Who needs Red Bull when there’s downtown Nassau? This cacophonous blur of bouncing jitneys, hustling cabbies, bargaining vendors, trash-talking pirates and elbow-knocking shoppers is a guaranteed pick-me up for even the sleepiest of cruise-ship day-trippers.
And it’s been luring high-energy hustlers for centuries. From the 17th-century pirates who blew their doubloons on women and wine to the dashing blockade runners who smuggled cargo from the Confederacy during the American Civil War, the city has a history of accommodating the young and the reckless. The trend continues today, with bankers dodging between downtown’s international banks as they manipulate millions on this offshore banking haven. But Nassau’s not just for those wanting to earn or burn a quick buck. Banished royalty and camera-fleeing celebs have found refuge in Nassau too, with the disgraced Duke and Duchess of Windsor keeping tongues wagging in the 1940s and the ultimately tragic Anna Nicole Smith hiding out here in 2006.
Today, duty-free shops jostle for attention on Bay St with jewelry, coins, perfumes and rum cakes. Just east, historic Georgian-style government buildings glow like pink cotton candy confections. West of the wharf, the informative Pompey Museum describes the slaves’ journey from Africa to the Caribbean while faux buccaneers set a rowdier mood at the Pirates of Nassau museum a few steps south.
Nassau has a grittier vibe than you might expect from a cruise-ship destination, but don’t be put off by the initial hustle. Slow down, look around, then embrace its unabashed verve – it might be the perfect high-energy antidote to your lingering case of cabin fever.