by Lissa Poirot
While numerous Bahamian hotels span across white-sand beaches with giant, blue swimming pools, the Graycliff beckons those travelers who want to experience a true Bahamian property. Located in the heart of Nassau, the capital city and island of the Bahamas, the Graycliff has stood its ground in this location for more than 300 years. Originally the home to a wealthy pirate, the large mansion has become a beacon among properties in Nassau, with the Duke of Windsor and Winston Churchill among the notable guests who have stayed here. Today, the home is owned and operated by an Italian family who has added their special touches since the early 1970s.
You won’t find a beach here. You won’t find a kids’ club or family activities. Instead, you’ll find a quiet retreat, fine dining, and an old-world feel. For discerning families and for those who have “been there, done that” and want something different, the Graycliff is for you.
Our Editor Loves
- True Bahamian environment
- Chocolate factory
- Italian-tiled swimming pool
- Connecting Rooms
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
There are only 18 individually decorated rooms at the Graycliff, split between the main house and the secondary house. All rooms provide air conditioning, private bathrooms, and a mini bar.
Of the rooms available, there are two Family Suites, which are two connecting rooms with one king bed and sitting area in one suite and one double bed in the other to sleep a family of up to five. These rooms go quickly, so reservations for connecting rooms should be made well in advance during prime season.
Standard Rooms and Suites
Rooms and suites range from 450 square feet in the Deluxe Rooms located in the main building, to 500 to 650 square feet in Luxury Rooms in either building. Guests have a choice of one king bed, two doubles or two twin beds, all with a sitting area. Suites are located in either building and range from 700 to 900 square feet with king beds and separate sitting areas. The largest suite is the Graycliff Suite, located in the garden building overlooking the pool. This suite is 1,200 square feet in size, with a king bed, separate sitting area, dining area and private balcony.
I should begin by saying that we visited in the off-season (end of July/early August) and it may be unfair to judge the hotel at a time when repairs are being undertaken and many staff are doubtless on vacation. That said, the hotel is badly in need of refreshing/renovation/repair. The large pool is beautiful; handrails are rusty or damaged, some cracks in the tiles, and there was NO service - neither towels nor bar - and only a few deck chairs with cushions, the rest bare. The second, smaller pool, was not maintained when we were there. Our suite was large, with excellent fluffy towels and Bulgari soaps, lotions, shampoo, etc., exactly as one would expect of a fine hotel. Mini bar was a nice touch, but restocked only once. The armoire had keys and locks missing; the "jacuzzi tub" did not work and was slightly rusted; WiFi was iffy; and the phone (for local calls) never worked. Housekeeping is excellent. The staff are charming and helpful, and clearly try their best, but there is not much they can do to stem the tide of physical deterioration (the wooden handrail on the front steps came off in my hand as I was walking up.) This is all very sad, as the grounds of the hotel - very well maintained - are truly beautiful, and one experiences a sense of history as one strolls through them to and from the very traditional lounge and dining rooms (Winston Churchill, the Duke of Windsor, etc. etc.) It may be that rooms outside of the main building are better maintained - some were being worked on when we were there - but in the main building they show their age. This is not a good hotel either for children (the pools are too deep) or the physically challenged - many uneven stairs both within and without. The hotel is well worth visiting, but not for an extended stay.
did a quick walk through of hotel on our city tour. Definitely old British rule hotel. grounds were pretty and pool was really beautiful, but not much breeze back in that area so was really hot. We never saw one employee the whole time which was a bit weird since it is a hotel, except for the guy at the pool bar and only two people were in the pool.
The hotel's pool is its standout feature. Luxuriously decorated with tiles imported from Italy, you can imagine this pool being a hotspot back in the roaring 20s. It is a quiet pool with a handful of lounge chairs and umbrellas, but cool and refreshing, nonetheless. Nearby is also a heated salt pool used for its healthy benefits and filled with chunks of pink Himalayan salts.
The Graycliff has its own chocolate factory with homemade chocolates available in its small chocolate store. Tours of the factory are available, as well as chocolate-making classes. Ten-minute tours are $10 per person. Chocolate making tours are available for $50 for ages 10 and older, and $35 for children ages 4 to 10.
Across the street from the hotel is the hotel's Heritage Museum, which tells the story of Nassau Island and its storied past, from pirates to slaves to British Colonials to modern-day heroes.
Blue Lagoon Beach
The hotel provides shuttle service two to three times each day to the secluded Blue Lagoon, where families can swim, kayak, paddle board, snorkel and more. All gear is available for rent at an additional charge, and the beach features a snack bar and grill, plus showers.
Graycliff Dining Room
The hotel's main dining room is dedicated to its 5-star restaurant, the only 5-star dining available on the entire island. Politicians and visiting dignitaries frequent this restaurant during lunch and evening hours. It's formal and may not be the most exciting to young children, unless they are already used to dining in quiet spaces. The restaurant has four indoor dining rooms and an outdoor area, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
You would think if an Italian family owned the Graycliff, they would offer Italian-style pizza, and they do. With a pizza oven direct from Italy, this pizzeria serves thin-crust pizzas throughout the day.
The more casual dinner option at Graycliff is Hum'dor, a Brazilian steakhouse serving meats and steaks on giant skewers with servers slicing off various meat options in a traditional Brazilian Rodizio. It's not something you would expect for the Bahamas, and certainly not for one of three hotel dining options, but the restaurant is popular among islanders, as well as guests.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The Bahamas accepts US dollars and may provide change in dollars, as well as the English pound. The island charges a VAT tax of 7 percent, but visitors can get the tax back at the airport if they request the proper receipts at the time of purchases.
The Art of Smart Timing
The peak season for island travel is during the holidays (Christmas and Easter) and summer. For the best rates and availability, visit during the late spring or fall.
The hotel is located in downtown Nassau, about 15 minutes from the airport. Taxis will cost guests less than $30.
If you're looking to tour the city of Nassau, just step outside the doors of Graycliff and walk in any direction. You can easily get to Nassau's straw market, port shopping, museums and restaurants on foot and do not need a car.
For those wanting to go to the beach, the hotel provides two to three shuttles each day to the Blue Lagoon beach. Nearby Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island provides day passes for its Aquaventure water park and grounds. Taxis or water ferries from the port are readily available.
For Mom and Dad
Graycliff's 5-star restaurant brings renowned chefs to its doors to study, and guests can also enjoy the Graycliff Culinary Academy with by-appointment interactive cooking classes. Classes are limited from two to 10 students and are offered 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and includes lunch of dishes prepared in that day's classes, served by staff and with wine. Each chef-in-training receives the recipes from the class, an apron and a certificate of participation to bring home.
The hotel is also known for its hand-rolled cigars, selling them in shops around the island and the airport. If staying at the hotel, visit the Cigar Company, where they roll the cigars for you, and enjoy the smoking lounge. Cigar rolling lessons are also offered with one of the company's 16 master rollers.