You Can’t Travel to Nassau, The Bahamas Without Visiting Graycliff
They say this is the oldest street in Nassau, so old it was here before there was a Nassau.
It was here just up the hill from the harbour when this seafront city was called Charles Town, and then when Nicholas Trott became a governor-turned pirate and built the city’s first Anglican Church.
It was here when pirate captain John Howard Graysmith built his mansion here and called it Graycliff.
In the late 18th century, during the Revolutionary War, the American Navy made Graycliff their headquarters and their garrison. In the mid-19th century, Graycliff was Nassau’s first Inn.
Now, two and a half centuries later, the revolutionaries’ underground dungeon is now one of the world’s greatest wine cellars, the mansion one of the world’s premier culinary destinations, home to the Garzaroli Family’s Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant.
The story of West Hill Street is the story of the Bahamian capital; it has seen every century of Bahamian history.
In the last decade, under the vision of the Garzarolis, Graycliff has dramatically transformed the street into far more than a hotel and a restaurant — it’s become one of the must-visit destinations anywhere in The Bahamas.
Of course, the story begins with that centuries-old headquarters; the 20-room luxury boutique hotel has, since the Garzaroli’s purchased the property 50 years ago, become a destination for gourmands the world over, anchored by a restaurant that was the first five-star restaurant in the Caribbean – and continues to be one of the leading restaurants in the wider region.
In the 90s, Graycliff launched its now-famous cigar company, putting out puros sought after by connoisseurs rolled in an on-site factory at the property by a team of skilled rollers from Cuba.
Then Graycliff created its chocolate factory, a home for artisanal Bahamian chocolate, tastings and classes, and West Hill Street began to evolve.
The idea was to turn West Hill street into the Heritage Village, a boulevard of shops, artist’s studios, eateries and cultural hotspots.
In a few years, the street had been reborn: centuries-old ruins had been reimagined with bold colors, artisans moved into the studios, and the Graycliff team began adding new innovations: Chocotini, a home for frozen chocolate-focused drinks; a cafe called the Drawbridge; a home for evening ghost tours; an artists’ village; the first true museum of Bahamian history; and even the first-ever winery in The Bahamas.
The whole project helped spearhead the recent renaissance of downtown Nassau, part of a broader movement that turned this historic quarter into a dynamic urban destination, from Antonius Roberts’ nearby Hillside House gallery to the debut of The Pointe.
Today, West Hill Street is a destination unto itself, whether you’re staying at the hotel or just visiting for the day.
For a block and a half in Nassau, the choices are endless: take a chocolate-making class, or a cigar-rolling lesson; blend your own bottle of wine from top New and Old World grapes; take a journey through Bahamian history; spend the evening discovering the spirits of Old Nassau.
You can try an “Indulgence” tasting of champagne and lobster; or sip on a frozen chocolate symphony. It’s all done with the quality a connoisseur demands but with a universal accessibility.
The restaurant itself is home to the aforementioned wine cellar, along with the most incredible selection of spirits you’ll find in the hemisphere: a breathtaking collection of rare, historic cognacs, whiskies, rums and the like, one that has been assembled over the course of a half century and that defies hyperbole.
And you can finish your day with a dinner that is one of the most unforgettable meals you can have in the Caribbean, one that begins with Graycliff’s Chambord-infused champagne cocktail in the lounge followed by a fresh-rolled cigar and the sounds of two generations of piano players; and, if you’re lucky, you can head to bed in the suite where the British Royals used to visit — or even Winston Churchill himself.
There is nowhere like this place anywhere in the Caribbean, and once you make the trip, which you must, you’ll immediately understand.
This street was here before there was a Nassau.
And if you make the trip without stopping here, you haven’t really been to Nassau.
For more, visit Graycliff.