As the world watches and prays for the devastated people and property on the Abacos Islands and Grand Bahama, here is an homage to the beauty of the Bahamas.
When things calm down, plan your trip to the Bahamas. Tourism helps and heals.
Harbour Island Haven
Casually sophisticated Harbour Island is one of the small but lively “out islands” of The Bahamas. It’s one of the oldest Bahamian settlements and was once the capital. This Caribbean jewel is only three miles long and a half-mile wide with charming Dunmore Town the only village on the island.
Quaint streets lined with colorful colonial-style buildings harken back to the days of British rule and lead the way to the island’s legendary pink sand beaches and turquoise-blue waters.
(Note: Harbour Island and neighboring North Eleuthra were not damaged by Hurricane Dorian.)
Of course, the crystal clear Bahamian waters are the main focus for sun and fun activities including snorkeling, swimming, kite surfing, fishing or just cruising along in a guide driven skiff with a cold beer in hand to watch birds darting in the great sky above.
Touring the island past pretty cottages, historic churches and beautifully landscaped resorts will be on island time too as your only way around is via golf cart. Don’t forget to drive on the left and don’t be surprised if you see other golf carts festooned with birthday or wedding day balloons.
This is a destination known for family celebrations, some who’ve been vacationing here for generations.
If you don’t have your own yacht, getting to Harbour Island requires a short cruise across the glistening harbor via water taxi from Eleuthera Island. The tiny North Eleuthera airport services non-stop flights from major gateways such as Miami and Atlanta.
At Home in the Bahama House
One of the loveliest and most welcoming places to stay on Harbour Island is the elegantly restored Bahama House. An intimate hotel with eleven plantation-style suites surrounding a courtyard filled with bougainvillea and a coral stone swimming pool; the main building was originally a shop for schooner builders in the 1800’s. Guests can step back into the island’s storied history here while enjoying the lavish touches of a modern hotel.
Interiors have a vintage feel with rattan, bamboo, and mahogany furnishings punctuated by artisan made accent pieces locally crafted from coral, shells, and driftwood.
You can even sip a bit of history in the clubby Rum Bar stocked with small-batch and rare Caribbean rums.
Your Day, Your Adventure
The real vacation treasure lies within the unique guided experiences led by the expert staff of the Bahama House, one of the luxury adventure lodges operated by Eleven Experience. Personalized itineraries for daily adventures are a specialty here and whether you’ve got fly fishing for bonefish or swimming with sea turtles on your Bahamian wish list, they’ve got the speediest boats and the best local insight. Feeling extra adventurous? Experience Manager, Richard Bullard, will take you on a tour of neighboring Eleuthera Island and lead you to a fresh water-filled limestone cavern called Sapphire Hole that glows blue in the sun. As he did as a boy growing up here, he jumps in and then yells for you to follow.
Or you can join lodge manager Giorgia Ravilli, a marine biologist, on a snorkel hunt to identify varieties of starfish around the harbor.
Bahama House is located on a small hill in town with a fabulous view for sunset photos over the harbor. But, if you want to loll away the afternoon on that famous pink sand, not to worry because they have their own private beach area. Equipped with beach chairs, umbrellas, towels, sunscreens, YETI coolers (filled with beer, water, and chilled rose wine) their beach enclave is moments away by golf cart or a short walk. There is also a selection of beach toys and games to choose from including lacrosse sticks! I say grab a beach chair and an ice-cold local beer.
Whatever you choose to do each day, Bahama House executive chef Nikoya Lightbourne (one of the youngest and only female executive chefs on Harbour Island) is ready for any appetite with enlightened culinary experiences inspired by the taste traditions of her native Bahamas. Her Bahamian Banana Pancakes with sausage and Lobster Eggs Benedict are breakfast favorites to start the day.
Lunch on the wide covered veranda might be stone crab tacos with mango salsa or blackened red snapper with confetti jasmine rice.
And at happy hour when guests gather to mingle at the Tiki Bar to sip a Goombay Smash or refreshing gin and tonic, Chef Niki presents nightly “après” snacks from shrimp ceviche to conch fritters to guacamole with plantain chips.
If you see pineapple on the menu, such as chef Niki’s pineapple galette for dessert or pineapple skewers garnishing your pina colada, know that this delicious treat is very local and fresh from the pineapple fields on neighboring Eleuthera.
Evening Stars on Harbour Island
When the setting sun dips into the harbor and the tree frogs begin to sing, the star-filled night comes alive as chic restaurants and open-air bars fill with the animated conversations of guests who crave Harbour Island’s local seafood and live music.
The Bahama House serves dinner upon request but when guests want to plan a “night on the town’ experience managers know who to call for fine dining at popular spots such as Dunmore House, Rock House, and The Landing. Ready to dance under the stars? Don’t miss the festive nightlife scene at Gusty’s Bar and Daddy D’s Nightclub. You’ll probably see half the people you met on the island that day.
Or relax with a rum toddy on your private terrace at the Bahama House. In a few more hours, your dreams about Niki’s banana pancakes will sweetly come true again.
Post Script: Service Above and Beyond
The experience managers at the Bahama House know the lay of the land on Harbour Island and that includes access to important local cell phone numbers if your airline mistakenly sends your luggage to Nassau instead of North Eleuthera. This happened to me. (I checked my bag because it was a short direct flight from Atlanta to North Eleuthera.) The general manager of the Bahama House told me not to worry and that they’d make all of the necessary calls to local officials to get my bag delivered to the hotel as soon as possible. Not missing a beat to get me through the afternoon and evening, a member of the staff took me shopping. I bought a bathing suit and a sundress at a cute little shop nearby called Dilly Dally. I kept thinking if I had booked an online vacation rental property, I’d be doing all of the worrying and work on my own to locate my lost bag with international calling charges and long hold times with the airline. But, I was a guest at the Bahama House and like clockwork the next morning my bag showed up at breakfast. This is another reason to value the expertise of hoteliers who are truly prepared to provide personalized service to their guests.
Happily, the airline reimbursed me for the bathing suit and dress, which have become two of my favorite travel souvenirs!