Mention a Bahamas holiday to a friend, and they’ll likely picture the Nassau experience of plush mega-resorts, endless cruise ship convoys, and a pulsating nightlife with bumping dance clubs and for good reason. Nassau, the largest city and capital of the Bahamas, is an exciting destination for Caribbean fun in the sun.
But there’s a lot more to this sprawling archipelago nation and its 700 islands.
Located on the island of Grand Bahama in the northwest region of the country is Freeport, a walkable oceanside town with boutique resorts, charming shops, and a delectable restaurant scene. As the second most populous city in the Bahamas, Freeport boasts many of the same beachy attractions and activities as Nassau while offering visitors a quieter, more immersive local experience.
If you travel to Freeport by plane, a convenient shuttle will whisk you from the nearby airport to your choice of comfortable, island-inspired resort hotels. Grand Lucayan and Pelican Bay at Lucaya are two recommended lodging options in the heart of Freeport, well within walking distance of the must-visit destinations of Lucaya Beach and Port Lucaya Marketplace. Both resorts host on-premise pools, restaurants, and scheduled activities.
Lucaya Beach is unquestionably the crown jewel of Freeport. This 3 km stretch of shoreline boasts clean, white sand and beautiful, clear water. Get in a reinvigorating morning jog along the beach or take a dip in the ocean.
There are also a number of activities for the adventurous visitor, ranging from snorkelling to parasailing. A short walk from the beach is the Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO) dive centre. Head here for scuba diving classes and excursions, or sign up to swim with dolphins in a nearby protected lagoon.
If chilling in the sand with a cold drink in your hand is more your speed, there are a variety of bars lining Lucaya Beach. Enjoy a fresh, handmade island cocktail as you kick back in your beach chair and soak up a few rays. Of course, you can’t go wrong ordering the Bahama Mama, a delightful concoction of rum, coconut, grenadine, and fruit juices.
A few blocks from the beach is Port Lucaya Marketplace, an open-air shopping centre that looks and feels like a Mardi Gras parade. Over 80 shops, stands, and restaurants populate the five-acre market area, offering shoppers a range of locally-made Bahamian goods, as well as global brands like Nautica and Gucci.
You’ll find friendly merchants eager to show you their arts, crafts, and clothing, much of which is amazingly made from straw—a staple material in the Bahamas. There are also hair braiding stands and even horse drawn carriage rides around the market area.
When it’s time for lunch or dinner, check out Pisces Seafood House and Pizzeria or La Padilla Latina Restaurant for fresh seafood, local favourites, and the island’s spin on international cuisine. Ever wonder what Greek or Italian might taste like in the Bahamas? You can find out at the market. Spoiler alert: all the food is incredibly delicious.
Port Lucaya Marketplace is also the entertainment hub of Freeport. The market’s centre is home to the Count Basie Square and bandstand. Near-daily performances can be found here, as musical groups perform styles from Goomboy to dancehall. Holidays are a special time of celebration at the market. Christmas is marked by a festive tree lighting party and the 4th of July and Bahamian Independence Day feature fireworks displays.
The million visitors who flock to Freeport every year can’t be wrong. The pristine beach, quaint shops, and welcoming hospitality of the locals will make your trip to Freeport the ultimate serene island getaway.