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Nassau Bahamas Walking Tour Shore Excursion

Nassau cruise port
Nassau cruise terminal. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

A walking tour of Nassau, Bahamas, will give cruise visitors and overnight visitors more than enough things to do to fill a day.

We arrived at Nassau on our cruise ship on a rainy day in May. It didn’t stop us from exploring the port on foot.

We already had a plan in mind about how we would tour downtown Nassau. Moderately fit visitors can do this somewhat ambitious tour. Shore excursion operators also offer guided tours.

1) Parliament Square

The pretty and photographic Parliament Square on East Bay Street is only a few hundred feet south of the Prince George Wharf cruise terminal. Just walk straight out the front door of the terminal and keep walking. The flamingo-pink government buildings showcase the colonial architecture of old Nassau. The buildings are where the Senate and House of Assembly meet. Queen Victoria’s Statue is in front.

2) Nassau Straw Market

The second stop was Nassau Straw Market because it was easy to find on the waterfront just a few hundred feet to the right of the cruise docks. Anyone who goes first to Parliament Square can go less than a quarter mile west on East Bay Street to find the Straw Market.

The market is a massive open-air building filled with vendors who sell local and imported arts, crafts and of course the typical tourist souvenirs. A small number of vendors also sell high-quality local goods. Note that at least some vendors are willing to haggle over prices.

3) Bay Street

The back of the market faces the water while the front of the market faces Bay Street, the heart of the tourism district.

For the sake of this walking tour, exit through the front of the Nassau Straw Market to explore Bay Street and head toward the next destination.

Tourists will find Bay Street is like many other tourism districts in the Caribbean. It has a wide range of stores and restaurants to fill just about any shopping and dining desires.

Walking about eight tenths of a mile along Bay Street from the straw market will bring people to Fort Charlotte.

Fort Charlotte, Nassau
Fort Charlotte, Nassau. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

4) Fort Charlotte

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism say that Fort Charlotte is the one fort to see during any visit to the Bahamas.

The largest fort in the Bahamas sits on a hill and 100 acres on West Bay Street. It has an expansive view of Nassau and the harbour.

The fort has a moat, dungeons, 42 cannon and underground tunnels. Characters dress in 18th century costumes to recreate life there every Wednesday and Friday beginning at 11:30 a.m., the ministry says. Tour guides are available.

5) Botanical Gardens

The Nassau Botanical Gardens are about three fifths of a mile from Fort Charlotte on foot if visitors take M. Bethel Way to Infant View Road to Chippingham Road.

But the gardens are barely a stone’s throw from the back of the fort. Walkers can try going directly south from the back of the fort along a few paths to reach the gardens and save a lot of walking.

Anyone who finds themselves at the Bahamas Humane Society will be right next to the gardens.

The gardens offer 18 acres and 600 species from anyone who wants a peaceful break from musty forts and tourism districts.

6) National Art Gallery / Government House

Nassau Walking Tour Map

A one-mile walk back east from the gardens will bring visitors to the National Art Gallery and then to Government House. It also will bring them back toward the cruise docks.

The gallery at West and West Hill streets has four exhibit areas dedicated to the art of the Bahamas. It is housed in an historic mansion built in 1860 for the first chief justice of the islands.

The gallery is open Tuesdays through Sundays. The cost for non-local visitors is $10 per person.

Just about one block east of the gallery is Government House at Blue Hill Road and Duke Street.

The pink Government House, built in 1801, is the official residence of the governor general of the Bahamas. It is noteworthy for the Changing of the Guard ceremony on the second Friday of each month.

This tradition features the Royal Bahamas Defense Force Guards and the Royal Bahamas Police Force Marching Band. They march from police headquarters to Government House with music and precision drills.

7) Queen’s Staircase / Fort Fincastle

The final destination before heading back to Bay Street and the cruise docks is Fort Fincastle and Queen’s Staircase. They are right next to each other.

Oddly, Queen’s Staircase is more famous than Fort Fincastle, which pales in comparison to Fort Charlotte. But on the day of our visit, dozens of people toured Fort Fincastle. We were the only people who visited the nearby Queen’s Staircase. Regardless, the fame of the staircase depends on its uniqueness.

The staircase is a series of 65 steps carved out of pure limestone deeply into a rocky hillside. This quick and free tourist attraction is impressive for the amount of work it took to carve it.

Fort Fincastle is a small stone fort with a handful of cannons and a nice hilltop view of Nassau and the harbour.

I recommend seeing both the staircase and the fort together and not skipping one to make this extra walk worthwhile. From here, it is four tenths of a mile north to Bay Street and the cruise terminal.

The total walking tour is a little less than four miles from point to point for anyone who uses only roads. People who go out the back of Fort Charlotte to the botanical gardens will save more than a half mile.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
April 25, 2023

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