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As cool Atlantic Ocean mist hit my face, I sat on a $4 water
taxi leaving North Eleuthera, in the Bahamas, excited at what I
might find ahead. At only three miles long and half a mile wide,
Harbour Island (also known as Briland) looks barely more than a
generous dot on most maps. I knew the island offers more than meets
the eye, however, including a 300-year-old history that includes a
stint as the Bahamas’ first capital city and some of the oldest
structures in the Bahamas, a thriving tourism industry and one of
the loveliest beaches in the Caribbean.
I noticed a few lazily bobbing boats anchored just off the beach
as I stepped off the dock and onto the island. Walking down Bay
Street, the main drag, I came across many brightly painted New
England-style houses, neatly piled conch shells (the national
delicacy) and a surprising number of churches while walking through
the winding streets of Harbour Island’s main settlement, Dunmore
Town. Although the island is walkable, many rent golf carts to get
around the island quicker.
Harbour Island offers exactly what a remote island paradise
should: a sleepy disposition, plenty of good food, meandering
streets, visions of friendly neighbors chatting while clean laundry
dries in balmy breezes and timid flocks of wild chickens roam the
area, giving “free range” a whole new meaning.
It took only 15 minutes to make it to the other side of the
island and its legendary beaches. They are beautiful and pink. The
pink sand is formed by an expansive red coral reef located just off
the northern coast of the island that has mixed with powder white
sand, creating a soft pink hue for three miles off the eastern
coast. It is the pink-sand beaches that are considered some of the
most beautiful in the Caribbean and what keeps romantic strollers
coming back to these pristine shorelines.
It is worth noting that the red coral that surrounds much of
North Eleuthera is more ominously known as Devil’s Backbone, which
has shipwrecked hundreds of boats in the region. In fact, Robert
Sayle’s ship carrying many of the future residents of Harbour
Island and nearby Spanish Wells crashed here in 1648.
Surprisingly, for such a tiny island, there is no shortage of
accommodations, dining and historical sites, and there is even a
tourist office. There are a few popular resorts in the area all
offering fantastic views and access to pink sand beaches as well as
agent commissions at 10 percent.
Last fall, Dunmore Beach Club completed a $250,000 renovation.
The resort offers separate cabin-style accommodations with tennis
courts, snorkeling and reef-exploring options and can arrange deep
sea, bone and bottom fishing.
The new four-bedroom house called “sitting pretty” is great for
weddings and goes for $1,500 a night during high season (November
to May) and $1,050 during low season. Expect excellent gourmet
meals for dinner. Dunmore Beach Club is well suited for couples
looking for a quiet place to relax as there are no phones in the
Built in 1968, the Coral Sands offers 37 units covering six
categories of rooms, most with white and tan colonial-style decor
and matching furniture. Common areas include high-speed Wi-Fi
connection and a billiard room. They are currently building a new
two-bedroom beachfront room, which showcases huge glass doors that
open directly onto the pink sand.
Perhaps the funkiest place to stay on Harbour Island is the Pink
Sands hotel. The Pink Sands combines a flurry of Moroccan-, Indian-
and Balinese-themed accents throughout its property using lots of
vibrant shades of pinks, greens and purples. Pink Sands offers 25
cottages and a popular blue beach bar, aptly named, “Blue Bar.”
While there are several fine-dining options on the island,
including those at each of the previously mentioned hotels, a trip
to Harbour Island would not be complete without a stop by Angela’s
Starfish Restaurant for her famous conch fritters and down-home
hospitality. It is traditional Bahamian food and ambiance, perfect
for a casual lunch or dinner.
Nearby Eleuthera requires a taxi or car rental for exploration,
but water taxis conveniently depart from Harbour Island every 10
minutes. While investigating Eleuthera, one landmark deserves
consideration. Unassuming Glass Window Bridge, just north of
Gregory Town, offers Eleuthera at its narrowest point and amazing
views contrasting the temperamental deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean
and the placid turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea.
I was impressed Harbour Island makes for an incredible
destination and I’m not alone. Travel + Leisure’s reader poll
recently named Harbour Island as the “Best Island in the Caribbean
Clients visiting Harbour Island will enjoy a laidback getaway,
while agents will have a surprisingly wide range of possibilities
to choose from on the best little dot in the Atlantic.
Dunmore Beach Club
Coral Sands Hotel
Eleuthera Tourist Offices, Governor’s Harbour
The Eleuthera Informerwww.eleutherainformer.com
The Islands of the Bahamas Tourism Officewww.bahamas.com