The top 10 reasons to discover Harbour Island, the Bahamas
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I first visited Harbour Island in the Bahamas ten years ago and fell in love with the relaxed, laid-back vibe, authentic charm, and most of all, the warm and friendly people.
The idea that some of the best things in life come in small packages absolutely applies to tiny Harbour Island. It’s just three miles long and one mile wide. For my Travel Therapy TV show, I’ve explored more than 68 countries and Harbour Island’s legendary baby powder soft Pink Sand Beach is one of the most breathtaking beaches I’ve ever experienced.
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Harbour Island is known as “Briland” to its residents because that’s how it sounds when you say Harbour Island really fast. No matter how you say it, Harbour Island is one of the Bahamas’ best-kept secrets. This island paradise is just off the northern tip of Eleuthera and a flight from Miami to Eleuthera will only take you about fifty minutes. Then it’s a quick five-minute water taxi to Harbour Island and a blissful beach.
Harbour Island is a favorite escape for billionaire CEOs and Hollywood celebrities including Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Dwayne Wade, Will Smith, Bono, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Elle Macpherson, Jennifer Hudson and Kerry Washington, to namedrop just a few who often fly into the Bahamas on private jets and cruise in on their superyachts.
Despite all of Harbour Island’s loyal famous fans and harbors filled with multi-million-dollar yachts, this little slice of paradise isn’t about all the glitz and glam. Harbour Island is where you go to exhale stress and inhale peaceful, picturesque surroundings where the place to be on the island is walking the beach at sunrise and sunset.
On Harbour Island, visitors rent golf carts instead of cars and you won’t find any high-rise hotels or casinos. Instead, Harbour Island has a handful of luxurious and authentic resorts.
Some wonderful ones I visited include Romora Bay Beach Resort and Marina, The Landing, Rock House, The Dunmore, Pink Sands, Valentines Resort, Coral Sands, Runaway Hill Innnand the quaint Tingum Village Hotel where they say Jimmy Buffet spent a lot of time and got his inspiration for his song “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” You’re also going to find some of the top restaurants on the island at these resorts, with Harbour Island having some of the best food I’ve had in the Bahamas and beyond.
Harbour Island also has some charming cottages you can rent and larger villas as well. Pick your pleasure, just be sure to book early because all of Harbour Island books up fast. People fortunate enough to have discovered this hidden treasure come back year after year.
And why does everyone keep returning? Because this is the place you go to get away from all the world’s worries, to relax and recharge. On Harbour Island, the most stressful thing I had to deal with was deciding which delicious cocktail I wanted to toast the sunset with.
On Harbour Island you learn to appreciate the little things, and while the pace of life is delightfully slow here, I always find myself running out of time to experience all the best things to do on Harbour Island. So, I’ve put together my top ten favorites to help you plan your trip so you can enjoy every moment you have on this magical Bahamian island.
My top 10 things to do on Harbour Island, the Bahamas
1. Pink Sand Beach, Harbour Island, the Bahamas
It’s hard not to gush when you talk about Harbour Island’s Pink Sand Beach. If this beach beauty doesn’t take your breath away, I don’t know what will.
The resorts and homes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean are tucked up on a hill leaving the pristine beach to dazzle on its own, running the entire three miles of the island. On this beach, you can happily walk barefoot because the pink sand is silky soft. Pink Sand Beach is my favorite place to watch the sunrise and sunset and I often have the entire beach to myself. How idyllic is that? Okay, I know I have to stop gushing, but trust me, it’s that special. You really need to wiggle your toes in the sand to understand just how extraordinary Pink Sand Beach is.
There is a saying I have as one of my Travel Therapy tips: you’ll never regret waking up for a sunrise. That saying was inspired by the many sunrises I was fortunate enough to enjoy on Harbour Island’s Pink Sand Beach. Even if you love sleeping in on vacation, pick one day, set your alarm and catch the sunrise. I promise you won’t regret it.
2. Romora Bay Resort and Marina, Harbour Island, the Bahamas
When I arrived at one of the top resorts on Harbour Island, Romora Bay Resort and Marina, a smiling staff member handed me the island’s signature Goombay Smash drink and said “welcome home.” This pretty much says everything about how the staff at Romora Bay goes above and beyond to welcome you like family, so much so that I always find it hard to leave.
I came here to research a new movie and novel I’m writing and for my Travel Therapy TV series. I picked Romora Bay because this exceptional property has the best of both worlds on Harbour Island. Romora Bay has a world-class 50-slip marina welcoming yachts up to a staggering 180 feet, and the resort has 17 suites, a stunning infinity pool, Sunsets Restaurant and Bar that’s right on the water, an amazing happy hour, live music and the Acquapazza Wine Bar & Ristorante serving up some delicious Italian dishes.
While you can get delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners at Romora Bay, I’m obsessed with the breakfasts and couldn’t start my day without having Chef Danielle whip up one of her specialties. Don’t miss trying the amazing Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, their unique twist on Avocado Toast and all the special omelets and wraps. I have lots of foodie pictures from Sunsets on my Instagram @TravelTherapy. Just be warned, once you see them you’ll be craving these delicious dishes until you can visit Harbour Island.
