Say goodbye to swimming with the dolphins and visiting the Bahamian pigs, and say hello to a more authentic side of Nassau.
In contrast to the laid-back atmosphere of most of the Bahamas, Nassau stands out as the place for those looking for a thrill. It is a city located at the heart of the world’s most stunning archipelago, and it provides a different kind of urban adventure. In Nassau, curious travellers initially come for the resorts and casinos but are captivated by the unique city’s buzz.
During my last visit to Nassau, I took the opportunity to explore deeper into the city’s local scene more. Rather than sticking to the usual tourist spots, I found myself mingling with the staff of luxury yachts at tiny fishing bars or eating at local joints where Bahamians go. This allowed me to experience Nassau from a more personal perspective, better understanding the city’s culture and way of life.
This is not another guide telling you how amazing the Atlantis Aquaventure Water Park is or how you shouldn’t skip the opportunity of swimming with the pigs. This guide is written to help you find yourself in the true essence of Nassau and better appreciate all this incredible city has to offer.
These are my best tips (and with the help of some locals) for experiencing Nassau:
Try the Bahamian cuisine as the Bahamians do
As expected of any great Caribbean destination, finding fresh seafood and fish is a breeze in Nassau. Local delicacies such as conch fritters, conch salad, and guava duff should be on your bucket list when visiting the Bahamas. Although these dishes can be found in virtually every restaurant in Nassau, if you want to experience where the locals truly go, Arawak Cay, aka Fish Fry, and Potters Cay are the spots to be.
Arawak Cay may be a little more touristy, but it’s still a favourite spot for locals to hang out, catch up with friends, and have a good time. Expect a big party vibe on weekends, with many of the restaurants featuring live bands and DJs to keep the crowd entertained and dancing all night long.
On the other hand, Potters Cay embodies the authentic charm of the Bahamas. Located just off the western end of the Paradise Island bridge, Potters Cay is colourful, boisterous, and a little crazy. The seafood here is said to be some of the best in Nassau, so don’t hesitate to venture out alone. You’ll surely meet at least a dozen friendly Bahamians happy to swap numbers and make new friends.
Additionally, for those looking to try the best conch dishes in their lives, these are some of the top restaurants, according to locals:
Just west of downtown Nassau in the heart of Arawak Cay. They serve various conch dishes, including conch salad, fritters, and cracked conch. This is probably one of the most famous spots for Conch Salat, which is made fresh to order with diced conch, peppers, onions, and citrus juices.
Another spot in Arawak Cay, Oh Andros is a casual food stand located in the Fish Fry area. They serve up a variety of seafood dishes, including conch fritters and conch salad. Its signature dish is the Conch Salat and they are famously known for a good sized portion and relaxed vibes.
The Poop Deck
This seafood restaurant is located on the eastern end of Nassau. Maybe a bit far away for those staying in downtown, but still worth the visit. Some of their highlights include conch chowder, conch fritters, and cracked conch. Their cracked conch is known for being crispy and flavorful, while their waterfront location offers excellent harbour views.
Enjoy a beach day
Visiting the Bahamas and not spending time at the beach is almost unheard of. With some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world, it’s no surprise that Bahamians keep them a secret. While many tourists flock to the well-known Junkanoo Beach or opt for the luxurious private beaches on Paradise Island, the locals have hidden gems. These less-explored beaches around the island offer some of the most stunning views and are considered top spots by the locals.
These are some of the most beautiful public beaches around Nassau
Cable Beach is a famous beach on the north coast of New Providence. It stretches for over 2 miles and features soft white sand and crystal-clear water. The beach has several resorts, restaurants, and bars, making it an excellent spot for relaxation and entertainment.
Cabbage Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand on Paradise Island, just across the bridge from Nassau. The beach is known for its clear turquoise water and is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Visitors can also enjoy the nearby restaurants and bars.
Love Beach is a secluded beach on the northwestern coast of New Providence. It is a great spot for those who prefer a quieter, more private beach experience. The beach features white sand and crystal-clear water, and visitors can often spot sea turtles and other marine life.
Explore Nassau’s historical side
Although I didn’t plan to include the Queen’s Staircase in this guide, I couldn’t help but notice how serene and peaceful it is in the early morning before the cruise ships arrive. Local residents often exercise here and, one or another, relax on the benches while listening to the birds singing.
Surprisingly, the Queen’s Staircase turned out to be one of the best places for jogging and starting your day in Nassau.
Besides, taking a stroll around Nassau with a cup of iced coffee is one of the most enjoyable activities in the city. The traditional colonial buildings in Downtown Nassau are captivating, and Parliament Square provides a perfect haven for some quiet moments.
Visiting Fort Fincastle is a must for travellers interested in learning more about the Bahamas’ history. This structure, built in 1793, offers stunning views of Nassau and its harbour.
Enjoy a wild night
Nassau is known for its vibrant nightlife, and music is at the heart of it all. With a range of genres from reggae to hip-hop, the city has a diverse music scene that draws local and international talent. Clubs and bars like Bambu, Aura, and The Current are popular venues for live music, where large crowds gather to enjoy the beats and dance the night away.
For a more laid-back experience, Bamboo Shack and Sky Juice are local favourites that offer traditional Bahamian drinks and cuisine. These spots add to the unique charm of Nassau’s nightlife, showcasing the rich culture and traditions of the Bahamas.
But what truly sets Nassau apart is the Bahamian love for partying. Whether you’re at a fancy club or a humble conch joint, you’ll find locals having a good time and welcoming visitors with open arms. So, let loose and embrace the party spirit – you never know where the night may take you in Nassau.
Read more: The Art of Slow Traveling in the Bahamas
Take a trip with the mailboat
My trip to the Bahamas was not just about exploring the islands but also about understanding the local people. I decided to travel by mailboat, which was the most authentic experience I could have had in this country.
Mailboats are where Bahamians come together, chat about their lives, and find inner peace. I had some of the most meaningful conversations of my trip on the decks of these boats, learning a lot about the country and what it means to be Bahamian.
Travelling by mailboat is not a luxurious experience, but it’s perfect for those seeking a unique cultural lesson. If you want to understand the people and their way of life, I highly recommend hopping on a mailboat.
Read more: How to travel by Mailboat around the Bahamas