Sightseeing tours are both educational and exciting. You can explore natural caves, walk through town and learn about historical landmarks and even island hop.
So close to home, yet feels so far away. Just 50 miles off the coast of Florida in the United States, our tropical archipelago is an easy and convenient destination to escape to year-round.
For centuries, the close proximity has attracted all kinds of people: Native Americans. Puritans. Explorers. Even pirates. Now it’s your turn. Come discover all of our 700 islands and the hospitality of the Bahamian people. Paradise is just a short plane ride from Miami International Airport, South Florida. And many airlines now offer direct flights to Nassau/Paradise Island, Grand Bahama Island or The Out Islands. You can also sail into one of our 32 ports of entry. Once you arrive, go island-hopping. Explore underwater. Or do nothing but relax on one of our pristine beaches.
Cast away on this Bahamian island known for its big-game fishing. Distance from Miami: 50 miles.
Grand Bahama Island
Discover Freeport, the second largest city in The Bahamas, as well as the island’s many ecological wonders. Distance: 55 miles from the Florida coast.
Relax in the tropical ease of our capital city and largest city. Distance: 179 miles from the Florida coast; 45-minute plane ride from Miami.
Even the most experienced explorers have gotten lost in the abundant natural beauty. For centuries, the islands captivated settlers, traders and invaders, while the shipping channel enchanted pirates who quickly discovered all of the great hiding places. To this day, there are still tales of treasure. However, the real treasure is the people. Bahamians may live for today, but they never forget their past.
As early as 300 to 400 AD, people who came from what is now Cuba (there was no country named Cuba at that time) lived on The Islands Of The Bahamas and relied on the ocean for food. From around 900-1500 AD the Lucayan people settled here. They enjoyed a peaceful way of life and had developed viable political, social and religious systems.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus made landfall in the New World on the island of San Salvador. Inspired by the surrounding shallow sea, he described them as islands of the “baja mar” (shallow sea), which has become The Islands Of The Bahamas. When he arrived, there were about 40,000 Lucayans. Their peaceful nature made the Lucayans easy targets for enslavement however, and within 25 years, all of the Lucayans were wiped out due to the diseases, hardships and slavery they endured.
English Puritans known as “Eleutheran Adventurers” arrived here in 1649 in search of religious freedom. Instead, they found food shortages. Captain William Sayles sailed to the American colonies for help and received supplies from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Upon his return, the settlers thanked them by shipping them brasileto wood. The proceeds helped purchase land for what later became Harvard University.
Age of Piracy
During the late 1600s to early 1700s, many privateers and pirates came here, the most famous ones being Blackbeard and Calico Jack. There were also female pirates like Anne Bonny and Mary Read disguised as men.
The shallow waters and 700 islands made great hiding places for treasure. And our close proximity to well-traveled shipping lanes made for the perfect spot to steal from merchant ships. There are rumors of hidden treasure that still exist today. It is believed that British pirate William Catt buried loot on Cat Island and Sir Henry Morgan, a wealthy privateer, buried treasure throughout our islands.
Established around 1670 as a commercial port, Nassau was overrun by lawless, seafaring men. Years later, Nassau was destroyed twice—once by Spanish troops, the other time by French and Spanish navies.
Soon after, pirates began looting the heavily laden cargo ships. By 1718, the King of England appointed Woodes Rogers to serve as the Royal Governor. His job was to restore order. And he did. He offered amnesty to those who surrendered. Those who resisted would be hanged. 300 pirates surrendered and the rest, including Blackbeard, fled.
More than a century later, American colonists loyal to Britain arrived in Eleuthera. Many brought their slaves as well as their building skills and agriculture and shipbuilding expertise. These greatly influenced Eleutheran life. In 1783, they solidified their independence and forced the retreat of the Spanish forces from the region without firing a shot.
Civil War and Prohibition
From 1861 to 1865, The Islands Of The Bahamas benefited greatly from the U.S. Civil War. Britain’s textile industry depended on Southern cotton; however, the Union blockaded British ships from reaching Southern ports. So blockade runners from Charleston met British ships here and traded cotton for British goods. Upon their return, they sold their shipment for huge profits. The end of the Civil War marked the end of prosperity. In 1919, the United States passed the 18th amendment prohibiting alcohol. The colonial government expanded Prince George Wharf in Nassau to accommodate the flow of alcohol. When Prohibition ended in 1934 so did the enormous revenues. Combined with the collapse of the sponge harvesting industry, it economically devastated The Bahamas.
Tourism and Independence
The Hotel and Steam Ship Service Act of 1898 opened our doors to the world. This act provided the government support needed for the construction of hotels and subsidized steamship service. Since then, everything from Prohibition bringing well-to-do Americans to the closure of Cuba to Americans has impacted tourism in our country.
On July 10, 1973, The Bahamas became a free and sovereign country, ending 325 years of peaceful British rule. However, The Bahamas is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and we celebrate July 10th as Bahamian Independence Day.
When it comes to exploring nature, The Bahamas has plenty to offer. They play host to some of the most intriguing, exotic and mysterious natural phenomena on the planet. Here you'll find the world's deepest blue hole, the third-largest fringing barrier reef in the world, miles of pink-sand beaches, the world's largest colony of pink flamingos, the endangered Bahama Parrot, the unusual Andros iguana, a wild horse preserve and countless nature preserves. You'll also find a growing number of eco-friendly hotels and resorts in The Bahamas offering vacation packages that support ecotourism and ecotravelers.