Grand Bahama is one of the northernmost of the islands of the Bahamas, and the closest major island to the United States, lying 90 kilometres (56 mi) off the state of Florida. Grand Bahama is the fifth largest island in the Bahamas island chain of approximately 700 islands and 2,400 cays. The island is approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) long west to east and 20 kilometres (12 mi) 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 (pre-Columbian) 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.
The islands were claimed by Great Britain in 1670. Piracy continued to thrive for at least half a century after the British takeover, though the problem was eventually brought under control.