Grand Bahama Island Highlights & Landmarks
Take the time to explore the Island’s past and let its unbelievable natural beauty take your breath away. Uncover its Lucayan history and venture through one of the world’s longest underwater cave systems, or discover stories of the island’s rum-running days at Grand Bahama Island’s oldest hotel. Fill your itinerary with the island’s best highlights and landmarks, and create a vacation to remember.
The Straw Market
If you are in search of local straw goods, The Straw Market is the place to go. The art of straw plaiting was regarded as an important industry for Bahamian women in the early 1940s. Nowadays, straw markets remain an important part of Bahamian culture. Located in the western area of Port Lucaya Marketplace, The Straw Market features local artisans selling hand-made jewellery and a wide range of straw and wood handicrafts.
Grand Bahama Island vacationers can find most of the action in Freeport. The popular resort center of the island was originally designed and created in 1955 by Virginian financer, Wallace Groves. To this day, the city of Freeport is home to various duty-free shops, a number of restaurants offering an exceptional variety of culinary experiences, gaming excitement and much more.
Garden of the Groves
The island’s finest botanical garden was first introduced in the community as a gift. In 1973, it was officially opened to the public and dedicated to Wallace Groves for his accomplishments in creating the city of Freeport. In 2007, the Garden of the Groves suffered a devastating blow after a hurricane. Through much time and effort, it was brought back to life and re-opened a year later. When you arrive at the beautiful tropical Garden of the Groves you have the option of a guided tour or to explore on your own. Interpretive signs will highlight this lush tropical landscape with trees and flowers from The Bahamas and around the world. You will find a replica of the original chapel from the early logging days, tranquil lagoons with cascading waterfalls and a spiritual Labyrinth for meditation. Walk down into the cool fern gully and marvel at the magnificent limestone boulders that tower to both sides of the trail. Visit the quaint New England style shops where you find local artisans producing native straw works, coconut jewelry, fragrances, art etc. There is also a terrific cedar-crafted play-set for the younger generation in the kid’s playground. Relax on the cafe and bar deck overlooking the ponds and waterfalls with lunch items freshly prepared on the grill and a local draft beer. The Garden has it all – it is considered one of the finest tropical Gardens in the region with over 10,000 species of flowers, plants, and trees, which attract a wide variety of birds and butterflies.
Gold Rock Beach
Part of the protected Lucayan National Park, Gold Rock Beach supports Grand Bahama’s mangrove ecosystem and features a spectacular variety of tropical trees and vegetation. At low tide, the beach showcases the island’s signature Welcome Mat. A must-see! The beach can be accessed via tour bus or rental car. The amenities here are limited; BBQ pits and picnic tables are available. The views are spectacular, and as pretty as a postcard.
Grand Bahama Labyrinth
Located in the breathtaking Garden of the Groves, the Grand Bahama Labyrinth made its historical debut during the garden’s re-opening in 2008. The Grand Bahama Labyrinth is a replica of the original Chartres Labyrinth, found in the Medieval Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres in France. To respond to the desire to bring spiritual healing to the Bahamian community, Barbara Chester founded the Grand Bahama Labyrinth, the first labyrinth in the Islands of The Bahamas and the Caribbean. Within the natural beauty of the Garden of the Groves, visitors now have a place to reconnect with their own spirituality.
Lucaya is a suburb located in the city of Freeport. The suburb was created in order to accommodate the island’s rise in the tourism industry. In this part of Freeport, you’ll find the beachfront Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort, Bahamas and Memories Grand Bahama Resort & Spa along with the boutique resort Pelican Bay at Lucaya. Lucaya is near many of Grand Bahama’s popular attractions such as the Treasure Bay Casino, Lucayan National Park, Lucayan Caves and Port Lucaya Marketplace.
Lucayan National Park
The Lucayan National Park plays a significant role in Lucayan history and culture. Established in 1982, the 40-acre park allows you to further explore Grand Bahama’s unique environment. The park is also home to a very interesting feature: the Lucayan Caverns. With over six miles of caves, caverns and charted tunnels, it is one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world! Journey through the vast tunnel system and discover more important facts on Lucayan history. The various trails and boardwalk allows visitors to venture through a breathtaking landscape, comprised of pine trees, dozens of rare flowers and other Bahamian vegetative zones.
