Freeport – Grand Bahama Island: Luxury, fine dining, exciting eco tours

Perfect table-for-two at China Beach
Perfect table-for-two at China Beach
Flying into Grand Bahama Island
Flying into Grand Bahama Island

FREEPORT/GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND, January 1, 2011 — The first snows of winter blanket the U.S. turning heads to ever-warm destinations.  My suggestion? Take a long weekend break from the winds and cold by heading to Freeport, Bahama.

With over 700 islands, the Bahamas offer many destination choices with Grand Bahama Island/Freeport often overlooked in lieu of the splashier New Providence Island, home of Nassau and Paradise Island.

This may be a tactical error as Freeport offers a unique mix of white sand, blue water, luxury resort and fascinating ecological travel on one (approximately) 530 square mile island.

The beach at the Radisson, Our Lucaya
The beach at the Radisson, Our Lucaya

Divided into compass rose quadrants,Our Lucaya Radisson Golf and Beach Resort is located on the island’s southern end and is one of the largest beach resorts in the Bahamas.  Here visitors find a tourism Mecca of restaurants, shopping at the Port Lucaya Marketplace, local entertainment, adventure and fun in the sun and surf.

Freeport/Our Lucaya is a “planned city” being developed to specifically meet the needs of visitors who are seeking clean white beaches and comfortable hotels to frame a relaxing weekend, weeklong or honeymoon visit.

And while the island grows as a world-class tourist destination, it retains a population that is primarily native Bahamian, retaining its original culture and cuisine.

The seventy-mile journey from Miami is brief and the process, coming and going, through the Freeport International Airport is thorough, yet quick and pleasant, as you are greeted with warmth and welcome smiles.

A quick cab ride from the Airport to the Radisson Our Lucaya and you are quickly immersed in comfortable surrounds with incredible beach and ocean views.

Pack your swimsuit into your carry one as you will want to quickly bound onto the white sand beaches, or possibly find a comfortable chaise next to one of the resorts plentiful pools, beginning your vacation experience with a bit of distressing sun soaking.

To appease those traveling hunger pangs, walk down to Billy Joe’s on the Beach.  This conch and seafood shack is a heritage staple at Grand Lucaya where Billy Joe has been serving locals and island guests since 1970.

Billie Joe, the Conch man
Billie Joe, the Conch man

Resting ocean side, step up and order from the menu attached to the shack’s walls, grab a beer and lean back on the weather railing or walk down to the waters edge, take a swim or relax with your toes in the surf – they will call you when your conch salad (think Ceviche), conch fritters (think hushpuppies loaded with tender minced conch) or pan fried fresh catch is ready.

Conch Fritters at Billie Joe's
Conch Fritters at Billie Joe's

Food is plentiful, well portioned and the service is very “yeah, mon.”   It’s a great local start to your Bahamas vacation.

Those in the know, prepare for their trip by visiting Club Grand Bahamas to plan for an island inclusive vacation.  The GBI Club is not a timeshare concept, so no worries there. What it is is a flexible vacation package that you can tailor on the spot to what you want to do (though reservations for tours should be made before you leave to ensure availability.)

What sets this vacation experience apart from other all-inclusive resort destinations is that it includes island wide activities and off resort property restaurants starting and at and well below reasonable rates.  At this time, an $83.00 per night/per person includes guests hotel, breakfast, dinner, one activity like the beach party, snorkeling or glass bottom boat, the famed Banana Boat, water trampoline or kayaking water sports, a beach party, airport transportation and use of the Lucaya Shuttle.

Step up to a Gold ($129 pp/pn) or (Platinum $202 pp/pn) package and the world of Grand Bahamas Islands is yours for the asking with additional restaurant choices and activities.

Abundant and colorful flowers abound on the Island
Abundant and colorful flowers abound on the Island

With the gold, add a one tank dive with UNEXSO, a round of golf at the Ruby Golf Course, an Enchanted Evening Cruise, a Reef Tour for sailing and snorkeling or any combination of the more than eleven activities offered.

A platinum packages adds to the restaurants and activities at your avail, as you show your GBIC card to join in on dolphin encounters, expanded scuba dives, cruises, kayak and snorkeling tours and the Bahamas Eco Ventures Airboat Tour.

The options become endless and affordable.

The Radisson Our Lucaya is a lovely property with comfortable rooms.  A variety of accommodations from guests rooms and deluxe executive suites located in the large multi-storied building to the lower landscaped two and three story building rooms perfect for families to personal, luxury two and three bedroom private residences that open out onto the white sand beaches means options for every budget.

On property find numerous dining options as well as great places to stop for breakfast, lunch or mid-day snacks and cocktails.  There are plenty of “watering holes” as well!   Willie Broadleaf’s is a great on-property place to stop for a robust breakfast or lunch where covered bathing suits and an eclectic desert inspired interior keep things light and fun.

One of the nicest things about the Radisson Our Lucaya is that its’ westward orientation means full sun afternoons perfect for time spent on the beach enjoying the afternoon breeze, parasailing, bouncing on the water trampoline or just enjoying some truly gorgeous sunsets.

Chef Tan at China Beach
Chef Tan at China Beach

Resort dining is plentiful, much of it island inspired, though a real treat is the China Beach Restaurant where Pacific Rim Cuisine meets the oceanfront over spectacular sunset views.  The restaurant has a hip vide with modern oriental décor and an open kitchen where you can see Chef Tan and his staff efficiently creating layers of flavors for your enjoyment.

Leave time to lounge at the bar before dinner, watching the afternoon wind down, or afterward to view incredible moon light nights over the sea.   There are plenty of intimate seating spaces.  For a truly memorable romantic evening, call well in advance and reserve the corner table, with beach-ocean view for two.

A Pan Asian cuisine includes tempura, steamed grouper, roast duck, Singapore noodles, and Sichuan prawns while small plates and appetizers, such as chicken satay, are available at the bar where you sit looking out over the ocean.

Sushi is a huge draw for the China Beach Restaurant. A beautiful crispy shrimp roll is plated with Thai spring rolls creating an incredible light bite or appetizer to share.

When you visit, ask if Kirkie is in the house, and if so, ask for a bowl of his Grouper Chowder, flavorful chowder that maintains a light consistency over some of its heavier chowder cousins. Kirkie and Arlington are two of the many employees that work together to make China Beach restaurant a memorable vacation dining spot.

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