The Best Things to See, Do (and Eat) on Grand Bahama Island
It’s as complete a destination as you’ll find in the Caribbean: large resorts, blindingly white-sand beaches, spectacular eco-attractions and a vibrant dining scene (including the popular Grand Bahama Island Restaurant Month). But Grand Bahama still flies under the radar.
That’s despite the fact that Grand Bahama is less than an hour’s flight from South Florida, making it one of the easiest destinations to access in the wider region.
So what’s a traveler to do? Here are our favorite places, things to do and sights to see on an island that is making a major push back into the spotlight.
Get Bronzed at Gold Rock Beach
Located within Lucayan National Park, this famously broad beach has a gentle slope that continues well below a patina of shallow, clear water, allowing seemingly endless wading in soft sand. No wonder it’s a perennial mention on lists of the world’s best beaches.
Explore the Lucayan Caverns
Another attraction in Lucayan National Park are Ben’s Cave and Burial Mound Cave, deep limestone caverns filled with fresh water on top and salt water at lower depths. Once used by the native Lucayan tribe for shelter and ceremonies, the two entrances lead to an underwater cavern system that’s more than 6 miles long.
Visit a Farm Devoted to Saving Coral Reefs
The Coral Vita coral farm on Grand Bahama Island grows corals — they are living creatures — so that they can be implanted in places where reefs have been damaged or otherwise under threat. Visitors to the farm can take a tour of the growing tanks, get up close and personal with coral reef creatures, and even adopt a coral.
Snorkel Paradise Cove
This West End cove offers the best access to Deadman’s Reef, one of the top snorkeling spots on Grand Bahama, which also can be explored by kayak or paddle board. Visitors also can help keep the reef healthy by joining a spearfishing trip in search of the invasive lionfish.
Take an Eco-Tour on the West End
As one of the Caribbean’s great eco-destinations, Grand Bahama is filled with great spots for exploring the marine world. That includes excursions with West End Ecology Tours, which operates a number of high-level experiences ranging from coral reef exploration to reef fishing to a chance to swim with stingrays.
Take a Stroll Through the Garden of the Groves
Birding is one of the top activities on Grand Bahama, and while it’s an activity that normally can require long hours of patience, cool sightings are almost guaranteed at Garden of the Groves. Conveniently located close to downtown Freeport, this botanical garden is visited by countless migratory birds (and butterflies and other insects) who come to sip nectar from the flowers and cool off in the waterfalls.
Dine and Dance at the Smith’s Point Fish Fry
There’s really only one place to be on a Wednesday night in Grand Bahama, and that’s sipping
Kalik Sands (brewed locally) beers and munching on fried snapper at the weekly fish fry at Smith’s Point. The grills fire up around 6 p.m., and expect the music and dancing to pick up speed as the night goes on.
Shop and Learn at the Port Lucaya Marketplace
With more than 40 stores and about a dozen dining options, the Port Lucaya Marketplace is Grand Bahama’s premier shopping and nightlife destination. In addition to the usual duty-free shops, the marketplace features traditional straw markets where locally made goods are sold. It’s also where you can learn about the fascinating history of the Bahamas — both above and below the surface — at the new Bahamas Maritime Museum.
Take a Ride with Pinetree Stables
If a beach ride by horseback isn’t the epitome of a romantic vacation experience, it’s got to be close to the top of the list. Pinetree Stables offers two-hour trail rides through pine forests, along the beach, and into the surf, along with great views of Cooper’s Castle, a local architectural landmark and private residence.
Taste Grand Bahama’s Flavor at Sabor
The tremendous Sabor Restaurant and Bar is set at the Pelican Bay Hotel, where they serve up a “fusion” of island flavors: that means everything from Grand Cay White Conch Chowder to escargot to the eatery’s famous golden lobster cake.
Snorkel and See Sea Birds at Peterson Cay
Peterson Cay is a 1.5-acre island just off Grand Bahamas’ leeward coast that surrounded by a reef and a popular spot for diving and snorkeling. The island is a Bahamian national park and a sanctuary for a variety of birds, including a nesting colony of Bridled Terns. The cay can be reached by charter boat; experienced paddlers also can make the trip over from Barbary Beach.
Take a Stroll Through the Rand Nature Center
A 100-acre natural wonder in the heart of Freeport, this Bahamas National Trust property has hiking trails and boardwalks leading through pine barrens to a pond as well as an arboretum, art gallery, and visitor center with educational exhibits and programs.
Grand Bahama’s Sushi Spot
We love Pier One for its diverse selection of sushi (and some wonderfully fresh seafood, too, There’s a roll for everything here: traditional favorites joined by fantastic spins like the Bahama Mama: tempura conch, avocado, mango and chili-lime mayo.
Get Wise to Owl’s Hole
A sinkhole might not seem to be the first choice for a refreshing swim, but Owl’s Hole, located in a remote spot in the undeveloped interior of Grand Bahama Island, is a popular swimming hole for locals and the relatively few tourists who make their way out here. A natural limestone pool, the 30-foot-wide Owl’s Hole is filled with sparkling water, although reaching the surface of the pool requires a long-ish climb down (or jump from) a ladder on the side of the sinkhole.
Take a Break at a Beach Bar
Ringed by beaches, Grand Bahama unsurprisingly has a number of great beach bars where you can chill out for a few hours with a rum punch and get serenaded by the sound of the waves or maybe a local singer or band. Tony Macaroni’s on Taino Beach promises a “conch experience” along with your refreshing drinks: fresh
cracked roasted conch, conch fritters, ceviche and other local favorites are served daily under its thatched roof. (be sure to take home a bottle of his Hot Sauce) The Margarita Villa Sand Bar (no, not the Jimmy Buffett one) has a pair of beach decks, serves local seafood and burgers, and has an air conditioned (sand floor) dining room if you want to get out of the heat for a spell.
Dine at Flying Fish
Grand Bahama’s best restaurant is a “gastrobar” with a charming patio overlooking the water at the Bell Channel. Specials change daily, but the tapas menu is perfect for sharing small bites and trying new flavors of the islands; for casual diners wings and burgers are on offer, or step up to main dishes like the signature short ribs, marinated for days before being served falling-off-the-bone tender.