Of the 700 coral islands that grace the Bahamas archipelago, 16 are developed for tourism, and each one boasts miles of white- or pink-sand beaches. Nassau, the Bahamas’ capital, is the centre of the action, but those longing for an unhurried pace and plenty of outdoor pursuits should spend some time on the Family Islands. Here’s how to spend a week island-hopping through the Bahamas.
Two nights in Nassau
Nassau (on New Providence Island) is ideal for visitors seeking an upscale, urban vibe. Beyond the city’s bustling downtown, luxury resorts stretch along Cable Beach, 20 minutes west. And, on neighbouring Paradise Island (connected to New Providence by bridges) Atlantis—a sprawling, family-friendly resort—dominates the skyline.
Pick up the Franko Downtown Nassau Historic Walk map (available throughout the island) and spend a day on a self-guided tour of colonial Nassau. Don’t miss the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, housed in the Villa Doyle, which was built in the 1860s by Sir William Doyle, the first Bahamian to be knighted.
Budget time for nearby Graycliff, an 18th-century estate built by privateer John Howard Graysmith. Take a lesson in chocolate- or cigar-making at the onsite chocolatier and cigar company, or imbibe in a luncheon and tour of owner Enrico Garzaroli’s wine cellar, which, at more than 250,000 bottles, is among the largest private wine collections in the world.
Spend a day on Blue Lagoon Island, a poster-perfect cay with an inflatable activity park in an enclosed turquoise lagoon. Popular on-island Dolphin Encounters offers meet or swim with dolphin experiences, and kayak and Segway tours are also available.
Next stop: Depart on the 8 a.m. Bahamas fast ferry to Harbour Island.
Two nights in Harbour Island
A powder-soft pink-sand beach that stretches for nearly five kilometres is the crown jewel of laid-back Harbour Island, or “Briland,” as the locals call it. There’s a “yesteryear” vibe on this island, where friendly folks enjoy small-town life and roosters wake you each morning. Still, a handful of small, low-key resorts with impeccable service attract the rich and famous in search of a barefoot hideaway.
Rent a golf cart—the preferred mode of transport—from one of several vendors in Dunmore Town (the isle’s only town and the one-time capital of the Bahamas). Cruise along Dunmore’s quiet, narrow streets, which are lined with picket fences and New England-style clapboard houses, then venture out for a leisurely tour of the rest of the tiny isle.
Tuck into a lobster quesadilla at Sip Sip restaurant overlooking gorgeous Pink Sands Beach, one of the world’s top-rated. Then walk the beach’s wide, silky rose strands to your heart’s content, in near solitude.
Next stop: Return to Nassau to catch a quick flight with SkyBahamas to Great Exuma.
Two nights in The Exumas
With good reason, this necklace of 365 secluded cays and islands has long lured sailors. Stretching more than 190 km, the Exumas are lapped by crystal-clear waters in various shades of aquamarine and rimmed with sandy beaches. Though Great Exuma is the largest and busiest island, you won’t find a single traffic light here—even in capital George Town.
From George Town’s dock, take a water taxi to Stocking Island, eight minutes away. There you can swim with wild stingrays before devouring a fresh conch burger at Chat ’N’ Chill on the beach.
Another day, take a full-day speedboat tour with Four C’s Adventures to the Exuma Cays. You’ll get to snorkel Thunderball Grotto (a marine cave featured in two James Bond films—Thunderball and Never Say Never Again), take a dip with swimming pigs (the infamous residents of “Pig Beach”) and feed nurse sharks, among other activities.
Next stop: Fly the next morning to Nassau via SkyBahamas.
One night in Nassau
Spend the last day and night of your vacation making the most of Nassau’s shopping and dining scenes. Pick up handicrafts in Graycliff’s Heritage Village Artists Studios and Festival Place (in the Cruise Terminal), or sample local cuisine with Tru Bahamian Food Tours. End your holiday with dinner at Café Matisse, where you’ll enjoy upscale Italian cuisine in an intimate, tree-filled courtyard.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Nassau three times a week from Toronto.
Living Like a Local in Barbados
Barbados celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence on November 30, 2016. To toast the occasion, we asked Bajan Darrio Prescod, the Barbados and Caribbean brand ambassador for Mount Gay Rum (one of the country’s most famous exports), to share his favourite island spots.