The Bahamas is an archipelago of 700 islands and 2,500 cay's. Its colourful history includes a diversity of characters - from the notorious pirates Blackbeard and Calico Jack to the Loyalists who fled the American Revolution to rebuild their lives on what was then British soil.
The best time to come is the warm, breezy summer, when the water is so warm you can linger in it for hours. In summer, the rainy season extends from May to November, when hurricanes are a slim possibility. The 'peak season' runs from mid-December to mid-April, when hotel prices are highest. The Bahamas has a sub-tropical climate, friendly people and - according to astronauts - the clearest waters in the Caribbean region. Not surprisingly, tourism is the largest industry. Nassau and Paradise Island combined have about 26 beaches.
Pink Sand Beach on Harbour Island is named for the pale pink powder that stretches for three miles. Eleuthera is famous for its pineapples and Abaco for sailing. The sport fishing capital is Bimini, just 50 miles off the coast of South Florida; and Grand Bahama Island is the country's centre of eco-tourism, offering nature tours, kayaking, horseback riding, national parks and botanical gardens.
By far the most alluring features of The Bahamas are its sparkling turquoise waters and powder-white beaches, stretching for miles. The Bahamas has successfully promoted itself as a destination for US jet setters, and a lot of it is Americanised. Yet there are still opportunities among its 700 islands and 2500 cay's to disappear into a mangrove forest and explore a coral reef.
The 18th-century Privateers' Republic has become a modern banker's paradise, at least on New Providence and Grand Bahama. On the other islands - once known as the Out Islands, which are now know as the Family Islands - the atmosphere is more truly West Indian. You'll certainly be more in tune with the local environment, and have a less generic experience, listening to a rake 'n' scrape band in a bar on a backwater cay.