Imagine a staged Bahamian island where pastel lemon and sea green colonial houses are sprinkled along a 3.5 x 1.5 mile with tepid turquoise waters and Degas pink sand beaches at dusk. And where your primary means of transportation is a self-driven golf cart. Well, it’s no movie set. This is Harbour Island or as known to the locals, Briland.
For many years now, the originally British-settled island has been a low-key secret spot for those in the know. And from the likes of Robert De Niro, Helmut Newton, Bob Marley, Mick Jagger, Diane von Furstenberg, and the island’s notable India Hicks, it still remains the favorite for many private, fashionable celebrities and socialites considering the high season lasts from November to August. Also, while many of the Caribbean islands were severely damaged by hurricane Irma in 2017, Briland, thankfully, weathered the storm and made it out barely scathed.
But getting there is slightly laborious. Typically it takes 2 flights with the first landing you in either Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or Nassau, and the second flight to North Eleuthera’s minuscule airport. From there, a short taxi ride will bring you to a small landing where locals load your luggage onto a 30-foot motor boat for $5. After a 10-minute water-taxi ride up the Sargasso Sea, you arrive at a wooden dock at Dunmore Town where taxis, or your pre-arranged golf cart, awaits you.
Upon arrival, Harbour Island is quite enchanting from the vibrant, draping bougainvillea to the quaint roads winding through the candy-colored islet. And while it draws all types of travelers, it is important to note that it's not the type of island where you inundate yourself with loads of activities, shopping, bar-hopping, and spa treatments. This is an island where you truly go to unwind, relax, and simmer in the sea along Pink Sand Beach. It’s all about living that bona fide island life where dressing up, high heels, and convenience are out the window.
Once you start to let go, you will shortly realize that the simplicity of the island is the true luxury and you too will succumb to the captivating spell of Briland. Here is our guide to Harbour Island.
Where to Stay
Centrally located on prime Pink Sand Beach, this lovely 39-room hotel, which features shaded bungalows and beachfront cottages, recently underwent a contemporary redesign in 2017 by New York-based interior designer Eddie Lee. Owners Jorge Mora and Silma and Tom Sherman enlisted Lee to freshen up the 50-year-old property with more of a luxurious modern, yet homey feel while still maintaining the vibrant colors of the island with bright fuchsia and lush greenery that pops among black and white checkered floors. The stylishly-designed beachfront villas are the way to go with stunning private entrances leading to the dreamy aquamarine waters on Pink Sand Beach.
In addition, Coral Sands boasts two restaurants: Latitude 25 which re-opened this past November and offers a touch of Moroccan flavor as well as the more casual Beach Bar which is perfect for grilled shrimps and Goombay Smashes, while basking under the sun.
Unlike the rest of the properties on the island, Bahama House feels more like a multi-level, curated club experience located in the heart of Dunmore Town. You need a code to enter, otherwise, you are not allowed inside without a reservation. Thanks to the owner’s wife, Blake Pike of No. 12 Interiors, guests have the luxury of choosing between 11 suites and cottages, in addition to an inviting Tiki Bar steps down from a picture-perfect freshwater pool and open “make-your-own” liquor bar. The impeccable, chic colonial-Bahamian design really makes this hotel standout.
This adult’s only, 10-bedroom boutique hotel rests on the bayside of the island as well and was created by South Florida builder J. Wallace Tutt III by adjoining the Catholic School next door in 2002. The property features a clean and simple colonial-style design with a vibrant pool area featuring poppy red, canary yellow, and cobalt blue day-beds situated poolside under towering palm trees. But the real talk of the town is the renowned restaurant making it a must-have dinner reservation for locals and visitors alike.
Where to Eat
In Briland slang, “sip sip” means “gossip”, hence the number one place you visit to size up the rest of the people visiting the island. But mainly it’s a perched, ace beachside lunch spot where it is imperative to order the lobster quesadillas, tuna tartar, and spicy margaritas. As soon as you leave, you will want to come back—it’s that good. In pure island style, you never know when the restaurant will be open and it doesn’t take reservations, so plan to get there early as the waiting list grows quickly. It's open Thursday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In addition to serving as a sleek, plantation-style hotel designed by India Hicks, The Landing’s restaurant rivals the rest with its brick-hued interiors, Hemingway-esque bar, and often swank crowd. Make sure to have a peek at the hotel’s cute corridor boutique with quirky t-shirts you may need to add to your wardrobe. For dinner, reserve a table on the veranda but come early for a cocktail at the bar as it’s a favorite for the island. Must order dishes include the signature goat cheese ravioli, the spicy crab capellini, and the gingered lobster.
The Clubhouse restaurant is very romantic with its evening candlelight reflecting off the vintage 1960’s collage photographs and pale cinnamon striped booths, and the open-air patio that faces the sea is a treat. The Clubhouse offers dishes which demonstrate a delicate refinement in presentation and taste. And while some may prefer the spot for dinner, it is also a stellar option for lunch. Recommendations include the Fish Carpaccio, Stone Crab Claws, and Caribbean Bouillabaisse.
On Bay Street, just down from the landing dock, you will find the world-renowned Queen Conch, where all the dishes are made from anything conch right in front of you. There is conch salad, cracked conch, conch ceviche, conch fritters… it’s seriously a play off of Forrest Gump’s Bubba Gump Shrimp, but the real thing. The colorful wooden stand overlooking the bay is a great option for a sunset snack. You can’t miss the towering mountain of conch shells piled on the left side.
What to Do
Horse Back Riding
It’s impossible not to notice Marty trotting his bevy of auburn horses up and down Pink Sand Beach in his cowboy hat while you are nestling your toes in the sand. The vision is quite spectacular. Well, if you would like to join in, you can find Marty located on the beach between Coral Sands and Pink Sands hotels. He doesn’t have a phone so you would need to speak with him directly for a reservation—in typical island fashion.
While shopping is not the main attraction on the island, locals create charming, custom woven tote bags, which are the main takeaway when visiting. I recommend A+A Hidden Treasures as they have the best options and it's a hunt to find the spot itself. For all other tourist paraphernalia, the local wooden shacks near the port and Dilly Dally have great offerings. If you are in need of beachwear, India Hick’s The Sugar Mill and Coral Sand’s hotel boutique provide some suitable choices.
Many may choose to be in bed by 9 p.m., but the rest of the town heads out to Briland’s local watering holes. Gusty’s fills with a mix of nightlife locals and boat crews and is a hip option if you want to start early. Daddy D’s is the nightclub where the majority of visitors round up to dance the night away with Daddy D himself spinning under flashing disco lights penetrating into the streets. Vic-hum is the oldest bar on the island and tends to snag the night-cap spot where late-nighters face off in ping-pong and basketball games.