Which is the best place in the Bahamas to vacation? Freeport or Nassau? I have to say, I am torn which one to pick. They both had their share of exquisite experiences. If I really had to choose, I would select Freeport, because it was more authentic and culture-laden. (My eight day vacation included three nights in Freeport, a local flight to Nassau, one night on Paradise Island in Nassau, and four nights in Nassau itself.)
First, Freeport. We rented a car, so had free roam of the island. We stayed right in Freeport, which is part of the grand bahama island. Our hotel was called Port Lucaya Resort and Yacht Club, and was a previous Fairfield timeshare resort. We were right next to the marketplace. In the market place, you could find all sorts of things to see and do. There were little shops and stands selling straw-purses, wraps, necklaces, etc. for females. Then there were stands with leather items like belts and knives and cigarette lighters for men. You could also find a couple of places to have your hair braided. The women in Freeport are always wanting you to let them braid your hair- it is a big thing there! I wanted to, but I have very long hair and it would have taken hours and cost alot for my long hair. The marketplace area also had many restaurants, with an area by the water for watching concerts. Most of the restaurants had outdoor and indoor dining available, with views of the water. There were quite a few resorts on island in Freeport, one of which had a waterslide and pool-bar where you sit right in the water. Then, on the outskirts of Freeport, there was another market area. This place was near the Westin resort, where the waterslide is. In this shopping area, you can find more of the same things as in the marketplace, but in more official-type and permanent stores. You can find some cool cotton and linen clothing items and all types of tourist items like shot-glasses here.
The best part of Freeport, then, or Grand Bahama Island, was getting out of the freeport area. Many people when taking cruises to the bahamas and stopping in freeport, don’t like it. This is because they only see one area of the island. However, when you venture on your own, the excitement begins. We drove out to the Lucayan National Park one day. There is a long path that takes you to the beach, but once you get there, it’s like you have your own beach. Hardly anyone was there, and this on a holiday week! There are no restaurants or food options, so be sure to take plenty of water with you to go on this beach! The next day, we drove the other way on the island and made it to Eight-Mile Rock. Here, the beach is basically a solid rock area for a really long stretch! The sunset was beautiful. There were some local huts selling food and drink, as well as souvenirs, right along the beach.
Finally, in Freeport, we went during the Fourth of July- which is celebrated there. There was a parade in Freeport on the main road, with the locals in costume much like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This gave us some more taste of the local culture.
Next, Nassau. It was hard to choose Freeport over Nassau, due to one attraction here- Atlantis Resort. This place is on Paradise Island, which is a short drive over a bridge to get to from Nassau. Atlantis is truly paradise! Atlantis is huge, with a large casino, live underwater aquariums with sharks and stingrays that can be viewed from above or below, a waterslide that plummets through the shark tank, some great restaurants, a beach with white sand and a guy selling authentic pina coladas out of coconuts, a lazy river ride, many swimming pools and shaded sitting areas, and some other water slides. There is a huge lagoon/lake area in the center where you can rent a paddle boat and there is a beach.
Nassau itself left a bit to be desired. While it was nice in general, it was mostly a tourist haven. The shops were for tourists, but sold less local items. I will admit there is a straw market like the one in Freeport, and it does sell the local items. But the restaurants are more upscale and more expensive. The shops sell higher price items. There is an Outback Steakhouse there, to name one American restaurant located there. The island has local housing, and some very high-end homes in one area near the airport, but not many little huts that I could see. This whole island seems more developed and urbanized. In downtown Nassau, I actually felt a bit afraid to be laying on the beach even in the day, or to leave my belongings for even one minute. It reminded me of downtown Washington, DC or New York City or perhaps even the Chicago local beach area.
There are some nice restaurants and resorts on this island. We went to a very expensive restaurant our last night, that was part of a resort, and our bill was $130 for two people. But, the fare was exquisite and included fresh seafood. We also snuck into a resort to visit the pool area, because we stayed in the Holiday Inn downtown which had a very small pool. There was a pool bar like in Freeport’s resort, and a waterslide that was closed for construction.
So, I would pick Freeport, as a more authentic vacation destination. While you can find some upscale urbanization here, it is mostly local oriented and less like a city. You can come back with your hair braided, some handmade purses from the straw market, and a tan that you wouldn’t believe! (Wear 50plus sunblock every day unless you tan well!)