Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, is located on New Providence
– one of the archipelago country’s smallest islands. It’s a rather different
town from its sister city, Freeport, which is a hundred miles to the north on
Grand Bahama. In Nassau you get much more of a sense of the Bahamas’ imperial
history – although the country is parliamentary democracy, Queen Elizabeth II
remains the head of state. Nassau town is full of reminders of British
influences past and present.
The Nassau Beach Hotel is typical of the sort of hotel you might
find yourself in if you choose to take a vacation in the Bahamas. It’s located
right by the sea, on Nassau’s famous Cable Beach. A three-star establishment,
the Nassau Beach is a mere stone’s throw from the water’s edge and immediately
next to the Marriott Casino and the Cable Beach Golf Club. The hotel has no
fewer than six restaurants, plus facilities for water sports and regular
cocktail parties. So if your idea of a great vacation is dining and dancing,
swimming and sunbathing, golfing and gambling, it’s almost certainly the right
hotel for you!
Cable Beach itself is long, white and lovely. It gets its name from the cables
that were buried here in the early part of the twentieth century to accommodate
transatlantic telephone calls. These days the cutting edge of the
telecommunications industry has moved into the hotels – most of which have
internet suites and business centers. Cable Beach is very definitely a place
for fun and relaxation. At the height of the tourist season – which is pretty
much all year round these days – it can get very crowded. Vacationers seeking
beaches to themselves would be well-advised to travel a little further away
from Nassau, perhaps to the more quiet western end of New Providence Island.
If, however, you enjoy a good vacation vibe, this is the beach for you. On busy
days it can be a Copacabana-like experience, with all kinds of fascinating
sights and activities taking place.
The Nassau Beach Hotel is also a great base for exploring Nassau
town. Probably the best place to start is Parliament Square. The Square is
lined by beautiful, pastel-shaded buildings erected in the early nineteenth
century as the seat of local government. As if to hammer home the notion of
exactly who was in charge, the authorities of the day had a large statue of
Queen Victoria erected in the center of the square. If you have the chance to
be in the square during the seasonal opening ceremony of the Bahamas’ Supreme
Court you will be able to witness a display of red-robed and bewigged pomp and
ceremony that is a reminder of the fact that although the islands are now
independent the British way of life and government is very deeply imprinted on
Just a little way from Parliament Square you’ll find the atmospheric Fort
Charlotte. It was built by the British in 1789, and named after the wife of the
then king of England, George III. The fort has never been besieged, or even
fired a shot in anger – testament, perhaps, to its formidable strength, and the
fact that nobody was really prepared to take on it and its garrison in battle.
Despite its peaceful history, many British soldiers died here. In the days
before modern medicine and sanitation had largely eradicated dangerous diseases
from the area, the Bahamas weren’t so much a paradise as a hell on earth. Many
soldiers died of tropical fevers – in fact, being sent to the Bahamas was often
regarded as a punishment!
These days the islands are dedicated to pleasure rather than
punishment. No trip to Nassau would be complete without a visit to Paradise
Island, which lies to the east of town and is reached by bridge. Paradise
Island has been so integral to Nassau’s development as a tourist center that
the whole area is sometimes referred to as Nassau/Paradise Island. Whether or
not Paradise Island is actually a paradise is rather a matter of taste: if you
like celebrity-spotting, and funfairs, and all the apparatus of the tourist
trade then you’ll love it.
If peace, quiet and relaxation are what you’re after, you would
do worse than to head out of Nassau itself and over towards the western end of
New Providence island. Once you’re beyond Cable Beach things get a lot quieter.
This part of the island is full of peaceful pine forest and long, sandy white
beaches which are often completely deserted.
New Providence island is not the largest of the islands in the
Bahamas group by a long way. But it’s one of the most beautiful and varied,
and, because it’s the location of the Bahamas’ capital, one of the most lively.
If you fancy a short break in paradise, Nassau is the vacation destination for