Picking the Perfect Pairing for a Bahamas Escape

28 Oct 2021

Most Bahamas-bound visitors land in the capital city of Nassau, where they could — quite happily — spend an entire holiday. Paired with the adjoining Paradise Island, this subtropical sweet spot blends everything from adventure to romance to family-friendly fun.

Still, The Bahamas is a vast and varied archipelago with amazingly accessible islands. In fact, the main ones are a quick flight or ferry ride from the capital. So why not double or triple up? By visiting a bonus island or two, you’ll boost beauty and fun factors exponentially while keeping costs surprisingly affordable with the 2 Fly Free from Nassau promotion for flights to one of the Out Islands of the Bahamas. Once you’ve begun to get a sense of what the flight and ferry schedules allow for (a lot), read on for our menu of suggested island pairings, whether you seek romance, nature, family fun, pure decadence, or adventures in angling and diving.

If you’re looking for…

…adventures on the water, or below the surface, head to:

Andros, a 15-minute flight from Nassau

Dotted with blue holes and fringed by bays, inlets, cays, channels, and a reef, The Bahamas’ largest island is the kind of place where fish handily outnumber — and utterly engross — humans. Particularly humans of the diving and angling variety.

Fishing in Andros

The bonefishing in particular is world-renowned here — and it happens to be stellar in autumn, when you’ll find big schools on the move. And though the pursuit itself may well be the point for you, the fact that you’re surrounded by all-but-untouched natural beauty certainly doesn’t hurt, whether you’re wading out among the island’s famed flats or fishing from a boat in the bights and creeks. Of course, bonefish aren’t the only ones you’re likely to hook: autumn is also a good time for barracuda, snapper, grouper, and wahoo. And if you’re extremely lucky, you may even find The Bahamas’ trademark blue marlin.

If you’d prefer to go face to face with those same characters below the surface — along with their Technicolor, reef-dwelling counterparts — know that the local snorkel and dive operations are almost as numerous as the fishing ones. The barrier reef running the length of the island packs kaleidoscopic and beginner-friendly sites, while the fabled Tongue of the Ocean walls — plus the preponderance of blue holes — are a siren song to advanced divers.

Scuba Diving in The Bahamas 

But before you leave Nassau, don’t miss…

The wreck-diving. It’s legendary here, thanks in part to sunken ships that have appeared in James Bond movies, among many others. In fact, the dive sites off Nassau are known in certain circles as Underwater Hollywood. And the same consistently good visibility that makes life easy for cinematographers also makes for great dive days.

…a luxe escape, head to:

Harbour Island, a 38-minute flight from Nassau

Take patrician New England bones, graft Bahamian vibrance and charm onto them, and you get Dunmore Town — so named for the loyalist ex-governor of Virginia who settled here as a newly minted British Lord during the American Revolutionary War. Though the place is tiny, many beautifully restored buildings remain from the 17th and subsequent centuries. Throw in some perfectly placed palms, the island’s famously pink sands and a few celebrity-beloved hideaway hotels, and you get the prettiest of posh enclaves. It’s most easily navigated by bike or golf cart — and best paired with at least one excursion to neighbouring Eleuthera Island, where you will, by contrast, definitely want a car (or a chauffeur, in keeping with the posh theme).

Bike riding in Dunmore Town, Harbour Island

Driving the roughly 105-kilometre Queen’s Highway down this strip of an island makes for a road trip like no other — complete with gorgeous beaches, atmospheric villages, and a string of natural wonders. The most iconic of these is the Glass Window Bridge, where you’ll be flanked by the cobalt Atlantic on one side of the road and the transparent turquoise of the Bight of Eleuthera on the other.

Glass Window Bridge

The nearby Queen’s Bath is also worth a visit. Also known as the Hot Tubs, these natural rock pools are either a stunning photo stop or — if the water is calm and warm — a prime soaking spot.

But before you leave Nassau, don’t miss…

The designer boutiques at Crystal Court, Baha Mar, and Bay Street. And given that the local restaurant scene can read like a who's-who of celebrity chefs, leave time and space for as many meals as possible. Options include Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud the Bahamas, Dune by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Nobu Mathsuhisa's eponymous Nobu, to name a few.

