Paradise Island (renamed in the late 1950s or early 1960s), is a small island (about 1.1 square miles) that’s located just off the shore of Nassau on New Providence Island.
You’ve no doubt seen photos of Paradise Island, since it’s the home to the luxurious-but-affordable mega-resort Atlantis.
The tiny island got its start as a resort in 1959 when supermarket heir Huntington Hartford purchased Hog Island and renamed it Paradise. He then hired renowned Palm Beach architect John Volk to build the Ocean Club, Hurricane Hole, Café Martinique, and the Golf Course.
(Fun and very interesting fact: Hartford also installed a 14th century French monastery known as the Cloisters that once had been purchased and dismantled by William Randolf Hearst in the 1920s and brought to the U.S. The Cloisters today are a beautiful garden across the street from Paradise Island’s exclusive resort/hotel, The One and Only Ocean Club. The Cloisters are open to the public and definitely are worth a visit.)
Hartford opened Paradise Island as a resort in 1962 to much fanfare (its opening was covered by the top news magazines of the time, Newsweek and Time).
Hartford and a business partner continued to develop Paradise Island. They built a bridge to Nassau and more large resorts. They also turned the island into a gambling resort.
Entertainer and talk-show host Merv Griffin (fun fact alert!) purchased the island for $400 million in the 1980s from the owner who earlier had purchased it from Hartford. The island’s current owner, Sol Kerzner, a South African businessman, purchased it in 1994 from Griffin’s holdings for “just” $125 million (it’s now estimated to be worth about $2 billion).
More fun facts: the Beatles’ hit film Help! was partially filmed on Paradise Island in 1965, as were the James Bond films Thunderball (also 1965), and Casino Royale (2006).
The behemoth resort and casino Atlantis opened in 1998. Atlantis offers a wide range of affordable accommodations and even luxurious suites (the Bridge Suite, which is located in the a bridge that joins the two Royal Towers, costs about $25K a night).
The Atlantis features a huge water park, complete with underwater “ruins” and several water slides. The resort is the largest private employer in the Bahamas, employing more than 6,000 Bahamians. This is more than enough reason to book whatever things to do in the Bahamas ahead of time before coming to Paradise Island.