Bahamas Area Map
The most populous islands in the Bahamas – New Providence, Paradise and Grand Bahama – are also the most common tourist destinations. Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas and home to 70 percent of the nation's population, sprawls out along New Providence Island's eastern side. But other islands (think: Eleuthera, Harbour Island and The Abacos) lure visitors to their picturesque beaches and world-renowned dive sites.
Bay Street in Nassau runs parallel to New Providence Island's northern shore and contains the area's main shopping district. Additionally, visitors can go snorkeling, swimming and hiking or lounge on popular stretches of sand, such as Cable Beach and Junkanoo Beach. Two can't-miss attractions – the Queen's Staircase and John Watling's Distillery – are also available on the western end of the island. The eastern side, meanwhile, is where the gritty Old Town area and its pink Parliament Square buildings reside. To reach the 21-mile-long island, plan on flying into Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) or going on a cruise vacation that docks at Nassau's cruise terminal. Accommodation options are limited on New Providence Island, but some hotels are available in central Nassau or on the adjacent Paradise Island.
Just north of New Providence Island is Paradise Island, a small but major resort destination. Accessible from Nassau by two bridges, the island is home to some of the most celebrated – and expensive – beaches and resorts in the Bahamas. To some, the grandest sight on the island is the world-famous Atlantis Bahamas resort complex. Many of the attractions and beaches on the island are limited to Atlantis guests, but some sands (like Cabbage Beach) are publicly accessible on foot. No airports or docks for cruise ships can be found on Paradise Island, however, Nassau's cruise terminal sits 2 miles away. And Lynden Pindling International Airport, the closest airport, is about 10 miles southwest.
Grand Bahama Island – which can be reached by flying into Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO) – is home to Freeport, the country's second most populous city. The island is also one of the best vacation spots for eco-travelers. Its treasure is Lucayan National Park on the southern side of the island, but miles of secluded and water sports-focused beaches can be found here as well. Xanadu Beach is most convenient to Freeport's resorts, while Gold Rock Beach in Lucayan National Park and Fortune Beach by Bell Channel Bay are ideal options for sunbathing sans hordes of tourists.
To avoid the crowds that inevitably plague most of the beaches on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands, consider staying on The Out Islands, the smaller and sometimes cheaper islands scattered throughout the archipelago. These include The Abacos, Acklins, Andros, The Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, The Exumas, Harbour Island, Long Island and San Salvador.
The Abacos consists of 120 miles of islands and cays (including Disney Cruise Line's private island, Castaway Cay) that are great for exploring and snorkeling. Great Abaco Island and Little Abaco are The Abacos' main islands, and as such feature its main destinations – the lively city of Marsh Harbour and Hope Town and New Plymouth, where quintessential Bahamian architecture (think: pastel colors and gingerbread trim) is on display. Lodging options are limited throughout The Abacos, but a few properties can be found in Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay on Great Abaco Island. Marsh Harbour is also home to the region's main airport, Leonard M. Thompson International Airport (MHH).
Acklins is a relatively undeveloped island – only three lodges are available on the northern end in Chesters and the southern side in Salina Point – with several Lucayan Indian sites, especially along Pompey Bay Beach. Fishing, kayaking and snorkeling are popular pastimes here because of the island's shallow waters, and Plana Cays (a protected area) offers chances to see endangered iguanas and rare hutias (or native rodents that look like guinea pigs). The island's regional airport, Spring Point Airport (AXP), sits in the middle of the island in Spring Point.
Andros is the Bahamas' largest island, but it's also the least developed. Like other Out Islands, Andros is ideal for eco-travelers. Along its shores lies the Big Yard, the world's third-largest barrier reef, filled with various marine wildlife. Morgan's Bluff, meanwhile, offers close proximity to Henry Morgan's Cave, named for the pirate who allegedly hid here. And for history buffs, there's the Native Colony Ruins (with eight stone buildings from the 1930s) by Pleasant Harbour. Getting to Andros requires flying into its regional airport, San Andros Airport (SAQ).
The Berry Islands
Composed of 30 cays (most of which are uninhabited), The Berry Islands appeal to travelers in search of a quiet getaway. Desolate beaches and empty coves are sprinkled throughout the islands, but the most popular areas are undoubtedly the region's dive sites. Great Harbour Cay, which has welcomed celebrities like Brigitte Bardot, Jack Nicklaus and the Rockefellers, is where most local hotels and the islands' primary airport, Great Harbour Cay Airport (GHC), reside. Two cruise lines (Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International) also have private islands (Great Stirrup Cay and CocoCay) in The Berry Islands.
