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Lying just 95 miles (153 km) northeast of Florida's Fort Lauderdale, Freeport is a popular cruise ship destination on Grand Bahama Island. Though perhaps not as glamorous as the Bahamian capital of Nassau, Freeport is a unfussy town offering an appealing mix of laidback resort living and vibrant local culture. The heart of Freeport is the oceanside Lucaya district, with white-sand beaches, lovely hotels, and casual eateries all within walking distance of each other. Not far from the district, outdoor enthusiasts will feel right at home in the island's national parks and offshore dive sites, including one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world.
Lucaya - As the hub of Freeport's tourism, Lucaya is where you'll find the majority of the city's restaurants, hotels, and shopping options. Relaxed retreats line the beautiful Lucaya, Coral, and Taino beaches, as do eateries and bars serving up fresh seafood and tropical cocktails. At the open-air Port Lucaya Marketplace, find more than 40 specialty stores, over 15 restaurants, and a handful of lounges for late-night entertainment. Golf aficionados will enjoy a selection of nearby country clubs, while various water-related activities can be booked at any of the tourist booths around the port.
Lucayan National Park - Of Grand Bahama's 3 national parks, Lucayan is undoubtedly the island's favorite. The 40-acre (16-ha) park-less than 30 minutes to the east of downtown-boasts an outdoor playground of mangrove forests, sandy cays, and underground caves. Here, nature trails and boardwalks lead visitors through a variety of ecosystems to eventually reach Gold Rock Beach, one of the most secluded strips of sand on the island. Bring snorkeling gear to explore the offshore coral reef, or head down on foot into the publicly open caves. While swimming is prohibited here, divers can go beneath the surface with an authorized instructor.
Paradise Cove - Roughly 40 minutes to the west of Lucaya is another one of the island's best destinations for outdoor recreation. At stunning Paradise Cove, you can row through the water in a kayak or snorkel at Deadman's Reef in search of hundreds of species of tropical fish. The area is accessible via tours that pick up from most Freeport hotels, or on the public bus that runs from early morning until dusk.
If views of the ocean from the beach aren't enough, there are plenty of other ways to see Freeport, as well. Scope out the magnificent coast from the deck of a luxury sailboat at sunset. Cruise out into the sparkling water, watching as the sky becomes ablaze with the brilliant shades of pink, purple, and gold. With the breeze in your hair and a cocktail in hand, sit back and relax as you sail by the city's beachside resorts and palm-lined boulevards. Bask in the breathtaking beauty of the region as the moon rises in the sky and reveals its reflection in the water.
A nature-lover's paradise, Freeport and the surrounding areas offer a wealth of outdoor activities. Gain an introduction to scuba diving with an expert instructor, go snorkeling near a secluded beach, or zoom over unpaved paths on a 4x4 off-road adventure. For animal lovers, the island also boasts places to encounter stingrays or go swimming with friendly bottlenose dolphins.
After a day of outdoor adventure, unwind at one of the island's luxury spas. Here, pamper yourself with a range of services from beauty treatments such as manicures and facials to stress-relievers like reiki and reflexology. For a truly indulgent experience, book a private massage overlooking at the ocean at one of the beachfront hotels.
Treat your taste buds to the authentic flavors of the Bahamas with a sunset bonfire and dinner on the beach. Take in a live show of music and dancing as you feast on a meal of barbecue ribs, corn on the cob, and Bahamian peas and rice. You can also explore the city's brewing tradition with a visit to the Bahamian Brewery to sample handcrafted creations such as refreshing Sands lager and rich Strong Back stout.
From open-air markets and straw vendors to large retail centers, Freeport offers a plethora of authentic Bahamian products that reflect the island's creativity and heritage. Head to the Port Lucaya Marketplace to shop for goods like artisan jewelry and hand-woven bags to luxury watches and beauty supplies. Find unbeatable discounts at the Circle Outlet Mall, or breathe in the incredible scents of the island at the Fragrance of the Bahamas Perfume Factory.