Home to the pink-and-white Government House, which overlooks the city in stately pastel hues, to the majestic Buena Vista Estate (first established in 1798)—not to mention the thoroughly immersive Heritage Museum of the Bahamas—the Bahamian capital of Nassau undoubtedly has its charms. The cultural capital of the Bahamas is distinctly alive—teeming with music playing from the shops on every street corner, brimming with restaurants innovating traditional Caribbean cuisine, dotted with bars dedicated to serving once again the perfect rum punch.
The outer islands, by contrast, tend to be a little quieter. They are also known as the ‘family islands’ of the Bahamas, which speaks to the warmth and friendliness of the people you are likely to encounter. Read on for our guide to the outer islands, including what makes each one unique, and how to get there.
This luxurious island is famous for its world-class pink beaches and laid back, yet elegant ambiance. Visit the iconic original outpost of Sip Sip, and order a Sky Juice while you people-watch. The locally-owned Harbour Island establishment was already well-known amongst the rarefied clientele who frequented the see-and-be-seen beachside patio in Dunmore Town before it propelled into fame as the opening chapter for Ken Kwan's bestselling novel, "China Rich Girlfriend." (The sequel to "Crazy Rich Asians," for those who exist outside the world of popular culture.) Sunbathe at the three-mile Pink Sand Beach, and—if you fall so enamored with your location—just stay awhile, and book a room at Pink Sands Resort. Just off the coast of Eleuthera, Harbour Island is accessible for travelers via ferries from Nassau. Only a two-hour and 45-minute Bahamas Ferries boat ride separates Nassau from Harbour Island.
This island is worth a visit for its attractions both by land and by sea. Go snorkeling at Current Cut, and Devil’s Backbone or Pineapple Dock—the latter to explore shipwrecks, or sunbathe at the gorgeous (and aptly-named) Alabaster Beach. Surfer’s Beach is also a great place to visit—this popular spot for surfers is home to surf shacks and bars sure to appeal to all travelers—regardless of whether or not they’re capable of hanging ten. A quick 30-minute flight from Nassau, travelers can fly Southern Air, Bahamasair, or Pineappleair, from the Bahamian capital to Rock Sound or Governor’s Harbour.
One of the more remote Out Islands of the Bahamas, Cat Island is beloved amongst locals, and you can get a sense of the island’s history by merely meandering down its one highway—and appreciating the ancient ruins intermixed with contemporary Bahamian homes. And sun-worshippers, be sure to visit Pigeon Cay Club Beach and enjoy spending time in one of the most beautiful beaches, on one of the most undiscovered islands, in the Bahamas. Book your flight from Nassau to Arthurs Town, Cat Island, via Pineappleair, and prepare to unwind.
This island was once beloved by Ernest Hemingway, and still retains its legacy of sport-fishing and exploring. Go snorkeling along the legendary Bimini Road, or swim with sharks via Bahamas Scuba Center. For the less daring, East Wells Beaches and Spook Hill Beach are gorgeous (and relaxing) alternatives) to a day spent with reef and tiger sharks. This island is the closest off the coast of Florida and is accessible not only by plane from the U.S. but also by boat from Miami—if leaving from Nassau, we recommend booking a Bahamasair flight.
This island is famous for its Instagram-influencing swimming pigs, and there’s also no shortage of tour offerings to this island of the famous pigs from the Bahamian capital of Nassau. Check out Powerboat Adventures or Four C’s Adventures for scheduling your next aquatic porcine experience. For waters that don’t feature swimming swine, look no further than the picturesque Jolly Hall Beach. A mere 40-minute flight from Nassau, travelers can arrive in The Exumas in Staniel Cay (via BahamasAir Tour) or George Town (via BahamasAir).
Forget swimming with pigs, why not spend an afternoon with flamingos? And parrots, and pelicans, and more, on the island of Inagua. Inagua National Park preserves nearly half of the island’s land-mass, and the island’s lush environs are home to an array of wildlife—not just the pink-feathered variety. But you don’t need to be a birder to enjoy Inagua. Sunbathers should waste away an afternoon (or several) at Morton’s Salt Beach, one of the most beautiful coasts in all of the Bahamian islands. The southernmost island in the Bahamas archipelago is most efficiently accessed via a Bahamasair flight from Nassau to Matthew Town, Inagua.
Long Island is remote, and famed for its snorkeling, though sunbathers will be equally satisfied checking out that endless stretch of sand at Lochabar Beach, or swimming in the crystal blue waters of Galloway Beach. Go diving at the Dean’s Blue Hole (and beautiful beach), and snorkel at Shark Reef (it is how it sounds) or the 40-foot Conception Reef. From Radio Beach, you can see the wreck of Gallant Lady offshore, also on Sunday, there is a pop-up beach bar, and you can get cracked conch at CJ’s Deli.
Grand Bahama Island
The northernmost island in the Bahamas, travelers can fly direct from Nassau to the North Eleuthera Airport. Explore the picturesque city of Freeport, the busiest city on Grand Bahama Island, via a four-wheel tour cruising along the winding roads with Bahamas Jeep Safari. Or, book a tour with Paradise Watersports to explore the coral reefs off the coast of the island, including the legendary Deadman’s Reef off Paradise Cove. Other snorkeling opportunities abound at Peterson Cay and Ben’s Cave. At the same time, sun-worshippers can take solace at Paradise Beach and Gold Rock Beach—both are considered some of the most beautiful beaches in the Bahamas. But, active travelers, rejoice: Gold Rock Beach is part of Lucayan National Park, which means that there is much exploring still to be done on this coast as well. We suggest exploring Gold Rock Creek via kayak, to experience the beauty of the Bahamian waterways from above the surface, as well as below.