Nassau’s quieter cousin is the place to go for gorgeous nature, all-inclusive tranquility, and exceptional seafood
For vacationers who prefer a slower pace to Nassau’s hustle and bustle, Grand Bahama Island is a laid-back alternative that still has shopping, golf courses, upscale restaurants, and of course, beautiful beaches.
Old Bahama Bay offers the convenience of a full-service resort with the intimacy of a secluded boutique hotel. Be prepared to stay on the grounds, though, as the hotel is located on the island’s westernmost tip, 26 miles away from the main city of Freeport. The quiet isolation means guests mostly have the pristine beach to themselves, and the property is furnished with everything they need—a restaurant, bar, basketball and tennis courts, snorkeling, paddleboards, and fishing. It’s not a bad idea to go during lobster season, August through March, when guests can catch their own meals.
The sprawling Grand Lucayan is an all-inclusive resort with 542 guest rooms, several restaurants and bars, a world-class 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., four tennis courts, and water sports.
For the best restaurant on the island, venture into Freeport to the modern seafood spot Flying Fish, the only restaurant on Grand Bahama Island with four diamonds from AAA. Husband-and-wife duo Tim and Rebecca Tibbitts run the restaurant; Rebecca is the commonwealth’s only female certified sommelier, and Tim, the executive chef, is a Bahamas native. Expect gastromolecular dishes like serrano-ham-wrapped wahoo over squid-ink risotto and local lobster with romesco sauce.
For a cheap and cheery night out, head to Fish Fry at Smith’s Point on Wednesdays for dancing, cold beer, fried fish, broiled lobster, and conch, right on the beach. Sabor, a restaurant that is part of the Pelican Bay Hotel, offers more of a nightclub vibe in the evening, with stylish cocktails on the water.
Grand Bahama Island might not have the same star power as Nassau, but what it lacks in name recognition it more than makes up for in natural beauty. Don’t miss sights like Lucayan National Park, which houses underwater caves, a mangrove, and the stunning Gold Rock Beach, which remains undeveloped thanks to its protection by the Bahamas National Trust. Less spectacular is Taino Beach, which is the place to go for water sports.
The Garden of the Groves is the lushest part of the island. The 12-acre garden boasts tropical trees and flowers, butterflies and birds, four waterfalls, lagoons, and a hilltop chapel. Walk the limestone-boulder surrounded labyrinth for a contemplative experience.