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Time: GMT-5

Language: English
Currency: Bahamian Dollar
Dialling code: +1
Tourist information: bahamas.com

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Family Holidays in the Bahamas

In the Bahamas you don’t simply have sandcastles – you have pink sandcastles. And the sea is so warm, clear and shallow you can spend hours bobbing around in a rubber ring, occasionally reaching down to pluck a starfish off the sandy bottom. The Bahamas have long held that exotic, rather exclusive lure for discerning couples and cruiseship travellers, but the appeal is just as strong for young families.

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NASSAU, PARADISE ISLAND & GRAND BAHAMA

Nassau’s Bay Street is renowned for duty-free shopping, but you will also find handicraft markets, historic buildings and museums. For swashbuckling fun head to Pirates of Nassau which features a replica pirate ship and a simulated attack from Blackbeard and his cutthroats. Most of Nassau’s family hotels are on Cable Beach, whereas the resorts on Paradise Island (linked to Nassau by two bridges spanning the harbour) are concentrated around Cabbage Beach – the best spot for swimming. Numerous excursions operate from hotels and harbour quays, including the Blue Lagoon Dolphin Encounter and daytrips to Blackbeard’s Cay. If you’re staying at the Atlantis, however, you probably won’t want to go anywhere else. For most children this sensational mega-resort is paradise well and truly found. On Grand Bahama, more dolphin encounters are available at Sanctuary Bay through UNEXSO which also offers scuba diving trips. Grand Bahama has superb sandy beaches (some deserted, some with watersports galore), but tear yourself away for at least a morning to explore the forests of Lucayan National Park.

THE OUT ISLANDS
When pirates ran amok in the Bahamas during the 18th century, marooning (or being made ‘governor of your own island’) was a fate worse than walking the plank. Nowadays, however, people would pay handsomely for a stint on one of the 700-odd Out Islands. But which ones to choose? Here are three of the most interesting:

Andros Largest of the Bahamian islands, Andros is dotted with inland blue holes. Track down one of these mysterious pools of water (fantastic for swimming) by cycling through the island’s forested interior. Keep an eye out for lizards, butterflies and hummingbirds. The chickcharnee, half-man, half-bird, is also said to inhabit these woods – think bad thoughts about Andros and he will fix your head backwards. Scuba and snorkelling fans will rave about the 225km long Andros Barrier Reef, a spectacular coral wall that plunges 1800m into an underwater canyon known as the Tongue of the Ocean. Dive sites range from shallow-water coral groves at The Aquarium to the vertiginous drop-off at Hanging Gardens where the reef is festooned with sponges and sea fans.

Eleuthera A peaceful, barefoot retreat for families, Harbour Island is a short water taxi ride from Eleuthera’s northeast coast. Old clapboard houses draped in bougainvillaea and hibiscus line the narrow streets of Dunmore Town where the only form of transport is the golfcart.

Abaco Another traffic-free hideaway, Hope Town on Elbow Cay hugs a sheltered bay peppered with yachts and fishing boats and overlooked by a red- and white-striped lighthouse.

Powerboat Adventures from Nassau offer an exciting taster of the Exuma Cays, stopping at uninhabited islands where you can snorkel and feed the native iguanas.

Operating out of North Bimini, Bill & Nowdla Keefe’s Wild Dolphin Adventures are based entirely on the dolphin’s terms. It’s up to them if they want to interact with you, but if you’re patient and lucky a pod of spotted dolphins will accompany you on the swim-of-a-lifetime.

Family-friendly places to stay in the Bahamas

The Bahamas excel in family-friendly accommodation, boasting everything from private self-catering villas, such as those offered by Hope Town Hideaways on Abaco to all-inclusive resorts, like the legendary Atlantis.

>> ATLANTIS, PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS
This vast resort has over 2300 rooms, 30 restaurants and a 75-million-litre open-air marine habitat that’s home to over 50,000 sea creatures, including sharks, rays and barracuda – all of which swim above, around and under guests as they stroll around the resort’s grounds. It also recreates the legend of Atlantis with The Dig, a subterranean maze through the ruined Lost City, complete with lost treasure, mysterious hieroglyphics and yet more stunning aquariums. Outside, fantasy becomes thrilling reality with a bewildering variety of water rides.

For the kids: an unrivalled range of kids’ clubs and attractions, including Splashers (body slides, rope bridges, cargo nets and water cannons for kids under 137cm tall); Morning Escape (themed games and crafts for three- to five-year-olds); Discovery Kids’ Adventure (mind and sport challenges for six- to 12-year-olds); Evening Escape (dancing, karaoke, computer games and the latest movie releases); an adrenaline-charged waterslide complex for children over 122cm tall (featuring the six-storey Mayan Temple and The Abyss with its 21m near-vertical drop); Aquaquest (with more waterslides and a 1600m river ride with high intensity rapids); a dolphin interaction and education centre and no fewer than 11 swimming areas.

For the parents: Mandara spa with water-therapy treatments; fitness centre and candlelit French restaurant for adults only.

Bahamas-Atlantis

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