Nassau, New Providence Island, Bahamas
Named after William III of England, Prince of Orange-Nassau and once a pirate’s stronghold, Nassau today, located on New Providence Island, is the Capital of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and is where many Bahamian yacht charters begin and/or end. The Nassau that we know today grew from a small village in the 1600’s, where many pirates congregated, to the larger city that it is today. The first influx was Loyalists that left America at the end of the Revolutionary War. Soon after, when England abolished slavery in 1807, the Royal Navy re-located freed slaves found on intercepted slave ships to Nassau, as well as other islands such as Grand Bahama, Exuma, Abaco and Inagua, along with slaves freed from American slave ships up until the American Civil War. Today, Nassau is spread across the entire island of New Providence, along with Paradise Island, connected by a causeway.
In the early 1700’s, Nassau was overrun by pirates who claimed Nassau as their own and proclaimed Nassau as a “Pirate Republic”. At that point there were said to be 1,000 pirates in Nassau which outnumbered the 100 locals by 10 to 1. Famous pirates that congregated in Nassau were Charles Vane, Thomas Barrow (who declared himself “Governor of New Providence”), Benjamin Hornigold, Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Edward Teach, better known as “Blackbeard”. In 1718, the British sent Captain Woodes Rogers to be Royal governor who effectively eradicated pirates from Nassau, and restored Nassau to British rule. During the American Civil War, blockade runners continuing trade with the Confederacy, used Nassau as a base and in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Nassau profited from Prohibition in the United States.
Today, the main commerce in Nassau is tourism, with Atlantis on Paradise Island anchoring the resort business numbering the most tourists staying overnight of any resort in Nassau. The main harbor, Nassau Harbor, is a large busy harbor protected by Paradise Island. It was this large and protected harbor that originally attracted pirates to Nassau. Today there are a number of marinas available including the marina at Atlantis Resort and Albany Marina which are two marinas where charter yachts are often docked. Nassau Harbor is also a cruise ship harbor with the Nassau cruise port terminal located on Prince George Wharf servicing many cruise ships from major cruise lines.
The original part of Nassau behind the harbor is the center of the city and is home to the main government buildings. In the center are shopping, dining and museums, including the Pirates of Nassau Museum. The Straw Market, a large marketplace, open on all sides, is located in the city center and has a number of Bahamian craft stalls. Landmark buildings include Vendue House, Christ Church Cathedral and the Nassau Public Library. The largest festival, Junkanoo, which rocks the city center, is a colorful street parade of people in brightly colored costumes gyrating to the rhythm of drums and cowbells. Junkaroo starts around 1:00am and ends at around 10:00am on January 1, July 10 and December 26.
There are a number of beaches around the coastline of New Providence Island with the more well-known and busy beaches being Junkaroo, Cable and Cabbage Beach. On the north side of the island is Jaws beach, while more remote, virtually deserted white sand beaches are on the southwestern end of the island.
Paradise Island is home to many resorts and casinos, shopping, restaurants, bars and the Bahamas Craft Center, featuring Bahamian handicrafts, conch shell jewelry, Junkanoo art, wooden carvings, clothing, straw work, souvenirs, and more. With the Casinos, nightlife on Paradise Island is busy with action at nightclubs, lounges, bars and places to dance.
What to See and Do in Nassau, New Providence Island, Bahamas
Parliament Square: In the city center, the square has 3 pink and white Georgian neoclassical government buildings home to parliament and other government offices. All three buildings are considered an excellent example of early colonial architecture.
The Pirates of Nassau Museum: Within are exhibits of the history of the early 1700’s when Nassau was a pirate’s haven including a pirate’s ship and artifacts from that time period.
The Straw Market: A covered open-air market with authentic handcrafted Bahamian merchandise. Within find stalls selling straw baskets, straw hats, carved wood animals, beaded jewelry, t-shirts, clothing, and tourist souvenirs.
Adelaide, Fox Hill, and Gambier: Three historic areas which were settled by freed slaves in the 1800’s, which still reflect a rich African heritage.
Pompey Museum: Previously known as Vendue House, the building is now named for Pompey, a courageous slave from The Exumas. Originally built sometime before 1769, the building became a museum in 1992 featuring exhibits about the African experience in The Bahamas.
The Retreat Gardens: One of four national parks in Nassau, this 11-acre property is home to The Bahamas National Trust. Within is one of the largest collections of varies species of palm trees in the world.
Fort Fincastle: Located on the highest point of land on New Providence Island, built by Governor Lord Dunmore in 1793, this small fort was originally built for lookouts to be posted to warn of approaching pirates. Today, the fort continues to supply the best view of Nassau and the surrounding waters.
John Watling’s Rum Distillery: Established 200 years ago and named after a pirate captain, today enjoy a 10 to 15 minute tour and after sample three different rums.
Grayliff Chocolate factory: Located in an old great house, learn here how to make chocolate from scratch, with tastings.
Queen’s Staircase: Carved by slaves in 1793, with a total of 66 steps, the staircase is located near Fort Fincastle.
Ardastra Gardens: Home to a variety of animal and bird life including monkeys, flamingos, snakes, and other tropical animals. There are also shows and the option to feed some of the animals.
Fort Charlotte: A large fort built in 1787 located on top of a hill on the western side of the island, from which there is an excellent view of Paradise Island. Located on 100 acres, within are dungeons, 42 cannons, and underground passageways, and surrounding is a moat.
For yacht charter, with an international airport, Nassau is often the boarding and or disembarking port for a Bahamian yacht charter.