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Grand Bahama Island is the Bahamas fourth largest isle. Located only 50 miles off the coast of Florida, it easily accessible and a popular 3 & 4 night cruise destination -- while Freeport is the "official" port designation, most of the action - beaches, shopping, snorkeling and kayaking - takes place beyond city limits. Lucaya Harbor, basically a suburb of Freeport. Located about five miles west of town in a somewhat industrial area. There is a shuttle service that provides transfers to the heart of the city and the beach areas of Lucaya. Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island within the Bahamas, is a great cruise vacation destination. White sand beaches is just the main reason this port of call is considered a tropical paradise.
 
Grand Bahama Island has become one of the most visited of all the Bahamian islands. It has miles of beaches, nature reserves, endless sea vistas, both natural and man-made attractions and amazing golf courses. The long, thin island rambles on for 96 miles, rimmed with towns, villages and cays that offer lasting evidence of the many different people and cultures that have called Grand Bahama Island home.

Its variety of cultural experiences and ecological wonders has blessed the island with an equally impressive variety of vacation adventures for all ages, provided they are young at heart. To fully experience the subtle and dramatic distinctions of the island, be sure to balance sightseeing and a Freeport Cruise. It has one of the world’s largest underwater cave systems, three national parks, endless beaches, emerald green water and enchanting marine life.
 
Unlike some ports of call, where you land in the heart of everything, on Grand Bahama Island you're deposited in what cruisers call the middle of nowhere -- the west end of the island. You'll want to take a $10 taxi ride (for two passengers) over to Freeport and its International Bazaar, the center of most of the action. As you'll quickly learn after leaving the dreary port area, everything on this island is spread out. Grand Bahama doesn't have the compactness of Nassau. In the Port Terminal, you'll find phones where you can make long-distance calls.

The Bahamas is a coral-based series of over 700 islands, it is made up of over 700 islands. Grand Bahama Island is a significant portion of the 100,000 square miles of dry land that comprise the islands of the Bahamas.Prior to the 1950’s, Freeport was a pinewood forest and almost completely uninhabited. Freeport is now a tourism mecca. Wallace Groves felt that this quiet island could be made into a miniature Miami, and right he was! Today the island is home to high-rise hotels, casinos, and beautiful beachs plus so much more.

During 1964, Great Britain granted The Bahamas internal rule. The Commonwealth of The Bahamas took control in 1973, The island has remained in the British Commonwealth, and the British monarch continues to be the head of state. The Bahamas currently has a two-house Parliament, this is in accordance with the policy of Great Britain. A Bahamian general, which is appointed by the Queen, represents the Crown.
Columbus was not here first. The Siboney Indians inhabited Grand Bahama Island more than 7,000 years ago. They were then followed by the Lucayans, who were members of the Arawak people.
 
Where You are Dock
Freeport has the unique distinction of being on the Bahmanian island nearest to Miami. Located a mere 50 miles East of the Florida coast, Grand Bahama Island is known for its beautiful white sand beaches and water activities, from snorkeling to sea fishing.
 
The Freeport Harbor is located on the west-central part of the island, and you will have to take a ten minute taxi ride to get into the main area of Port Lucaya. Most taxis will offer to make the trip for a flat fee of around $15 USD. Also, there are often group vans that will shuttle cruisers from the pier to the International Bazaar at Port Lucaya, which run in the arrange of $5 USD per passenger.
 
Visitor Information & Getting Around --A branch office of the Grand Bahama Tourist Board (tel. 242/352-8356) is found at the cruise-ship docks. Plenty of taxis are available to take you where you want to go on Grand Bahama Island. Shore Excursions -- The offerings here are weak. You can often manage better on your own. Most cruise ships tout a 40km (25-mile) round-trip sightseeing trip, during which you spend about 30 minutes at the Garden of the Groves and then are led like cattle around the International Bazaar. This latter is better explored on your own. Seeing The Sights -- None of the island's major attractions are close to the cruise-ship docks. To reach the center of the action, you'll have to taxi over to the Freeport or Lucaya area.
 
