Ardastra Gardens Review: Nassau’s tropical treat

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Step through the gate at Ardastra Gardens in Nassau, The Bahamas, and enjoy bright tropical flowers, up close encounters with tropical birds, secret gardens and meandering pathways.

This quiet “zoo” tucked away in the western corner of Nassau offers guests a relaxing alternative to busy beaches, noisy city streets and bustling shopping districts.

For a memorable Bahamas shore excursion, Ardastra Gardens is a worthy consideration.

Flamingoes star at Ardastra Gardens

Ardastra Gardens Review: Getting there

On a cruise that included Nassau, we docked at Prince George Wharf.

Once we got the all-clear to leave the ship, we opted to walk the 1.5 miles through the city to Ardastra Gardens on Chippingham Road, Nassau. Here’s a map showing you how easy it is to walk!

My kids are 20, 17 and 10 and have traveled the world. The walk is not difficult and provided a glimpse into everyday Nassau not often seen by tourists.

Along the way, we saw gravediggers working in a cemetery, a man chopping bananas out of the trees in his expansive roadside garden and a wide variety of buildings from crumbled ruins to elaborate tropical estates (most were simple homes).

We met many locals, most of whom seemed surprised at first to see us, but then welcomed us warmly to their island, offering directions if needed. (Honestly, it’s hard to get lost in Nassau, but we appreciated the kindness).

If you don’t want to walk, you can take a taxi to Ardastra Gardens. The cost is approximately $9 for two people, plus a tip of 15% for the cab driver. If you have more people, the cost is higher. Note: Not all taxis in Nassau can accommodate a wheelchair or large stroller.

Ardastra Gardens Review: What you’ll see

Ardastra Gardens is the only wildlife conservation centre in the Bahamas.

Originally, Ardastra Gardens was designed as a refuge for the Caribbean flamingo, at the time an endangered species. A successful breeding and conservation program helped save the flamingo.

Today, the compact gardens, spanning 4 acres, are home to more than 135 species of animals, at home in the lush, tropical garden landscape.

Of course, the flamingos are still the main attraction here!

The first major garden you’ll enjoy is the Secret Garden home to an Australian Black Swan. The flowers and rock structures in this area are simply magical.

My daughter loved exploring this quiet garden, tucked away along the edge of the “zoo.”

My son and I took way too many photos — enamored by the bright colors and soft florals against the rugged rocks.

Exploring Ardastra Gardens

While Ardastra Gardens is a small zoo compared to those in the United States, the meandering paths and opportunities to discover creatures up close makes up for it.

There’s plenty of time to explore Ardastra Gardens, peeking into dark corners under shady rocks to see lizards, turtles and snails.

My daughter found the lizard, above lower right photo, hidden at the base of a tree. Look closely and you’ll see his curled tail. Other animals, like the owls, meerkats (exhibit now open) and turtles (below) do have fencing, but the space inside is wide and more natural than you might expect.

Wildlife you'll see at Ardastra Gardens includes meerkats, parrots, snails and lizards

Ellie laughed as she and Nathan watched a turtle cover himself in lettuce leaves. I should have taken a photo of the turtle, but they were so intent, I was delighted by their reaction.

Two kids peering into a turtle enclousre at Ardastra Gardens & Wildlife Conservation Centre

Tropical birds star at Ardastra Gardens

Ardastra Gardens Nassau flamingo

Because Ardastra Gardens was originally designed as a flamingo preserve, the flamingos here have run of the place.

I’ve seen flamingoes at many zoos through the years, but I’ve never gotten as close as I did in the photo above! They take center stage at Ardastra Gardens, roaming freely.

We walked among them, scolded with a squawk when we got too close. We enjoyed watching them prance, preen and pose!

But, the flamingos are not the only birds here! No tropical zoo would be complete without parrots and other tropical birds. As you can see, they are used to posing for the camera! Signs nearby do warn not to get too close. These pretty birds can bite!

