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Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas, is a beautiful island nation in the Atlantic Ocean. It is situated on New Providence, one of the many islands that make up the Bahamas. Nassau serves as the country’s political, economic, and cultural center. The weather is pleasant, and the sandy beaches and surroundings are stunning. While the city is relatively small, its suburbs and residential areas stretch along the coast and into the interior.

Nassau is a popular tourist destination (you’ll know why) and an international banking center. Crawfish (spiny lobster), various seafood, fruits and vegetables, rum, and crude salt are among the domestic exports. The city is famous for its fantastic outdoor activities and water sports. Adventurous tourists can enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, buggy trips, jet skiing, and more!

So, whether you’re fascinated by its history, mesmerized by its landscapes, or intrigued by its vibrant culture, Nassau promises a fantastic adventure. This Port Day Guide will help you get the most out of your time in Nassau!

Things to Do in Nassau on a Port Day

Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler | image: aerial view of cruise ship port

Explore Downtown Nassau

Downtown Nassau is a captivating blend of Nassau’s ancient and new sides, offering a mix of old architecture from the colonial era and modern high-end shopping.

One of its main attractions is its rich historical charm. Take a stroll along cobblestone streets and admire the well-preserved colonial architecture. Don’t miss landmarks like the pink-hued Government House, symbolizing Bahamian tradition, and Fort Charlotte, a majestic fort with stunning bay views.

For shopping enthusiasts, Downtown Nassau is a paradise! Explore the lively Straw Market, where authentic Bahamian crafts and souvenirs are found. And when it comes to food, the area is a culinary delight. Sample typical Bahamian dishes like conch salad, cracked conch, and fried fish at local cafés and food stalls. Quench your thirst with refreshing Bahamian cocktails, such as the Bahama Mama.

To make the most of your visit, you can join a guided walking tour led by a local expert. The tour can be tailored to your preferences, lasting anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.

Take a Trip to Rose Island

If you’re visiting Nassau on a cruise and want a break from the city, consider a half-day trip to Rose Island! This beautiful and serene island is just off the coast of Nassau, offering untouched beauty and crystal-clear waters for a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

A short boat ride from Nassau will take you to this charming spot. Water sports enthusiasts will love the surrounding waters, with options for snorkeling and scuba diving among vibrant coral reefs teeming with colorful marine life. If you prefer above-water activities, try kayaking, paddleboarding, or sailing around the island while taking in the breathtaking scenery.

One of the highlights of visiting Rose Island is the chance to enjoy a beachfront BBQ or picnic. Many tour operators and private excursions offer delicious Bahamian cuisine on the sandy shores, allowing you to savor local specialties amidst the island’s natural beauty. 

Rose Island is a true paradise for those seeking relaxation, adventure, and a memorable escape from the city’s hustle.

Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler | image: Queen's Staircase

Climb the Queen’s Staircase

The Queen’s Staircase, also known as the 66 Steps, is a significant monument in Nassau’s Fort Fincastle Historic Complex. It was carved out of solid limestone rock by enslaved people between 1793 and 1794, providing direct access from Fort Fincastle to Nassau City. The steps were later named in honor of Queen Victoria, who reigned over Britain for 64 years, from 1837 to 1901.

Today, the Queen’s Staircase is a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of Bahamian heritage. During your visit, you can climb the steps to the top of the hill, where you can admire the impressive craftsmanship and enjoy panoramic views of Nassau and its bay. The lush tropical surroundings add to the site’s beauty, making it a picturesque spot for photography and a tranquil setting for some peaceful moments of reflection.

Explore Parliament Square

Parliament Square is a historic and notable place in the middle of Nassau. This picturesque area is steeped in colonial history and serves as the country’s political center. It was initially established by Loyalists from North Carolina in the early 1800s, who chose to remain loyal to the British crown after England lost the Revolutionary War.

The main feature of Parliament Square is the pink-hued neo-Georgian Parliament Building, where the Bahamian Parliament conducts legislative procedures. This striking building stands out as a symbol of Bahamian Governance and a significant landmark.

The square is well-maintained and adorned with lush gardens, palm trees, and statues

commemorating important figures in the Bahamas’ history. The majestic Queen’s Staircase, named after Queen Victoria, also graces the area, reflecting the British colonial past.

Parliament Square is more than just a collection of government buildings; it is a living tribute to the Bahamas’ rich history and tradition. It honors the country’s past while highlighting its role as an independent nation.

Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler | image: red starfish on beach with hotels in background

Relax on Cable Beach

Cable Beach, situated on the northern coast of New Providence Island, is one of Nassau’s most renowned and captivating beaches. Stretching nearly two and a half miles, it offers a perfect combination of natural beauty, luxury resorts, and a wide range of recreational activities. The beach boasts smooth, powdery white sand that gently slopes into the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Its calm and shallow waters make it an excellent spot for swimming and relaxation.

Cable Beach is also home to some of the Bahamas’ most luxurious resorts, featuring world-class amenities and stunning ocean views. You can indulge in spa treatments, savor gourmet cuisine, and participate in water sports and leisure activities like snorkeling, paddleboarding, and jet skiing.

With its picturesque setting and abundance of offerings, Cable Beach is a paradise for beach lovers and travelers seeking relaxation and adventure and only a 20-minute taxi ride from the cruise port.

Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler | image: brown pig swimming in clear waters

Swim with Pigs

Swimming with pigs in Nassau is a one-of-a-kind and unforgettable activity that has grown in popularity among visitors to the Bahamas. Swimming with pigs is possible on the island of Big Major Cay, which is part of the Exuma Cays.

The pigs of Big Major Cay, often called the “Exuma swimming pigs” or “the swimming pigs,” have become an iconic attraction in the Bahamas. Their story adds to the allure of the experience.

Legend has it that sailors or individuals planning to start a pig farm brought these pigs to the island. However, they were left behind and became feral, adapting to their coastal environment over time. Today, they are a cherished and well-cared-for group of wild pigs who enjoy swimming and interacting with visitors.

Tours to Big Major Cay are available from Nassau and other nearby islands. During these trips, you can feed the pigs, take photos with them, and witness their playful paddling and enjoyment in the pristine waters. Swimming with these friendly and lovely creatures has become a must-do activity for many tourists, adding an extra touch of magic to their Bahamas experience.

Admire the Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral is a significant historical and religious site in The Bahamas, dating back to 1670. Known as “the Mother Church of all the Anglican churches in The Bahamas,” it holds a special place in the country’s heritage.

The cathedral’s history is fascinating, with the first Bahamian church constructed in 1670. However, Spaniards destroyed the initial two churches, and the third was made of wood. The fourth church, built with cut stone, stood until the Christ Church Cathedral was erected in 1841.

The cathedral is an impressive sight with its striking Gothic architecture and beautiful white stone tower. Inside, you’ll find mahogany vaulted ceilings and exquisite handmade stained glass windows depicting events from Jesus’ life.

Beyond its religious significance, Christ Church Cathedral has played a crucial role in the Bahamas’ history. It has witnessed royal visits, state ceremonies, and important national celebrations. Visitors are welcome to attend regular services and experience the vibrant atmosphere of Bahamian worship.

Moreover, the cathedral hosts various cultural events, concerts, and recitals, adding to its cultural value and providing opportunities to immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Bahamian heritage. Christ Church Cathedral is not just a place of worship; it’s a living testament to the country’s past and a cherished landmark that continues to shape its present.

Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler | image: colorful buildings at Nassau cruise dock

Shop at the Straw Market

Nassau’s Straw Market is a lively and colorful marketplace that plays a significant role in the city’s culture and economy. It is a famous shopping center for locals and visitors on Bay Street in downtown Nassau.

The Nassau Straw Market represents a longstanding industry that has thrived in The Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean since the early 1940s. Originally, plaiting, braiding, and weaving were essential skills for Bahamians, used for practical purposes like making baskets for carrying fruit and fishing traps.

However, after World War II, the market experienced an increase in popularity as North American travelers began visiting The Bahamas for holidays, and straw craft products rapidly became popular souvenirs. Over time, the market’s offerings have expanded to include a wide range of products, such as clothing, accessories, and various merchandise. This transformation has turned the Straw Market into a vibrant and famous shopping destination for visitors seeking authentic Bahamian culture.

It’s an ideal place to purchase gifts for your loved ones or to take home cherished souvenirs of your trip to Nassau. The locally made goods and artwork directly connect to Bahamian traditions and heritage.

Stroll Through the Versailles Gardens and French Cloister

Versailles Gardens and the French Cloister on Paradise Island, near Nassau, are hidden gems worth exploring. This peaceful and charming location blends European elegance with tropical beauty, creating a stunning spot perfect for relaxation and discovery. You’ll need to take a taxi from the cruise port to the Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, where the gardens are located.

The Versailles Gardens, inspired by the famous Versailles Gardens in France, showcase grandeur and exquisite design. As you wander through these well-maintained gardens, you’ll be surrounded by vibrant flowers, lovely statues, and serene fountains framed by the sparkling Caribbean Sea. The carefully crafted pathways lead to a tranquil sanctuary with breathtaking views and plenty of opportunities for peaceful reflection.

