Last January, during my trip to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, I also had the chance to spend some time in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.
Currently, Air Canada offers short direct flights from Montreal to Nassau, which is also the departure point for flights to other islands in the country.
Located on the island of New Providence, Nassau is often considered the gateway to the Bahamas. It allows access to Paradise Island, where most of the luxury hotels are located, thanks to the bridges of the port of Nassau.
The capital of the Bahamas is known for its hilly landscapes, pastel-colored colonial facades, beaches and coral reefs. I really enjoyed discovering its downtown with its beautiful buildings like the pink-faced Government House, its pretty street-side kiosks, its modern murals and its lively marinas.
Here are some ideas for visits and activities in Nassau.
Getting to Nassau with points
Air Canada is the only carrier operating direct seasonal flights between Montreal and Nassau (NAS). The route is operated 3 times a week in winter, from November to April.
The Bahamas is in the North America region for Aeroplan Flight Rewards. So flights are very affordable in points: you could fly for as little as 22,300 points + $194 in taxes.
TDMD AeroplanMD Visa Infinite* cardholders are eligible for preferred pricing on bookings made with Aeroplan points. This benefit allows you to save 4,700 points on this reservation!
Right now, the welcome bonus on this card is enough to get you round-trip flights for two to the Bahamas.
Nassau - Accomodation with points
With the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program, it is possible to stay in Nassau for as little as 16,000 points/night at the Courtyard Nassau Downtown/Junkanoo Beach. With the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card welcome bonus, that’s three free nights and even a total of six nights for a couple where each person has purchased the card!
For those who want a more luxurious experience, or one that is closer to an all-inclusive resort, it is possible to stay at The Coral at Atlantis for 63,000 points/night, or at The Royal at Atlantis, a huge family resort, for 74,000 points/night.
You can also use your Marriott Bonvoy points to book a vacation home or villa, a great alternative to Airbnb that can be paid for with points!
Explore paradisiac beaches
There are many beaches to explore in Nassau. Some of them allow the practice of water sports such as jet-skiing, windsurfing, fishing and kayaking.
One of the most popular is Cable Beach. You will find it on the northwest coast of New Providence Island. It extends over more than 3 kilometers of fine white sand.
Next, Cabbage Beach is another white sand beach with crystal clear waters located on Paradise Island. It is the ideal place for water sports and snorkeling.
Other popular beaches include :
- Saunders Beach : A public beach on the west side of Nassau with showers, toilets and picnic tables
- Love Beach : a more secluded beach at the western end of New Providence Island
- and Junkanoo Beach : located west of the Nassau cruise port and popular with partygoers.
Discover the local culture
While in Nassau, take the opportunity to try the local culinary specialties including Conch Salad, Peas n’ Rice, Jerk Chicken, Johnnycake and Rum Cake.
A must-see experience in the Bahamas is the Fish Fry, a gathering of restaurants and bars where visitors can enjoy traditional Bahamian dishes, especially seafood.
For the ultimate immersion in local culture, attend a Junkanoo performance, the annual Bahamian festival that takes place on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Otherwise, Junkanoo shows can be found throughout the year in some hotels and tourist sites.
Nassau has a thriving music scene. If you are a music lover, you will enjoy attending a local reggae, soca or rumba concert or show in the local clubs or hotels.
Visit of the historic city center
While visiting historic downtown Nassau, be sure to visit Fort Fincastle and Fort Charlotte. On Mount Fitzwilliam, you will find Government House, the official residence of the Governor General of The Bahamas, which dates back to 1800. In front of the building is the statue of Christopher Columbus imported from London in 1830.
One of my favorites in the historic downtown area is climbing the Queen’s Staircase, commonly known as the 66 steps. This major monument is located in the historic Fort Fincastle complex. It was carved by slaves from solid limestone between 1793 and 1794. Later, the staircase was named in honor of the reign of Queen Victoria in Britain, from 1837 to 1901.
Boat trip to another island
Several islands are accessible by boat from Nassau. Most of them have popular sites for scuba diving or snorkeling, including the Andros Island Reef, Rose Island and underwater wrecks.
Families will love the private island of Blue Lagoon, accessible by water taxi from Nassau. In addition to the white sandy beaches, there are several activities available, including a variety of water sports and a children’s water park.
One of the closest islands is Rose Island, about 30 minutes by boat from the capital. With its crystal clear waters and coral reefs, this small island is ideal for diving enthusiasts.
Other islands to visit include :
- Pearl Island : an hour’s boat ride away, which has an abundance of marine life; and a little further away
- Exuma Island : located about 130 km away, is known for its exceptional waters and its famous swimming pigs.
Shopping in the colorful shops
If you enjoy shopping at local souvenir stores, head to Bay Street, a popular Nassau shopping street lined with colorful boutiques. You will find clothing, jewelry, art and handicrafts.
Next, the Straw Market is a covered market ideal for buying souvenirs, straw baskets, hats, handbags, t-shirts and other local handicrafts. Don’t hesitate to bargain.
Some of the stores in Nassau are worth a visit, such as :
- Nassau Glass Company, a hand-blown glass store
- Doongalik Studios, an art studio and gallery
- and Graycliff Cigar Company, a handmade cigar store where you can sample cigars.
Enjoy one of the many spas on the island
Nassau has many spa and wellness centers to relax and rejuvenate, whether in the studio or in its upscale hotels. Some of these are:
- Mandara Spa, located at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort
- Senses Spa at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar
- Red Lane Spa at the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort
- and Espa at Baha Mar, located at the Baha Mar Resort.
Located in the heart of Nassau are the Ardastra Gardens, a popular attraction that is home to pink flamingos. Across four acres of tropical landscape, its mini zoo boasts over two hundred mammals, birds and reptiles.
On Paradise Island, the Versailles gardens are also worth a visit, especially for a romantic getaway! They include a lush multi-terrace landscape in a rectangular design approximately 75 feet wide.
National park enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Clifton Heritage National Park, with its remnants of three important groups that have had an impact on the country: the Lucayans, the Loyalists and the Africans.
Officially opened in 2009, this park offers a walk along winding trails surrounded by a rich ecosystem of native coppice, cliffs, coastal wetlands and beaches. Among the local fauna to observe: songbirds, wading birds, sea birds.
Save in Nassau with points
Flexible Rewards Points are your ally in saving money on activities at your destination. Put all your spending on a credit card like the National Bank World Mastercard or the CIBC Aventura® Visa Infinite* Card,then apply your points as a statement credit.
In addition, no-conversion-fee cards such as the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card allow you to save 2.5% on each foreign currency transaction.
The capital of the Bahamas offers a variety of activities and sights. Its cosmopolitan and international atmosphere and the friendliness of its inhabitants make Nassau very attractive to tourists. It is a lively, picturesque and cultural city surrounded by the warm and crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.