Edged between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea is the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, a group of islands which have become one of the most population vacation destinations for North Americans.
Whilst many people understandably flock to the Bahamas for its magnificent beaches, exclusive resorts and welcoming climate, the Bahamas also has a fascinating history, which harks back to when Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the Americas on the island of Guanahani.
To fully appreciate the history of the Bahamas a visit to the capital, Nassau is well worth while. Take a bit of time out from the beach to visit some of Nassau’s historical sites to get a glimpse of just how wild and unlawful the Bahamas really were.
In fact, Nassau used to be a Pirate’s Republic. More correctly it was a Privateer’s Republic, but “Privateer” was the genteel 17th century word for pirate. Piracy was actually encouraged by the English Government of the day, which was at war with Spain. In order to upset Spanish trade, entrepreneurial sea captains were permitted to raid Spanish vessels which were transporting their treasures back to Spain to boost the economy and help fund the war against England.
Many pirates used Nassau as their base, including Edward Teach who is better known as the infamous Blackbeard.
Nassau is situated on the island of New Providence, and Blackbeard’s former home is now a hotel, although you can visit Blackbeard’s Tower which is a fair way out of town and a bit difficult to find.
Nassau was favoured by pirates and other seamen because its harbour is protected by Paradise Island, which today has been developed almost exclusively to delight and accommodate visitors. The island boasts resorts, hotels, restaurants, shops, nightlife, a golf course, an aquarium and a casino.
One of the best places to understand this pirate history is at the Pirates of Nassau Museum which is nestled in three historical buildings: The Slave Kitchen, which is approximately 200 years old; the Lofthouse, which is approximately 150 years old and the Marlborough Arms which is approximately 100 years old. The exhibit is a world-class interactive experience that has been called the “best Pirate Exhibit in the World.”
Across the street from the Pirates Museum is Christ Church Cathedral, and Anglican Church of gothic architecture which somehow suits the outlaw history of the city. Originally built on its present location in in 1724, after two previous churches were blown up by the Spanish, it has metamorphosed over time into the magnificent building you can enjoy today.
There are plenty of great activities in which to indulge in the Bahamas, but with such a fascinating history, it is well worth the effort to get out and learn about Nassau’s past.