Elements of Urbanism: Nassau, Bahamas

Metro Jacksonville goes 200 miles off the coast of Florida to explore the downtown of the largest city in the Bahamas: Nassau.

Published March 20, 2014 in Cities - MetroJacksonville.com

About Nassau, Bahamas

Located only 187 miles from Miami, Nassau is the largest city in the Bahamas. Nassau accounts for 70% of the entire population of the Bahamas. The city was original known as Charles Town before being destroyed by the Spanish in 1684. In 1695, it was rebuilt and named in honor of William III from the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau. Just off the coast of Florida, Nassau became a popular resort destination after the United States banned travel to Cuba in 1963.Today, tourism is the mainstay (60%) of Nassau's economy. Home to a large cruise ship terminal, Downtown Nassau is a major recipient of this industry.

Nassau, with its blend of influences from West Africa to England and from Haiti to the United States, is one of the most popular (and often congested) cruise ports in the Caribbean and Bahamas.

 The yellow and blue stripes on the Bahamian flag represent the nation's sandy beaches and surrounding ocean, while the black triangle stands for unity and the people's determination to develop the land and the sea. With endlessly developing hotels, resorts and shopping areas, it isn't hard to make this connection in Nassau, the capital of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

 Nassau is located on the 21-mile-long-island of New Providence and is connected, via bridge, to Paradise Island, another popular Bahamian destination.

 The city of Nassau features tropical, tree-lined streets, filled with horse-drawn surreys, ruled by policemen in white starched jackets and colorful pith helmets; soft-sanded beaches for kicking back and catching ocean breezes; lavish, Vegas-type casinos; and a decent range of duty-free shopping stops. But, as much as this vibrant town center is a cruise visitor's first impression, most head out on beach adventures at massive hotel and resort complexes like Atlantis or on boating adventures that range from dolphin encounters to booze cruises.

 Nassau's central location, just off the coast of Southern Florida, is one of its chief pluses, making it an easy mini-cruise port of call for ships passing through on the way to the Caribbean islands.

Tale of the Tape

Nassau Population 2012: 255,800 (City) - (established in 1695)

Jacksonville Population 2012: 836,507 (City); 1,328,144 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Nassau (46,125)

City Population Growth from 2010 to 2012

Nassau: +6,852
Jacksonville: +14,723

Tallest Building:

Nassau: Atlantis Royal Tower East - 305 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Urban infill obstacles:

Nassau: N/A
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Nassau: Woodes Rogers Walk
Jacksonville: The Elbow, The Jacksonville Landing


Common Downtown Albatross:

Empty Storefronts.

City Land Area

Nassau: 80 square miles
Jacksonville: 747.00 square miles

Next Page: Photo Tour of Downtown Nassau

A Photo Tour of Downtown Nassau

Prince George Wharf

Nassau is the largest cruise port terminal in the Bahamas. Almost three million cruise passengers visit Downtown Nassau annually, docking at the Prince George Wharf. Accommodating as much as seven ships at the same time, it's not uncommon to have 15,000 to 20,000 cruise passengers roaming the streets of Downtown Nassau at the same time.

Festival Place welcomes cruise ship guests to Downtown Nassau.

Festival Place is vibrant and colorful. Its design reflects the architectural style of a Bahamian village and evokes a time when Bahamian artisans and crafts persons practiced their art and trade in small island communities. The Welcome Center provides a truly Bahamian experience and the opportunity for visitors to purchase quality, authentic Bahamian-made souvenirs and craft items. With over 45 artisans and trade persons, visitors and patrons can sip a cup of Bahamian-blended tea while they wait for the finishing touches to be placed on a special straw bag, a quilt, or a painting by a Bahamian artist. They can munch on Bahamian sweets and treats, like coconut and pineapple tarts, as they stroll through walkways and lanes named after magical and inviting towns in the islands: Settlers Way, Andros Avenue, Queens Highway and Barratarre Way. Services available at Festival Place include: a tour desk providing general information on The Islands of The Bahamas and information on attractions, land and water-based tours; a full-service Post Office for regular and registered mail, high speed delivery and the sale of Bahamian stamps; a communications center, offering pay phones, phone cards, Internet kiosks/WiFi , operator service, fax service and telegrams; transportation information for scooter rental, taxi and ferry boat operations; and hair braiding. Visitors can join in and dance to the live Bahamian music in the indoor square on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Woodes Rogers Walk

Woodes Rogers Walk parallels Nassau Harbour, forming the border between Downtown Nassau, Festival Place and Prince George Wharf. The street is named after Woodes Rogers, the Royal Governor of the Bahama Islands from 1718 to 1721.

Bay Street

Considered the heart of the city, Bay Street is Downtown Nassau’s main thoroughfare.

Random Downtown Nassau Streetscape Images

Fort Fincastle, the Water Tower & the Queen's Staircase

Just south of downtown, Fort Fincastle was built in 1793 by Lord Dunmore atop Bennet's Hill. The Water Tower adjacent to the fort was erected in 1928 to maintain water pressure on the island. At 126' tall, it provides a panoramic view of Nassau. A short walk away, the Queen's Staircase is Nassau's most visited attraction.

