Newcomers to The Islands of The Bahamas quickly realize that they have stumbled upon not one, but many destinations. Between the “poles” of Grand Bahamas and Great Inagua are 23 inhabited islands and thousands of unpopulated islets and cays (pronounced “keys”). Cosmopolitan Nassau, once ruled by pirates, seems a world away from the desert-like wildlife sanctuary of Inagua. On many of the islands, tiny villages seem lifted from the Massachusetts coast and set down amongst palms and pines and iridescent sands. These beautiful islands lie only 50 miles off the Florida coast – far closer than any destination in the Caribbean.
The Bahamas has successfully promoted itself as a destination for US jetsetters, and a lot of it is Americanised. Yet there are still opportunities among its 700 islands and 2500 cays to disappear into a mangrove forest, explore a coral reef and escape the high-rise hotels and package-tour madness.
Originally a harbour base named Charles Town, NASSAU is the modern-day face of the Bahamas, visited by most everyone who comes down this way, not least for its service as a transport hub. Though dingy in parts, enough historical flavour has been preserved to make such a stop here worthwhile. Much of this atmosphere comes from its development during the so-called Loyalist period from 1787 to 1834, when many of the city’s finest colonial buildings were built. Before this build-up, Nassau had largely been a haven for pirates, privateers and wreckers, situated as it was on key shipping routes between Europe and the West Indies.
Islands of the Bahamas
According to the Bahamas Tourism office the Islands of the Bahamas is unique with their individual character and charm–and there is some truth to this. Visit the main islands like beautiful Grand Bahamas Island (Freeport/Lucaya) and bustling New Providence (Nassau and Paradise Island). Or, if you really want to get away from the crowds, visit one of the many out islands like Abaco, Andros, Acklins and Crooked Island, Biminis, Berry Islands, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exumas, Inaguas, Mayaguana, Long Island and San Salvador.
Throughout the 700-plus islands that constitute The Bahamas, residents tend to abide by ‘island time’, an affectionate term used to describe the Bahamians’ laid-back demeanour and their slow-moving way of life. It isn’t too hard to fall into this habit: many of islands are either uninhabited or sparsely populated, and from beaches strewn with beautiful seashells to homes painted in soft pastel shades, serenity is easy to find.
The Bahamas’ temperatures are moderated by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. And because The Bahamas are closer to continental North America – and thus more easily effected by North American cold air systems – they are slightly cooler than other Caribbean islands. Average temperatures in the Bahamas range from 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 32 degrees Celsius) in the summer to 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius) in the winter. The northern Bahamian islands can be even a little cooler. Winds across The Bahamas keep vacations cool in the daytime and help lower the temperatures at night.
The Bahamas extends 760 miles from the coast of Florida on the north-west almost to Haiti on the south-east. The group consists of 700 islands, of which 30 are inhabited, and about 2,400 cays (coral reefs). When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 on San Salvador, The Islands Of The Bahamas were inhabited by Lucayans, a subgroup of Arawak indians. Slavery, disease and other hardships wiped out the entire tribe within 25 years of Columbus’ arrival.
The Bahamas’ national airline is Bahamas air (UP). Other airlines with regular flights to the Bahamas include American Airlines Air Canada Air Jamaica Continental Airlines Delta Airlines British Airways US Airways.
Bahamas air will be the main interisland airline of choice. Bahamas air also fly to Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando. American Airlines flys to Nassau from Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa. Also they serve Freeport and Marsh Harbour from Miami. Gulf stream International/Continental Connection serves many islands of the Bahamas from Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.