By this point you probably guessed it – this post features all of the musts and key pointers from our trip to Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas! We have thousands of photos from this trip and are still finding new and exciting ones each time we look at them, so be sure to follow along the rest of this month as we show you in more detail what these are about. Now, the good stuff.
You may be wondering, “Why did you guys head to The Bahamas over New Year’s?” Here’s the easy answer, it’s our home base for our timeshare. However, it was so much more than that — Phil actually turned 30 on New Year’s Eve this year and he knew he wanted to take a trip to celebrate. After asking his family if they would be interested in coming with us, we headed to the one place that would give us the best bang for our buck, the one place that we knew we could all be together at a discounted price, the main location of our timeshare in Grand Bahama, Bahamas.
Once this decision was made, we booked our flights, packed our bags, and headed off to the warm weather for some fun in the sun just two days after Christmas. While I felt a little more apprehensive about traveling the week in between Christmas and New Years, I must say, I have never felt more relaxed starting the year than I did this year. Now, there could have been more factors at play, but I really don’t think sitting by the pool or on the beach reading a book hurt the chances of this trip being the main reason why.
Just a mere 80 miles off, or less than a 20 minute plane ride from, the coast of Miami, Florida, Grand Bahama Island in The Bahamas is the largest of over 700 islands that make up this country, though it is much less densely populated than Nassau. It is known for its breathtaking, white, sandy beaches, rolling golf courses, and amazing artisans who make some of the most intricate straw goods in the nation.
Truth be told, the economy has continuously been hit hard on this island after almost two decades of direct hurricane hits. However, its people have not wavered — it is thriving and coming back more vibrant and colorful than ever before.
Keep reading for our tips, tricks, and recommendations when visiting Grand Bahama, Bahama!
- Don’t be afraid to get off the resort. Our favorite experiences — the farmers market, Junkanoo, visiting Gold Rock Beach — came from tours we signed up for through the hotel. While the lazy atmosphere was amazing for a few days, we definitely don’t regret getting our beyond the gates of the resort to see the rest of the island.
- Be prepared with cash. While we are accustomed to using our credit cards on almost all of our travel, this country is one that is still a bit behind when it comes to technology. We would recommend never leaving your room without some cash on you. Also, fair warning, since the have to import almost everything they use, most of the goods are quite expensive.
- Wake up early and walk the beach. Weather permitting, getting up before the sun to get some exercise on the beach was one of our favorite parts of being on vacation. And those sunsets — there’s not many activities that give you the same peaceful feeling of watching that big yellow-orange ball peak up over the horizon.
- Visit in the off season. Though all of the options for activities may not be available, the weather is still beautiful and the liveliness of islands never change. Don’t feel guilty about saving some money and going in the early winter.
- Talk to the locals. Some of the best ideas (the fish fry and the Junkanoo festival) were recommendations from our cab drivers. Who better to recommend what’s worth the time and money than those that live there.
Where to stay: Taino Beach Resort & Clubs – As I mentioned earlier, being on Grand Bahama island is much less touristy than its smaller, much more populated sister island, Nassau. As such, there aren’t as many choices for resorts. Known as the resort with the largest pool on Grand Bahama island at over 20,000 square feet, Taino Beach Resort is a reliable resort that serves as a kid friendly home base. This club was much smaller than others we’d both been to, but the amenities were clean and the food was solid.
Note: This resort is our home base for our time share. Flamingo Bay Resort, located across the street, has smaller, more basic rooms if you are looking for a way to cut costs.
Where to eat, drink, and be merry:
- Pisces Seafood House & Pizzeria: Seafood on pizza seems to be an acquired taste. But Pisces does it like no other. Whether you want a pie that highlights fresh conch (Conch Pizza) or one that has it all in (King Neptune Pizza – lobster, crab, conch, etc.), this establishment is frequented by locals and tourists alike.
- Banana Bay Restaurant: If looking for an amazing beach bar, head to the Banana Bay. Open daily only from 10am-5pm, this place is packed with locals who boat here for Wacky Frozen Banana drinks and Conch Burgers, which are a must.
- Zorba’s Greek Restaurant: While visiting The Garden of the Groves, our tour guide recommended we hit up Zorba’s in Port Lucaya for their sheep’s tongue and grits. Luckily, Phil and I are always down to try the local cuisine, so we knew we had to do it. Boy were we surprised – not only was the tongue flavorful, tender, and delicious, but this cafe was one of the only places, if not the only place we saw on the island that served iced coffee (a must for us New Englanders).
- Fish Fry: Only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, this collection of restaurants at Smith’s Point in Freeport offer the freshest fish we had all trip. Be sure to bring cash as they are cash only.
- Agave: In addition to the Greek and Italian spots we mentioned earlier in this post, there was also an amazing Mexican restaurant. This establishment serves classic Mexican dishes (fajitas, quesadillas, and tacos) with a Bahamian twist (jerk chicken, conch, fish).
What to do:
- Lucayan National Park: Head here to see the local landscape, some awesome caves, and one of the most gorgeous beaches, Gold Rock Beach.
- Freeport Farmers Market: Located in downtown, this spot had some of the best conch burgers ever. Watch them shuck the conch straight from the shell, fry it, and put it on a grilled bun. One of the best meals we ate.
- Lucaya Marketplace: If looking for some trinkets to bring home, head here to purchase some of the most beautiful straw and island gifts for loved ones or your home. Also, fun tip — don’t be afraid to haggle.
- The Garden of the Groves: Created by one of the main developers of Grand Bahama, this garden is definitely a must. There are dozens and dozens of flowers, trees, and plants to walk through and just as many unique birds to boot.
- Sea Activities: If looking for some fun in the sun on the water, be sure to head to your resort’s activity representative to sign up for some snorkeling, paddleboarding, or kayaking.
- Relax and…Relax: Good or bad, there isn’t much to do on this island. So head here if you’re looking for a real vacation with a book and head to the beach to soak up some sun.
- Experience Junkanoo: Similar to a Carnival festival, Junkanoo is a parade that takes place the first day of the year. No one is really sure how this tradition was started — some popular theories are that it is named after activist John Canoe or John Canoe the king — but it is one full of bright colors, dancing, chanting, and creative floats. We loved experiencing first hand this event on our trip, and will be featuring a blog post next week that featured all of Phil’s amazing photos from that night.