With the opening of the new airport departures terminal in March 2011, the completion of the initial roadway project for the forthcoming Baha Mar resort in Cable Beach in November, and the debut of the new Bay Street Straw Market one month later, Nassau is well on its way to an extreme makeover.
The moving and improving of major thoroughfare West Bay Street kicks off a $3.5 billion project to redevelop Cable Beach via a 1,000-acre resort and entertainment complex.
Prettied up with conch-filled roundabouts and the perky, colorful new Pompey Village crafts market, the new roadway passes natural wetland and park areas.
Already Cable Beach has an air of refreshment. Fans of the old “Daq Shack” will find a newer incarnation at which to enjoy their favorite fresh-fruit smoothies and cocktails at Pompey Village, across from the Sheraton Nassau.
Speeding toward projected completion in winter 2014, the Baha Mar complex will embrace 3,000 feet of Cable Beach’s famed white sands; four new hotels including Rosewood, Morgans, and Hyatt brands; an Eco Water Park and various pools; plus three spas, a casino, and a 50,000 square-foot retail village already in the making.
The existing Cable Beach Golf Course, currently with only nine holes open during construction, will reopen as an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Course.
The golf course holes reduction is the only apparent inconvenience to visitors in the meantime; construction is contained behind visual barriers to minimize disturbance.
Prince Harry, who visited in March for the Diamond Jubilee Celebration of Queen Elizabeth II, got an early look at the development. He also visited the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, which opened in February, for a youth rally and cultural show in his honor.
The 3,500-seat stadium, named for a native Olympic sprinter, was designed to accommodate American football, rugby, soccer, and track events.
Downtown Nassau has plans for paving and redesigning Bay Street to become more pedestrian friendly. The new straw market, although not as colorful as the one that burned down in 2001, provides a more comfortable, air-conditioned setting than the temporary tent market that served in the interim.
Down the street, a more recent fire destroyed the interior of the well-presented Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation. Reports say renovations inside the museum’s historic 1760 Vendue House, once a slave market, are under way.
Another historic downtown structure, the Balcony House, is also under renovation. Dating back to 1788, it claims to be Nassau’s oldest wooden residential structure.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for cultural stimulation in the downtown area, head off the beaten path to visit Educulture’s Junkanoo experience (next to the National Art Gallery on West Street; 242-328-3786. It has been open for several years as a school field trip destination, but recently blipped on tourism’s radar.
Opt for the guided tour, which includes hands-on opportunities to make the music and costumes for the culturally iconic Junkanoo celebration held annually on Dec. 26 and Jan. 1.
Also a few steps from Bay Street throngs, Graycliff Hotel (242-302-9150, www.graycliff.com) has plans to debut a new chocolate factory by the end of the summer.
Known for its fine dining and cigar factory in a historic setting, Graycliff has acquired surrounding decrepit buildings to turn into a historic village with an artisan’s gallery, coffee-roasting facility, and other retail space.
At the new Lynden Pindling International Airport, Graycliff operates a cigar lounge ($10 entry fee) and boutique (free lounge entry if you spend $25 in the boutique). It is one of the tony new additions to the visitor’s departure experience. (The new arrival terminal is expected to debut by the end of 2012.)
Sun-lovers will appreciate the outdoor seating at Kafé Kalik and the Food Court — a chance to soak up those last rays before heading home. Fine art, duty-free and local art shops, a kids play area, and other food and beverage venues make departure as painless as possible. Just don’t count on the promised free Wi-Fi. It’s iffy at best.