Accessible via South Bimini Airport (BIM), Bimini is the closest Bahamian island to the United States. Made up of North Bimini Island and South Bimini Island, Bimini was a popular hideout for rum-runners during prohibition, and the great American author, Ernest Hemingway, spent several years writing here. Because of its reputation as the big-game fishing capital of the world, Bimini is often crowded with anglers and boaters, so book your accommodations at area resorts (which are mostly in Bailey Town and Alice Town on North Bimini Island) well in advance. Other water sports opportunities, such as boating and scuba diving, are also available. And if you're interested in history, you should admire the rock formations strewn off the northern island's coast, which are said to be remnants of the lost city of Atlantis.
Cat Island is about 130 miles southeast of Nassau and Paradise Island and, like most Out Islands, is a popular locale for snorkeling and swimming. The island is relatively unpopulated, offering just a few small, rustic villages in addition to a pink sand beach, Arawak Indian caves and the remnants of cotton plantations and slave huts. However, several resorts are located on Cat Island, and two regional airports – Arthur's Town Airport (ATC) and New Bight Airport (CAT) – are available at the island's northern and southern ends. The island is also close to Half Moon Cay, the private island owned by Carnival Cruise Lines.
Separated from Acklins by a 500-square-mile lagoon, Crooked Island was labeled "one of the fragrant islands" by Christopher Columbus because of its array of herbs and flowers. The island is home to the two small towns of French Wells and Gun Point, as well as secluded sands, limestone caves and a former British fort. No lodging options are provided here, but the island's proximity to Acklins makes it easy to reach for a daytrip. On the island itself, there's Colonel Hill Airport (CRI), one of the country's regional airports.
Eleuthera was the Bahamas' first permanent settlement, and its Queen's Highway – which runs north to south – weaves throughout the entire island and makes navigation easy. The northern part of the thoroughfare (between Gregory Town and Lower Bogue) is where you can take in breathtaking views at The Glass Window Bridge, while the lush Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve can be found a few miles southeast of the highway and Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera's capital. Queen's Highway also passes several hotels, the ferry terminal (where you can continue on to Harbour Island) and Eleuthera's airport, Governor's Harbour Airport (GHB).
The Exumas features many exclusive hotels and resorts, such as Sandals Emerald Bay and Grand Isle Resort & Spa on Great Exuma, but most of its 365 cays and islands are privately owned by celebrities like Johnny Depp and David Copperfield. To reach The Exumas, plan on taking a boat tour from Nassau or flying into Exuma International Airport (GGT) on Great Exuma or Staniel Cay Airport (TYM) on its namesake island. Staniel Cay is where you'll find Thunderball Cave (which appears in the James Bond movie "Thunderball Cave,"), plus The Exumas' famous wild pigs. Stocking Island, meanwhile, is known for its resident stingrays, which you can swim with and feed.
Eleuthera's satellite island, Harbour Island, is home to Dunmore Town, where New England-style architecture is featured. In this 18th-century town lies Pink Sand Beach, which spans the island's entire eastern side. By the beach, visitors will find the bulk of Harbour Island's eateries and upscale resorts like Pink Sands Resort and Valentines Residences, Resort and Marina. The area's ferry terminal (which offers service between Harbour Island and Eleuthera) is also located in Dunmore Town.
Long Island sits southeast of The Exumas. Pink and white sand beaches are available here, but the island's top-notch fishing and diving are what draw in visitors. Dean's Blue Hole, the island's best dive site, is the deepest sinkhole (or blue hole) in the Bahamas and the second deepest in the world at more than 600 feet. A few miles southeast of the sinkhole, travelers will find Clarence Town, the island's main town. Accommodation options are most prevalent on this part of the island, while its only airport, Deadman's Cay Airport (LGI), is situated in the center of Long Island by New Found Harbour.
History is apparent no matter where you go on San Salvador. Believed to be the first place Columbus made landfall in the New World, this island features five memorials that honor the explorer, including one at Long Bay, where Columbus allegedly came ashore. Additionally, San Salvador boasts a cave with Lucayan Indian drawings and carvings, and Arawak Indian artifacts have been found on farms around the island. Only one major resort, Club Med Columbus Isle, is available on San Salvador, and the island's airport, San Salvador Airport (ZSA), is situated in Cockburn Town by its main highway.
The crime rate is high on many Bahamian islands, especially on New Providence, Paradise and Grand Bahama islands. Several sexual assaults and robberies at gunpoint and knifepoint have been reported in tourist areas on these islands. To keep yourself and your belongings safe, leave valuables in your hotel room and stay alert at all times. If you plan on traveling to more remote islands via your own boat or plane, be on the lookout for smugglers, who occasionally make stops here. For more information about security concerns and safety tips for the Bahamas, visit the U.S. State Department's website.
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