At Graycliff Chocolatier, visitors can witness the chocolate bar production process, followed by a hands-on chocolate-making class. // © 2015 Paradise Island Promotion Board
Feature image (above): Tour John Watling’s Distillery in Downtown Nassau. // © 2015 Paradise Island Promotion Board
While the white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters of Paradise Island are stunning, there’s more to the Bahamas than the sun and sand. Stepping off the shores and into Downtown Nassau gives travelers a chance to explore the culinary, cultural and historic aspects of this tropical locale.
Here are five fun-filled beach alternatives we love.
Graycliff Cigar Factory
If you love a good cigar, a stop by the Graycliff Cigar factory and shop should definitely be on the itinerary. The factory produces all manner of cigars, ranging from cigarette size to 2 feet in length. After a peek into the aging room, visitors step into the rolling room floor, the workplace of expertly trained cigar rollers, called “torcedores.” These highly skilled individuals carefully craft every cigar, each of them producing 180 per day.
Graycliff cigars are available in seven award-winning blends and can be purchased on-site as well as at high-end retailers around the world. For those who want to try their hands at rolling, lessons are available at the Nassau location.
With both a chocolate shop and factory, an excursion at Graycliff Chocolatier is sure to please. Milk, white and dark chocolate are all produced here and are combined with local flavors — including spicy Bahamian goat pepper, mango and lime — to create delectable confections. The factory tour takes visitors through the entire production process, from the original cacao bean to the final, delicious chocolate bar.
To complete the chocolate experience is a hands-on chocolate-making class. As a chocolatier for the day, visitors will make molded bars, chocolate-covered fruit, truffles, chocolate-dipped marshmallows and other treats. The sweets that aren’t consumed during class get to go home with their creator.
Heritage Museum of the Bahamas
This small but eclectic museum is located in the historically preserved Mountbatten House, with each room featuring a different era of the Bahamas’ past. Visitors will see pirating paraphernalia; goat skins stretched tightly over drum tops to create that thunderous Caribbean sound; silver palms woven into hats, purses and more; a recreation of an early 20th-century general store, complete with an actual package of cookies from the 1930s; and authentic costumes and headdresses worn during celebratory Junkanoo street parades, which take place throughout the Bahamas on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
John Watling’s Distillery
A trip to the blue-shuttered John Watling’s Distillery, where rum of the same name is handcrafted, includes a free tour of the production room, along with a complete history of the estate and its pirate namesake.
The libation comes in three varieties: Pale, ideal for making mixed drinks such as daiquiris, coladas and mojitos; Amber, adding flavor to sauces, glazes and baked goods; and Buena Vista, which, we were told, is only meant to be mixed with a cigar and a comfortable chair. These products are not exported though, so a souvenir is a must. Visitors also get a sample of a signature cocktail from the on-site Red Turtle Tavern.
Tru Bahamian Food Tour
The Bites of Nassau Food Tasting & Cultural Walking Tour offered by Tru Bahamian Food Tours is a tasty hidden gem. Lead by local Bahamian guides, this tour hits six diverse locations that truly give visitors an authentic experience. From conch fritters and rum cake to local beer and guava jam, travelers get a bite of it all.
While chowing down, they will also get the low-down on each shop or restaurant, meet some of the staff and learn about the traditions behind each dish. This tour isn’t just about the food, though; it takes participants along a route featuring historical buildings and downtown hot spots, too.