Freeport, an industrial center, is located on Grand Bahama Island, the archipelago's northernmost island. Grand Bahama, just 70 miles from Palm Beach, Florida, is a regular stop on the short-cruise circuit from South Florida. But the fourth-largest isle in the Bahamas' 700-strong chain, also owes its popularity to its smooth white-sand beaches and water sports, from snorkeling to deep sea fishing.
In the 1950s, the island realized its potential for tourism-related revenue when Wallace Groves, an American financier from Virginia, proposed building a town that both appealed to visitors and sufficiently supported industry. Since then, Freeport has boomed with hotels, restaurants, casinos and ecotourism attractions like Lucayan National Park. Its island atmosphere and miles of sunny beaches coupled with its close proximity to the United States makes Grand Bahama Island a top vacation spot for Americans.
Port Lucaya and its marketplace have evolved into the tourist hub of the island, partly through design and partly because of hurricane damage to other parts of the area. Freeport's got everything from shops and beaches to restaurants and a casino -- not to mention a handful of major golf courses.
Ships dock at Freeport Harbor, an isolated area that is a 10-minute drive from the city of Freeport and about a 25-minute ride from Port Lucaya. Taking an excursion or renting a car (or scooter) is an excellent option: The island is dotted with quiet beaches that are perfect for escaping the crowds.
Pickpockets and thieves target tourists, so keep your belongings protected. Also, while travel guides might still mention the International Bazaar (a once a robust collection of shops and restaurants), because of hurricanes, it's essentially a ghost town and not worth visiting the few remaining vendors.
The currency is the Bahamian dollar, but U.S. dollars are accepted throughout the islands. ATMs are available at banks, but few provide U.S. dollars. For updated currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
English is the official language -- British, not American -- but it might be laced with Bahamian dialect.
A straw basket purchased at the straw market and the square 15-cent Bahamian coin you receive as part of your change make nice mementos from your visit.
Try a Goombay Smash at Sparky's, located in Port Lucaya Marketplace. The drink is a mix of spiced rum, coconut rum, apricot brandy, pineapple juice, orange juice and "secret ingredient."