We took a bus tour to Garden of the Groves which was listed in Frommers as possibly the best tourist attraction in the Bahamas (which I don't think includes activities like beach-going or snorkeling, just attractions). While it is very lovely, it wasn't spectacular. Perhaps the first week of February is not its peak period. Our tour guide was Jessica, and she was very informative and easy to understand. Tourists interested in the uses of plants and "bush medicine" will enjoy this tour quite a bit. There were also some good photo opportunities for a number of pretty flowers, pools and waterfalls, and a number of ducks and other birds that seem fairly used to being approached and photographed. These birds are semi-tame, but there are some wild birds during certain months that apparently make this destination popular with birdwatchers. One bonus to this attraction is a small number of shops carrying a number of items that are authentically made in the Bahamas including jams and jellies made from the plants found in the garden (soaps as well), some Bahamian art, and some handicrafts. Of course, if you want a shot glass or a key chain they have those as well. (note: watch out for hornets at the outdoor restaurant at the garden. Food is okay, but I probably would just not eat there at all.)
The tour then took us to Port Lucaya where we could walk about five or ten minutes to a beach, relax at a bar or restaurant or shop. Like in Nassau, the shopkeepers were friendly without being pushy. They did offer some discounts on jewelry if we paid cash, and we found some nice, inexpensive pieces. There was a small section behind the main shopping area where there were some wooden stalls and that area reminded me of the craft market in Montego Bay, Jamaica where merchants were quite aggressive, but it was still nowhere near as bad.
One other thing to note: Freeport and Grand Bahama island, surprisingly, did not look as tropical as Nassau/New Providence Island nor other islands further south. Sure, there are some palm trees, but the most prevalent tree is an unusual pine tree with a small tuft of needles at the top. I think our driver called the trees "Caribbean pines." Perhaps not as pretty as lush palm groves, but unusual and interesting.
Oh, our bus driver Leroy (aka "Sweet Pea") was very friendly and a bit funny. However, he was quite boring although my friend suspected that was the fault of Freeport and not Leroy as he thinks there just wasn't anything to say. Still it's probably better to not say anything than to mention an insurance office or a car dealership when there's nothing unusual about them. I think he could have focused a bit more on the history of the Bahamas and Freeport, mentioned just a few of the more interesting buildings and sites (there was a famous golf course, for example) and that would have been sufficient. However, even though he was animated and friendly, the yawn-worthy information he gave us about Freeport actually made me think of the place as more skip-able than I previously imagined. Still, we had a good time at the garden and shopping in Port Lucaya.
Shopping in port for souvenirs was much better than I anticipated. We did not go to the straw market, but we did go to some jewelry and souvenir stores. The shopkeepers were friendly without being overly pushy. There weren't many (maybe one?) characters who looked at all shady and we did note that security seemed ample and alert. One thing fellow passengers noted was that in the stores (as opposed to craft markets) Bahamian shopkeepers seemed less inclined to bargain or lower prices than in Jamaica or Cozumel, but they were polite about it, and I think the lack of an air of desperation will probably make shopping more pleasant for a lot of tourists even if prices are a tiny bit higher.