Things To Do In Nassau Without Paying For An Excursion
We recently just disembarked from our very first-ever cruise and it was AMAZING! But, after getting such a great deal on our stateroom… I knew I would maintain our budget by conducting our own DIY excursion on Nassau.
We boarded the Norwegian Sun cruise out of Port Canaveral which made a stop in Nassau, Bahamas and the Norwegian Private Island, Great Stirrup Cay.
Given that we are Floridians and found the water to be a bit chilly this time of year, we were not planning on heading over to Atlantis or swimming with the pigs ( though I may have to indulge in that fun a bit next time).
Instead, we wanted to explore Nassau on foot while maintaining our vacation budget.
The island did not disappoint.
If you find yourself with just 8 hours or so on the island, here are some of the best things to in Nassau that don’t require a costly excursion.
The cruise ships dock at Prince George Wharf. The only way off the port at this point is through festival Place. It’s a bright and vibrant area with lively music and vendors selling souvenirs and food.
The area is secured well due to its proximity to the port, so guests walking through can enjoy the atmosphere.
Once you go through the gates out of Festival Place into the main downtown area of Nassau, you may feel a bit disconcerted by the locals who will ask you if you know what you are doing or need a cab. Cut through that crowd and head straight north on Parliament Street. You’ll go one block up and it will get a bit quieter and you will find yourself standing at Parliament Square.
These vibrant pink buildings were constructed in 1815 and serves as the seat of the Bahamanian government.
Shopping on Bay Street
Bay Street is Nassau’s Prime shopping street and by far the city’s busiest. If you want to do a shopping spree this is definitely the place to do it. One reason many people like to cruise or visit the Caribbean is for tax-free and duty-free shopping.
On Bay Street you can find beachy shops, kitschy souvenirs, or high-end jewelry and other luxury items from Brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci or Cartier.
Keep an eye out for the pink flamingo decal in the shops. This means that they have met the Bahamian government regulations and guidelines to ensure that the brands are authentic and genuine.
We didn’t personally find any deals worth trucking back home, however it was still fun to window shop and you may find a bargain souvenir you love.
Nassau Straw Market
If you walk west on Bay Street, you will eventually run into the Nassau straw Market. this stop is a favorite amongst Cruise passengers, and features were 500 vendors selling Bahamanian straw crafts and souvenirs.
The Straw Market is a fun stop and you can probably score a cheap souvenir for yourself or others. Be wary, though, that the vendors can be rather aggressive and if you prefer to not be bothered while shopping, this may not be the best stop for you. I likely would have spent more time there, had I been allowed to simply stroll.
If an item happens to catch your eye and you pick it up to further inspect, you will likely have a vendor trying to haggle with you as you walk away. That being said, always negotiate a better price.
On a positive note, we found a cute little straw purse for our daughter and wooden shark for our son for just $15. The vendors personalized the items for a nice touch.
Heritage Village by Graycliff
After you made your final purchase at the straw Market, you will walk off of Bay Street just a short walk North to the Heritage Village artist Studios. You will walk past the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. If you have time, this could be a potential stop, however it was not open as we were walking by.
Heritage Village is a unique little strip of shops and artisans.
The small area will only take about a half-hour to explore, which will make the stroll fit seamlessly into your day. The area has a historical record that exceeds 300 years and the bright colors will make you remember that you are in the Bahamas.
While strolling, take a moment to stop for a refreshing sip at Bahama Barrels, the first winery ever in the Bahamas.
Graycliff Cigar Company
The Graycliff Cigar Company was founded in 1997 and offers daily tours and rolling lessons.
Tours can be easily booked online in advance for just $11. You will be gifted with a cigar as a parting gift and even non-smokers can appreciate the skill and almost artistic ability to see master rollers at work.
Just next door to the cigar company is the Graycliff Chocolatier.
You could purchase a tour or just opt to pop in for a sample, as we did. It’s located in the Graycliff Hotel which lends itself to some lovely vacation photo ops.
John Watling’s Distillery
Just a short 5 minute walk from Graycliff is John Watling’s Distillery. This place definitely makes you want to channel your inner Captain Jack Sparrow.
The distillery is named after the Pirate, John Watling, who made his home in the Bahamas in the 17th century. The distillery is located on the beautiful Buena Vista Estate, built in 1789.
Tours are completely free and run throughout the day and no reservation is needed. Afterwards, you can enjoy a sip in their Red Turtle Tavern or purchase some rum and head back to the ship for lunch, as we did.
Note: Pay attention to alcohol limits when traveling. When traveling by ship, you can bring back up to 2 liters duty-free per person from the Bahamas. Your purchase will be confiscated by the ship and held for you until it is nearly time to disembark.
Eating lunch on the cruise ship is definitely not how you experience local fare, but it is budget-friendly and a time-saver to drop off your ‘souvenirs’ from the distillery and not carry them around.
If you still have time to explore after your brief break at the ship, it’s a short five-minute walk to the Queen’s Staircase, a Nassau landmark with a deep history. The 66 limestone steps were chiseled out of solid limestone around 1793 by slaves. The rock staircase provided access between Fort Fincastle and the city of Nassau. The landmark was later named “ The Queen’s Staircase” in honor of Queen Victoria.
The area is well-shaded and provides a nice getaway from the sun and heat, especially in much warmer months.
Just atop of the Queen’s Staircase is Fort Fincastle. It was built at the highest point in the city on Bennett’s Hill in 1793 as an effort to protect Nassau from pirates.
The Fort is rather small, but offers a fantastic viewpoint of Nassau. The Fort is open daily and admission is just $3. You won’t need a guided tour so be wary of locals who may try to offer you one at a cost.
After the Fort, it’s about another 10 minute stroll back to the boat.
If you want to follow our route, feel free to use this Google map.
No matter how you spend your day in Nassau, take time to relax and just enjoy the island.
For some additional information and options, check out this incredibly thorough Nassau post from my Blog BFF, Taima. If you have been to Nassau and have a favorite spot, let me know in the comments…because I definitely want to go back!