Grand Bahama is the northernmost of the islands of the Bahamas, and the closest major island to the United States, lying 90 kilometres off the state of Florida. Grand Bahama is the fourth largest island in the Bahamas island chain of approximately 700 islands and 2,400 cays. The island is approximately 150 kilometres long west to east and 20 kilometres at its widest point north to south.
Administratively the island consists of the Freeport Bonded Area and the districts of East Grand Bahama and West Grand Bahama.
The Spanish gave the island the name Gran Bajamar, meaning "Great Shallows", and what the eventual name of the Bahamas islands as a whole is derived from. However, the Lucayan name for the island was Bahama. Grand Bahama's existence for almost two centuries was largely governed by the nature of these "great shallows" - the coral reefs surrounding the island were treacherous, and repelled its Spanish owners (who largely left it alone apart from infrequent en route stops by ships for provisions) while attracting pirates, who would lure ships onto the reefs where they would run aground and be plundered. The Spaniards took little interest in the island after enslaving the native Lucayan inhabitants
Grand Bahama was to remain relatively quiet until the mid-nineteenth century, with only around 200-400 regular inhabitants in the capital, West End.
By the middle of the 20th century, Grand Bahama's population numbered around 500 and the island was one of the least developed of the Bahamas' islands. However the island finally gained a stable source of income when in 1955 a Virginian financier named Wallace Groves began redevelopment with the Bahamian government to build the city of Freeport under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and create the Grand Bahama Port Authority Soon after, the ambitious Edward St. George, with the financial help of Sir Jack Hayward, took the company to new frontiers. Seeing the success of Cuba as a tourist destination for wealthy Americans, St. George was eager to develop Grand Bahama in a similar vein. The city grew rapidly, with St. George adding a harbour, an airport (the largest privately owned airport in the world) soon after the city was founded, and the tourist center of Port Lucaya in 1962. Grand Bahama became the second most populous island in the Bahamas (over 50,000 in 2004)
Freeport is the major city of Grand Bahama. It holds the commercial ship harbour and the main airport.
Lucaya is a tourist destination on the island, with beaches and hotels.
West End is the oldest town, westernmost settlement, and capital of Grand Bahama island. It first achieved notoriety as a Rum-running port during Prohibition.