Harbour Island Living
The Secret Gem of the Bahamas
There is an island that is so exclusive, so pristine, and so unique, that the residents don’t want you to know too much about it. As with all good things, however, word is getting out that Harbour Island is the true gem of The Bahamas. Harbour Island, fondly known as “Briland” by locals and those in the know, has somewhat reluctantly ended up in the luxury travel spotlight, and with good reason. This wee little island has more character and easygoing glamour in its five square mile footprint than most world famous island destinations.
This peaceful island, located off the northeastern tip of Eleuthera, boasts great history, privacy from vacation crowds, and natural beauty. From the moment one steps foot on this beautiful Bahamian isle, there is a sense of calm and relaxation. While Harbour Island may be charmingly rustic (golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation), it is also home to luxurious five star resorts, dining, and a plethora of island adventure. Notables, including royalty and celebrities, live quietly among the friendly locals on this little island. Here, dirt paths lead to stunning estates - this is not South Beach or the Riviera and “Brilanders” want to keep it this way.
One of the more recognizable faces on the island is that of India Hicks, daughter of designer David Hicks, bridesmaid to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and a distant heir to the throne. Just take a look at her photo stream on Instagram to get a peak into her beachy, yet sophisticated life on the island. She once made the mistake of suggesting Harbour Island was on its the way to becoming the next St Barths and has been making up for it ever since. Hicks is now one of the first to stand guard of the island’s authentic old Bahamian feel. Other famous residents and frequent visitors include Elle Macpherson, Diane von Furstenberg, Tyra Banks, Mick Jagger, and Zac Posen.
Harbour Island is only 3.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide and it has a year round population of 2000. Although it is a tiny locale, it is big on history. The island and nearby Eleuthera were originally settled by the Lucayan Indians until the 1500s. In 1648, the “Eleutheran Adventurers” inhabited the island and named it for its excellent harbour. Dunmore Town, the first and only town on Harbour Island, is named after Lord Dunmore, the Fourth Earl of Dunmore. Dunmore Town is best known historically for its shipbuilding, sugar refining, and hiding liquor during prohibition. A charming village, Dunmore still has the quaint New England architecture and colonial style clapboard houses. It was not until the 1950s that Harbour Island began to be known as a vacation destination in certain exclusive crowds.
From conch shacks to fish fries and its enchanting historic town, Harbour Island is begging to be explored. Harbour Island is probably most famous as a yachting destination with its illustrious Pink Sand Beach, which is protected by the world’s third longest barrier reef. Its waters are crystal clear and the pink sand gets its hue from microscopic bits of coral and shells, making for some of the most stunning ocean vistas in the world. The island is home to some of the best bone fishing and diving, and it has many charming boutiques selling local wares. Harbour Island is also the perfect launch point to go on an island hopping excursion by boat and see some of the other beautiful Out Islands of The Bahamas. No matter what you do in Harbour Island, whether it’s a day on the water or a day spent lounging on the beach under the swaying palms, a day isn’t complete without a little “sip sip” (the local term for gossip and a drink).
Harbour Island is not to be compared to other islands because it is what other islands strive to be. It is laid back, tropical, and elegant. It is the place where you can stay in a boutique five star hotel, go swimming, and spear your own fish for dinner. Should you have to leave this captivating and magical island (and you won’t want to), you will leave with the sand between your toes.”
The news is getting out and Harbour Island is on all the best tropical destination lists including those by Travel + Leisure, Frommer’s, and Forbes. So, how to get there? It is a trip best suited to the more patient travelers. The North Eleuthera Airport is accessed only by direct flights from Nassau, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale. From the airport, take a taxi to the dock and then take another taxi, albeit a water taxi, across the bay to beautiful Harbour Island. There is also a daily fast ferry from Nassau.
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