Nassau's most visited attraction is the Queen's Staircase. Climb the 65 steps, recently renovated, carved out of solid limestones by slaves in the late 18th century, between 1793 and 1794. It is reported that slaves were forced to cut through rocks with axes and other sharp hand tools.

This 102 foot staircase was named in honour of the 65 years of Queen's Victoria's reign. Construction of this monument is still regarded as remarkable. For practical purposes, the staircase provides a shorter route to and form Bennet's Hill.

Lighthouse Beach

Lighthouse Beach is a popular waterfront destination on the west side of Downtown Nassau.

Arawalk Cay

Roughly one mile west of Downtown Nassau, Arawalk Cay, also known as "The Fish Fry," is a popular destination for Bahamiam cuisine.

Known to Nassau residents as "The Fish Fry," Arawak Cay is one of the best places to knock back a Kalik beer, chat with locals, watch or join in a fast-paced game of dominoes, or sample traditional Bahamian fare. You can get small dishes such as conch fritters or full meals at one of the pastel-color waterside shacks. Order a fried snapper served up with a sweet homemade roll, or fresh conch salad (a spicy mixture of chopped conch—just watching the expert chopping is a show as good as any in town—mixed with diced onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and hot peppers in a lime marinade). The two-story Twin Brothers and Goldie's Enterprises are two of the most popular places. Try their fried "cracked conch" and Goldie's famous Sky Juice (a sweet but potent gin, coconut-water, and sweet-milk concoction sprinkled with nutmeg). Local fairs and craft shows are often held in the adjacent field.

My guide on the help, helping remove conch from its shell at Goldie's Conch House in Arawalk Cay.

The Conch is a large-sized sea snail. The name was originally a slang term for native Bahamians of European descent. Due to them being harvested well before they have a chance to breed, the Bahamian conch population is in danger of collapsing.

By the way, live conch is pretty ugly (as evidenced above), but it's not bad. A little rubbery.

We both liked it better raw than cooked.  And we even ate the "conch pistol," a clear, slimy, dangling bit, considered to be the conch penis. (Don't worry, it isn't.) The pistol is said to increase libido and serve as a sort of viagra. "Put some more lead in your pencil!" declared the signs.

It tasted a bit like jellyfish. Did it work? Can't say. I'm a lady!

The Nassau Container Port lies just north of Arawalk Cay.

APD Limited was formed in 2009 to design, develop, construct, manage, operate and maintain the Nassau Container Port and the Gladstone Freight Terminal as a modern container port and warehousing complex.

Ownership of the port is a partnership between Arawak Cay Port Development Holdings Limited (40 percent equity stake), the Government of the Bahamas (40 percent equity stake) and Public (20 percent equity stake). Each has invested in APD Limited. The historical initial public offering which was launched in the fall of 2011, allowed the public to acquire 20 percent of the total equity of APD Limited. Approximately 11,500 Bahamians participated in the IPO, a record for the Bahamas. Plans call for additional equity to be made available to the public in the future.

In its role as owner and operator of the Nassau Container Port and the Gladstone Freight Terminal, APD Limited has an inherent responsibility to efficiently, securely and safely serve the market while providing opportunities to all stakeholders.

Cable Beach is recognised as the hotel district of Nassau. Five enormous hotels—two of which are all-inclusive—are located on this strip. The area is also known for its dining, the Crystal Palace Casino, and the golden sands of Cable Beach. Most of the area's restaurants are located either in the hotels or across the street. There is little to no nightlife. There is a bit of shopping, most of it located in the Wyndham. The commercial future of Cable Beach is being re-imagined with the development of Baha Mar, a resort and casino project that will bring more than 2,000 hotel rooms and the largest gaming and convention facility in the Caribbean to this section of New Providence Island in December of 2014 (estimated opening date).

Paradise Island

Formerly known as Hog Island, Paradise Island is a 685 acre island on the north side of Nassau Harbour. It is best known for being the home of the massive Atlantis Paradise Island resort. Employing over 6,000, the resort is the city's largest employer outside of the government.

The Atlantis Paradise Island is a resort and waterpark located on Paradise Island, The Bahamas. Officially opened in 1998, the resort was created by South African hotel magnate Sol Kerzner and Kerzner International Limited. Paradise Island first opened its Coral and Beach Towers as the Trump Plaza, then changed its name to Atlantis when the Royal Towers were built. The Coral and Beach Towers were later refurbished to match the theme of the Royal Towers. On 28 March 2007 a 600-suite luxury hotel named The Cove Atlantis opened on Paradise Island. Another tower, the 497-room Reef Atlantis, opened 19 December 2007.[1] Atlantis was heavily impacted by the crisis in the United States in 2008 and had to lay off 800 employees to face decline in occupancy rates.

Located on Paradise Island, The Cloisters are the remains of a 14-century French monastery which was transported to the island in the 1920s by William Randolph Hearst, and finally erected in the 1960s by Huntington Hartford.

Article and Photographs by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com

This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2014-mar-elements-of-urbanism-nassau-bahamas

Metro Jacksonville

Copyright MetroJacksonville.com