World-class beaches, five-star restaurants, and posh hotels will have you indulging like the pirates who once called it home
Nassau’s reputation might be most tied to the all-inclusive Atlantis resort that sits on its satellite, Paradise Island, but the capital boasts plenty of natural beauty and history of its own that’s often overshadowed. Don’t be turned off by Nassau’s popularity—the famous Cable Beach is still beautiful and fairly uncrowded, and water activities like snorkeling and glass-bottom boating abound on New Providence, the island on which Nassau is located. Just a three-hour flight from New York, Nassau also has a robust food scene featuring heavy-hitting names like Nobu and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, not to mention unpretentious haunts that serve delicious local fare.
Stay at the gorgeous Graycliff Hotel, a 20-room colonial mansion conveniently located in the heart of Old Nassau, which features a sprawling estate and an eponymous restaurant that earned the Caribbean’s first culinary five stars. The Graycliff derives its name from pirate Captain John Howard Graysmith, who built the structure amid the ruins of a 17th-century Anglican church. The Graycliff dates back to “the days of the golden age of piracy in Nassau,” explains Anna Bancroft of Tru Bahamian Food Tours. “There are said to be secret passages leading to the harbor—perfect for smuggling.”
Take in a tour at the Graycliff ’s cigar factory and its chocolatier. Cigar enthusiasts can learn how to roll their own and pair them with rum, while those looking for something sweeter can explore the bean-to-bar chocolate-making process and make some goodies themselves.
The most indulgent experience available at the Graycliff, though, is at its Bahamian-influenced European restaurant. Take a cooking class that begins with a tour of the property before heading into the kitchen with executive chef Elijah Bowe, who leads an intimate cooking experience for six to 12 people at a time. That’s followed by a visit to the wine cellar—the third largest in the Western hemisphere—before returning for a threecourse meal with wine.
For a spirit that’s a little more local, rum lovers should head to downtown distillery John Watling’s for Bahama Mamas made with small-batch rums. Nearby, foodies can dine alfresco in the verdant courtyard or on the veranda at Café Matisse, an Italian favorite with colorful decor.
Those who prefer urbane modernity to colonial charm stay at One&Only Ocean Club, which is rumored to be a favorite spot of Beyoncé and Jay Z. The sleek hotel offers an 18-hole golf course, 35 acres of stunning gardens, an immaculate beach, and a restaurant, Dune, by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which serves French-Asian cuisine with a Bahamian touch.
For a truly authentic local food experience, head to Bahamian Cookin’ Restaurant & Bar. “It’s really, really special because the downtown area doesn’t really have traditional Bahamian restaurants,” Bancroft says. “They’ve sort of cornered the market, and it’s owned and operated by three generations of Bahamian women who still cook to this day.” Bancroft recommends conch fritters and steamed chicken that falls right off the bone. Another good option for local fare is Lukka Kairi, overlooking Nassau Harbour.
Potter’s Cay, a market under a bridge to Paradise Island, is home to several food and drink stands, where tourists and locals alike flock for fresh conch salad and local cocktails like Sky Juice, a coconut drink with gin.