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Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas, is a relaxing destination. The white-sand beaches and friendly locals are only the beginning of this tropical getaway. The island is just 50 miles off the coast of Florida, making it easily accessible by boat.
The Bahamas is the most geographically complex nation in all of the Atlantic. A coral-based series of islands, it is made up of over 700 islands, 2,000 cays and hundreds of rocky masses that have brought destruction to seagoing vessels in the area for centuries. Grand Bahama Island is a significant portion of the 100,000 square miles of dry land that comprise the Bahamas.
This 12-acre garden has over 10,000 trees and exotic birds, animal life and more. Located at the junction of Midshipman Road and Magellan Drive, Garden of the Groves is an epicenter for forest preservation and an endangered species wildlife refuge.
This 40-acre park on Midshipman Road (242-352-5438) is both educational and enjoyable. The lovely beach leads to a winding path through the forest, and hiking trails abound.
Writes Fodor's: "In this extraordinary 40-acre seaside land preserve, trails and elevated walkways wind through a natural forest of wild tamarind and gumbo-limbo trees, past an observation platform, a mangrove swamp, sheltered pools, and one of the largest explored underwater cave systems in the world."
Located on East Beach (242-352-6052), these gardens contain herbs and healing plants, as Bahamians believe in using the gifts of Mother Nature as natural cures. With over 150 plants native to the Bahamas, many scientists visit the Hydroflora Gardens to research and study the plant life for use in medicines.
Xanadu Beach, immediately east of Freeport, is a white-sand beach with powdery sand and crystal clear waters. Indulge in boating, jet skiing, snorkeling and parasailing here. Silver Point Beach is more secluded beach, with volleyball courts, water sport concession stands and even horseback riding. Taino Beach is a good family location due to its calmer and shallower waters for kids.
The Flovin Gallery, in the Arcade portion of the International Bazaar (242-352-7564), sells authentic Bahamian artwork, jewelry and gifts. Island Gallery in the International Bazaar (252-352-8194) contains a remarkable collection of fine crystal. The china and crystal in this store are exquisite.
Fodor's Caribbean Cruises recommends Billy Joe's on the Beach ("Eating fresh conch salad and drinking a cold beer, island music in the background and your toes in the sand: it doesn't get any better or more Bahamian") and East Sushi at Pier One.
Shenanigan's Guinness Pub and European Eatery (242-373-4734) is a great place to socialize and sip a cold one after a day in Freeport. Located at the Port Lucaya Marketplace, the friendly atmosphere and down-home charm of Shenanigan's will surely entice you to return to this famous watering hole in the future. If you are in the mood to dance, head to Count Basie Square at the Port Lucaya Marketplace for live music.
The Bahamas have beautiful weather all year round, and Freeport’s weather is characterized as a tropical savanna climate. The winters can get a little chilly, but any time of year in this area is beautiful.
Cruise ships dock at Lucayan Harbour, Port Lucaya, 10 to 20 minutes west of Freeport. Don’t forget: The cruise port is at Port Lucaya, not to be confused with the town of Lucaya. Taxis and limos arrive to meet cruise passengers. It costs $10 to $20 for two passengers to travel to Freeport by taxi; $27 to Lucaya.
Public bus service and taxis are available at the pier. A fun choice would be to rent a scooter for the island's flat terrain; cost is $15 an hour or $35 for a day.
A handful of private minibuses operate as public buses on assigned routes from the bus station in Freeport at the City Market parking lot (formerly Winn Dixie Plaza), traveling as far afield as West End and McLean’s Town. Buses are frequent, but depart when the driver decides he has enough passengers. The bus stop in Freeport is at the parking area behind the International Bazaar.
Want to grab a cab for a longer trip? Contact Freeport Taxi Company (242-352-6666); however, know that this is much pricier than the buses, and even pricier than renting your own car. If you'd like to rent a car while on the island, try Avis (242-352-7666) or Hertz (242-352-9277).
Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens will need a valid passport.
Store hours: Stores are typically open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, and are closed on Sunday. Some stores in the International Bazaar and the Straw Market will remain open on Sunday when cruise ships are in town.
Currency: The Bahamian dollar, which trades one-to-one with the U.S. dollar. U.S. dollars are universally accepted.
Tipping: The usual tip for service from a taxi driver or waiter is 15%. Many hotels and restaurants automatically add a 15% gratuity to your bill.
Bargaining habits: Bargaining in the International Bazaar and the Straw Market and with street vendors is expected. In other stores, prices are typically fixed. Keep small change with you so that you can pay the price the you agreed on without having to ask for change.
Safety: Freeport has a high crime rate. Pickpocketing and theft are the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t flash your cash around. We suggest you keep your valuables on the ship.
ShoreFox contributed to this guide.
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“One hundred percent Bahamian owned, the 20-acre Bahamian Brewery opened in 2007, bringing to the Bahamian islands five new beers including Sands, High Rock Lager, Bush Crack, and Strong Black Stout. Tours are $5 and walk-ins are accepted.”