Freeport Began As
A Commercial Port and Cement Plant
The Jack Tar Hotel at West End once drew in charter flights from as far away as the midwest. Its 10,000-foot runway remains, unused and mostly unbroken.
Freeport began in 1956 with the building of its deepwater port, the keystone to the whole project. It wasn't until 1964 that the first hotel, The Lucayan Beach, opened to usher in the hoped-for tourism boom.
Like many novice island vacationers in the mid-60s, I was first attracted to GBI by the old Jack Tar resort at West End, which predated Freeport/Lucaya's pantheon of resorts.
West End is where Grand Bahama tourism started in 1949 when an Englishman built a small holiday camp for his vacationing countrymen. The camp flopped miserably, and in the late 50s the property was developed into the Jack Tar resort.
The mammoth 356-room resort had 3 9-hole golf courses, 16 tennis courts, a half-million gallon saltwater swimming pool (the Bahamas' largest), a huge auditorium for live shows, a shopping arcade, several restaurants, a 100-slip marina÷in short, everything Freeport still hoped to build.
On my first trip to the island there really was no reason to leave West End and drive to Freeport except out of curiosity. Freeport's plans were getting so much Stateside press I had to see what all the fuss was about.
All I found was the booming port but nothing else of interest. Freeport was (and is) a landlocked city with no beaches and no coastline. I didn't see the attraction, or how there ever could be one.
I spent about 20 minutes in Freeport after making the 2-hour pilgrimage there over an incredibly bumpy road. Disappointed, I never expected to see Freeport again.
On the other hand, I was completely captivated by West End and its small fishing villages. I returned there 3 more times, a personal vacation record.
Freeport/Lucaya eventually grew beyond the expectations of almost everyone because its developers displayed a daring vitality that demanded attention. The exotic architecture of the Bahamas Princess Hotel & Casino on Freeport was groundbreaking.
With Middle Eastern domes and minarets, the Princess definitely stood out. I seemed to be one of the few who didn't like it. I thought the hotel was trying to hard to disguise its Bahamas location, but my view certainly was in the minority.
The opening of the 10-acre International Bazaar in 1966 probably generated Freeport 's greatest publicity. No one had seen anything like this fantasy open-air shopping mall. Decorated with architectural styles from around the globe, the bazaar was the brain child of a special effects set designer.