The capital of The Bahamas is not just a cruise ship port and weekend escape for US Spring breakers. Most of those tourists head directly across the bridge the giant Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island to gamble, strut and frolic at the water park. Beyond the well-trodden paths are cultural and art museums, sublime beaches, fish fry stands, and a resort with a fabled history, one where James Bond (the character, and the actors who played 007) drank martinis, and the Beatles splashed in the pool.
Paradise Island was aptly named, and just a short drive across a bridge (or walk) from the centre of Nassau. See the spectacle of Atlantis Resort, if only to try the fare at Nobu, then walk along Cabbage Beach and take a dip in the azure seas, so clear you can see schools of fish from a distance. After that, head up to The Cloisters, a collection of French 14th Century stone columns and arches imported by William Randolph Hearst and bought by former owner of the One&Only Ocean Club, Huntington Hartford as the crowning glory of his Versailles gardens. The Cloisters are available for the public to explore, though there may be a wedding on as it's a popular backdrop. Also on the island is an impressive golf course, designed by Tom Weiskopf where the Great White Shark, Greg Norman, and Tiger Woods have played. See www.bahamas.com
Learn about the history, music and the elaborate costumes of the Junkanoo Festival at the Educulture Junkanoo Museum. Every year at Christmas and New Year's, Bahamians dress in costumes made from colourful crepe paper and cardboard, and dance in the streets honouring late 18th Century slaves who were given three days off for Christmas. Housed in director, Arlene Nash Ferguson's childhood home, there are full costumes from past festivals on display while Arlene, an expert on Bahamian culture, passionately explains the history of the event. The 68-year-old still dances and rushes at the festival every year. There's a back room where visitors can make their own mask or play and dance to the distinctive Bahamian sounds of cowbells, brass, goatskin drums and whistles. See http://www.educulturebahamas.com
Head beyond the main shopping street (Bay Street) to West Hill Street. Stop into the Greycliff Hotel, a mansion built in 1740 and ask to see their Heritage Museum located in the historically preserved Mountbatten House, then have drink at the bar, which has a cellar underneath housing 250,000 bottles (http://www.graycliff.com). Afterwards, walk around the corner to the only locally owned rum distillery in the Bahamas, John Watling's, housed in a 1789 estate. After the tour, try a Rum Dum or a Bahama Mama (www.johnwatlings.com). A few steps away is the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, which is worth visiting (www.nagb.org.bs).
Locals will insist any visitor try fish fry and fresh conch salad (raw diced conch, onion, capsicum and tomato with lime) at Arawak Cay. There's a range of simple seafood shacks to choose from including Drifters, decked out in memorabilia and tablecloths of newspaper and cutlery placed in old tins of pigeon peas. Need a pickup? Stop in to Sky Juice King for the island staple; sky juice is a mix of gin, sweetened condensed milk and coconut water. You can get it "unleaded" as well.
Prefer white tablecloth service? Book in for a dinner at One&Only Ocean Club's beachside Dune restaurant to sample the Asian-French (with Bahamian flavours) menu created by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Take a seat at the martini bar at the One&Only Ocean Club Bahamas and hear tales of 007 (this was the location for two James Bond movies) as you look out to sea. Around you are framed photos of past celebrity guests from the jet set days. The design is modern (think French shutters, colourful cushions and fine art sculptures), the bougainvillea filled gardens immaculate and the service exceptional. Be sure to book in for a spa treatment in one of the Balinese-style treatment rooms at the One&Only Spa. See www.oneandonlyoceanclub.com
Spot remnants of British rule that still remain (the Bahamas gained independence from Britain in 1973) including afternoon tea, the enduring popularity of cricket, red postboxes, driving on the left-hand side of the road, roundabouts and Queen Elizabeth II sporting a toothy grin on the Bahamian $100 note.
Andrea Black travelled as a guest of the One&Only Ocean Club