When many people think of the Bahamas, the first thing that comes to mind is the stretch of fancy resorts and casinos that line the beaches of Nassau, Paradise Island and Cable Beach. Many of the smaller islands of the Bahamas, like Harbour Island, break that stereotype. Pink Sands Beach is the place to go for natural beauty, elegant resorts and most importantly, three miles of perfectly pink sand and gentle waters. The ocean is ideal for swimming - warm throughout the year and generally calm, protected from the rolling waves of the Atlantic by a coral reef.
The vibe is laid-back, and around the island you will find tourists mingling with the locals in a relaxed and friendly small-town manner. However, don't mistake laid-back for rustic: the unique resorts and hotels offer privacy in tropical hideaways, ranging from the luxurious to the simply charming. Here, the perfect day starts stretched out on a chaise lounge on the coral sands and ends on the turquoise bay, where you'll want to snag a table at one of the bayside restaurants early to celebrate the sunset. How you fill the hours in between the sunrise and the glorious sunset is up to you! Go for a snorkel; navigate your own walking tour around town; visit a straw market; test your fishing skills catching bonefish; or keep the day's main event island-appropriate, i.e., slather on more sunscreen and settle back in your chaise lounge until it's time for another sunset and a steamy plate of cracked conch.
Nearest Major International Airport: Visitors can get a flight from Nassau, Bahamas (30 minutes), or Fort Lauderdale or Miami, Fla. (1 1/2 hours), to the North Eleuthera Airstrip. From this small airport, visitors can take a taxi to the ferry dock and catch a boat to out-of-the-way Harbour Island.
As the island is small, most travel around Harbour Island can be done on foot. Some visitors may want to rent bicycles or electric golf carts -- most hotels can arrange for these rentals.
The Bahamas is blessed with good weather most of the year, and for the most part, water sports and activities abound on Harbour Island year-round. The best time of year to visit is from December to May when the temperature hovers around 70-75 degrees F. Tropical storms are a possibility during the rest of the year, when the weather is warmer and the climate more humid.
The lodging here may be less commercial than what you will find on the main destination islands in the Bahamas, but that doesn't mean it is not as glamorous. The hip and sophisticated Pink Sands Resort (toll-free: 1-800-688-7678; or: +1 (242) 333-2030) lures many celebrities to its prime location on the beach and offers airy suites and cottages and gourmet meals included in the equally extravagant price. The neighboring Dunmore Beach Club (toll-free: 1-877-891-3100; or: +1 (242) 333-2200) is like an older and more elegant sibling to the Pink Sands, offering a posh and snazzy setting - jackets are required to enjoy dinner at the clubhouse. The Coral Sands Hotel (toll-free: 1-800-468-2799; or: +1 (242) 333-2350) is a good choice for families and couples looking for a luxurious retreat at more reasonable prices.
Conch is king in the Bahamas, and in the tiny town of Harbour Island, diners may be surprised by the number of creative conch dishes that are cooked up by local chefs. The Poseidon (+1 (242) 333-2350), at the Coral Sands Hotel, is touted as one of the best restaurants in the Bahamas, and serves up its famed White Conch Chowder. Angela's Starfish Restaurant (+1 (242) 333-2253) is where the locals go to enjoy cracked conch and other comfort foods including chicken potpie. Various takeaway stands on the island offer authentic and inexpensive treats like conch burgers, conch salad and, for the non-seafood eaters, salads, burgers and sandwiches, which are perfect for a simple picnic lunch.
The laid-back, noncommercial feeling of Harbour Island is a welcome vacation for many, but keep in mind that small islands generally do not offer the same wealth of organized activities available at larger resorts, especially for children -- be prepared to relax and create your own fun.
While You Are There
Harbour Island serves as the perfect outpost for a SCUBA diver's paradise. From Eleuthera, divers can explore wrecks along the Devil's Backbone, and even the rare underwater remains of a train wreck. Also, check out Seagrapes on Colebrook Street for some live Bahamian music, or venture into the local dive, the Vic-Hum Club. Though the club's appearance may be intimidating, the locals' friendliness and a tasty rum punch are more than welcoming.
To Fake That You've Been There
Brag about your intense current-cut dive to seasoned SCUBA divers and wait for the admiring stares; this rare, high-speed drift dive is thought by many to be the mother of all SCUBA experiences.
Linking for a Better Vacation
For more information, visit the official site of the government of the Bahamas at http://www.bahamas.com/.