“Aruba, Jamaica, oh I want to take ya to
Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama…”
Every time I hear the word Bahamas, that’s the first thing that pops into my brain. Are there any more iconic lyrics that relate to islands in the Caribbean? What do you think?
All I know is that when Tina says “hey, we’re going to the Bahamas in April”, I’m already reaching for the suitcase and grabbing my Ray-Bans.
And so it came to pass that in April of 2019, we found ourselves driving away from the Freeport Airport in our rental car on our way to our condo on the beach.
This was one the first times we used a portion of our “Points” from our time-share company, and first impressions left us feeling quite pleased. The property is right on the beach and includes a marina, a restaurant, a conference room, a pool, and a hot tub. It’s a family-run property so it has that small-town and personal feel to it. The 2 bedroom condo with a full kitchen and living room was well-appointed and up to date with a large balcony providing an amazing view of the Caribbean. We were looking forward to 7 days in yet another paradise.
Day 1 was spent simply relaxing on the beach and strolling the neighborhood up and down the beach. Little did we know that our accommodations were right next door to the famous Xanadu Beach Resort and Hotel. Once owned by Howard Hughes, it was THE getaway for the jet-set rich and famous in the Caribbean and a favourite hang-out of the Rat Pack. Hughes lived in the penthouse up until a couple of months before his death and the hotel was sold shortly thereafter.
Enough history! One thing we love about a lot of the Caribbean islands we’ve visited is that travelling from one end to the other via car can often be comfortably completed in a day. Since we usually have lots of time, we sometimes split the tour into several days which allows for leisurely strolls along empty beaches and the taking in of various tourist sites and tours.
One of the very first things we do is to check with the locals to discover some of THEIR favourite places to eat. First stop….Shabo’s in the West End. A little shack right on the beach next to a mountain of empty queen conch shells and about half-way up an entire string of similar shacks along the beach. For a few bucks, we were both sitting on the tailgate of the rental stuffing our faces with the fresh conch fritters and conch salad. What a treat!
The next day was pretty full. First stop was The Port Lucaya Straw Market. This is one of those open-air markets where the vendors have stalls running up and down the lot in line after line with hand-crafted (or imported) articles for sale. Definitely for the tourist wanting to purchase their souvenirs.
Next up were the caves inside Lucayan National Park, and picturesque Gold Rock Beach (where portions of Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed). These two sites were right across from one another and we spent a goodly amount of time following the tour guide around the National Park where we learned a lot about the history and geology of The Bahamas.
Our day wound down with a romantic dinner at Garden of the Groves botanical gardens in Freeport. This is one place you definitely have to experience on Grand Bahama. An intricate, well laid-out botanical garden with various streams, fountains, and waterfalls placed strategically throughout. The restaurant is nestled within the garden and the food is beyond amazing.
Food, food, food. Is that all I ever talk about? Well….maybe? Experiencing new cultural cuisines is definitely one of the things I look forward to when we travel. Neither of us has any fear when it comes to trying something new on our plates and as I mentioned, we look to the locals for their favourite hot spots.
Another bit of fame that Grand Bahama holds is the Wednesday night fish fry at Smith’s Point. Once again, right along the beach are dozens of establishments with wood-fired grills and barrels of oil cooking up hundreds of pounds of turbot, lobster, and conch for the regular Wednesday night party. Ongoing for decades, the event was hosted by the locals as a way of supporting and bringing members of the community together. Those who had more shared with those who had less in the spirit of goodwill and fun.
Today, the tradition continues to be for the local community but has also become a destination for tourists as well. It was one of the first things we were told about when we landed! “Make sure you go to the fish fry!” Starting off at about 6 PM, you might want to get in one of the long lineups for food if you want to make sure you’re not disappointed. The live music kicks in about 9 PM and can go all night. It’s definitely a fun place to be on a Wednesday night where you can have a great meal and sit back with a cold beer and listen to the local band play. Oh! And make sure you have some guava duff!!
You know, every trip has its highlights. They come in varying degrees, and sometimes there’s more than one. Although this trip provided a lot of great experiences, I would have to say it had one momentous highlight….for Tina at least. 🙂
You may already be aware that when in The Bahamas you have the opportunity for a unique swimming experience. Now, this is one of those situations where my wife, who doesn’t normally do the bulk of research on a destination prior to departure, eagerly spent hour upon hour scrolling through hundreds of webpages in quivering excitement about this unique opportunity. Have you guessed it yet?
Swimming with pigs.
That’s right. For a small fee, you get to wade into the warm, turquoise water of the Caribbean and watch a herd of pigs swim out to you from their own small island and mingle with us human-folk. What can I say? Even now I’m kinda speechless myself. What’s it like? It’s…it’s….. Well, it’s different. Unique. Earth-shattering? No. Mind-blowing? No. Ummm….I give up. I’m gonna stick to being kinda speechless on this one. If you think it’s something you’d like to do, by all means, sign up and go for it. It’s not like it’s gonna hurt you or anything. It’s just….different.
It was definitely a way to wrap up the week in The Bahamas. We ended up having our final romantic dinner back at the Garden in the Grove. We try not to visit local eateries more than once, but we just couldn’t resist the great flavours here. (As a footnote, subsequent to our visit in April of 2019, a lot of Grand Bahama was severely damaged by hurricane Dorian that September and we understand that although Garden in the Grove was heavily hit, they are already rebuilding).
Although prices are a bit on the high side in The Bahamas, it’s a beautiful place with beautiful people. The food everywhere is amazing, and as long as you don’t have a hurricane bearing down on you, this is definitely a destination worth visiting. We couldn’t have been happier with our surroundings and the time we spent touring the island and meeting the people of Grand Bahama.
On to…Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda…come on pretty mama!