Getting Around
Taxis line up at the pier. If you are taking a taxi to a beach, arrange a time for your driver to pick you up to return. A taxi for two to Lucaya will cost about $25; if you ride in a collective van with other visitors, the fare would be about $5 per person each way. Otherwise, you can rent a car; Avis (800-331-1084) and Hertz-Red Kap Car Rental (242-352-9250) will send a courtesy van from the airport. Important note: Drive on the left! Motor scooters are also available for daily rentals from Island Jeep and Car Rental (Freeport Harbor; 242-351-7333) and cost around $65.
 
When you exit the port, you can hop on a local bus as it turns around and heads back to Lucaya. However, there's no schedule posted; they simply run when they're full, so you might be waiting a while. This could be an option during the week for those on a tight budget, but they rarely run on weekends.
 
Attractions
Hanging Around
There's very little in Freeport Harbor. Sure, the port facilities look mighty pretty -- passengers arriving might spot pastel-colored bungalows selling souvenirs scattered about, plus a gazebo where a Bahamian band plays from time to time. But very few of the bungalows offer useful shops or services, with the exception of a snorkel and beach tour. Chain restaurants Fat Tuesdays and Senor Frogs and Pier One (a waterfront seafood restaurant) are located at the harbor, but that's about it. Industrial factories and refineries surround the port for miles before reaching anything of interest.
 
Lucaya: This is the island's uber-destination. The town is anchored by two big beach hotels: The Grand Lucayan Beach and Golf Resort and Memories Grand Bahama Beach and Casino Resort. Port Lucaya Marketplace offers tourists shopping at more than 70 boutiques, as well as a handful of restaurants and Count Basie Square, where entertainment is offered in the evenings. Additional activities at Grand Lucayan include Treasure Bay Casino and the Reef Club golf course. The beaches there are marvelous and offer all the key services from jet-ski rentals to oceanfront bars.
 
Freeport: The island's open-air fruit market is worth visiting; it's located across from the Winn Dixie supermarket. The best thing to buy there isn't fruit at all, but a homemade red pepper sauce that's incongruously sold in half-pint liquor bottles. The sauce -- a Bahamian specialty -- is great for spicing up meat and vegetables. The Rand Nature Center is another worthwhile stop in the heart of the downtown area that consists of 100 acres of natural beauty.
 
Dolphin Swim: If you're interested in swimming with dolphins, Unexso, or Underwater Explorers Society, features a variety of encounters (as well as Scuba diving adventures with dolphins or sharks). (Port Lucaya Marketplace; 800-992-3483; open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; dolphin experience prices start around $85 per person)
 
Deadman's Reef: Located on the island's west end, it's a top snorkeling destination. In addition to the reef, you also can see underwater archaeological excavations. Paradise Cove Beach Resort provides transportation from the cruise port. (Queen's Highway; 242-349-2677; restaurant open 10 a.m. to sunset; around $35 per person)
 
Lucayan National Park: At this 40-acre park, highlights include a seven-mile system of underwater caves, mangrove swamp and hiking trails (Gold Rock Beach is absolutely pristine). You can also take kayak and cycling tours. The caves, in particular, are fascinating; both Ben's Cave and Burial Mound Cave are inhabited by rare fish and underwater crustaceans (and migratory bats in summer). (Grand Bahama Highway; 1-866-978-4838; around $5)
 
Garden of the Groves: This 12-acre botanical destination has around 12,000 species of colorful birds, plus gorgeous flora and fauna. An air-conditioned restaurant offers Wi-Fi. (Magellan Drive; 242-374-7778; Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; around $15)
 
Bahamian Brewery: About two miles down the road from Freeport Harbor is the island's brewery where short but informative tours are offered explaining the 25-step brewing process. After, there's a 45-minute, all-you-can-drink beer sampling. (Queen's Highway and Grand Bahama Way; 242-352-4070; open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday; around $7)
 
Parrot Jungle's Garden of the Groves:
The prime attraction is the 5-hectare (12-acre), at the intersection of Midshipman Road and Magellan Drive; 11 km (7 miles) east of the International Bazaar, this scenic preserve of waterfalls and flowering shrubs has some 10,000 trees.

The Palmetto Café:
(tel. 242/373-5668) serves snacks and drinks, and a Bahamian straw market sits at the entrance gate. Filled with mangrove, pine, and palm trees, the 40-acre (17h), (tel. 242/373-5668).

