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When Christopher Columbus discovered the islands of the Bahamas in 1492 on his way to America, he named the largest island Gran Bajamar, "Great Shallows," a name that evolved through the centuries into Grand Bahama. The island is just 68 miles from West Palm Beach and is easily reached by plane or boat, making it a popular vacation spot for visitors looking for a taste of the tropics not far from home. The Freeport International Airport has been recently refurbished, opening the door even wider to visitors from all over the world.
Freeport/Lucaya, the island’s capital city and the second largest city in the islands, is one of the best-known destinations in the Bahamas. The city was specifically designed for the tourist trade, and as a result features terrific duty-free shopping and many attractions to keep visitors entertained and enthralled. The 10-acre International Bazaar in downtown Freeport is divided into sections that represent different parts of the world, each with its own collection of shops and restaurants. You can easily spend a whole day exploring the Bazaar, and when you run out of money, just pay a visit to the Bahamia Casino nearby!
Nature lovers will want to leave the modern amenities behind to explore the eco-structure of the Bahamas in Freeport’s Garden of the Groves, an 11-acre botanical park filled with plants, flowers, trees, and waterfalls. The Rand Nature Center offers 100 acres of winding nature trails showcasing native Bahamian plants. You can experience all the major habitats found on Grand Bahama in the 40-acre Lucayan National Park, famous for its limestone caves. You can even explore one of the two caves that are open to the public, if you’re not afraid of bats! Water sports of all kinds abound on Grand Bahama, from cruises and deep-sea fishing to swimming with dolphins and sharks. Snorkelers and scuba divers will find themselves right at home in the waters around the island exploring some of the world’s loveliest coral reefs. Guided tours are available everywhere, with the best spots located near Deadman’s Reef on the island’s west end.
Bahamas Investment Authority - Freeport-Free Trade Zone Grand Bahama is the most northerly island in The Bahamas. Ignored during early times because of its shallow waters and the treacherous Little Bahama Bank, Grand Bahama is now the second most populous island in The Bahamas and its major city, Freeport, is regarded as the nation’s second city. Grand Bahama is believed to have been originally settled by the Siboney Arawaks, followed by the Lucayan Arawaks, who called the island Bahama. Later it became known as Grand Bahama.
Freeport, which was a pine forest just over three decades ago, but is now a thriving port city, industrial centre and tourist area, is the brainchild of American financier the late Wallace Groves. His Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited was granted 50,000 acres of land with an option of a further 50,000 by the Government of The Bahamas to build a free port and industrial centre under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement of 1955. It has surpassed West End, which was known for its involvement as a transshipment centre for liquor during the prohibition years and is perhaps the first permanent settlement on Grand Bahama.
The mild subtropical climate makes the island a natural greenhouse, with an average temperature of 72 degrees farenheit, and 75 percent average humidity. More than 200 species of birds are sighted here regularly, and the area is home to 36 species and varieties of wild orchids. Because of prevailing winds and sensible planning, the air on Grand Bahama Island is exceptionally clean, and the fresh water table is considered capable of supporting a quarter of a million people.