FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

The Bahamas: Bahama Mama

Aug 1, 2005
2005 / August 2005

A hop, skip and a jump from the U.S. mainland, the islands of the Bahamas make an ideal destination for harried, time-deprived business travelers in need of rest and relaxation. The tropical gateway is so close, in fact, that the West End of Grand Bahama Island is a mere 56 miles from Palm Beach, Fla. — perfect for a weekend escape.

The Bahamas — 700 islands strong — is actually a 100,000-square-mile archipelago stretching across 500 miles of warm, tropical water. Individual islands range from tiny, uninhabited cays to the cosmopolitan centers of New Providence, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama — home to the bulk of the island nation’s population. Smaller, less inhabited and less developed islands — dubbed the Out Islands — boast their own rural charm, but for this article’s purposes the focus is on the larger, metropolitan areas. While the Out Islands bear exploring, that particular adventure can be time-consuming. Major air carriers offer regular service to Freeport, on Grand Bahama, and to Nassau, on New Providence, which is connected by bridge to Paradise Island. Getting to the Out Islands requires a connecting “puddle-jumper,” charter flight or ferry, lessening their potential as weekend — or quickie — getaway destinations.

Myriad diversions await upon your arrival. With water temperatures hovering at about 80°F year-round, water sports are naturally a popular vacation activity. The more active among us who choose to discover the islands while scuba diving, sailing, snorkeling or kayaking will encounter magnificent coral reefs, blue holes, caves, shipwrecks, sharks, dolphins and stingrays. In fact, the tropical waters surrounding the Bahamas make for some of the best diving in the world. In addition to the easy accessibility and underwater visibility of up to 200 feet, the Bahamas offers 25 diving destinations where divers can experience firsthand a kaleidoscope of marine life, ranging from spiny lobsters and schools of Nassau grouper to squadrons of eagle rays, sea horses and parrot fish.

If snorkeling sounds more appealing than deep-water diving, you’ll find plenty of tour operators on Nassau/Paradise Island and Grand Bahama Island. In search of above-the-water adventure? Launch a sea kayak and set out through the mangroves. Parasailing, of course, is a resort-area staple. Windsurfing, sailing, water-skiing and game fishing are other popular diversions.

In fact, if game fishing is your — well — game, the Bahamas hosts a number of big tournaments each year. With tuna, barracuda, swordfish, white marlin and wahoo swimming the waters of the Bahamas, it’s no wonder the islands are known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” But even whiling away an afternoon at a local fishing hole can prove satisfying. Or you can give hunt to the islands’ local favorite, the wily bonefish.

Bonefishing takes place in the flats, where guides slowly pole the small, flat-bottomed boats from which anglers try their luck. (Wading through knee-deep water is another way to stalk these elusive fish.) Success requires casting with a light touch and having a keen eye for reading water, so that the current carries the fly into the bonefish’s view. The fish, silvery in color with a bluish or greenish back, are noted for their strength and reel-stressing abilities.

If your idea of fun in the sun involves chasing golf balls rather than game fish, you’re in luck. Golfers eager to bring their game to a new level — mere feet above sea level — will delight in the islands’ championship fairways and greens, many of which are found in and around the cities of Nassau and Freeport/Lucaya. On Grand Bahama, the Westin and Sheraton at Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort, which showcases the designs of golf legends Robert Trent Jones and Dick Wilson, is the first international location of the Jim McLean School of Golf. The islands also host a number of tournaments each year.

Tennis, anyone? The Westin and Sheraton at Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort recently opened its Fast Grand Slam of Tennis complex. The newly opened FGST features replicas of the world’s most renowned court surfaces: red clay (French Open); manicured grass (Wimbledon); Rebound Ace (Australian Open) and Deco Turf (U.S. Open).


Storm Watch
Though Hurricane Jeanne caused significant damage in the Bahamas on Sept. 25, 2004, recovery is complete and the islands are open for business. The category 3 hurricane struck the Bahamas just three weeks after another category 3 storm, Hurricane Frances, roared through the region. Hurricane Jeanne caused floodwaters to rise to more than six feet in some areas, with the some of the most significant damage affecting Grand Bahama.

