is to promote and preserve Bahamian art and culture.
It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm, and admission is free. Exhibits at the gallery rotate every 12 months, so there’s always something new to see.
While you’re walking around downtown Nassau, it’s worth popping your head in to see what’s on display.
5. … And Then Taste Some Local Rum!
I swear, not every one of my suggestions for what to do in Nassau involves liquor. But when in The Bahamas…
After you pop by the gallery, take another short 2-minute stroll to the John Watling’s Distillery.
The estate produces three types of rum – Amber, Buena Vista, and Pink Gin – all of which are produced locally in small batches, and available for tasting and purchase. The distillery also offers free tours.
But it’s the historic estate itself where the rum is made that makes this place great. The estate has a gorgeous, sprawling patio where you can taste your rum, and beautiful gardens for a stroll.
Nothing says vacation more than spending a few minutes learning about local art, followed by a Caribbean rum tasting on an outdoor patio.
6. Eat At A Local Fish Fry
Nassau’s resorts offer world-class dining options. But when I travel to the islands, I’m usually more interested in finding a casual, local meal. If you’re like me, you should check out a Nassau Fish Fry.
I should let you in on a secret: There actually are two fish fries in Nassau. The first, at Arawak Cay, is largely aimed at tourists coming through the Nassau cruise port.
But unlike in many Caribbean islands, where a fish fry happens perhaps once a week at most, the food stalls at Arawak Cay are open every day.
You can get all kinds of fried fish here, along with sides of rice and plantains, and macaroni and cheese. Live music most evenings makes for a festive vibe.
But an alternative to Arawak Cay is a fish fry frequented by more locals than tourists. Under the bridge from Nassau to Paradise Island, there are a handful of food stands known as the conch shacks of Potter’s Cay.
Fresh conch is stored in the shallow waters behind the shacks, and about 40 chefs find creative ways to cook the conch fresh each day.
Come here for the freshest conch salad, conch fritters, and more. Yum.
7. Dinner and a Movie at The Island House
The Island House, a 30-room boutique hotel, is a hidden gem in a quiet area of Nassau. You will not find this on most lists of things to do in Nassau, but if you’re looking for a way to end your unique day in Nassau, this is the place I would recommend.
More than just a hotel, The Island House is a gathering place for the local community. It has its own movie theater that screens classic and independent films.
There’s a screening every night, for tourists and local residents, and you can check the schedule on the Island House Website.
Before your movie, there are several options for dinner. Rooftop restaurant Shima serves meals infused with Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese flavors. There’s also a sushi bar, craft beers, and a creative cocktail menu.
If you want something lighter, Yellowbell cafe off the lobby — and right next to the movie theater — has bespoke cocktails and bar bites made by the same chef.
Down the path from the hotel’s main building is an Italian restaurant, Mogano, which also has a pizza window. Finally, there’s a gourmet market with prepared foods you could grab and bring with you into the theater.
However much time you have to spare, and whatever type of meal you want, you can find it at the Island House before or after the film!
This hotel is just gorgeous. Movies aside, it’s a beautiful place to visit. So be sure to leave enough time to enjoy a drink on the patio, or dinner in one of the restaurants.
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