Lucaya National Park:
Sunrise Highway, is about 19km (12 miles) from Lucaya. The park contains one of the loveliest, most secluded beaches on Grand Bahama. A wooden path winding through the trees leads to this long, wide-dune-covered stretch. You'll cross Gold Rock Creek, fed by a spring from what is said to be the world's largest underground freshwater cavern system. You can enter two caves, exposed when a portion of ground collapsed. The pools there are composed of 2m (6 ft.) of freshwater atop a heavier layer of saltwater.

The Rand Memorial Nature Centre:
Located 3km (2 miles) east of Freeport's center. East Settlers Way, is the regional headquarters of The Bahamas National Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization. Forest nature trails highlight native flora and bush medicine in this 40-hectare (100-acre) pineland sanctuary. Wild birds abound. Other features include native animal displays, an education center, and a gift shop.
Royal Oasis Resort & Casino Gambling The Day Away:
Even though there are casinos aboard ships, many passengers head immediately for a land-based casino once they hit shore.Most of the daylife/nightlife in Freeport/Lucaya centers, a glittering, giant, Moroccan-style palace. The casino is open daily from 9am to 3am --(tel. 242/350-7000).

Garden of the Groves:
A preserve of waterfalls this is Grand Bahama Island’s main attraction.
Bahamas Princess Resort and Casino:
A Moroccan style casino. This one was the first of 2 casinos and remains the hot spot for high rollers!

Golf
Even for the cruise-ship passenger with very limited time on the island, Grand Bahama offers a wealth of sporting activities ranging from golf to sailing. It is especially known for its golf courses, but passengers should make reservations as early as possible, especially if arriving in the winter months when they have to compete for time with land-based passengers. Golfing, two major golf destinations on Grand Bahama Island are the Lucayan and Reef courses at the Westin & Sheraton at Our Lucaya Beach Resort and the Emerald and Ruby courses at the Royal Oasis.

Beaches
Grand Bahama has some 97km (60 miles) of white-sand beaches rimming the blue-green waters of the Atlantic. The 1.5km- (1-mile-) long Xanadu Beach, at the Xanadu Beach Resort, is the premier beach in the Freeport area.
Swim - or dive - with dolphins; Unexso (www.unexso.com) offers a variety of different types of dolphin-related encounters. Most beaches are in the Lucaya area, site of the major resort hotels. The resort beaches, with a fairly active program of watersports, tend to be the most crowded in winter, of course.

Best for Lively Recreation: Lucayan Beach, which runs in front of Grand Lucayan, has water sports outfitters, bars, restaurants and equipment rentals. Find the entrance next to the police station. Another candidate is Mather Town Beach, about three miles from Port Lucaya. There are limited water activities, but it's a great place to swim, eat, drink and hang out with the locals.
Other island beaches include Taíno Beach, lying to the east of Freeport, plus Smith's Point and Fortune Beach, the latter one of the finest on Grand Bahama. Another good beach, about a 20-minute ride east of Lucaya, is Gold Rock Beach, a favorite picnic spot with the locals, especially on weekends

Best All-Around Party & Recreation Beach: Lucayan Beach, which runs in front of Our Lucaya Beach Resort (comprised of the Sheraton and the Westin), has watersports outfitters, bars, restaurants and equipment rentals. Another candidate is Mather Town Beach, about three miles from Port Lucaya. There are limited water activities, but it is a great beach for swimming, eating, drinking and hanging out with the locals. Family Beach: Taino Beach, in front of the Ritz Beach Resort, offers watersports and the waters themselves are calm enough for kids.

Good snorkeling: Deadman's Reef is the home of Paradise Cove, the site of a fairly recent archeological dig. You can take a look at artifacts that belonged to Lucayan Indians. Peaceful Beach: Gold Rock Beach, part of Lucayan National Park, is protected by the National Trust. There aren't many services - bring your own lunch - but it's gorgeous and away from the crowds. While you are there, check out the birdwatching trails. Snorkeling and scuba diving at Paradise Cove - Deadman's Reef, on the island's west end, where in addition to the reef you also can see underwater archeological excavations.

Best for Families: Taino Beach, in front of Taino Beach Resort and Clubs, offers water sports, and the surf is calm enough for kids. A ferry to the beach is available from Port Lucaya Marketplace.

