A Brief guide to the Bahamas for Newbies

A brief guide to the Bahamas

This is a guest post from Kristine Vicencio, a freelance writer representing  Thomson. A global travel firm based out of the UK. At Thomson they understand that it’s the little things that make the big difference.  So whether you’re after a cruise or a 5-star hotel, they’ll help you find a break that’s right for you.

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a nation consisting of over 700 islands and cays in the Western Atlantic Ocean. It’s proximity to the Caribbean Sea and location on the warm-water Gulf Stream make The Bahamas a tropical paradise and draws millions of tourists every year, especially during the summer, which is the most popular time of year to visit.

The Bahamas is a rapidly growing nation, about 5 percent every year, adding almost 100,000 residents in the past decade. Nassau, the national capital, contains the majority of Bahamians and is the nation’s center of tourism and industry.

Colonized by English settlers in 1648 and, though now independent of the United Kingdom, The Bahamas remains inside the British Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch. In the early 1800′s The Bahamas was used as a settling place for freed African slaves. In fact, the majority of Bahamians, 85 percent, are of African descent.

English is the predominant language across all islands and the currency is the Bahamian dollar, which much to the delight of American tourists, maintains a 1:1 ratio with the U.S. dollar. In large part because of its tourism industry, The Bahamas is the third wealthiest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The climate in The Bahamas is very tropical. The average high in winter is 74 degrees; in summer it is 88. Lows typically stay above 60 year-round and there has never been a freeze. However, being in the western Atlantic, The Bahamas is a frequent target for hurricanes every summer, so visitors should be cautious.

New Providence, which located on Nassau island, has a charming downtown of old world and colonial architecture and numerous resort complexes. Cable Beach is the city’s most recognized hotel and restaurant district, with downtown remaining the center of Nassau’s shopping culture and historical landmarks. Life in Nassau is laid back and if the sun is shining, it can be wonderfully unforgettable.

Freeport on Grand Bahama Island is the second largest Bahamian city and the closest one to Florida. In fact, Freeport is a mere 65 miles from Palm Beach, Florida. Cruise ships frequent the island, usually stopping off in Port Lucaya.

A relaxing view from the beaches of Bimini

Several other Bahamian islands have proven to be popular, including North and South Bimini, the closest islands to Miami. These small land masses are known as stopping spots for Floridian fishermen, and the waters surrounding the islands are considered great for sport fishermen. In Alice Town there are bars, shops and hotels.

Long Island contains one of The Bahamas’ most mysterious sites, a large underwater sinkhole called Dean’s Blue Hole. Regarded as the world’s deepest sinkhole with the entrance below sea level, the 663-foot deep circular tunnel has become a pilgrimage site for underwater divers and a site of special interest for scientists. Blue holes can be found all over the Bahamian islands.

Nassau is the best place to start any visit to The Bahamas. The country’s largest airport, Sir Lynden Pindling International Airport, serves Nassau with daily flights from major airlines. Checking on Thomson’s sun holidays page, you can see just how easy, and affordable, it is to get to the islands. History buffs will enjoy touring 18th Century Fort Charlotte while sun seekers will enjoy New Providence island’s many white beaches.

Hotels and resorts line the shores of both New Providence island and its neighbor, Paradise island. The Atlantis Resort and Casino is the largest resort complex in The Bahamas, with 3,767 rooms and villas. Other major hotels around Nassau include the historic Marley Resort and Spa and resorts run by chains Hilton, Sheraton and Wyndham. Less expensive accommodation can also be found around Nassau.

photo cred: Bimini Bay Resort

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