Nassau and Paradise Island have no shortage of sand, although their beaches are not quite as impressive as the long, deserted stretches you find in the Bahamas' Out Island. If you are planning your Bahamas vacation strictly for quality beach bumming, consider Grand Bahama Island, Abaco or Exuma.
That is not to say you will not find worthwhile beaches around Nassau. Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island is one of the most beautiful soft, white sand beaches in the world. Away from downtown Nassau's popular, but often crowded and rowdy Junkanoo Beach and the resort strip along Cable Beach, you can find quiet, thinly inhabited, locals beaches that offer everything from caves, historic sites and snorkeling to horse back riding and experiencing a true Bahamian village - as close as you can get to the Out Islands on New Providence Island. For the best seclusion, head to New Providence Island's West End and southern shoreline.
Aside from Junkanoo Beach, the beaches of Nassau and Paradise Island are totally suitable for families with fine white sand, incredibly clear gem-toned waters and typically gentle sea waves. Few have restroom and shower facilities, but most are within walking distance of a bar or restaurant. This list takes you to the best of both urban and out-of-town beach strands.
Montagu Beach lies east of downtown Nassau, and is the site of the historic Fort Montagu - Nassau's oldest fort, circa 1741. It is a popular beach and generally busy, though not quite to the extent of Cable, Junkanoo and Cabbage beaches. Locals come here to picnic, take their lunch break, walk the narrow sands along Montagu Bay and hang out in the shade. The park, which runs right along busy Bay Street, has a good view of Paradise Island and the Atlantis resort. There is a lot of boat traffic through the bay between Paradise Island and Nassau, so this beach is not particularly conducive to swimming.
Situated on the north shore of New Providence Island, this beach lies west of Cable Beach and is therefore considerably less crowded. It is an appealing little beach with a narrow spread of white sand that does not get a lot of tourist traffic, so it is ideal if you need some space away from the throngs of vacationers at the other beaches closer to town. It gets its name from the limestone caverns that loom alongside the beach. Sculpted by waves, the caves are said to have provided shelter for early Indians - handy for beach goers who need to escape the sun or rain. (242-322-7500)
Junkanoo Beach, also known as "Spring Break Beach" for obvious reasons, is not as sprawling as some of the other Bahamas beaches. Nor is it as pretty as the postcard beaches. Its proximity to Nassau's lively downtown and the cruise ship docks makes it an easy option for vacationers who want to find a beach on foot. One of the few beaches that has public toilets and changing facilities, it is popular among locals and vacationers alike. A cluster of stands sell cocktails, food and trinkets. Some offer free Wi-Fi connection.
Adelaide Beach is not on most tourists' radar, which is either a bonus or a drawback, depending on your point of view. On the south side of New Providence Island within the small village of Adelaide, the beach here is long and virtually empty during the week. On weekends it is popular with local residents, who hang out under the shade trees to play dominoes, listen to music, drink Kalik beers and swim in the clear, warm waters. Adelaide feels much more like the Out Islands than Nassau, so a visit to this beach, although a bit of a travel from downtown, is worth the trip. (242-322-7500)
Do not be put off by the name. You probably will never see a shark here, but it was the filming site for the final installment in the "Jaws" movie series. As part of the Clifton Heritage Park acreage, the beach is protected above and below the water. This is a completely isolated beach, usually practically deserted, with white sand and rocky protrusions. Trees provide shade and the water is shallow, making it a good choice for families with kids. Be sure to pack drinks and snacks as it is far from any sort of such facilities. Exhibits interpret the marine habitat, and trails lead to historic sites. (no phone)
On the north shore past Gambier Village, Love Beach is the site of the famous Compass Point resort owned by the man who made Bob Marley a household word - recording mogul Chris Blackwell. It also happens to be a prime destination for snorkeling, boasting a 40-acre coral reef a mile offsore. Most folks fail to make the nine-mile trip from downtown Nassau to this part of the island, so expect isolation. Don't expect a sign or parking lot to mark your arrival. Just look for a place to pull over west of Compass Point and head to the sea.
Widely considered one of the best beaches in the Bahamas, Cable Beach is Nassau's sexy, playful resort strip holding hotels from all-inclusive chains to boutique properties. In December 2014, Baha Mar, one of the largest ever resort developments in the Bahamas, will open, having transformed the beach with a new water park and remastered golf course and casino. Cable Beach lies about three miles west of downtown Nassau and is notable for its calm waters and fine white sand. The vast majority of tourists end up here, so space is often at a premium. Vendors hawking t-shirts, seashell jewelry and sunscreen meander through the crowds. (242-322-7500)
Sheltered by Coral Island, the water off Saunders Beach near Goodman's Bay is calm and ideal for family swimming. Restroom facilities and a playground further its popularity with families. Just east of Cable Beach, Saunders Beach sees its share of beach-goers, especially on the weekends and during public holidays, when locals come to swim and play on the beach. A handful of food and beverage vendors usually stake out some territory here, and the white sand and clear blue water make this a lovely destination for locals and tourists alike.
Coral Harbour Beach
On the southern shore of New Providence Island in a quiet, unpretentious development called Coral Harbour, you will find access to the beach at the Coral Harbour resort. You are most welcome if you buy a Kalik or Bahama Mama or lunch from the beach bar. It is a lovely stretch of soft, talcum sand edged by Australian pines and palm trees. Take a long walk, have a dip in the clear and gently lapping sea, then climb into the hammock for a sea breeze cooled snooze. This is where a local stables conducts its beach horse back riding tour, so that is another way you can experience this stretch of undiscovered sands. (no phone)
Named one of the best in the world, Paradise Island's Cabbage Beach fronts several of the big hotels including Atlantis, Hotel Riu Palace and One&Only Ocean Club. Public access is on Casino Drive next to Riu Palace. The beach itself is a beautiful, wide stretch of soft white sand spanning about two miles of coastline. Palms, sea grapes and Australian pines line the stretch along tame, clear, aquamarine waters. Small tiki structures provide shade. There are several places to rent water sports equipment, from jet skis to floats. Not surprisingly, it tends to be crowded and busy, more so at the western end. (242-322-7500)
About Chelle Koster Walton
Chelle Koster Walton – the Local Expert for Naples, Florida and the Caribbean – has been covering the destination for 30 years. Her top-selling Sarasota, Sanibel Island, and Naples guidebook (Countryman Press) is in its sixth edition. She was contributing editor for Caribbean Travel & Life for 12 years and has written guidebooks on the Bahamas.
A veteran travel writer, Chelle has published thousands of articles for Miami Herald, USA TODAY, Latitudes; has written/contributed to a dozen guidebooks, and produces travel shows for the local PBS station.
Read more about Chelle Koster Walton here.
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