In the historic district of Nassau, away from the palm-fringed, all-inclusive meccas of water worlds and dolphin cays, Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant is the hidden time machine of the Bahamas.
Now landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it offers old world charm, with centuries of legend, lore and tales of its past guests, from the first pirates of the Caribbean to the musical mayhem of The Beatles.
Royal Décor and Swashbuckling History
Built in the 1700’s, this tropical oasis in the heart of Nassau surprisingly witnessed the era when the Skull and Crossbones was the unofficial Bahamian flag, as well as the Spaniards destruction of the first Anglican Church in Nassau, the ruins of which can still be seen today, incorporated into the structure and architecture. The luxurious interior of Graycliff owes as much to its history as the exterior; in the mid-20th Century, what was once the barracks of the American Navy became a lavish home for Lord and Lady Dudley. Nobility such as Sir Winston Churchill entered Graycliff’s doors, demanding a strict English accent to the décor, fine furnishings, and a collection of enchanting antiques, still scattered around the hotel today. The guest cottage became the Prime Minister’s favourite spot here, which now overlooks the one of the two refreshing pools intertwined with lush foliage, one entirely hand painted, enhancing the beauty of the property.
Wining and Dining
During the Prohibition era, the building fell into the hands of Mrs Polly Leach, a close companion of the scandalous American Gangster Al Capone, who turned the building into an icon for the rich, famous, and the infamous. Fast forward a century, and the hotel now boasts a sophisticated wine cellar, renowned and prestigious, winning the Wine Spectator Grand Award since 1988. Whatever your taste, you’ll find something to suit your palate here, with over 250,000 bottles collated from 15 countries; and if you still can’t decide, indulge in wine tasting with Graycliff’s Wine and Cheese Pairings adventure. Dining is a delight, only enhanced by the warm hospitality and exceptional service of the people here; choose from three restaurants including the AAA 4-diamond restaurant Graycliff Restaurant, as well as the relaxed beer garden on the Humidor Piazza at Graycliff’s heart.
If you’re travelling with children, then your young entourage will be thrilled to hear they’ll get to visit a real-life chocolate factory! Graycliff Chocolatier produces hand-crafted chocolates of varied cocoa strengths, where guests can learn how to make their own chocolates, indulge in chocolate-dipped marshmallows and fresh fruits, or purchase unique truffles with local flavours like goat pepper and key lime.
Over the centuries, each of Graycliff’s owners have made their mark on the building, and the most recent of which, the Garzaroli Family, have made the lavish retreat an elegant hotel and restaurant, welcoming visitors year-round. Enrico Garzaroli had a passion for cigars, yet was unable to find the ‘perfect’ one to complement the excellent cuisine and fine wines the hotel is known for, so set out to create his own, unique and original blend. Starting with a single roller in the restaurant foyer, the Graycliff Cigar Company has been in production since 1997 and has extended to 16 masters rollers and 7 award-winning blends, including the celebrated Graycliff cigar and Bahiba, available only in the Bahamas. Guests may take a cigar rolling lesson with an expert craftsman, or sample some of the fine varieties for themselves.
For a taste of Nassau’s history and deep-rooted culture, the Heritage Village lies adjacent to Graycliff; The Heritage Museum of the Bahamas opened its doors in July 2014 and welcomed guests to channel their intrigue with relics, treasures, and fossils from centuries passed. The days of Columbus, the piracy era, the abolition of slavery and the Bahamas Speed Weeks are just some of the notable ages touched upon here, with the oldest artefact being a slide of a meteorite approximately 4.5 billion years old! For the culture buff, the Artist Studio is set in the recently restored Sisters of Charity nun’s residence, and has been designed with the Bahamas’ most talented, local artists to create an independent space displaying Bahamian arts and crafts, covering everything from local photography to straw-made trainers!