Harbour Island, Bahamas

Harbour Island's quiet charms seem countless, but none are more alluring than the tiny island's wondrous stretch of pink-sand beach.

Harbour Island's quiet charms seem countless, but none offer greater allure than the tiny island's wondrous stretch of pink sand beach. These soft, coral sands bask under the warm Caribbean sun, and prove irresistible to locals and visitors alike. Harbour Island's beachgoers are treated daily to postcard-perfect scenes as the beach's palm trees sway in the gentle island breeze and the turquoise sea laps at the pale, pink sand shore.

Only 3 miles long and half a mile wide, Harbour Island - known as "Briland" to locals - sits just a mile off the better-known island of Eleuthera. Harbour Island's hub, Dunmore Town, gained fame as the original capital of the Bahamas, and the island still retains a Georgian architecture, marked by pastel-colored buildings, white picket fences and bougainvillea-draped doorframes.

The island's infectious laid-back atmosphere provides a quiet retreat from the hectic rituals of daily life. With only small handfuls of tourists visiting at any given time and less than 2,000 locals, Harbour Island is the perfect respite for families and folks hoping to relax by the beach, stroll quaint streets, pop into tiny shops or sip casual sunset cocktails.

Getting There
There is no direct route to Harbour Island. From the United States fly into Nassau, Fort Lauderdale or Miami and take a connecting flight to North Eleuthera (ELH) airport on Eleuthera. From there, take a taxi to the dock and a water taxi to Harbour Island.

Airport Transportation
Taxis are available at the airport, and it's a 10-minute cab ride to the boat dock. The water taxi ride to Harbour Island is also only 10 minutes.

December through April and major holidays are considered high seasons, and lodging rates are subsequently more expensive. Weather is best at this time, with temperatures in the mid-70s. Beware: Hurricane season arrives in the fall, and many hotels and shops close for the season.

Eleven hotels and one bed-and-breakfast can be found on Harbour Island, and cater to both luxury and budget travelers. While 4 hotels (Coral Sands, Pink Sands, Dunmore Beach Club and Runaway Hill Club) are directly on the beach, the island is so compact that other accommodations are never more than a short walk away. For more information on specific lodging types, visit: www.myharbourisland.com/hotels.htm.

Local fare on the island is generally casual and focuses on freshly caught seafood, in particular, conch. One restaurant, Queen Conch, even makes fresh conch salad at diners' tables. Restaurants at finer hotels, such as the Coral Sands, feature excellent cuisine but can be pricey. Tiny shops like Arthur's Bakery or Seaview Takeaway (try the conch burger) let visitors trying to gain a true "local" experience dive headfirst into the friendly island dining culture.

Travel Tips
US citizens need a certified birth certificate and an official photo I.D. (driver's license) for entry. A departure tax per person applies to all visitors. US currency can be used. Most stores do not accept Discover or AMEX cards. An ATM can be found at the Royal Bank of Canada, and Internet access is available at Red Apple Rentals. Harbour Island's small size makes it a pleasure to explore; getting lost is never a worry.

While You Are There
Harbour Island activities are as laid-back as the island atmosphere: unwinding on the pink sand beach, diving, snorkeling, bonefishing, bike and boat rentals, strolls through town and a relaxed nightlife mark island attractions. The island is small, and easy to explore; possibly the most fun way to see the island is via golf cart, which you can rent from many shops. The day's main event revolves around the sunset. Locals and tourists gather by Government Dock with a cocktail to watch the spectacular evening sky.

To Fake You've Been There
Download from the Internet a picture of "Lone Tree," on the eastern side of the island. The dramatic image of driftwood standing upright in the crystal blue waters and pink sands of Harbour Island is one of the Bahamas' most famous images.

Linking for a Better Vacation
For more information on Harbour Island visit www.harbourislandguide.com. For a unique local perspective, check out www.myharbourisland.com/index.htm.

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