Exploring Grand Bahama Island
Outdoor activities and places to see on Grand Bahama Island
Grand Bahama, the 4th largest island in the Bahamas, is at the top of the archipelago of over 700 islands and 2,500 cays that span approximately 100,000 square miles in the western Atlantic Ocean. With some of the clearest water I’ve seen in the Caribbean, it’s no surprise that water sports are one of the most popular activities, particularly scuba diving and snorkeling. With the world’s longest barrier reef, the island also boasts an incredible underwater cave system and tunnels that run beneath the entire island and out into the surrounding sea bed, many of which can be found in the Lucayan National Park.
There are over 60 dive sites that include natural caverns, caves, and coral reefs as well as the man-made remains of shipwrecks. Above the surface of the water you’ll find fabulous sailing, parasailing, sport fishing, sea kayaking through the mangroves, and swimming with the dolphins. For the sport fisherman, one of the most sought after experiences is fishing for a native Bahamian fish, the bonefish. Gather your gear, wet your line, and hook in to one of the strongest, pound for pound, fishing adventures around.
Lucayan National Park
On land, nature and outdoor activities include a visit to the Rand Nature Centre. Just minutes from Freeport, this 100-acre centre, also a national park, preserves Grand Bahamas’ natural habitat with native plants, orchids, and birds. The Lucayan National Park, which was at one time a burial ground for the native people, is home to one of the islands’ most spectacular beaches, Gold Rock Beach, and is where you can visit the islands’ six diverse ecosystems in one place: the pine forest, underwater caves, beach, mangroves, and the blackland, whiteland, and rocky coppices. For more on these ecosystems, please refer to this link http://www.geographia.com/grandbahama/ecosystems.htm.
Pelican Bay Hotel
Jeep tours with Grand Bahama Nature Tours
Tour operators offer various ways to see the unspoiled parts of the island via nature tours, horseback riding, boating, and eco-adventures tours. One option is to book a jeep tour with Grand Bahama Nature Tours where guests drive their own jeep following a local tour guide, which is what we did. Joanne, our guide and a native of Grand Bahama, was very knowledgeable about the ecosystems, attractions, and history of the island. The jeep tour is a great way to see the sights, spend time at the beaches (especially stunning Gold Rock Beach), visit the Lucayan National Park and the underground caves, and grab lunch and a local Kalik or Sands beer along the way, perhaps at the Garden Café in Garden of the Groves.
On another day, take an afternoon drive to visit a few of the small fishing villages, such as Smith’s Point, where you can dine with the locals and enjoy Bahamian specialties, such as conch fritters, pigeon (peas ‘n rice), or a fish fry. If golfing is your thing, Grand Bahama Island is known as the golf capital of The Islands of the Bahamas. You’ll find three world-class golf courses on the island that are sure to test your skill and tease your senses with the ocean breezes and beautiful scenery.
Garden of the Groves
What to do as the sun sets on Grand Bahama Island
When you’re ready to head back into Freeport and relax after all the activities, visit the Port Lucaya Marketplace & Marina where you’ll find boutiques, bars and restaurants, and the local vendors with their straw hats and arts and crafts. Pick a spot along the waterfront and grab a seat to watch the boats come in to dock at the end of the day and enjoy one of the Bahamian specialties, such as a Guava Duff; a pastry style dessert that has been transformed into a tasty frozen concoction, and very sweet, cocktail.
Before the sun goes down, be sure to ask the locals where to find the best music or lively nighttime entertainment. If you’re in town for Boxing Day (December 26), New Years Day, or in the month of July, you’ll be able to take part in Junkanoo, the traditional Bahamian carnival and festival parade featuring colorful costumes, music, food, and art.
With Grand Bahama Island so close to home, it’s a great place to unwind and relax for a quick weekend retreat, but I suggest a full week to enjoy what the island has to offer. Take time to see the rest of the island (outside of Freeport). It’s just 96 miles long and 17 miles wide (at its widest point). For an extended stay, do some island hopping to: Abaco, the quiet and beautiful outlying island; Bimini, for pristine beaches and fishing; Eleuthera and Harbour Island for its architecture influenced by early British Loyalist settlers, acres of pineapple plantations, and pink sand beaches; or swim with the pigs in Exuma, surely a once in a lifetime experience. With it’s natural beauty, friendly people, relaxed lifestyle, and quiet sophistication, you can see why they say, “It’s Better in the Bahamas.”
Next article – A look at the culinary side of Grand Bahama Island.
Disclosure – I was a guest of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board, and Pelican Bay Hotel for this trip. We have not been compensated for this article and the opinions expressed regarding my experience are my own.
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