The Perfume Factory
A “must see” for every visitor to Grand Bahama Island is the Perfume Factory, located in an elegant plum and white replica of an old 18th century Bahamian mansion in Freeport. The free tour not only takes you behind the scenes of a working fragrance production operation, but you will also have the opportunity to mix your own special fragrance, bottle it and name it.
Peterson Cay National Park
Located one mile off the southern shore of Grand Bahama Island is Peterson Cay National Park, one of the smallest National Parks in the Bahamas. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic or day trip. The park is only accessible by boat, and visitors will be asked to anchor in the specified areas away from the coral reefs. All plants and animal life within the park boundaries are protected by law. Fishing, shelling, and damage to or removal of any coral is strictly prohibited. Garbage disposal and leaving ash coals / embers is also prohibited. Take only pictures; leave only footprints.
Port Lucaya Marketplace
The 12-acre beachfront complex was established in 1988 and is located on a tiny peninsula outside of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. The Port Lucaya Marketplace features a great collection of everything unique and authentically Bahamian. With 66 retail shops, 13 restaurants and bars, 94 straw vendors, 15 hair braiders, 23 artisans, and daily live entertainment, the Port Lucaya Marketplace is the perfect location to learn more about our unique Bahamian culture.
Rand Nature Center
Located a short distance from Freeport, the Rand Nature Center was the first established education nature center on Grand Bahama Island. The 100-acre sanctuary was named after James H. Rand, a philanthropist from Freeport. James Rand founded the Grand Bahama Clinic which was later renamed Rand Memorial Clinic, to commemorate his memory. The Rand Nature Center was created in order to preserve the natural beauty of Freeport and offers visitors the chance to learn more about Grand Bahama’s wildlife, vegetation and environment.
Home to UNEXSO’s Dolphin Experience, Sanctuary Bay is about two miles east of Port Lucaya. A ferry boat will take you from Port Lucaya to the facility, where you can observe and photograph the dolphins. You can even sign-up for a swim with them, or scuba dive with these amazing creatures in open water. Your visit to Sanctuary Bay will definitely be a highlight of your trip to Grand Bahama.
Star Hotel/Star Restaurant & Bar – West End
The West End is known for its involvement in liquor smuggling during the Prohibition period and is home to Grand Bahama’s oldest hotel. The Star Hotel dates back to 1946, when it was built by Austin H. Grant Sr. The hotel welcomed many intriguing boaters and characters in its rum-running days. The establishment did however stop operating as a hotel and became the Star Restaurant & Bar in 1988. The restaurant still pays homage to its roots by retaining its Caribbean flavours of the past and attracted interesting clientele such as Ernest Hemingway and Martin Luther King Jr.
UNEXSO Dive Center
The UNEXSO Dive Center is located in Port Lucaya area, within walking distance of Pelican Bay at Lucaya. UNEXSO provides a variety of activities for both experienced and non-experienced SCUBA divers, as well as various “swim with the dolphins” experiences. Some activities require a 1 day advanced registration. Don’t be left disappointed; plan in advance!
West End – the Capital
Many think Freeport is Grand Bahama Island’s capital city; however West End is officially the capital of Grand Bahama Island. This coastal village boasts a rich history of rumrunners, arms strugglers and wreckers. Located on the island’s westernmost tip, West End is recognized as the oldest city on Grand Bahama Island. During the Prohibition period, West End became a transfer base center for liquor before being sent out to the States. Today, West End is home to many luxurious resorts and marinas such as Old Bahama Bay.
Other Grand Bahama Island Settlements & Towns
From unique rock formations to important Lucayan archaeological sites, many of Grand Bahama Island’s towns share a piece of the Island’s diverse natural beauty. Most of the towns, such as Eight Mile Rock and High Rock are named after their unique features. Grand Bahama’s rich history in the slavery trade is also very much alive to this day. Settlements, including Old Freetown and Williams Town, were founded by freed slaves. Explore the island’s towns and settlements: