There's probably not a single person on earth who needs any extra convincing when it comes to booking a vacation to the Bahamas. Out of all the destinations in this Caribbean hot spot, Nassau is by far the most popular locale for those looking for pristine beaches and luxury beach vibes. However, there's also a hidden treasure in the Bahamas that most people would never expect - and it has heavy medieval-era roots.
Dating all the way back to the 12th century, this open garden has a long history and its miraculous features can still be seen to this day. If travelers can find a way there, they won't be disappointed; visiting these ancient ruins is a worthy Bahamas experience.
Marked By Stone Columns And Archways
After stumbling upon these ruins, one would never guess that the stone archways and columns that comprise it date back centuries. The immediate area resembles something that's altogether Romanesque in style, but with the traditionally elegant Gothic features of a medieval-era garden. As it happens, that's exactly what the Cloisters is. What's even more incredible is that each of these stone features was not originally built on the land on which it sits; rather, it was brought overseas from France. So, what did all of these columns once support? At one point, they belonged to two different monasteries that were built by the Augustinians during the 12th and 13th centuries. Both were built only a century apart with some coming from France and others believed to have come from a Cistercian monastery in Spain. Knowing this information brings up a few questions, to say the least: Who was responsible for placing these in Nassau, and why?
Jumping far ahead, it was during the 1960s when George Huntington Hartford II, AKA Huntington Hartford - the heir to A&P Supermarkets - purchased Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas. This is when a bulk of Paradise Island gained the appearance that it still has to this day: grand structures, regal gardens, and European-style statues and fountains. The marble pieces that make up the Cloisters were all part of this mission started by Hartford, and it remains to this day one of the most intricate and tranquil places on Paradise Island. Interestingly enough, the plot thickens - all of these marble pieces were mixed up by U.S. customs, after having been purchased by William Randolph Hearst (as in Hearst Castle) during the 1920s. Following the Great Depression, the pieces were purchased by Hartford and the rest, as they say, is history.
Visiting The Cloisters On Paradise Island
Visiting the Cloisters is not difficult, although it does require travelers to know where to look. Known as The Cloister when searching on Google Maps, the Cloisters are found smack dab in the center of Paradise Island. This means they're easy enough to reach from anywhere on the island, but are especially easy to find - and are within walking distance - from the following hotels and resorts:
- The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort
- Ocean Park Villas
- Paradise Island Beach Club
- Bay View Suites Paradise Island
- Bianchi's Kingdom
- One Ocean
No matter where visitors are staying, they'll want to make their way over to Paradise Island Drive. The statues and marble features that make up the Cloisters can be found on both sides of the road, just past the entrance for One & Only Beach Club (which has its own road). Those visiting The Cloister will find a statue named 'Silence,' sculpted by Scottish artist William Reid Dick. Just past this statue, visitors will be greeted with spectacular harbor views as they soak in the peace and tranquility that exists in this garden.
From there, directly across the street sit the remaining garden pathways. This long stone pathway takes visitors past humble ponds filled with lilypads and various statues that are detailed and intricate. Taking the time to stop by each one will give visitors an appreciation for a piece of European history and artwork that seems so different from the tropical paradise around it, but somehow still makes perfect sense. The juxtaposition of these marble figures and Versailles-style, manicured gardens makes for an interesting and unique Bahamas experience. Whether it's the photo opportunity that awaits in the marble gazebo overlooking the ocean, or the calm that exists while walking through hedge gardens, it's one thing that should not be missed when visiting Paradise Island.
- Cost: Free
- Best Time to Visit: The Cloisters is open 24/7, and at night there are lights that illuminate the garden.