Still recovering from Hurricane Frances, Old Bahama Bay, an upscale West End resort, marina and residential community on Grand Bahama, found itself in the path of Hurricane Jeanne. The 49-room resort, marina and residential community endured rain and winds of 120 mph for nearly 18 hours. While Old Bahama Bay suffered significant damage, the refurbished and rejuvenated resort reopened in March.


LODGING

OLD BAHAMA BAY
Located on the West End of Grand Bahama Island, Old Bahama Bay boasts 49 beachfront suites, a marina and a waterfront residential community. Junior guest suites are divided into two categories. Junior Suite One features rich British Colonial furnishings and fabrics, full kitchen, washer/dryer, whirlpool tub, and king bed and pullout sleep sofa. Junior Suite Two has a brighter, more “island” decor, kitchenettes and choice of king or double queen beds. Two-bedroom suites feature a master bedroom, a second bedroom with two double beds, a full living room and dining area, and two ocean-view balconies or terraces. The resort offers massage, fitness center, tennis court, fishing, snorkeling and boating activities. A 4,000-square-foot heated infinity swimming pool is equipped with massage jets. While Old Bahama Bay is 26 miles from the airport, it does offer an official port-of-entry marina, as well as a helipad with charter service available from Florida. Dining options include the casual Dockside Grille, elegant Aqua and beachfront Straw Bar. $$$$
OLD BAHAMA BAY
Box E42546
Bayshore Road
West End, Grand Bahama Island
tel 800 572 5711 or 242 350 6500
fax 242 346 6546
www.oldbahamabay.com

WESTIN AND SHERATON AT OUR LUCAYA BEACH & GOLF RESORT
Known locally as “Our Lucaya,” this resort is a city unto itself. Guests choose to stay at the Sheraton, a more casual, family-friendly venue, or at the Westin Breakers Cay, for a quieter ambience. Either way, guests have full access to the property and its multiple swimming pools, sprawling beachfront, 14 dining venues, two golf courses, tennis courts, jet skis, kayaks, parasailing facilities and full-service spa. The Isle of Capri Casino at Our Lucaya, a recent addition, offers 400 slot machines and 21 game tables. $$$-$$$$
WESTIN AT OUR LUCAYA
Sea Horse Lane
Grand Bahama Island
tel 800 WESTIN1 or 242 373 1333
fax 242 350 5060
www.ourlucaya.com

SHERATON AT OUR LUCAYA
Royal Palm Way
Grand Bahama Island
tel 800 325 3535 or 242 373 1444
fax 242 373 8804
www.ourlucaya.com

GRAYCLIFF
Nestled in the heart of Old Nassau, Graycliff boasts an old-world elegance. The peaceful retreat is surrounded by tropical gardens offering views of the Caribbean Sea. The Graycliff property comprises three main buildings: the original 260-year-old main house, a spa/gym complex and a renovated 18th century plantation house.

Accommodations include 20 unique guestrooms and suites with views of the gardens, swimming pool or Nassau Harbor. Kick back around the property’s three swimming pools or on the expansive outdoor deck.

The Spa at Graycliff offers beauty treatments, facials, massage, hair-styling, manicures and pedicures. Dining options include the five-star Graycliff Restaurant and the more casual Humidor Churrascaria. $$$$
GRAYCLIFF
Box N10246
8–12 West Hill St.
Nassau, New Providence
tel 800 688 0076 or 242 302 9150
fax 242 326 6188
www.graycliff.com

RADISSON CABLE BEACH & GOLF RESORT
Situated on a stretch of white-sand beach, the 700-room Radisson Cable Beach & Golf Resort features well-appointed guestrooms with private balconies. Laundry service is available and there’s a full-service business center on site. Several swimming pools — some quieter than others — dot the property’s seven-acre landscape. There’s a fully equipped fitness center, and nonmotorized water sports — snorkeling, kayaking and sailing — are offered complimentary to guests. On-site dining options include at least a half-dozen venues, ranging from casual beachfront to elegant fine dining. $$$-$$$$
RADISSON CABLE BEACH & GOLF RESORT
Box N-4914
West Bay Street
Nassau, New Providence
tel 800 214 4281 or 242 327 600
fax 242 327 6987
www.radisson-cablebeach.com


