Nassau is the biggest city, the commercial hub and the capital of the Bahamas. This city covers an area of ninety-eight miles and has a population of about two hundred and sixty thousand residents. Nassau is situated on New Providence Island and it is governed directly by the national government. This city can trace it history back to the sixteenth century when it was known as Charles Town. In 1684, it would be destroyed by the Spanish, but was rebuilt in 1695. It was then name Nassau in honor of Dutch King William III.
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Bahamas had a very small population and had become a haven for pirates. Pirate Chieftains Thomas Barrow and Benjamin Hornigold named the city a pirate republic and set themselves up as its governors. The British Crown appointed Captain Woodes Rogers as governor of the area in an attempt to regain control of it. By 1918, Rogers had forcibly removed Blackbeard and other pirates from the region and reformed the local government. During the American Revolution, the Battle of Nassau caused an American occupation of the region. The Americans only held it for two days before they left with the large military stores from the island.
Today, Nassau is a popular tourist destination that has a whole range of attractions available to its guests. One of the more popular attractions in the city is Blue Lagoon Island. Blue Lagoon Island is a private island that is situated about three miles from the city. Before the late nineteenth century, the island was a salt marsh and was called Salt Cay. It was a popular stop for pirates who used the vast salt reserves on the island to preserve their food rations. In 1875, the island was bought by Charles King Harmon for a sum of thirty-five pounds.
He retained the island for a period of eleven years before he finally sold it to Sir Augustus John Adderley for one hundred pounds. Sir Adderley would hold on to it for six years before he sold it two Americans for one hundred and forty-five pounds. They would hold on to it for ten years before selling it to Abraham Van Winkle for one hundred and thirty-five pounds. Abraham Van Winkle would set out on a mission to renovate the island. He hired men to dredge out the salt marsh and cut out a lagoon. He then planted over five thousand palm trees and built a system of concrete paths. The island was then sold to the McCutcheon family for a sum of seventeen thousand United States dollars. From 1916 until 1979, the island was owned by the McCutcheon family. In 1991 it was purchased by L.A. Meister for an undisclosed sum. Today, its a popular attraction for divers and snorkelers.
Another prominent attraction in the city is the Ardastra Gardens Zoo and Conservation Center. This zoo was opened to the public in 1937. The zoo has a collection of about three hundred animals. Animals that are here include fresh water turtles, horned owls, flamingos, peacocks, parrots, macaws and cockatoos. It also has five acres of gardens that are filled with bromeliads, orchids, hibisus, fruit trees and coconut palms. Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is another fine attraction in the area.
In 1956, the Governor of the Bahamas set aside twenty-two miles of Exumas to be used as a nature preserve. He did this on recommendation of the superintendant of Everglades National Park, Daniel Beard. In 1958, Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park was formally established and the Bahamas National Trust was put in charge of it. While overfishing has been a problem in most parts of the Bahamas, Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park still has a very viable breeding population of lobster, conch and groupers. In 1985, the Bahamas National Trust made it a protected replenishment zone and all fishing is strictly prohibited in the confines of the park. This allows for marine animals to replenish their numbers and there is evidence that this is extending outside the boundaries of the park. Today, the park is the perfect stop for nature lovers and animal watchers. There is also plenty of land to hike and many visitors come to the park for the great opportunities that it affords snorkelers and scuba divers.
Spanish Wells is another prominent Bahama attraction. This island is about two miles long and a half a mile wide, and is situated off of the tip of Eluethera Island. About fifteen hundred residents live on the island and the island is so compact that many residents use golf carts to get around. The first settlers on the island were from Eleuthera who shipwrecked off of a reef called the Devils backbone. Today, the island is famous for lobster fishing.