Parrot on a perch at Ardastra Gardens Nassau

The whole atmosphere at Ardastra Gardens fits the tropical setting. The signage, above, provides clear, colorful direction throughout the zoo.

Ardastra Gardens Nassau sign post

The “Flamingo Arena” offers a shaded place to relax (or sit on dad’s face) during your visit — as well as shows throughout the day.

Ardastra Gardens Nassau at the flamingo show

Of course, our Ardastra Gardens review included an inspection of the bathrooms. We want to be thorough! Ellie exclaimed, “They have hot water!” The women’s restroom also offers a baby changing area. Nice!

Planning your visit to Ardastra Gardens

Ardastra Gardens Cost:

As of 10/2023, Adastra Gardens cost is:

  • Non-resident adults $35,
  • Non-resident children (4-12) $25,
  • and under 4 is free.
  • Residents of the Bahamas have a separate rate.

Check here for current Ardastra Gardens cost.

Hours and Dates: 

Ardastra Gardens is open daily except for Christmas, Boxing Day (12/26) and New Year’s Day.

Hours and Dates: As of October, 2023, hours are 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM with last admission at 3:00 PM. There are “Keeper Talks” and “Flamingo Shows” scheduled throughout the day. Check here for current hours and show schedules. (NOTE: Their website is sometimes slow to load. Be patient!)

Required Waiver:

All guests to Ardastra Gardens must sign a waiver before visiting. Download the waiver to take with you. It saves a little bit of time! Of course, the risks at Ardastra Gardens are inherent with free-roaming flamingos. If you make them mad, well…. And the walkways are not 100% ADA compliant. Watch your step.

Directions and Transportation: 

As stated above, a ten minute taxi ride to Ardastra Gardens is about $9 for two people, plus tip.

The #10 bus, called the jitney in Nassau, takes you from the area close to the cruise ship (at George Street) to a stop on Bay Street at Chippingham Street close to the park, but you’ll still have a bit of a walk. We do not recommend the jitney for transportation since it isn’t really convenient to the gardens.

Some cruise lines offer an Ardastra Gardens and city bus tour shore excursion. Currently, Disney Cruise Line offers the 3-3.5 hour tour at $79 US for ages 10+ and $59 US for children ages 3-9. The tour includes an hour long narrated bus tour of Nassau.

We opted to walk to Ardastra Gardens, toured the conservation center and walked back to port along Bay Street with an hour of playing on the beach and made it easily before 2:00 PM. Our total Ardastra Gardens cost (price adjusted for current dates) would have been $165 for 4 adults and one child. The cruise line’s trip to Ardastra Gardens cost $395. And, it would not have allowed the same amount of time to explore the gardens.

Disclosure: We received complimentary admission on our visit for purposes of this Ardastra Gardens review. The prices shown are just to clarify the actual Ardastra Gardens costs.

Walking map: Nassau Cruise Port to Ardastra Gardens

Click here for interactive walking map to Ardastra Gardens

Use the signs below as guides! The top sign is located at Chippingham and Bay Streets. The bottom sign marks the entrance to the gardens at the top of Chippingham.

Ardastra Gardens signs

Ardastra Gardens Review: Final Thoughts

The whole family, including our 20 year old and 17 year old, enjoyed our trip to Ardastra Gardens.

While the zoo itself is small, its creative layout hides treasures around every turn. Informative signage, tropical gardens and friendly staff makes this an enjoyable family outing. Certainly, it’s a wonderful break from the hustle and bustle on the cruise ships!

Most of Ardastra Gardens is accessible to those in wheelchairs, but the restrooms are not handicapped accessible. Some of the walkways are a little uneven.

To learn more about Ardastra Gardens & Wildlife Conservation Centre, visit their website.

To learn more about shore excursions, including when to book your own and when to use the ship’s offered shore excursions, read our Cruise Guide to Shore Excursions.