An incongruous mix of glitzy casinos and quiet shady lanes, splashy megaresorts and tiny settlements that recall a distant simpler age, land development unrivaled elsewhere in the Bahamas, and vast stretches of untrammeled territory. This is New Providence Island, a grab-bag destination. The island, home to two-thirds of all Bahamians, provides fast-paced living, nightlife that goes on until dawn, and high-end shopping strips. And when all the hustle and bustle becomes too much, it's easy to find quiet stretches of sandy white beach where the only noise is the waves rolling in.
In the course of its history, the island has weathered the comings and goings of lawless pirates, Spanish invaders, slave-holding British Loyalists who fled the United States after the Revolutionary War, Civil War–era Confederate blockade runners, and Prohibition rum-runners. Nevertheless, New Providence remains most influenced by England, which sent its first royal governor to the island in 1718. Although Bahamians won government control in 1967 and independence six years later, British influence is felt to this day.
Nassau is the nation's capital and transportation hub, as well as its banking and commercial center. The fortuitous combination of tourist-friendly enterprise, tropical weather, and island flavor with a European overlay has not gone unnoticed: each year more than 2.5 million cruise-ship passengers arrive at Nassau's Prince George Wharf.
There's a definite hustle and bustle in this capital city that's not found elsewhere in the country, but that doesn't mean you have to follow suit. From shark diving and snorkeling to bicycle tours, horseback riding, tennis, and golf, active pursuits abound in New Providence. Avid water-sports fans will find a range of possibilities, including paddleboarding, sailing, kayaking, and deep-sea fishing. Or simply cruise the clear Bahamian waters for a day trip or an evening ride.