…a romantic interlude: Exuma

46-minute flight from Nassau

An archipelago within an archipelago, the Exumas are made up of 365 islands and cays. So casting away on one all on your own — the ultimate feat of romance — actually comes easy here. In fact, you can lay claim to a whole succession of uninhabited cays during a day of island-hopping. Your resort or tour operator can set you up with whatever you’ll need for the occasion, whether all you want is a picnic on a private island, or you want to spend a day swimming, snorkelling, and chilling your way through broad swathes of the archipelago.

Private island in the Exumas

Among the few interlopers you’ll actually want to run into, of course, are the Insta-famous swimming pigs of Big Major Cay (itself an uninhabited island). Whatever they lack in romance, they more than make up for in adorableness and novelty.

And though pretty much any stop in the Exumas serves up stunning scenery, a few more specific ones to consider: Tropic of Cancer Beach, so named for the meridian that runs through it; Thunderball Grotto (where you can wade, swim, or snorkel through the ethereal cavernous space); and Allen’s Cay (home to more celeb animals: the endemic rock iguanas).

Thunderball Grotto

But before you leave Nassau, don’t miss…

The fun and romance of horseback riding on a beautiful Bahamian beach — specifically, Coral Harbour. For a bit more indulgence, sign up for a chocolate-and-spirit-tasting session at the centuries-old Graycliff. And for a take-your-breath-away grand finale: sunset and live music at Marcus Samuelsson's rooftop bar, Marcus Up Top.

…family-friendly fun:

Grand Bahama Island, a 45-minute flight from Nassau

It goes without saying that any place you’re taking the kiddos from Nassau would ideally be close enough that there’s no time to get bored and restless on the plane. So the fact that you’ll be landing in less than an hour is already a great start. But it’s what you’ll find once you get there that makes this island so ideal — for starters, a number of incredibly family-friendly, parent-beloved all-inclusive resorts, where the littles often get their own pool, beach games, and parties while the grownups try out introductory dive courses, paddle boarding, couples massages, or just uninterrupted chill time on a lounger or hammock.

Family Time on Grand Bahama Island

And there’s a whole island’s worth of activities beyond your resort, of course — chief among them, the famed Lucayan National Park. Home to some of The Bahamas’ most beautiful beaches and extensive underwater cave systems. But arguably the most family-friendly element of the National Park are the nature trails and boardwalks that wind their way through the wildlife-rich mangrove, pine, and palm forests. If the kids are adventurous and old enough, another great family activity is a bike outing — whether along historic trails to one of the island’s first colonies, or to bird-rich wetlands — or to a stunning blue hole.

Lucayan National Park

But before you leave Nassau, don’t miss…

The Pirates of Nassau Museum — as fun and interactive as it is educational, and what kid doesn’t love pirate lore? Another attraction guaranteed to score major points with the kids: Aquaventure, home to three kids’ pools, various water slides, a winding river, and a (totally safe) shark-filled lagoon. 

….an eco-adventure:

Inagua, a 90-minute flight from Nassau

To immerse yourself in utterly hallucinatory nature, head to the home of the largest breeding colony of West Indian flamingoes (after a triumphant, if decades-long, return from the edge of extinction). And though these leggy wonders are the main attraction at the Inagua National Park, other dazzling sightings may include the Bahama parrot, Bahama woodstar hummingbird, Bahama pintails, tricolored herons, and roseate spoonbills. You may also spot a wild donkey or two among the mangroves.

Flamingo posing in Inagua

Not to be outdone, there’s also Little Inagua National Park — at 62,800 acres, the largest uninhabited island in the wider region — which is a nesting site for endangered sea turtles, who are VIPs throughout Inagua. At Union Creek Reserve, for example, you’ll find a protected tidal creek prized by not only green turtles and hawksbills, but also the researchers who study them.

Because both Great and Little Inagua are largely untouched, you’re not going to find big, splashy resorts here — just modest accommodation that — understandably in such pristine wilderness — lets nature steal the show.

But before you leave Nassau, don’t miss…

Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Centre. Beyond being a good introduction to much of what you’re likely to see in the wild later in your trip, the one-time nature preserve now serves as a research, rescue, and rehab facility (a number of the resident animals arrived orphaned and/or injured). But even if you visit for the gardens alone, you won’t be disappointed. The blooms of every kind and color — from orchids to bougainvillea to hibiscus — and the canopy of mangos, sapodillas, and breadfruit are like a microcosm of the Edenic offering across the entire Bahamian archipelago.  

Ready to go? Pair the 2 Fly Free offer with your pick of the islands of The Bahamas to plan your autumn or winter escape.

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