Just off the tip of Eleuthera, Harbour Island is world-famous for its pink-sand beaches, but there’s plenty to see in its main town, Dunmore Town, too. From admiring the pastel-coloured houses to tucking into some deep-fried conch, here are the top things to do on this Bahamian island.
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One of the oldest settlements in the Bahamas, Dunmore Town – the former capital of the islands – was once the summer home of former governor John Murray, the fourth earl of Dunmore. The colourful New England-style architecture dotting the area is set against palm trees and flowers, while cute shops, art galleries and cafes line the streets. Arthur’s Bakery on Dunmore Street is a lovely spot to enjoy a cappuccino or a lobster sandwich. Spot artists with their easels outside, painting in the streets.
The glorious pink sand on Harbour Island is its main attraction. Experience it on the 5km-long (3mi) Pink Sands Beach. The sand gets its colour from tiny red organisms that attach to coral. Meanwhile, the lone tree on Girls Bank Beach is one of the most photographed spots in the region. However, it is not a tree but rather a large piece of driftwood that washed ashore after a hurricane. After taking your photograph, step back and admire the luxury resorts that face the sand, such as the Dunmore with its lovely cottages and smart private residences.
Several celebrities, such as India Hicks and Elle Macpherson, have homes on Harbour Island, and it is entertaining to spot famous faces while enjoying a drink at the marina or strolling through the pretty streets and squares. The atmosphere here is relaxed, and people-watching is a favourite local pastime. Head down to the harbour to watch the ferry come in and observe the comings and goings of island life.
Harbour Island is home to some of the best hotels in the Bahamas, complete with top-class restaurants and bars. Visit Pink Sands, one of the most stylish places on the island; it attracts a fashionable crowd with its stunning entrance and tropical gardens. Here, sample fine dining at Malcolm 51, offering indoor and outdoor seating. Meanwhile, Coral Sands is a classy beachfront hotel with a shaded restaurant deck. Alternatively, head to locally owned Baretta’s Seashell Inn, just a short walk from town, for dinner on the patio.
Although small, Harbour Island has two professional dive centres. The teams can help you explore good dive spots near the island, including Split Reef, a large coral head where you can spot fan corals and large tropical fish. Black Shoals is a series of large heads with vast sponges, morays, turtles and grouper, while Maxi-Caves is a well-known spot for cavern dives where you will see barracuda and groupers. Scuba buffs will love Current Cut just off neighbouring Eleuthera for its high-speed drift dives.
For thrills on the water and exploring beneath it, visit the water-sports centres in Dunmore. Hire jet skis, kayaks and snorkelling gear here. You’ll find deserted beaches nearby and might even spot sea turtles if you are lucky. Alternatively, you may be tempted into the clear water to try wakeboarding or waterskiing. Bonefishing can also be arranged from Harbour Island with a local guide.
No one comes to Harbour Island for its thumping nightclub scene, but the island has several quirky bars and clubs that jump to life after dark. Drop by the marina at sunset and enjoy a sundowner at the Landing or Valentines. There are bars along the north end of Bay Street where an impromptu street party may get underway at weekends. Locals and visitors will enjoy the vibe at Sammy’s Bar, or go to the centre of Dunmore to Daddy D’s for late-night cocktails with the locals and tourists from Nassau.
Harbour Island is the place to try some conch (pronounced “conk”), a pink mollusc often found in salads and soups. While you’ll find conch shacks throughout the Bahamas, Harbour Island has some of the most colourful shacks, the most famous being Queen Conch. This tasty spot sits near the harbour, alongside the kaleidoscopic stalls from where traditional straw vendors sell their creations. Enjoy some conch in the fresh air while you watch the boats come in, or savour it in one of the gourmet restaurants on the island.
It is difficult to leave Harbour Island without a striking straw hat or basket. The island is well known for its eye-catching straw products, made by local women who have a long tradition of producing lovely jewellery, crafts and wraps. Browse the stalls dotted around Dunmore Town, such as Eva’s Straw at the main dock, or visit one of the charming boutiques where you can pick up inexpensive trinkets made from local shells. More sophisticated stores, such as Shine, sell fine jewellery and glass mobiles.