3. Dunmore Town
Harbour Island only has one town: Dunmore Town. It’s a picture-perfect seafront village with historic homes that are enchanting right down to their picket fences. Dunmore Town also has history. More than 300 years old, Dunmore Town is one of the oldest settlements in the Bahamas and was once the capital. See my insider tip below for some fantastic suggestions about all the things you can do there.
I found one of the best ways to really take everything in and learn about the history of Harbour Island is to do some walking tours that I found on this wonderful website. This site has all kinds of insider information about Harbour Island. When I tried to find out who owned the website, I found this on the contact page: “There are no addresses here on Harbour Island. But my Coldwell Banker office is at the foot of the dock, and most all roads lead to Arthur’s Bakery. We love answering your questions. In the form below, please do include where you’re from and at least your first name. We’re all family here. Robert & Shawne.” See what I mean about how Harbour Island will charm you!
4. Arthur’s Bakery
Anyone that knows me knows there has never been a fresh baked treat I didn’t like so I always can’t wait to visit the adorable Arthur’s Bakery during my stay on Harbour Island. I love that it’s set up to be a hangout for writers, artists, media people, and anyone wanting to get their creative vibe on.
You can get breakfast and lunch, but the sweets are what always bring me in. Some of my favorites are the cinnamon twists, cinnamon rolls, the chocolate chip cookies and the strawberry muffins. Bread lovers will swoon over the coconut bread and the jalapeño cheddar bread. Everyone also raves about the key lime tarts that I still need to try. Another great reason to go back to Harbour Island as if I need one. Be sure to go early, ideally right when they open, because many of the favorites sell out fast like the warm frosted donuts the locals rave about.
After hearing from locals how amazing the banana bread at Arthur’s Bakery is, I tried to order it several times but they didn’t have any. It’s not even on the menu. Finally, I learned Arthur’s Bakery does make banana bread, but you need to order it a day in advance, and let me tell you it was delicious and worth the wait.
5. Harbour Island boat trip for seeing turtles and starfish
I never visit Harbour Island without getting out on the water. I always use Audre’s Rentals as their friendly and knowledgeable captains have been customizing trips around Harbour Island for more than twenty years. From snorkeling, deep sea fishing, and private picnics on secluded sand bars there’s a long list of adventures you can pick from. I had Captain Darren take me out to see the sea turtles that will swim right up to you so you can feed them. There is also an area where you can see beautiful starfish. Note: you never want to take starfish out of the water for more than a few seconds. A boat trip is also the best way to see some stunning homes along the waterfront and learn about the famous people who have homes here.
A boat trip to the nearby Spanish Wells is also a fantastic day trip. This quaint, peaceful New England style fishing village on the island of St. George’s Cay has its own spectacular beach with turquoise shallow water. Fun fact, Spanish Wells is the lobster capital of The Bahamas and the main supplier of rock lobster for the Red Lobster restaurant chain in the US.
6. Queen Conch
Undeniably one of my favorite places on Harbour Island is Queen Conch. When I first visited ten years ago, Queen Conch was just a tiny food stand on Bay Street selling the freshest and best conch salad I’ve ever had. I was mesmerized watching owners Lavon and Richard Percentie work together to make the magic. I love that today you can still find Richard in his usual spot in the morning, next to the stand, taking the fresh conch out of the shells, while Lavon chops up all the Conch salad ingredients right in front of you.
What’s new is that now behind the original stand Lavon and Richard have also opened a fantastic restaurant that’s right on the water where they’re serving up a whole menu of local seafood dishes. The food is always incredible but seeing Lavon and Richard again and getting caught up on their family is always my favorite part. If you stop by Queen Conch tell them Karen with Travel Therapy TV says ‘hi’ and I hope to see them again soon!
You can still order from the original food stand if you want takeout and can get a tasty serving of Conch Salad for just $13. If you’re going to eat in the restaurant plan your dinner around sunset to take in the amazing view.
7. Indulge at top Harbour Island Restaurants
Something that surprises a lot of people on their first visit to Harbour Island is how amazing the food is here. It’s always a challenge getting fresh ingredients on any island, but Harbour Island’s famous and favorite restaurants have it all figured out.
Two of my favorite Harbour Island restaurants for dinner with a view, are Acquapazza Wine Bar & Ristorante dishing up authentic Italian cuisine with an island twist and Sunsets Restaurant that’s right on the water where the Ahi Tuna Bowl and Blackened Mahi were some of my favorites. I also never miss a chance to have fresh fish or lobster at The Landing, a legendary local favorite. Start with a drink at the tiny bar that’s likely seen every celebrity that’s ever come to the island. Other historic hot spots with mouthwatering menus include the Rock House, The Dunmore, Pink Sands and Runway Hill Inn.
