THE STRAW MARKET

What is regarded as the birth of straw vending in the Bahamas as an industry began following the death of the sponge industry in the 1940's. Searching for another means of income, Bahamian women started plaiting and decorating dried palm and sisal plant leaves to create items such as baskets, bags and dolls. Soon large numbers of women were making straw souvenirs that were sought after by visitors.

After World War II, many Americans began vacationing in the Bahamas and straw craft souvenirs grew in popularity. Straw vending is considered one of the country's oldest industry with organized markets in Nassau, Cable Beach, Paradise Island and a number of The Family Islands. Stroll down to the famous native Straw Market where you can find bustling activity with vendors who are willing to bargain with buyers. Open 9 am - 5 pm Downtown Bay Street

BAY STREET

Bay Street Nassau is perhaps the most popular and well known place for Nassau shopping in the Bahamas The historic Nassau shopping center is a street that runs through the downtown area of Nassau, lined with shops, cafes, and a mixture of high end and local stores If you will be staying at a Nassau hotel or simply love to shop, you will want to be sure and schedule time to shop Bay Street Nassau.

Bay Street Nassau is only a short 10 minute walk from most of the popular Nassau hotels, and many travelers who stay in Nassau make frequent trips to Bay Street Nassau shopping throughout their vacations Some of the stores found when shopping in Nassau Bahamas Bay Street include such posh places as Gucci, Cole's, and Fendi There are also some excellent local shops featuring leather goods, brass, antiques, linens, beauty products, soaps, and perfumes There are also a number of high-end cigar shops to be found when shopping in Nassau Bahamas Bay Street market.

Many tourists in past years have spent time shopping in Nassau Bahamas hoping to find deals and discounts off of items that would regularly be priced quite high at other world markets Travelers today will still find excellent deals on Bay Street and throughout Nassau, but not at absolutely every store The budget minded traveler should keep an eye out for good deals, and yet be aware that many shops are geared specifically to tourists and will be overpriced As a general rule, items such as cigars, alcohol, and certain brands of clothing will be much cheaper in the Bahamas.

Shoppers should also note that it is best to use cash wherever possible when shopping throughout Bay Street and Nassau You will usually receive the best rates by exchanging your money at a bank or going to a cash ATM (where you will still receive the bank rate) Most major hotels will exchange money for you, but in general you will pay more to have the hotel act as a middle man.

Another of the great attractions for tourists to Bay Street is the restaurants in Nassau on Bay Street Restaurants in Nassau on Bay Street include a collection of cafes and fine dining spots You will find mostly local cuisine served at the restaurants in Nassau, but there are of course always exceptions Fritters and spicy dishes tend to be the main stay of food in the Bahamas, and the food should be quite friendly to foreign travelers Most restaurants catering to tourists will also have some options for children and families.

Whether you choose to eat, shop, or both on Bay Street , you will want to make some time to visit the area if you'll be staying in Nassau Even if shopping is not your niche, you can include a stroll down Bay Street in a walking tour of the area as you head to historical sights like the Queens Staircase Bay Street is also only about 15 minutes from a couple of Nassau's best beaches.

ARDASTRA ZOO & GARDENS

Ardastra Gardens - One mile west of downtown Nassau, you'll find one of the area's most enduring tourist attractions. Call ahead and the Ardastra Gardens staff will send a complimentary shuttle bus to pick you up at your hotel. The Gardens are small--just a little over 5 acres--but they're home for over 300 animals representing a wide variety of the Bahamas' natural inhabitants. At every turn, you'll be reminded that this is not a huge commercial enterprise, but a conservation center run by people who consider the animals--especially the flamingos--their companions, not pets. The Gardens' must-see attraction is their world-famous Marching Flamingo show which takes place three times daily. As their guide shouts commands, 30 or more flamingos perform in unison. No visit to Nassau is complete without a visit to this quirky site.


FORT FIN CASTLE

This 18th century military complex is located on a high ridge running parallel to West Bay Street, a five- minute walk from the city center along Marcus Bethel Way and about 15-20 minutes from the resort of Cable Beach. At its western extremity is the entrance to the botanic gardens.

