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11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nassau

On the northeast coast of New Providence Island, the city of Nassau is the capital and commercial hub of the Bahamas and one of the most popular cruise ship ports in the Caribbean. Nassau Harbor, protected by Paradise Island, bustles with traffic, and Prince George Wharf can take seven of the behemoths at a time. As a result, Nassau is booming.

Pleasure seekers flock here from around the world to relax in the warm, tropical climate, bask on the creamy sands of Cable Beach, browse the duty-free downtown shops, and frolic in the glitzy, themed resorts. Despite the rampant development, Nassau is still steeped in colonial charm. Visitors can witness this old-world elegance in the city's candy-colored colonial buildings, old forts, and grand hotels.

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1 Atlantis

Atlantis, a luxury hotel, aquarium, water park, and entertainment complex is one of the top attractions in the Bahamas. The Atlantis Resort designers have gone to great lengths to recreate this fantasy world. Decorations reflect real and mythical creatures - seahorses, helmeted domes, and giant bronze doors. The marine habitat is the largest outdoor aquarium in the world. It specializes in native tropical species, and the tanks incorporate the ruins and sculptures of Atlantis. Children and adults alike will love the water park. Highlights include the Leap of Faith, which plunges riders down a 60-foot drop through a tunnel submerged in a shark-filled lagoon, while the less adventurous can float around the park on the mile-long river ride, over waves and rolling rapids. As a theme resort, Atlantis rivals the best of Vegas.

Official site: www.atlantis.com
Address: 1 Casino Drive, Paradise Island

2 Cable Beach

Cable BeachCable Beach View slideshow

Nassau's Cable Beach is so named because the submarine telegraph cable came ashore here. Despite all the resorts lining this iconic stretch of coastline, it still manages to conjure the feel of a classic Caribbean beach with its soft white sand and turquoise waters. The Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort, Breezes, Sandals Royal Bahamian, and Wyndham Nassau Resort are all located here. Since the beach must maintain public access, it is possible to spend a few hours wandering around the area and relaxing by the sea. The clear waters here are also safe for swimming.

3 Downtown and Bay Street

Downtown and Bay StreetDowntown and Bay Street Roger Wollstadt View slideshow

A bustling mix of shops, restaurants, and street hawkers, Downtown and Bay Street offers some of the best duty-free shopping in Nassau. Cruise ship passengers flock here to buy jewelry, T-shirts, and perfume. Visitors will also find the straw market and Pirates of Nassau Museum along this strip.

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4 Paradise Island

Paradise IslandParadise Island View slideshow

Formerly called Hog Island, glitzy Paradise Island is home to the massive Atlantis Resort as well as numerous other resort complexes, private homes, and a golf course. This long cay, running parallel to the northern edge of New Providence Island, is connected to the mainland by two bridges and forms the harbor at Nassau. Hog Island Lighthouse, at the western tip of the island, was constructed in 1817 and marks the entrance to the harbor.

5 Nassau Straw Market

Nassau Straw MarketNassau Straw Market

After the decline of the sponging industry in the mid 1940s, Bahamian women began braiding and weaving the leaves of palm trees and sisal plants into baskets and fishing traps as a way to boost their income. Today this tradition continues at The Straw Market in Nassau. Shoppers can by woven items such as hats, mats, and baskets, as well as fine wooden carvings, colorful fabrics, and many other souvenirs. The historic market building was destroyed by fire in September 2001, but the market continues and has become a downtown institution.

Address: Downtown Bay Street, Nassau

6 Blue Lagoon Island

Blue Lagoon IslandBlue Lagoon Island

Also known as Salt Cay, Blue Lagoon Island is a private island, three miles from Nassau, offering a range of watersports as well as close-up encounters with dolphins and sea lions. This is one of the most popular side-trips from Nassau. At the island's three-acre marine mammal facility, Dolphin Encounters, animal lovers can learn all about these friendly mammals and interact with them under the careful watch of professional trainers. Day trippers can also relax in hammocks along the palm-lined beach or snorkel and swim in the lagoon.

7 National Art Gallery of the Bahamas

National Art Gallery of the BahamasNational Art Gallery of the Bahamas

Housed in the lovingly restored Villa Doyle, a large historic neoclassical mansion, the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas is the most important art institution in the country. The oldest section, looking toward the harbor to the north, was built in the 1860s by William Henry Doyle, Chief Justice of the Bahamas. The southern wing was added in the 1920s by Sir Walter K. Moore. The impressive collection includes paintings, sculpture, ceramics, photography, and textiles.

Official site: www.nagb.org.bs
Address: Villa Doyle, West and West Hill Street, Nassau

8 Queen's Staircase

Queen's StaircaseQueen's Staircase

Cut by slaves into solid limestone in the late 18th century, the 66 steps, known as Queen's Staircase, gave troops protected access to Fort Fincastle. More than a century later, the staircase was named to honor Queen Victoria and her role in abolishing slavery in the Bahamas. Today visitors can appreciate this amazing feat of construction as they climb the steep staircase, now flanked by a cooling cascade. Once at the top, visitors can ride the elevator to the top of Fort Fincastle, the highest point on the island. Built by Lord Dunmore in 1793, the fort is shaped like the bow of a boat and affords panoramic views of Nassau and the ocean beyond.

Address: Elizabeth Ave, Nassau

9 Government House

Government HouseGovernment House

Built in 1801 and renovated after the 1929 hurricane, this magnificent, conch-pink mansion on top of Mount Fitzwilliam is the official residence of the Governor General of the Bahamas. Constructed of stone and supported by ionic columns, the structure is an impressive example of Georgian Colonial architecture. A statue of Christopher Columbus, dating from 1830, stands at the entrance. Today visitors can stroll around the complex and enjoy beautiful views of the bay and Paradise Island. Children will enjoy watching the changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place at Government House twice a month.

Address: Duke St, Nassau

10 Pirates of Nassau Museum

Pirates of Nassau MuseumPirates of Nassau Museum Keo the Younger

Though a little light on historical exhibits, Pirates of Nassau Museum is a wonderful way for children to learn more about Nassau's seafaring days. Visitors to the museum can explore a replica of the pirate ship Revenge and the shanty town of Nassau, see pirate paraphernalia, and interact with theatrical pirate hosts.

Address: King and George Streets, Nassau

11 Ardastra Gardens, Zoo, and Conservation Center

Ardastra Gardens, Zoo, and Conservation CenterArdastra Gardens, Zoo, and Conservation Center Brian Gurrola View slideshow

Best known as the home of the marching flamingos, the Ardastra Gardens, Zoo, and Conservation Center is set on four acres of tropical gardens. The flamingos entertain visitors by marching in formation to commands. This zoo specializes in the conservation of Caribbean species including the endangered Bahama Parrot and several species of iguanas. Children love hand feeding the friendly rainbow lorikeets.

Official site: www.ardastra.com
Address: Chippingham Rd, Nassau
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