|The Islands of the Bahamas are made up of approximately 2,000 cays ("keys") and 700 islands.|
|Some cays are private islands for the rich and famous like Nicholas Cage, country music stars Faith Hill & Tim McGraw and even the eminent pirate Captain Jack Sparrow himself - Johnny Depp.|
|Magician David Copperfield is also known to 'disappear' to the Bahamas' Musha Cay while other stars who own properties in the Bahamas include Sean Connery and John Travolta.|
So, what is it about the Bahamas that attracts not only Hollywood A-List stars, but also a staggering 115,000 Canadians in 2008 - during an economic recession, no less?
Simply put: "It's better in the Bahamas!" - and it's not just the conch fritters or endless options of one-of-a-kind rum cocktail blends that makes the Bahamas the perfect escape destination for Canadian travellers.
So, journey with TripAtlas.com this week, as we tell you why it's "better in the Bahamas" and then take you to discover eclectic Nassau and the one-of-a-kind Paradise Island and Atlantis Resort, the perfect destinations for those visiting the Bahamas for the first time.
Be sure to check out why the Caribbean and the Bahamas made it on TripAtlas.com's list of Top 10 Travel Deal Predictions for 2009.
Why visit the Bahamas?
"First and foremost: the best beaches in the world. There's also proximity and ease of travel. Nassau is just a three-hour flight from Toronto and the route is serviced by two daily direct flights from Toronto," notes Olga Petrycki, Canadian representative for The Bahamas Tourism Board.
"Variety is also a big draw. There are many islands to choose from and a Bahamian island-hopping adventure offers the Canadian traveller the variety they seek: the excitement and entertainment of Nassau juxtaposed with the laid back, relaxation of the Out Islands with endless white sand beaches and gin-clear waters," says Petrycki.
Nassau and Paradise Island are perfect for first-timers to the Bahamas
Nassau is the capital city of the Bahamas and is a picturesque scene of a fun and laid-back postcolonial Caribbean hub with a hint of mischievous pirate-like demeanor, all in the midst of a city with a sense of calmly appreciated international renown.
Perfect for first-timers and beginners to the Bahamas, Nassau is a great introduction to Bahamian life. The first thing you notice when you drive through Nassau is the mix of old and new. With a number of smaller communities like Adelaide Beach, Lyford Cay, Cable Beach and Potter's Cay, you'll find a variety of speciality guest houses to reliable hotels like the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort at Cable Beach (www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton) along with all-inclusive mega resorts like Sandals.
Experiencing the best of Nassau, Bahamas
It's only when you close in on downtown Nassau that you begin to notice the old-style British colonial buildings set amidst new shops and homes - and that's when you really begin to appreciate the character of this bustling, one-of-a-kind Bahamian city.
From taking a local "jitney" or public bus, usually filled beyond capacity to visiting the Pirates of Nassau Museum (www.pirates-of-nassau.com), or the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas (www.nagb.org.bs), there are so many unique experiences in Nassau to be had.
If you're brave enough, try bargaining with merciless vendors at the Straw Market for a "Prado" bag, an even more intense experience than Bangkok's market stalls.
Feeling hungry? Catch a few Bahamian conch speciality dishes at Arawak Cay or "da Fish Fry," where tourists and locals alike rub elbows for conch fritters, conch salad and daiqiruis at Twin Brothers; or head to Goldie's Enterprises for its famous "Sky Juice," gin mixed with coconut-water.
An unforgettable evening at Graycliff Restaurant, Nassau
Better yet, step back in time and play your part at Graycliff's Restaurant, Hotel and Cigar Factory (www.graycliff.com) for an Old World evening. The Restaurant at Graycliff's is known to have one of the largest wine cellars, including a German gewurztraminer from 1727.
It's rumoured that only a few years ago, a wealthy gentleman decided to buy the $200,000 bottle. He called ahead from his plane to order it, paying a deposit on it. Shortly thereafter, the gentleman was in an unfortunate plane crash - and so the unopened bottle remains in the 250,000+ bottle wine cellar today.
Your truly unique evening at Graycliff's begins with champagne in the parlor; followed by an exquisite Bahamian-Continental style multi-course meal; to be finished with vintage port and Graycliff Cigars in the parlor, accompanied by a live pianist and snazzy jazz singer. Keep your eye out for Jay-Z, Nicholas Cage or Michael Jordan, often said to frequent Graycliff's.
Go for a mini-island getaway to Blue Lagoon Island and Dolphin Encounters
Just three miles from Nassau and a 20-minute ferry ride away, Blue Lagoon Island is a great way to experience not only a psuedo-island getaway, escaping from the big hotels and resorts of Nassau or Paradise Island, but the best place to swim with dolphins in the Bahamas!
Blue Lagoon Island is owned and operated by Dolphin Encounters (www.dolphinencounters.com), a marine theme park offering one of the best "swim with dolphins" experiences in the Bahamas since 1989.
The park's emphasis on human responsibility for the care of marine and ocean life is obvious in the way that the park is run. The Dolphin Encounters facilities are also eco-friendly, as all are made of natural materials and the dolphins swim in the island's natural lagoons. With activities like swimming with the dolphins and encounters with sea lions, the island also offers a full beach for relaxing after your dolphin excitement along with hammocks and beach sports for its visitors.
Paradise Island and Atlantis Resort
Connected by bridge from New Providence Island, on which Nassau humbly sits, is Paradise Island, home of the famed Atlantis Resort (www.atlantis.com).
Standing tall, like a lost city emerging from the sea, the massive ocean-themed resort hides away a 20-gallon underwater system of aquariums, coral reef, lagoons and a remarkable assortment of over 50,000 ocean species throughout its property.
With the largest casino in the Bahamas; restaurants by Nobu, Jean-Georges and Bobby Flay; and endless activities for families and children (like a Mayan-Temple waterslide!), Atlantis is truly a city of its own in the Bahamas. From the massive Atlantis hotel rooms to The Reef Atlantis that offers smaller guest homes and The Cove Atlantis that offers an adults-only environment, Atlantis and Paradise Island offer a number of options and access to all the tourist attractions.
So, what are you waiting for? For more information on visiting the Bahamas or to book your holiday today, visit: www.bahamas.com.
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Gizelle Lau is a freelance writer & photographer in Toronto, Canada with a passion for food and travel.
Located: Toronto Canada
Likes: cities, culture, food/wine, paths-less-travelled, photography, wildlife