Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fortress by the sea

Fort Charlotte Gaurd House Gift Shop

When traveling to the Bahamas it's easy to focus all your attention on the massive Atlantis hotel that dominates the landscape. To me however, Atlantis while nice architecturally is just another resort and if you go there bring your wallet because it's a playground for those with deep pockets. Most of the main hotel at Atlantis was once more-or-less free to explore but not so much anymore.  Fret not, there is more to Nassau than a modern luxury resort.

Nassau Bahamas - Sunrise over Atlantis

So what does one do Nassau? Well I highly recommend going downtown and grabbing a bag of Conch Fritters, a wonderful treat that normally sells for under $5 with a soda and then hop a cab to a great place called Fort Charlotte.

Fort Charlotte Front

Once you arrive and sneak past the hustling vendors in the parking lot, you will walk up a small hill with a beautiful view overlooking much of Nassau; There to your left will be the massive fort.

Fort Charlotte Nassau

Like the impressive Fort Barrancas in northern Florida, Charlotte was built in sections, quite honestly it is three Forts being Charoltte, D'Arcy and Stanley created between 1787-1819.

Fort Charlotte Right Side

The massive campus is really interesting to check out though some parts of the west end (D'Arcy) are not publicly accessible. No worries though because the parts that you can check out are wonderful.

Fort Charlotte Wall-o-Cannons

No fort would be a fort without the firepower and Charlotte has many cannons on display facing the water.

Fort Charlotte Sky Cannon

One might ask what great battles did Fort Charlotte face? Well it didn't, Fort Charlotte was pretty much a huge threat most notably to France that the island would not be taken easily. From all that I have read nothing states any conflict occurred but this place was ready for anything.

Fort Charlotte Cannon

Fort Charlotte Flag

Fort Charlotte Back Deck

One of the more intriguing aspects of the fort is that much of it is below the surface. There is a small labyrinth below a flight of steps in the east courtyard that opens up a fantastical side to this gem of the Bahamas.

Fort Charlotte Back Stairs 2

The stairs go to a larger room that is close to both the dungeon and a deep water well.

Fort Charlotte Lower Room 1

The well is a massive black pit that goes down likely 50-70ft. A modern pipe along the side indicates that some of that water is still being used in the fort.

Fort Charlotte Well

Fort Charlotte stairs and air vent

Across from the dungeon the decent continues into rooms the soldiers once worked and slept.

Fort Charlotte Main Room

There was also an area that the troupes of the day created artillery and "Hot Shot" by heating up cannon balls to torch any ship in the bay that would be foolish enough to start trouble.

Fort Charlotte Ironworks

Once you have found your way through the depths of the belly of the Fortress you come up near a large courtyard. If you climb the steps at the west end you will get a stunning view of Nassau.

Fort Charlotte Top Deck

Exploring the far east side of the fort for more beautiful views and a nice gift shop.

Fort Charlotte Back Courtyard

Fort Charlotte Gaurd House

Considering a trip through this fortress will only set you back maybe $2-$5 you will leave with a smile. Fort Charlotte is more than history it is a fascinating building with wonderful complexity and it's very photogenic as well.

Fort Charlotte Barracks

On your way out don't forget to see the Armory on the far east side of the parking lot, you can even climb to the roof for another wonderful view.

So there you have it, a great alternative to the uber-pricey Atlantis with all the charm of "Pirates of the Caribbean", with the money you will have left over you can go shop for trinkets in the parking lot or better yet more Conch Fritters....man those things are good!

Thanks for reading,
- Jesse