But it was not until the 1950s, when the harvesting of Caribbean yellow pine trees (now protected by Bahamian environmental law) was the island's major industry, that American financier Wallace Groves envisioned Grand Bahama's grandiose future as a tax-free port for the shipment of goods to the United States. It was in that era that the city of Freeport and later Lucaya evolved. They are separated by a 4-mi (6-km) stretch of East Sunrise Highway, although few can tell you where one community ends and the other begins. Most of Grand Bahama's commercial activity is concentrated in Freeport, the Bahamas' second-largest city. Lucaya, with its sprawling shopping complex and water-sports reputation, stepped up to the role of island tourism capital. Resorts, beaches, a casino, and golf courses make both cities popular with visitors. Sights Freeport. Shopping is the main attraction in the Bahamas' second-largest city. Bahamas National Trust Rand Nature Centre. On 100 acres just minutes from downtown Freeport, a half mile of self-guided botanical trails shows off 130 types of native plants, including many orchid species. The center is the island's birding hot spot, where you might spy a red-tailed hawk or a Cuban emerald hummingbird. Visit the caged one-eyed Bahama parrot the center has adopted, and a Bahama boa, a species that inhabits most Bahamian islands, but not Grand Bahama. On Tuesday and Thursday free (with admission) guided tours depart at 10:30 am. The visitor center hosts changing local art exhibits. E. Settlers Way, Freeport. Admission charged. Perfume Factory. Behind the now nearly defunct International Bazaar, the quiet and elegant Perfume Factory occupies a replica 19th-century Bahamian mansion-the kind built by Loyalists who settled in the Bahamas after the American Revolution. The interior resembles a tasteful drawing room. This is the home of Fragrance of the Bahamas, a company that produces perfumes, colognes, and lotions using the scents of jasmine, cinnamon, gardenia, spice, and ginger. Take a free ten-minute tour of the mixology laboratory and bottling area and get a free sample. For $30 an ounce, you can blend your own perfume using any of the 35 scents ($15 for 1½ ounces of blend-it-yourself body lotion). Sniff mixtures until they hit the right combination, then bottle, name, and take home the personalized potion. Behind International Bazaar, W. Sunrise Hwy. and Mall Dr., on access road, Freeport . Lucaya. On Grand Bahama's southern coast and just east of Freeport, Lucaya was developed as the island's resort center. These days it's booming with the megaresort complex called the Our Lucaya Resort, a fine sandy beach, championship golf courses, a casino, a first-class dive operation, and Port Lucaya's shopping and marina facilities. Most cruise ships offer excursions that include a day at Our Lucaya. The Dolphin Experience. Encounter Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in Sanctuary Bay at one of the world's first and largest dolphin facilities, about 2 mi east of Port Lucaya. A ferry takes you from Port Lucaya to the bay to observe and photograph the animals. If you don't mind getting wet, you can sit on a partially submerged dock or stand waist deep in the water and one of these friendly creatures will swim up to you. You can also engage in one of two swim-with-the-dolphins programs, but participants must be 55 inches or taller. The Dolphin Experience began in 1987, when it trained five dolphins to interact with people. Later, the animals learned to head out to sea and swim with scuba divers on the open reef. A two-hour dive program is available. You can buy tickets for the Dolphin Experience at UNEXSO in Port Lucaya, but be sure to make reservations as early as possible. Port Lucaya, next to Pelican Bay Hotel, Lucaya. Admission charged . Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO). One of the world's most respected diving facilities, UNEXSO welcomes more than 50,000 individuals each year and trains hundreds of them in scuba diving. Facilities include a 17-foot-deep training pool, changing rooms and showers, docks, equipment rental, an outdoor bar and grill, and an air-tank filling station. Daily dive excursions range from one-day discovery courses and dives to specialty shark, dolphin, and cave diving. Port Lucaya, next to Pelican Bay Hotel, Lucaya. Admission charged . Beyond Freeport-Lucaya. Grand Bahama Island narrows at picturesque West End, once Grand Bahama's capital and still home to descendants of the island's first settlers. Seaside villages, with concrete-block houses painted in bright blue and pastel yellow, fill in the landscape between Freeport and West End. The East End is Grand Bahama's "back-to-nature" side. The road east from Lucaya is long, flat, and mostly straight. It cuts through a vast pine forest to reach McLean's Town, the end of the road. Garden of the Groves. This vibrant 12-acre garden, featuring a trademark chapel and waterfalls, is filled with native Bahamian flora, butterflies, birds, and turtles. Interpretative signage identifies plant and animal species. First opened in 1973, the park was renovated and reopened in 2008; additions include a labyrinth modeled after the one at France's Chartres Cathedral, colorful shops and galleries with local arts and crafts, a playground, and a multideck outdoor café. Midshipman Rd. and Magellan Dr. Admission charged . Lucayan National Park. In this extraordinary 40-acre seaside land preserve, trails and elevated walkways wind through a natural forest of wild tamarind and gumbo-limbo trees, past an observation platform, a mangrove swamp, sheltered pools, and one of the largest explored underwater cave systems in the world (more than 6 miles long). You can enter the caves at two access points; one is closed in June and July, the bat-nursing season. Twenty-six miles east of Lucaya, the park contains examples of the island's five ecosystems: beach, hardwood forest, mangroves, rocky coppice, and pine forest. Across the road from the caves, two trails form a loop. Creek Trail's boardwalk showcases impressive interpretive signage, and crosses a mangrove-clotted tidal creek to Gold Rock Beach, a great place for a swim or picnic at low tide, and edged by some of the island's highest dunes and jewel-tone sea. At high tide the beach all but disappears. Grand Bahama Hwy. Admission charged . Shopping In the stores, shops, and boutiques on Grand Bahama you can find duty-free goods costing up to 40% less than what you might pay back home. At the numerous perfume shops fragrances are often sold at a sweet-smelling 25% below U.S. prices. Be sure to limit your haggling to the straw markets, a Bahamian folk tradition where visitors will find not only the baskets that give them their name but jewelry, clothing, carvings, and other souvenir trinkets. Port Lucaya Marketplace. Lucaya's capacious and lively shopping complex is on the waterfront across the street from the Grand Lucayan Resort and Treasure Bay Casino. The shopping center, whose walkways are lined with hibiscus, bougainvillea, and croton, has about 100 well-kept establishments, among them waterfront restaurants and bars, water-sports operators, and shops that sell clothes, crystal and china, jewelry, perfumes, and local arts and crafts. The marketplace's centerpiece is Count Basie Square, where live entertainment featuring Bahamian bands appeals to joyful nighttime crowds every Thursday through Monday. Lively outdoor watering holes line the square, which is also the place to celebrate the holidays: a tree-lighting ceremony takes place in the festively decorated spot at the beginning of December and fireworks highlight New Year's Eve, the Fourth of July, and Bahamian Independence Day, July 10th. Sea Horse Rd., Lucaya . Beaches Some 60 mi of magnificent, pristine stretches of sand extend between Freeport-Lucaya and the island's eastern end. Most are used only by people who live in adjacent settlements. The beaches have no public facilities, so beachgoers often headquarter at one of the local beach bars, which provide free transportation. Lucayan Beach is readily accessible from the town's main drag and is always lively and lovely. Taïno Beach, near Freeport, is fun for families, water-sports enthusiasts, and partyers. Near Freeport, Xanadu Beach provides a mile of white sand. Gold Rock Beach is about 45 minutes from the cruise port, but it's one of the most widely photographed beaches in the Bahamas; at low time, unique sandbars and ridges form.