The first time you come to Harbour island, you are a visitor.
The second time you come, you are a local.
The third time you come, you are home.
I am Danish by birth, American by circumstance and Bahamian at heart. Harbour Island is my second home and has been for many years; My son took his first steps on Bahamian soil, and the quaint, laid back charm of Harbour Island has seeped into his veins, too. But as the Bahamians say: You have to leave in order to come back. And that is what we do – several times a year.
In my daily practice of posting a snapshot (often from Harbour Island) on my Instagram account, I am recurrently asked about the island: when to go, how to get there, where to stay, what to see etc. I could go on about Harbour Island for hours and days, but I’ll try to make it short and relevant for those of you who wish to visit this little gem under the hot Caribbean sun.
Harbour Island (Briland to the locals and frequent visitors) is a small out island in the Bahamas located off the northeast coast of Eleuthera and one of the oldest settlements in the Bahamas. The island is considered, by many, the crown juvel of the Bahamas and famous for its stretch of picture perfect, 3-mile pink sand beach (and yes, the sand really IS pink), clear turquoise water and gentle climate. The island is blissfully void of shopping malls and nightlife, it’s difficult to get to (minimum two planes and a boat), it’s relatively expensive to stay there and those circumstances combined see to that the island is never over-run by tourists, although the island in peak periods (Easter, Christmas, New Year’s, 4 of July, Bahamian Independence Day etc.) is much busier now than it was just 10 years ago.
Harbour Island is tiny – approximately 3.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, not much more than a sand bank in the big scale of things – but it’s not like an atoll in the Maldives. Dunmore Town dates back to 1791, and Harbour Island is a vibrant mix of old and new, rustic and elegant. Locals and free roaming chickens mix with foreign residents, visitors and celebrities alike, and you’ll find shacks, multi-million dollar houses and everything in between. But you’ll never get lost. Or mugged. Dunmore Town is the only town on the island with less than 2000 registered residents, and the locals are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
When to go:
It depends on how hot you like it, really. Although the island has an all year pleasant climate, it tends to get rather hot in the Summer. Hurricane season officially starts on June 1st., and many hotels and businesses close for the season in August and September (best time on the island if you like it quiet). December through April and holidays like Easter, Spring Break, 4th of July are considered high seasons and lodging rates are more expensive than the rest of the year.
How to get there:
There are no direct flights to Harbour Island. You’ll have to fly to Nassau, Ft. Lauderdale or Miami and catch a connecting flight (or charter a small plane in advance and have it waiting for you – much nicer than commercial flights) to North Eleuthera airport. From there Mr. Fine Threads’ taxi service will take you the short distance to the dock, and a boat taxi will take you on a picturesque 5-minute boat ride over the bay to Harbour Island. Depending on where you stay on the island, you can ask the boat captain to let you off on any dock. Government Dock is the main dock. The preferred form of transportation on the island is by Golf Cart. You can call one of the Golf Cart rentals in advance and have one ready at the dock, or you can get a normal taxi to take you to your hotel. Or you can walk. NB. if you intend to drive: Keep in mind that the Bahamas was a British colony until their independence in 1973 – which means they drive on the left side of the road.
Nassau (NAS) to North Eleuthera (ELH): Bahamas Air.
Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) to North Eleuthera (ELH): Silver Airways.
Miami (MIA) to North Eleuthera (ELH): American Airlines, Delta, Bahamas Air.
Private Charter: Southern Air Charter, Airfreight Charters.
Where to stay:
There are 10 resorts/hotels on the island, and many beautiful colonial style cottages and houses for rent (and for sale), ranging from moderate to very expensive. There are a couple of inexpensive hotels on the island, as well, but I’ve never seen the inside of them, and therefore they’re not on the list below. If you rent a house, make sure it has glass-windows (some houses only have shutters, and there are mosquitoes at large) and an emergency generator, as power-outings are many and frequent on the island.
On the beach:
Runaway Hill Inn
Ocean View Club & The Other Side
Dunmore Beach Club
On the bay:
The Landing Hotel
The Rock House
Bahama House Inn
What to do and see
If your are expecting waterfalls and mountain trekking, shopping malls and nightlife, Harbour Island is not for you, as there are neither. Harbour Island is a quaint little island with flower-lined streets, pink sand beaches, Georgian-style architecture, and old world charm. There are plenty of opportunities for snorkeling, water skiing, jet skiing, sailing and fishing, and a broad variety of Bahamian an International food to enjoy at world class restaurants such as the Landing, the Rock House and lunch spots like SipSip and Runaway Hill with views that will take your breath away.
Restaurants, Bars & Clubs on Harbour Island:
The Landing Restaurant
The Dunmore Beach Club Restaurant
Runaway Hill Restaurant
Sip Sip (Lunch Restaurant)
Blue Bar Restaurant
Dunmore Deli (Breakfast & Lunch)
Aqua Pazza Restaurant
Pink Sands Restaurant
Coral Sands Beach Bar & Restaurant
Rock House Restaurant
DaVine (Sushi & Wine)
Queen Conch (Local Bahamian & takeaway)
The Shack (Local Bahamian & takeaway)
Arthur’s Bakery (Breakfast)
Cocoa Coffe House (Your Caribbean Joe & the Juice: Coffee, Juice and Sandwiches)
The Coffee Roaster (Coffee and Cakes)
Daddy D’s (Night Club/Bar)
Vic Hum Club (Night Club/Bar)
Golf Cart Rentals:
Major’s Golf Car Rentals
Useful Info (perhaps):
Harbour Island does not have a hospital, only a small medical clinic (alas, you are more or less screwed if you happen to have an accident after dark), and the one doctor in the area may not be on the island when you need him, so watch out for the Golf Carts (some tourists drink and drive) and bring your own medicine!
The Bahamian Dollar is the currency in the Bahamas, although you can pay with US dollars as well (same exchange rate), but you cannot use your Bahamian dollars in the US, or anywhere else for that matter. Useful to know when you leave.
But you’ll want to come back again, of course.