Fort Fincastle, constructed during the governorship of Lord Dunmore, was named in honor of the wife of King George III.  There are actually three forts: Fort Fincastle, the eastern section, Fort Stanley, the middle section and Fort D’Arcy, the western section. The building of the forts, out of solid rock, was begun in 1787 and completed in 1819. A dry moat surrounds Fort Fincastle and is spanned by a wooden bridge on the north side. The forts and military installations in New Providence and throughout The Bahamas, formed such an insurmountable defense system that potential invaders were discouraged and as a result these forts never fired a gun in battle.

Today the fort complex is outfitted with exhibits displaying the history of this fortification.  Reenactments and historic weapon firing are a part of the ongoing interpretative program planned for the fort.

QUEENS STAIRCASE

 
The Nassau Queens Staircase is a set of steps located on Nassau Island, and is a prominent part of any Nassau tour for guests. The set of 65 steps was carved out of the natural limestone wall that once rested in its place by slaves between 1793 and 1794. The Queens Staircase is 102 feet tall, and was so named in honor of Queen Victoria.

Originally, the Queens Staircase was built to provide British troops a protected route to Fort Fincastle, and the slaves used were local peoples from the island. Fort Fincastle was built on the highest point of the island as a lookout by the British captain Lord Dunmore in 1793. The Queens Staircase and Fort Fincastle were inspired by a desire to watch for encroaching marauders and pirates, however, none ever attacked and the fort is now a lighthouse that tourists can view.

The Nassau Queens Staircase also provides access to: Gregory Arch, a tunnel cut right through the hill in 1850, St. Andrew's Kirk, the Government House, Prospect Ridge, Straw Market, the Christ Church Cathedral, the Vendue House, and the old Graycliff hotel. As a part of any Nassau tour by foot, the Nassau Queens Staircase is the gateway to most of the best Nassau tour sites.

To plan a walking tour of the Queens Staircase and the other historical sites that it leads to, guests may pick up walking tour maps at the main Nassau Island tourist center. Tourists looking for a guided tour are also in luck. Nassau tourist guides are available for walking tours of these historic sites, and tours may be booked through the main tourist center or usually through your hotel's concierge service. One of the advantages of seeing the sites with the leadership of a Nassau tourist guide is having access to the knowledge of the Nassau tourist guide. Seeing these sights while you are provided with a little history and additional information about the area can be helpful and educational.

To reach the Queen's Staircase and the rest of these great sites, you'll likely want to start in New Providence, in Rawson Square. This way, you can also see some of the old town. If you do start in Rawson Square and make your way to the stairs, through the sites, and back to the square, you should expect to spend about 2 hours, depending on how quickly you walk, round trip. Weekends are the busiest times for visiting most of these locations, so if you are hoping to escape the crowds, you will want to take your tour during the week. Businesses such as the straw market will usually close down around 4pm, so take your tour during the day if you'd like to shop or visit a cafÉ. If you plan to book any other Nassau Island tours, such as the dolphin encounter or sea walking, you may plan them during the second part of your day.

VERSAILLES GARDENS AND CLOSTERS

 
This garden with its adjoining closter is a “must“ see if you go to Paradise Island or Nassau. It a formal garden with a long central axis, breathe taking vistas, and grassy terraces. Abundant plantings of tropical trees and shrubs create a beautiful setting for statuary both old and new. The cloister, across the street from the garden, looks down on a gazebo and the water with a view of Nassau harbor and New Providence Island. Take a stroll in this splendid setting and enjoy one of the true treasures of Paradise Island.

In 1959 Huntington Hartford II, the A&P supermarket heir bought what was then known as Hog Island and renamed it Paradise Island. He hoped to develop the island as a gambling center equal to Monte Carlo and built the Ocean Club Hotel and the adjoining Versailles Garden and Cloister. Authorities claim that the garden was inspired by Louis XIV’s gardens at Versailles outside of Paris, France, and perhaps they were, but there is little resemblance. Unlike the French Versailles gardens, this garden is intimate, peaceful, and much less pretentious.

As you enter the garden from the street the long central axis gives you an overview of what is to come.