Junkanoo Beach: Cheap things to do in Nassau

Cheap things to do in Nassau in 2019

If you are looking for cheap things to do in Nassau as a cruise excursion or as a day trip from your resort, there are several good options including everything from a day at the beach to cultural sites. If you arrive by cruise ship, you can reach all of these attractions on foot. Everything is less than a 25 minute walk from the cruise terminal and you can even combine several destinations into a walking tour of Nassau.

Cheap Things to do in Nassau

Fort Charlotte

Fort Charlotte is a colonial-era British fort overlooking the harbor in Nassau. It’s in relatively good condition and has a number of interpretive displays to explain what life was like at the fort. The fort was built following the Revolutionary War when a number of British loyalists left the United States to live in the Bahamas.

Fort Charlotte: Cheap things to do in Nassau
Fort Charlotte is a short walk from the cruise terminal and you’ll get a good view of your ship from the hilltop fortress.

It’s a short 25-minute walk from the cruise terminal to Fort Charlotte. Because you’ll be walking through the tourist district and along the water it’s perfectly safe to travel on foot.

To get there, exit the cruise terminal and take a right on Bay Street. You’ll pass the Straw Market and a number of hotels and bars, eventually exiting the tourist strip  and walking next to Western Esplande Beach. Turn left on M. Bethel Way and follow the road up to Fort Charlotte.

It will cost you $10 per person to take a guided tour and then you’ll be free to explore Fort Charlotte on your own. There are fantastic views from the fort of the cruise port and surrounding city.

When you finish touring Fort Charlotte, consider spending the rest of the day at nearby Junkanoo Beach where you can watch the parade of cruise ships into and out of the harbor.

Junkanoo Beach

Junkanoo Beach Cruise Ship: Cheap things to do in Nassau
From your spot on Junkanoo beach you can watch cruise ships arrive in the harbor.

As you’re pulling into port on your cruise ship you can see Junkanoo Beach along the western end of Nassau Harbor. It’s about a 20 minute walk along Bay Street from the cruise terminal. If you’re looking for cheap things to do in Nassau, it doesn’t get any better than this. An you can easily combine a trip to Junkanoo Beach with a visit to nearby Fort Charlotte, spending less than $12/person seeing the fort and renting a chair on the beach.

There are a number of local vendors selling food and drinks and renting beach chairs. You’ll have to pay about $10 dollars for your beach chair, but you can put a blanket on the sand for free if you’d like. We found the vendors here less pushy than around the Straw Market.

We recommend you go to the far western end where you’ll find the crowds are lighter and you can get a chair under a palm tree. You’ll still have access to the vendors, but it will be a little less hectic.

The water at Junkanoo Beach is Caribbean clear. You can buy a bucket of iced beer and sit back and watch the variety of cruise ships that call on Nassau each day. There seems to be an endless procession of these giant ships. At the end of the day its a short walk back to your own ship.

If you combine Junkanoo Beach with the Straw Market (see below), Fort Charlotte or the John Watling’s Distillery (below) you’ll have a complete day of cheap things to do in Nassau that are along the same walking path.

John Watling's distillery: Cheap things to do in Nassau
Visitors can take a free tour of the John Watling’s distillery in Nassau. (Source: John Watling’s Distillery)

John Watling’s Distillery Tour

Also a short walk from the cruise terminal in Nassau you can take a free tour of the John Watling’s rum distillery. The beautifully maintained building and grounds of the distillery are a nice treat and you get to learn about the distillation process and some local history.

This highly-rated free tour ends with an inexpensive sampling of the locally produced rum. You can try three shots of their rum for $3. Other rum-based drinks are also available.

The John Watling’s Distillery is at the corner of Delancy Street and West Street in Nassau. From the cruise terminal, take Bay Street west and turn left on West Street. It’s just a few block to the intersection with Delancy Street, where the distillery is located.

The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas

Just down the street from the John Watling’s Distillery is the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. The museum features fine art exploring Bahamian culture and is housed in the historic Villa Doyle, the home of the first Chief Justice in the Bahamas.

International visitors pay $10 for entry. The cost is $5 for seniors (65+) and students. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sunday when it opens at Noon. From the cruise terminal, take Bay Street west and turn left on West Street. The art gallery is just a couple of blocks down on your left.

Queen’s Staircase

The Queen's Staircase in Nassau, circa 1901
The Queen’s Staircase in Nassau, circa 1901. (Source: Detroit Publishing Co.)

The Queen’s Staircase in Nassau is a picturesque, 19th-century colonial staircase flanked by a waterfall and is a good place to start if you’re looking for cheap things to do in Nassau, Bahamas because it’s free.

The stairs were built between 1793 and 1794. Later the staircase, with 65 steps, were named for Queen Victoria to honor her 65 years of rule and to recognize her efforts to abolish slavery.

From the cruise terminal, head east on Bay Street one block and turn right on Elisabeth Avenue, following the road past Princess Margaret Hospital to the base of the stairs. It’s a healthy climb up the steep stairs, but once on top you’ll be rewarded with a view of the city and the harbor from Fort Fincastle. You will also be greeted by vendors selling food and souvenirs.

Fort Fincastle and the Water Tower

At the top of Bennet’s Hill you will find Fort Fincastle, which was built in 1793 to defend the city. There are interactive displays inside the castle and be sure to explore all of the passageways. The views of Nassau and the harbor are among the best on the island.

It will cost you $1 per person to tour Fort Fincastle. Once inside you can can choose to pay an additional small tip for a guided tour. The best way to get to Fort Fincastle is to follow the directions above and climb the Queen’s Staircase to the fort.

Straw Market

The Straw Market sits just outside the cruise terminal between Bay Street and Woodes Rodgers Walk. If you head west on Bay Street you can’t miss it. The market is packed with close to 500 vendors selling souvenirs and Bahamian crafts.

No list of cheap things to do in Nassau would be complete without including the Straw Market, where you can simply stroll through to take in the atmosphere, or join in the shopping. The experience can be a little overwhelming as vocal vendors try to get your attention. Don’t hesitate to negotiate the price on any items you are interested in. And bring cash if you plan on buying anything. Most sellers don’t take credit cards.

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