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Grand Bahama Island Travel Guide

  • Photo: Ramunas Bruzas / Shutterstock

Plan Your Grand Bahama Island Vacation

Natural beauty conspires with resort vitality to make Grand Bahama Island one of the Bahamas' most well-rounded, diverse destinations. In its two main towns, Freeport and Lucaya, visitors can find much of what the more bustling Nassau has to offer: resort hotels, a variety of restaurants, golfing, duty-free shopping, and gambling. But unlike New Providence, the touristy spots take up only a

small portion of an island that, on the whole, consists of uninhabited stretches of sand and forest.

Prior to the development of Freeport, West End (the capital of Grand Bahama Island) was the epicenter of the Bahamas' logging industry and a playground for the wealthy in the 1920s. The fate of Grand Bahama changed in the 1950s when American financier Wallace Groves envisioned Grand Bahama's grandiose future as a tax-free shipping port. The Bahamian government signed an agreement that set in motion the development of a planned city, an airport, roads, waterways, and utilities as well as the port. From that agreement, the city of Freeport—and later, Lucaya—evolved. The past decade's hurricanes and economic downfall have demolished Freeport's resort glamour, and the tourism center has shifted to Lucaya, now home to the island's largest resorts.

Not much else on the island has changed since the early days, however. Outside of the Freeport-Lucaya commercial-and-resort area, fishing settlements remain, albeit now with electricity and good roads. The East End is Grand Bahama's "back-to-nature" side, where Caribbean yellow pine–and-palmetto forest stretches for 60 miles, interrupted by the occasional small settlement. Little seaside villages with white churches and concrete-block houses painted in bright pastels fill in the landscape between Freeport and West End. Many of these settlements are more than 100 years old.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Take endless strolls on your own private beach. Sprawling, reef-protected shoreline and cays offer more than 50 miles of secluded white sand beaches along the southern shore.
  2. Go down under. Between the shipwrecks, caves, coral reefs, and abundant marine life are some of the country's most varied and vivid snorkeling and diving.
  3. Get your green on. Take part in various ecotours to see rare birds and native curly tail lizards along stretches of undisturbed wilderness, from the "bush" to bat caves.
  4. Party at the fish fry or a beach bonfire. Head to Smith's Point to feast and party with locals, or dance around the bonfire at Taino by the Sea with all-you-can-eat authentic Bahamian cuisine and Bahama Mama cocktails.
  5. Swim with the dolphins or feed the sharks. Several professional dive shops stand ready to introduce you to some of the ocean’s most interesting characters.

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