I always ask the locals where they go for their favorite meals and drinks. The cute and casual new Elbow Room that’s right next to The Landing and Rock House was a recommendation I checked out. I enjoyed sitting outside sipping one of the signature cocktails, the Rosemary Greyhound, and watching the sunset over the harbor.
8. Boutique Shopping
Harbour Island is tiny, but the shopping experience is not. If you’re looking for unique, authentic gifts to take home I always stop by A&A Hidden Treasures for the 100% handmade Bahamian crafts. For chic designer resort wear don’t miss Blue Rooster, Calico Traders, Dake’s, Harbour Island Canvas and the Sugar Mill. Fun fact, the Sugar Mill is co-owned by India Hicks, Prince Charles’s goddaughter, who was also one of Princess Diana’s bridesmaids. For impressive local artwork there are also some fabulous finds at Princess Street Gallery. For beautiful jewelry and unique accessories, I love the petite boutique Shine. You’ll also find all kinds of fun souvenirs at Island Treasures and Dilly Dally.
If you want something authentic for a wonderful price I love going up the hill to Bahamian Shells & Tings that’s across the street from the famous Gusty’s Bar nightclub.
In this quaint shop the owner Iris is as kind as she is talented. From her popular rooster T-shirts to her hand-painted artwork and homemade hot sauces, you are sure to find something memorable.
9. Day trip to North Eleuthra
North Eleuthera is where most people fly into and take the five-minute water taxi to Harbour Island. It’s also a must visit during your stay on Harbour Island. I always like to use Audre’s Rentals to explore around Eleuthera by boat as that’s how I found this new Ocean swing that I’m pictured on out in the middle of nowhere. You should also definitely drive around the island of Eleuthera because there are so many truly unique things to do and see that are all free! Be sure not to miss the Sapphire Blue Hole, The Queen’s Bath, Preacher’s Cave, the Glass Window Bridge and relaxing on one of the more than 120 unspoiled beaches.
Eleuthera is a skinny strip of an island that’s 110 miles long so I’ve always find the best way to maximize your time is to hire a local guide who knows the area, the history, and the best secret beaches, so you can sit back and relax. United Island and Yacht is a great company to reach out to that can help you customize your experiences on Eleuthera, Spanish Wells and Harbour Island.
10. Sunset happy hour at Sunsets Restaurant and Bar
One of the best deals and experiences on Harbour Island is having happy hour at Sunsets Restaurant and Bar at Roma Bay Resort and Marina that’s right on the water where the view of the sunset will take your breath away. There’s live music almost every night.
I love that Sunsets has a whole menu of happy hour specials that include great prices on everything from Conch Fritters, Fried Calamari and Loaded Fries, to Cracked Conch, and my favorite Ahi Tuna Tostadas. For drinks you get the famed Goombay Smash either frozen or shaken for just $6 and it’s the same price for a Classic Margarita, red and white wines, and the Loaded Lemonades. Select beers are just $3. With a group of friends? You can get four shots for $22 or it’s just $20 for pitchers of Margaritas, Mojitos, Rum Punch and Goombay Smash. Cheers to that!
The bartenders at Sunsets are as talented as they are creative, so don’t be afraid to ask them to create a special cocktail for you. Just let them know what you like and they’ll take care of the rest. I don’t like sugar in my cocktails so bartender Leroy created two drinks for me the “Spicy Karen” a top-shelf margarita with a kick of spice and the “Karen Cooler” a refreshing gin drink with fresh muddled cucumber and mint.
Harbour Island, Bahamas, top travel tips
Peak season in the Bahamas is from December to March. In March, spring break, you’ll see the most visitor and experience the highest prices. During peak season the weather is lovely averaging around the mid-70s. It can cool down in the evening, so be sure to bring a light sweater or jacket, especially if you’re going out on a boat. After mid-April prices start to drop and you can see discounts of up to 60%. But this is also when you see the most rain so plan your trip accordingly. I also talked to a lot of people from Florida who like to bring their yachts in June and July and say it’s the best-kept secret to also visit this time of year.
The Bahamian dollar is the currency in the Bahamas but the U.S. dollar is accepted everywhere. The conversion rate is 1:1. Make sure you have cash with you as some of the smaller shops and restaurants don’t take credit cards.
Tipping is customary in the Bahamas and is greatly appreciated. It’s a wonderful way to show your appreciation for all the people working so hard to make your vacation memorable. Tipping a few dollars for each bag your helped with goes a long way. Even though a service charge is already included for your meals I always recommend making sure your tip is at least 18-20% like you do in the U.S. Also, don’t forget to tip your housekeeper at least $2 a day for all their hard work.
When you visit Harbour Island, leave any attitude at home and come with a curious mind and an open heart because the people there are some of the kindest and friendliest people I’ve met. They will go out of their way to make you feel at home and are eager to share what is so special about their island. Whenever I have to leave the island, no one says goodbye, they all say, “see you soon,” and it’s because of this genuine hospitality and the way Harbour Island makes you feel that I’m already planning my next trip.
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