The Grand Bahama is a long and fairly narrow island shaped like a shallow letter “S” laid on its front, Grand Bahama is 96 mls long and only 17 mls across at its widest point, generally it is much narrower. It is the fourth largest of the Bahamas islands but the second most populated. Fairly flat and low lying, much of the island is covered in tall, spindly pine forest. Though inhabited from pre-Columbian times, the island only started to wake up to the wider world in the 1950s. It is a tax-free port utilising the natural harbour at the west end of the south coast was conceived together with a plan to introduce industry and tourism and thus was created the port city of Freeport and the residential and tourist zone of Lucaya, 4 mls to the east.
Grand Bahama is a favourite with American golfers, gamblers and boaters, who dominate the market and for whom most of the hotels are tailored, but becoming more accessible and affordable for UK package tourists seeking sun, sea, sand and anything else beginning with “s”. Also a major port of call for cruise ships.
It is second only to Nassau (New Providence Island) in terms of tourist development, although only a limited number of hotels are available on the UK inclusive-tour market. Mainly large operations with plenty of facilities; a couple are integrated with casinos; some are all-inclusive. Some in central Freeport but British tourists will prefer the beach hotels at Lucaya.
Beaches – There are lots of them and all of fine, white coral sand. On the south coast, the most popular are Xanadu, nearest to the centre of Freeport; Silver Point, which stretches as far as Lucaya; then Taino, Churchill and Fortune, all progressively farther east. Shopping – The main shopping centre is the almost-themed “International Bazaar”, right on the main crossroads in the centre of Freeport, offering a large selection of international shops and boutiques (many selling goods at duty-free prices), bars, restaurants and entertainment from around the world. Port Lucaya has its own “Marketplace”: a complex of genuine market stalls, many selling straw goods (not all locally made) as well as a mini-village of small shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars etc, all in colonial-style clapboard buildings.
Daytime Activities – there are beach activities and water sports varying from snorkelling to serious scuba diving, the Underwater Explorers’ Society (UNEXCO) is based at Lucaya. There is surface-based water sports including water-skiing, parasailing, windsurfing etc. Sailing and fishing is available though not on the same scale as on other islands. For golfers there are golf courses, also tennis and horse riding. There is also miniature golf and other children’s entertainment at “Pirates of the Bahamas” amusement park. Nightlife – Nightlife here offers casino complexes in both Freeport and Lucaya which offer cabaret shows, dancing to live music and discos as well as 18-hrs-a-day gambling. There are several hotels which also provide shows. There is Independent nightclubs and discos.
Bars & Restaurants – There are lots of restaurants at all levels from burgers to fine dining, both in and out of hotels. More fish than meat with plenty of places offering local Bahamian food as well as a wide international choice from Greek to Chinese. The prices, though not cheap, are more reasonable than on other islands. A nondiscretionary “gratuity” of 15% is normally added to all bills regardless of the level of service which, it has to be said, is not highly professional but at least comes with an unforced smile.