The French Cloister and its surrounding gardens are open to the public, providing a peaceful escape from the busy tourist areas. It’s ideal for a leisurely stroll, a romantic outing, or simply finding a peaceful spot to bask in nature’s beauty and feel the refreshing sea breeze. 

Versailles Gardens and the French Cloisters’ magnificent setting have also made it popular for weddings, special celebrations, and photo shoots. Many visitors come to capture the beauty of the gardens and create lasting memories in this enchanting paradise.

Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler | image: Pirate Republic Brewing sign

Enjoy a Cool Draft at Pirate Republic Brewing

The first craft brewery in The Bahamas offers a variety of beers to suit different tastes. Serving five core beers, along with seasonal offerings and even hard seltzer, even the most discriminating hophead will be happy at Pirate Republic Brewing

And don’t forget to try some of their island bites, either. Offering a traditional brewpub menu with items like wings and burgers, there’s a little island taste, too – like conch fritters and crack conch sliders. You can check out my detailed experience at Pirate Republic Brewing.

Experience Graycliff Hotel

It seems strange to recommend a hotel visit on a port day, but the hotel offers lots of memorable experiences. Watch cigar makers at work and taste delicious local chocolates at the Graycliff Hotel. It’s a little different if you’ve been to Nassau and seen and done most things already. 

Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler | image: barrels in yard

Sample Rums at John Watling’s Distillery

Have you even been to a Caribbean island if you haven’t sampled its rum offerings? John Watling’s Distillery helps you check off that item on your island to-do list. Visitors will learn the history of the distilling process in the islands. At the end of the tour, guests can sample and purchase various beverages, including some unique cocktails.

Watch a Performance at the Dundas Centre

Nassau’s Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts is a popular and dynamic cultural hub. It’s a versatile venue that hosts various entertainment events, showcasing local and international talent.

At the Dundas Centre, you can enjoy various performances, including theater plays, concerts, dance shows, music recitals, and comedy acts. The center also welcomes touring artists, musicians, and performers, ensuring there’s always something new to experience. By attending a show at the Dundas Centre, visitors and locals can witness the incredible talent of Bahamian artists and enjoy performances from artists worldwide. It’s a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the Bahamas’ vibrant cultural scene, celebrating its artistic heritage and contemporary expressions.

Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler | image: lighthouse and boat in rocky beach in Nassau

Relax at Junkanoo Beach

Want to enjoy the beach but stay within a reasonable distance? Then Junkanoo Beach is the perfect destination. The beach is about 1 mile from the cruise port, so an easy walk for most guests. The beach’s clear turquoise waters are perfect for those wishing to relax, snorkel, or cool off in the Caribbean.

You can rent an umbrella and chair if you wish. Snorkel equipment is also available for rent. However, to enjoy a free visit, just bring your ship towel and claim a spot on the sandy beach. Perfect!

Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler | image: Bahamas sign on wood branch

Know Before You Go to Nassau

Nassau Weather

Due to its location in the Caribbean, Nassau enjoys beautiful weather year-round. The best months to visit Nassau are December through February, with dry weather and temperatures in the 70s. The rainiest months are June and October, so avoid them if possible. No matter when you go, you can swim in the warm waters.

Nassau Currency

The local currency is the Bahamian Dollar (BSD). The Bahamian Dollar is equivalent to the U.S. Dollar, so both are equally accepted anywhere in Nassau. If you’re arriving from a different destination, you may want a few U.S. Dollars on hand.

Getting Around Nassau From the Port

Most things recommended in this post are easily walkable from the port. If you need to reach a slightly farther distance, plenty of taxi drivers will be willing to take you. Make sure you negotiate a price before you enter the cab! 

You can always rent a car or scooter to get further away from the crowds, explore the rest of the island, and have enough time in port. 

Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler | image: colorful houses with boats in front

Final Thoughts on a Day in Nassau

Nassau, Bahamas, is a featured stop along many Caribbean cruise itineraries. I don’t believe that you need to book a shore excursion. The walkable areas within a mile of the cruise port offer plenty for the cruising guest to enjoy. From historic spots to unique experiences, beaches to shopping, Nassau is a fabulous destination for guests to explore!

Check out these other Caribbean Cruising posts:

Happy travels,
Annick, The Common Traveler

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Port Day Guide: Nassau, Bahamas | The Common Traveler shares the best things to do in Nassau during a port day, from enjoying the beach, shopping, and cultural spots. Check it out!

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