Grand Bahama, Bahama Islands
Grand Bahama is one of the northernmost of the islands of the Bahamas, and the closest major island to the United States, lying just 55 mi (90 km) off the coast of the state of Florida. Grand Bahama is the fourth largest island in the Bahamas island chain of approximately 700 islands and cays. The island is approximately 96 miles (154 km) long west to east and 17 miles (27 km) at its widest point north to south.
Administratively the island consists of the Freeport Bonded Area and the districts of East Grand Bahama and West Grand Bahama.
Tourism is the mainstay of the island's economy. The resort area at Port Lucaya and visits by cruise ships provide the bulk of this activity. Grand Bahama's tourism sector is complemented by an oil bunkering facility owned by Vopak and a transshipment/container port partly owned by Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa and the Grand Bahama Port Authority. There are also quarrying operations on the island and a large shipyard.
Freeport is the major city of Grand Bahama Island. As mentioned above, it holds the commercial ship harbor and the main airport. Freeport has many shops and roads, and is very clean, making it a popular tourist destination. Foreign investors have recently started to realize the large number of pristine ocean and canal front properties that exist in the Freeport area, and a revitalization of the area has come underway. As of April 2007, premium waterfront lots can be found for as little as 20% of their counterparts on the Florida coast and construction in the Freeport area is picking up rapidly as a result. An attractive feature of Freeport property is that it is covered by the Hawksbill Creek agreement, which states that personal real estate is tax free until 2015.
Lucaya is an important tourist destination on Grand Bahama Island. It has beautiful beaches and contains several big hotels including the most popular, five-star "Our Lucaya" hotel chain made up of the Sheraton and Westin hotels and the Lanai Suites located at Lighthouse Point. Count Basie Square in Port Lucaya provides regular live entertainment targeted at cruise ship patrons. Fishing, snorkeling, sight seeing, and "booze cruise" trips leave from Bell Channel Harbour on a daily basis.
Contrary to popular belief, West End is officially the capital of Grand Bahama. It is the oldest city and western most settlement on the island and it first achieved notoriety as a Rum-running port during prohibition.
In the 1950s it became home to the Jack Tar marina and club. However, over the years the marina fell into disrepair and the whole city of West End was of little economic import to Grand Bahama. In 2001, the marina was bought out by a group which renamed it Old Bahama Bay and significant renovations followed including: complete refurbishment of the docks, many new canals cut for luxury home sites, luxury condos built, and restaurants built. Several years later in March 2007, Ginn Resorts took over operation of Old Bahama Bay. Since then, Ginn is investing heavily in the West End area on a project called Ginn Sur Mer, spending $5 billion (USD) and buying 1,720 acres (7.0 km2) which it is developing into a luxury resort, marina, and home sites.
McLeans Town is the eastern-most settlement and a 30 minute ferry ride from the northernmost settlement of the Island of Abaco.