History of Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas

Grand Bahama is the fourth-largest of the Bahamian islands, and Freeport is the second largest city. The island’s modern history began in the 1950s with the development of Freeport and Lucaya.

Lucayan National Park, Grand BahamaThe first inhabitants of the islands were Stone-Age Indians from Cuba. They were replaced almost 1,000 years ago by the Lucayans. They, in turn, were displaced and pretty well exterminated with the arrival of the Europeans shortly after Columbus discovered the islands in 1492. From then on, Grand Bahama was the forgotten island of the Bahamas. Except for the occasional band of pirates or loyalists, it remained virtually uninhabited for almost 300 years. Lucayan National Park - photo at left.

Grand Bahama was given its name by the Spanish – “gran bajamar” means “great shallows” – for the vast reaches of flats and shoals in the waters off the island.

The first permanent settlers arrived during the late 19th century. Most of them scratched out a living from the sea as fishermen, or by harvesting the abundant timber from the land. During the American Civil War, the small population declined even further when people began abandoning their farms and flocked to Nassau to join the economic boom brought by the blockade runners. Prohibition in America during the 1920s created something of a mini-boom in the island’s economy when the rumrunners moved in. But the new prosperity was short-lived.

In 1955, American financier Wallace Groves, who had extensive lumber interests on the island, made a proposal to the Bahamian government to build a tax-free city on Grand Bahama. In return, Groves would be granted tax exemptions and exclusive development rights. His proposal was accepted, and modern Freeport is the result. Groves also built the resort city of Lucaya, just five miles south of Freeport. His innovations attracted more investors to the island and, between 1963 and 1967, investment, along with the population of Grand Bahama, more than tripled.

Today on Grand Bahama, as everywhere else in the islands, tourism is king. Every year thousands upon thousands of tourists visit to take advantage of its many attractions and its tax-free status.

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Getting There:

For visitors arriving by air, the Bahamas are served through Nassau by most US airlines and by international airlines from Canada and Europe, and to a slightly more limited degree through Freeport.

The Out Islands are served mainly by Bahamas Air via connections in Nassau and Freeport.

The Bahamas is also a major destination for the cruise ship industry

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