Best for Relaxing: Gold Rock Beach, part of Lucayan National Park, is protected by the National Trust. There aren't many services -- bring your own lunch -- but it's gorgeous and away from the crowds. While you're there, check out the birdwatching trails.
 
Dining Out
Not surprisingly, seafood is a staple of residents, and the signature dish of the Bahamas is conch salad, chilled conch marinated in lime or orange juice and mixed with tomato, onion, celery, cucumber and green peppers. Many locals believe conch is an aphrodisiac, and the mollusk is also deep fried (cracked conch), mixed in stews or soups and served as a breaded appetizer (conch fritters). Other dishes include Bahamian "rock lobster," fresh grouper and bonefish accompanied by side dishes like peas and rice or johnnycake (simple bread). Wash it all down with the appropriately named, "Gully Wash," the Bahamian cocktail made with gin, coconut water and condensed milk.
 
Port Lucaya Marketplace: Options abound, and two favorites are Cafe Breeze (242-373-2664; open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and Zorba's Greek restaurant (242-373-6137; open daily 7 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.).
 
Margaritavilla Sand Bar: Located at Mather Town Beach off Millionaire's Row, the "Sand Bar" serves casual fare with a laid-back beach vibe and American football on the television. (Spanish Main Drive; 242-373-4525; open for lunch and dinner, 11 a.m. until the party winds down)
 
Flying Fish: Formerly The Ferry House, Flying Fish offers seafood specialties in a posh setting. For something truly unique, ask whether they are serving lionfish, an invasive species that is destroying the coral reefs but is delicious. (Next to Port Lucaya Marketplace; 242-373-4363; open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday to Friday for lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for brunch and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday for dinner)
 
Tony Macaroni's: At Taino Beach, look for the thatch-roofed shack with outdoor dining and amazing views. Its specialty is roast conch, but it also serves conch salad, roast lobster and shrimp and hot dogs. If you happen to be in port after 4 p.m. on Sunday, Tony hosts live jazz at the beach. (Taino Beach; 242-533-6766; open for lunch and dinner from 10 a.m.)
 
Sabor: Tucked away in the garden of Pelican Bay Hotel overlooking Port Lucaya marina, Sabor has a changing fusion menu with a Latin flavor that features the best seasonal catches. The menu includes items like baked Bahamian grouper or classic mushroom and Swiss burgers. (Sea Horse Road at Port Lucaya; 242-373-5588; open 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.)
 
Pier One: The shark feeding at this seafood and sushi restaurant might be the best-kept secret at the cruise port. Hidden on the other side of the port, you'll find both an upscale dining room and a casual wraparound patio located right on the water. The best part: the nurse sharks swimming around the water and the feedings that take place at 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. daily. (Freeport Harbor; 242-352-6674; open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday)

Shopping
The International Bazaar -- There's no place for shopping in The Bahamas quite like the International Bazaar, at East Mall Drive and East Sunrise Highway. It's one of the world's most unusual shopping marts -- Bahamian kitsch in poured concrete and plastic, 4 hectares (10 acres) of born-to-shop theme park tastelessness -- but in the nearly 100 shops, you're bound to find something that is both a discovery and a bargain. Displayed here are African handcrafts, Chinese jade, British china, Swiss watches, Irish linens, and Colombian emeralds -- and that's just for starters. Continental cafes and dozens of shops loaded with merchandise await visitors. Buses marked INTERNATIONAL BAZAAR will take you right to the much-photographed Toril Gate, a Japanese symbol of welcome. Port Lucaya Marketplace The first of its kind in The Bahamas, Port Lucaya on Seahorse Road was named after the original settlers of Grand Bahama. This is a shopping and dining complex set on 2.4 hectares (6 acres). Free entertainment, such as steel-drum bands and strolling musicians, adds to a festival atmosphere. Full advantage is taken of the waterfront location. Many of the restaurants and shops overlook a 50-slip marina. A variety of charter vessels are also based at the Port Lucaya Marina, and dockage at the marina is available to visitors coming by boat to shop or dine. A boardwalk along the water makes it easy to watch the frolicking dolphins and join in other activities at the Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO). Merchandise in the shops of Port Lucaya ranges from leather to lingerie to wind chimes. Traditional and contemporary fashions are featured for men, women, and children.



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