Home Entertainment Harbour Island, The Nantucket of the Caribbean

Harbour Island, The Nantucket of the Caribbean

As Pensacolians, our beach standards take a whole new level. The ‘average’ beach to us includes white sugar sand, crystal-clear emerald waters and swimming pool like conditions. So, what does that mean for us? It means, if you’re taking us to a beach destination for holiday, our expectations are high. Well, Harbour Island, Bahamas delivered and exceeded every expectation.

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The initial reason for visiting was to attend a destination wedding, but having never been, we extended our trip to a week to enjoy everything the dream-like island has to offer. Powder-soft pink sand, warm turquoise waters, colorful historic cottages, and friendly island residents are just a few highlights that add to sheer Bahamian splendor on Harbour Island. Take a look at a few of my favorite hotels, restaurants, sights and activities and go ahead and add this place to your 2024 bucket list.

 

How to get there:

After two short flights, we were enjoying a Bahama Mama by 2pm. We took American Airlines direct from Pensacola to Miami. From Miami we boarded a 40 minute American Airlines flight to the Bahama Island of North Eleuthera (ELH). Lastly, hop on a 10 minute speed boat ferry ride to Harbour Island.

Getting around the island:

Who doesn’t love riding around in golf carts? As far as modes of transportation are considered, that’s almost all you’ll see on Harbour Island. We walked down the dock to our hotel and our golf cart was delivered directly to our hotel. Harbour Island is  only three miles long by half a mile wide. With everything only a short golf cart ride or stroll away, Harbour Island offers the ultimate in convenience and ease.

Accommodations:  

Ranging from average to high-end, there is no shortage of accommodations on the island. We stayed at The Landing, a boutique hotel that overlooks the harbour in the heart of Dunmore Town (the only named town on the island). The hotel is an easy five minute stroll to the powder fine, pink sand beach, offers a world-class seafood restaurant, a library to relax in, a swimming pool and the perfect sunset viewing patio. The thirteen guest rooms are designed and inspired by India Hicks in a classic plantation style with colonial inspired Caribbean influences.

For one of the nights we splurged on an ocean front bungalow at Pink Sands Resort and were blown away by the serenity and escapism offered on the property. The island retreat has been around for 70 years and is nothing short of breathtaking.

Find a plethora of moderate to boujie Airbnbs or some other nice hotels we visited, but didn’t stay at include:

Pinks Sands Resort

Activities:

Snorkeling, horseback riding, fishing, relaxing, eating, late night dancing, island hopping and shopping are just a handful of options when it comes to how to fill your days. Personally, I could spend days walking, swimming and snoozing on the gorgeous pink sands, but we decided to splurge on several other activities to make the trip truly memorable.

  • Island hopping and snorkeling — head to Valentines Resort and Marina or Conch & Coconut to book your island hopping excursions. We enjoyed a half day on a boat where we snorkeled a reef, fed the sea turtles, swam with the pigs on pig beach and then had a delicious lunch on another Bahamian Island, Spanish Wells.

The activities were fabulous, but the boat ride in itself is an experience. Gliding over the calm crystal clear water, cruising up close to million dollar mansions that are hidden from the roadside, and landing on new islands in just a matter of minutes. We even cruised past Ralph Lauren’s old vacation home that was recently purchased by a Greek princess. Our host was knowledgeable and included a rich description of the history and geography of the islands.

Dining and Dancing:

Like most islands, you’re going to be spoiled with some of the most delicious seafood dishes. Conch (pronounced “konk”) is the national food of the Bahamas and a must try while you’re there. Enjoy a fresh conch salad that looks and tastes similar to a ceviche dish or if you’re a little less adventurous, stick with the conch fritters — bite-sized balls made with fresh conch that is mixed with finely diced peppers and onions, battered with flour, and then deep-fried. Some of our favorite dishes were had at:

Once you’re finished with dinner, head to the Elbow Room for dancing and drinks — it’s a quaint place in the heart of Dunmore town, but the DJ and vibes were unforgettable. We danced on tables and chairs until they made us leave!

 

A little history on Harbour Island:

Known simply as ‘Briland’ to its residents, Harbour Island is often called the Nantucket of the Caribbean because of the colorfully painted New England-style architecture. Once the capital of the Bahamas and the second largest city to Nassau in the 1900s, the current population is estimated between 1500 to 2000. The island is located approximately 200 miles from Miami, 60 miles from Nassau and 2 miles East of Eleuthera.

Originally, Harbour Island and Eleuthera were home to the Lucayan and Arawak People. Christopher Colombus famously discovered the Bahamas in 1492 and wiped out the local indigenous populations by the middle of the 16th century. The island would remain uninhabited for 100 years until some ministers fleeing religious persecution from England settled the island in 1650.

That all changed in 1717 when the settlement surrendered to the British Crown, officially making Eleuthera and Harbour Island a part of the colony of the Bahamas. The complex coral systems around Briland made it notorious for shipwrecks. Naturally, wrecking became an important source of income for the island’s inhabitants. In the 18th century, residents of Harbour Island carried special licenses to assist wrecked ships in return for a third of the recovered loot.

As the settlement grew, so did it’s economy. Prosperous years were on the horizon as ship building, sugar refinement, and a prohibition-fueled rum boom stimulated the local economy (conch & coconut).

As a wanderlust myself, I found Harbour Island to be the perfect escape — rich in culture, beauty and charm without the long plane ride and jet lag. The idyllic week-long getaway for families, couples and friends alike.