DINING

CHURCHILL’S CHOP HOUSE
“Dress-up” dining after a day at the beach. Located at Our Lucaya, Churchill’s is an elegant dining venue. French doors swing out to let in the tropical night air. Heavy crystal chandeliers illuminate the dining room. Beef lovers will be in their element, but there’s also plenty of fresh fish on the menu. $$$-$$$$
CHURCHILL’S CHOP HOUSE
Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort
Sea Horse Lane
Grand Bahama Island
tel 242 373 1333
www.ourlucaya.com

STONED CRAB
Given this restaurant’s name, it should come as no surprise that the specialty here is crab — in all its glory. Savor sweet stone crab claws or try the crab cakes. Stuffed crab is another favorite, as are lobster, swordfish, grouper and yellowfin tuna. Conch lovers must try the conch chowder. Overlooking Taino Beach, the building that houses the Stoned Crab boasts a unique pyramid-shaped roof. $$$
STONED CRAB
Taino Beach
Grand Bahama Island
tel 242 373 1442

HUMIDOR CHURRASCARIA
Opened in January, Humidor Churrascaria at Graycliff has diners saying so long to traditional menus and hello to heaping portions of a variety of delectable meats. At Humidor Churrascaria, platter after platter of decadently seasoned, grilled and skewered meats are precisely cut and served tableside. Complements — salads, bean dishes, vegetables and fresh fish — are offered via a banquet-style buffet. The fixed-price menu is $39.95 per person. $$$$
HUMIDOR CHURRASCARIA
Box N10246
8–12 West Hill St.
Nassau, New Providence
tel 800 688 0076 or 242 302 9150
fax 242 326 6188
www.graycliff.com

BUENA VISTA
Perched on a hill overlooking Nassau Harbor, Buena Vista is located in onetime private home dating to the late 1700s. The restaurant, established on the five-acre site in 1946, is most assuredly a longtime island tradition. Waiters decked out in formal tuxedos provide elegant service in a dining room where tables are set with fine china, crystal and silver. On starlit nights, request seating on the garden patio. Daily specials complement a well-rounded menu featuring crispy roast duckling a l’orange, tournedos of beef maderia and a bevy of seafood offerings. Elegant desserts include baked Alaska and orange pancakes in Grand Marnier sauce. $$$$
BUENA VISTA
Delancy Street
Nassau, New Providence
tel 242 322 2811, fax 242 322 5881


SHOPPING
Grand Bahama’s International Bazaar, home to an abundance of boutiques and restaurants, offers everything from fine china and crystal to jewelry and perfume to tech gadgets and trinkets. The adjacent Bahamas Arts and Crafts Straw Market is the place to go for locally made jewelry, paintings and colorful handicrafts (be aware that some items for sale are actually made in China) constructed from straw and wood. The Port Lucaya Marketplace and Marina is a six-acre flea market of sorts where merchants peddle T-shirts, straw hats and bags and a plethora of similar goods. Haggling is an art form in this venue.


Worth Noting
U.S. currency is accepted on Grand Bahama and is interchangeable with the Bahamian dollar.


INFO TO GO
Most visitors arriving on Grand Bahama Island pass through Freeport International Airport (FPO), which is located about three miles from Freeport. Taxis are available and many hotels offer courtesy shuttles. Airport facilities include a duty-free shop, 24-hour ATM, post office, restaurants and bars. On New Providence Island, Nassau International Airport (NAS) is located 10 miles west of Nassau. Here, too, taxis are available curbside and major hotels operate courtesy shuttles. Airport facilities include a duty-free shop, restaurant and bar, Internet facilities and tourist information desks. ATMs and banking and foreign currency exchange facilities are also available.

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FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

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