The Spanish must still be kicking themselves. Despite the Bahamas being the first land spied in the New World in 1492 by Columbus and his crew aboard the Santa Maria, the Spaniards onboard never colonised the islands, leaving it up to the British to lay claim to the paradisiacal and remote collection of sandy beaches and tucked away cays in the 1600s.
Once a haven for pirates - including being a favourite bolt-hole of the legendary swashbuckler, Blackbeard - it's no wonder that the Johnny Depp-starring Pirates of the Caribbean movies were all filmed in the Bahamas. And whenever a Bond movie needs to shift its decadence levels up a notch, the crew pack up and head here, with no fewer than seven 007 movies having been filmed in and around the islands.
Jetting into the capital of Nassau - which is connected to neighbouring Paradise Island by two 600ft bridges - with crystal clear waters glittering beneath the plane's wings, you'll find all the glamorous bustle you'd expect from a busy capital city, from the towering luxury cruise liners languishing in the harbour, to mansions and fortresses that betray the island's colourful and eclectic Euro-influenced past.
Head to Bay Street, which is packed with bars, restaurants and shops, and is a great place to sample the world-famous Bahamian rum. The Straw Market is another must-visit, with locals selling their wares, making it the perfect place for souvenirs, trinkets and additions to your island wardrobe, such as straw hats and roomy beach totes.
Turn your bustle-o-meter down a notch by heading to Grand Bahama Island, where life is lived outdoors, usually with a toe dipped in the water. The reef-protected shoreline makes for some spectacular diving just off the white sandy beaches; and you'll also discover a mix of chill out and activity beaches to suit your holiday mood. Our advice? Try Fortune Beach for the former and Lucayan for the latter. The Grand Bahama regatta each June attracts boating enthusiasts from around the globe, but you can set sail anytime of year, hiring anything from canoes to yachts - just make sure you take time to stop off for lunch at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club. When it comes to water sports you're spoilt for choice, with banana boat rides, jet-ski hire and parasailing all on offer. But a must-do on your holiday checklist is to sign up for a dolphin encounter at Blue Lagoon island.
The smaller islands
If seeking out the best-kept secret is de rigueur for you on your vacation, then Rum Cay, one of the most scenic cays in the region, will fit the bill. Rent a cosy cottage from which to explore the island, where you can stumble across crumbling stone plantation walls amidst the rolling green hills. Out at sea, just beyond the reef, adventurous divers can experience the wreck of HMS Conqueror, which sank in 1861, and still resides there in about 30ft of water. Find more relics from the past on San Salvador, where remnants of the island's former cotton industry loom large in the emerald hills. Whilst the Dixon Hill lighthouse cuts an imposing figure against the skyline, and walking through the ivy-strewn gates of the ruined late 18th-century Watling's Castle feels like stepping back in time.
Head to the Bahamas for New Year to experience Junkanoo - a Mardi Gras-style celebration that kicks off just before dawn on New Year's Day, which sees islanders and visitors dress up to dance in the street.
Cat Island Regatta
One of many year-round regattas, sleepy Cat Island comes alive in August with a weekend of events, races, live bands and on-land games and mini food festivals.
Bahamas International Film Festival
Runs from December 1-4 each year, attracting industry players from around the world, and screening both international and local films. Visit bintlfilmfest.com
Casino Royale, Cocoon, Pirates of the Caribbean, Moonraker, Into the Blue
British Airways fly to Nassau via the UK. Visit britishairways.com for flights
Budget: Chez Pierre, Long Island
With just six elevated cottages spread out across a crescent beach, you're guaranteed peace and tranquility at Chez Pierre - where the accommodation is powered by sun and wind energy. Find a terrific restaurant at the main house, where you can dine out on Bahamian, Italian and French cuisine, enjoyed al fresco on the deck. Visit chezpierrebahamas.com
Mid-range: Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach, Grand Bahamas
With some great all-inclusive packages available, the Viva Wyndham boasts 1,200 feet of beachfront, and a plethora of water sports - as well as a trapeze - on offer. Choosing from three bars and as many restaurants, you can also enjoy nightly entertainment and plenty of tourist attractions, from glass-bottom boat rides to deep sea fishing excursions. Visit wyndham.com
Luxury: One & Only Ocean Club, Paradise Island
As featured in the Daniel Craig-starring Bond movie, Casino Royale, once a private estate, the Ocean Club is the destination of choice for the jet set, thanks to its manicured surroundings, swaying coconut palms and impeccable service. With garden or ocean-view rooms, cottages and villas, choose between six places to dine, serving everything from afternoon tea to haute French-Asian cooking. You'll also find a world-class spa spread across eight Balinese-style spa villas. Visit oneandonlyresorts.com