When you’re trudging through slush-covered streets and shivering through wooly layers on a winter day in Toronto, the warmth of the Bahamas feels a world away. But the Bahamian capital of Nassau is actually only a three-hour direct flight from Toronto, which means you can easily squeeze a dose of sun into a long weekend trip. Let’s get our geography straight first: Nassau is located on New Providence Island, but you’ll hear most people using Nassau to refer to the island as a whole. Nassau is also closely associated with Paradise Island, a small island north of New Providence which is known for its massive Atlantis resort, and is linked to bustling downtown Nassau by a pair of bridges.
What to Do
With all the beaches and booze, it’s easy to overlook Nassau’s rich culture but it’s worth spending at least an afternoon digging into the city’s history and arts. Check out the pink-and-white 19th-century buildings framing Parliament Square. Admire the views from the top of Fort Fincastle and the dramatic Queen’s Staircase leading up to it, which was built from limestone by slaves in the late 18th century. Save time to see the impressive collection of modern Bahamian and Caribbean art housed at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas.
It wouldn’t be a trip to the Bahamas without some beach time. Thanks to its proximity to downtown Nassau and the cruise ship terminals, Junkanoo Beach is one of the island’s liveliest. Although the sands here are somewhat rocky, there are tons of bars to keep beach-goers satisfied, including Fat Tuesday, which is known for its boozy frozen daiquiris. Moving west along the coast, you’ll find Cable Beach, a beautiful five-kilometre stretch of white sands lined with resorts, hotels and water-sports operators. For peace and quiet, head to Love Beach, a pretty patch of white sands located west of Nassau with excellent snorkelling off the coast.
What to Eat and Drink
Dine on conch fritters, sweet plantains and other Bahamian classics at the rainbow-hued cluster of stands collectively known as the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay . Wash everything down with sky juice – a potent mix of gin, condensed milk and coconut water.
Or head to Lukka Kairi, a hip restaurant overlooking Nassau Harbour that offers a mix of classic and contemporary takes on Bahamian cuisine, served family-style and made using ingredients sourced on the island. Expect regular live performances by Bahamian bands.
Don't miss the Mahogany House. Set in the Island House hotel, Mahogany House’s simple, refined fare includes superb seafood dishes, wood-fired pizzas and charcuterie plates that pair nicely with the well-curated wine list.
Where to Stay
The newest and most upscale of the three hotels found in the Baha Mar resort complex, Rosewood is a worthwhile splurge. Spanning 1,000 acres on Cable Beach, the property features an elegant British colonial aesthetic complemented by local touches, including a huge collection of Bahamian art. Rooms decorated in beachy blue and taupe have teak flooring and marble bathrooms with soaking tubs. There are two pools and multiple stylish bars and restaurants, including a garden-view lounge where a posh afternoon tea is served. Guests also have access to the surrounding Baha Mar complex, which includes a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and the biggest casino in the Caribbean.