The main tourist draws of the Bahamas are its natural beauty and luxury resorts, but Nassau, which was founded in 1670, and its environs are home to plenty of historical sites, too. Here are a few places that will take you back in time.
This downtown civic area was founded more than 200 years ago by British Loyalists who fled North Carolina during the American Revolution. Today it's known for its pink colonial buildings and as the home of the House of the Assembly, the Senate Building and the Supreme Court of the Bahamas. If you want to dig a bit deeper, sit in the gallery to watch lawmakers debate the issues of the day.
Set on Mount Fitzwilliam, this relatively stately (but still pink) mansion dates to the early 1800s. The official residence of the Governor General of the Bahamas, the not-so-humble abode has a large estate with fine views of the harbor, while the interior looks much as it did when the Duchess of Windsor prettied it up in the 1940s. A Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place on the second Saturday of every month.
Educulture Junkanoo Museum
For more than 200 years, Bahamians have thrown a festival and parade called junkanoo between Christmas and New Year's. (Historically, it took place during the three days slaves were given off for the holidays.) This colorful downtown museum is a great place to learn about the history of the festival and its customs, and it also offers visitors the opportunity to make traditional masks and learn local dances.
Built by the British in 1788, this huge hilltop battlement overlooks Nassau Harbour west of downtown. It has a moat, dungeons and a stand of rusty cannons to give it a proper olde-fort feel. Every Wednesday and Friday morning, a market pops up with vendors wearing period garb, which culminates in a high-noon firing of a cannon.
What this lofty citadel lacks in size, it makes up for in character. Built on Bennet's Hill in 1793 to protect Nassau from pirates and Americans, it is accessible via the steep, 65-step Queen's Staircase. If the fort's shape looks strangely familiar, there's a reason: Viscount Fincastle had it built in the style of a paddle steamer.
The oldest fort on the island of New Providence, this limestone redoubt stands at the eastern end of Nassau Harbour. It was built in 1741 to defend the island from the Spanish, but it would soon see an attack from a different aggressor: In 1776, the forerunner to the U.S. Marine Corps launched its first amphibious assault here, capturing the fort during the Battle of Nassau.
Christ Church Cathedral
Occupying hallowed ground dating back to 1670, this minimalist-Gothic building was erected in 1841 and was made a cathedral 20 years later. The stained-glass windows are lovely, and the pipe organ is a sight to behold, but keep an eye out for the small mouse carved into the wood of the baptismal font.