36 Hours in the Bahamas: Drinking, Dining and Adventurous Diversions on Harbour Island
by Mike Richard | February, 2013
Located just off the tip of Eleuthera in the Bahamas, tiny Harbour Island (known locally as “Briland”) is often called the “Nantucket of the Caribbean”. And with good reason: flower-lined streets, pink sand beaches, New England-style architecture, and old world charm make this a world class destination for the rich and famous (and those aspiring to be).
Combined, the area of Eleuthera and Harbour Island is a favorite for savvy travelers looking for the quintessential Bahamas getaway without the frenetic pace of more popular and touristy Nassau.
Here, we reveal our top picks for a weekend trip (36 hours, give or take) to Harbour island. It’s a whirlwind itinerary for sure but for travelers looking for a well-balanced weekend getaway in the tropics, this provides a solid mix of relaxation and more adventurous pursuits.
With regular flights in and out of Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL), getting to North Eleuthera (ELH) is rarely more than a one-stop flight from many destinations in the United States. Plan to arrive at ELH around noon and hop the brief, 5-minute water taxi over to Harbour Island.
1p / Lunch @ Sip Sip
Great food, a chill atmosphere, and an amazing waterfront view combine to make this one of Harbour Island’s best restaurants. The aptly named Sip Sip (local slang for drink and gossip) serves a lunch menu featuring plenty of local foods – curried chicken salad and spicy conch chili – and more “exotic” fare, including Middle Eastern dishes like hummus.
3p / Snorkeling + Diving for Conch
There are plenty of opportunities for snorkeling in and around the Bahamas. Harbour Island in particular is also a great spot to test your skills (or lack thereof) at spearfishing and diving for lobster or conch.
Grab a set of rental gear from any number of local beachfront stands for $10 or less and spend the afternoon underwater. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, hop a local fishing boat to head out to the more well-known snorkeling and fishing spots.
Fellow, underwater-obsessed traveler Josh Washington took this video on our recent trip to Harbor Island:
7p / Dinner + Wine @ The Landing
The Landing is first and foremost a luxury boutique hotel that dates back to the early 1800s. But the onsite restaurant is also one of the best on Harbour Island. Overlooking the harbour in the heart of Dunmore Town, this intimate eatery serves the best food I’ve tasted in all of the Bahamas.
We stuffed ourselves with a variety of appetizers and split entrees. However, I highly recommend the goat cheese ravioli with poached shrimp, tea soaked raisins, burnt butter & pinenuts. It’s simply amazing! The sweetness is tempered with a nice, subtle tartness to give it a well-balanced bite. It was much lighter than expected – not nearly as heavy as a typical cheese stuffed ravioli.
For dessert, you can’t miss the banana brown sugar upside down cake with vanilla ice cream and vanilla Afro Head rum. It’s the perfect sweet and boozy end to a two-hour display of pure gluttony. (Bonus: don’t miss their extensive wine list which is among the best on the island!)
9p / Drinks @ Gusty’s
The name “Kalik” is directly linked to Bahamian culture and comes from the distinctive sound made by cow bells used as instruments during the colorful “Junkanoo” parades.
If there’s a more perfect Bahamian dive bar than Gusty’s, we didn’t find it. The floor around the inside bar is white, flour-soft sand from nearby beaches, and the back room features a perfectly crooked and pockmarked pool table with a single lamp overhead. On weekends, locals gather around the small bar and ramshackle tables to watch satellite TV or listen to local DJs spin.
After you’re done shooting a few rounds, relax with a cheap cocktail or Kalik on the oceanview terrace, overlooking Harbour Island’s northern point from high above.
Overnight @ Dunmore Beach Resort
Two words define everything about Dunmore Beach Resort: “casual elegance”. The design is simple, understated with bright whites and island colors everywhere. It all works to create the perfect, relaxed, “hey, we’re on island time” atmosphere.
Every guest room is a private or semi-private (connected) cottage with all the amenities you’d expect from a Harbour Island luxury resort – plush king sized beds; stone bathrooms with showers and tubs big enough to park a Mini Cooper in; large, private patios overlooking the ocean; and walking distance to a picture perfect sandy beach that’s so quiet and tranquil day and night, you’ll think you have it all to yourself.
Other resort amenities include:
- Beach lounge chairs and beachside food and beverage service
- Tennis court
- Onsite restaurant and bar
- Heated ocean-front pool and gym facility
- Outdoor activities such as beach volleyball, kayaking, bocce ball, snorkeling and paddle boards
- A 35-foot Intrepid, available for half-day or full-day rental
Breakfast @ Dunmore Beach Resort
After a full day of exploring the island yesterday, chill with a nice, long and relaxed breakfast on the patio at Dunmore Beach Resort.
9a / Kayaking @ Lil’ Shan’s Watersports
If you’re looking for a day out on the water, Lil’ Shan’s Watersports is the cliche one-stop shop. Here you can rent jet skis, boats, kayaks, snorkel gear and pretty much anything else designed to get wet.
Drop by after breakfast for a half-day kayak tour (1-seater: $35 or 2-seater: $50). The staff is completely open to anywhere you want to go and anything you want to see – it’s all on your schedule. Spend a few hours paddling around the island or bring your snorkel equipment to mix things up a bit.
1p / Lunch @ Queen Conch Restaurant
It’s routinely ranked the #1 restaurant in all of Harbour Island and with good reason. The conch doesn’t get much fresher than this – it’s literally scooped from the bay out back, removed from the shell, and the salad prepared right in front of you with peppers, onions, tomatoes and freshly squeezed sour orange juice. There isn’t a more quintessential Bahamian dish!
If you’re looking for a little variety, their newly expanded menu includes a mix of other local seafood dishes, including conch fritters and fish fingers as well. No matter what, be patient. Everything is cooked to order here. Plus: remember you’re on island time, so what’s the rush? (Tip: it’s cash only here!)
2p / Beachcombing + Exploring the Island
Harbour Island is quite small, which makes it perfect for exploring and beachcombing. Pickup a rental golf cart back at Lil Shan’s. It’s a simple, relaxing and inexpensive way to see the entire island in just a few hours.
Head down to Pink Sands Beach for a leisurely walk along three miles of soft, picture-perfect, pale pink sand. The water is ideal for swimming – protected by a coral reef, the calm, crystal clear Atlantic waters here are warm year-round.
6p / Dinner @ Rock House
Originally a rather simple and unassuming B&B, Rock House now boasts some of the island’s most glamorous accommodations and an excellent restaurant to boot.
The atmosphere is posh, but relaxed and you can opt to dine poolside, in a private cabana, or pick a table with sunset views. If you haven’t yet tried the local Goombay Smash, take this last opportunity to do so. It’s a quintessential tropical Caribbean cocktail.
The dinner menu is a mix of fresh local seafood dishes (Roasted Bahamian Lobster Tail and Local Stone Crab Claws), along with more exotic fare (who knew you could score Curried New Zealand Lamb Chops in the Bahamas?).
Overnight @ Dunmore Beach Resort
Return to Dunmore Beach Resort to catch the sunset or beachcomb along the nearby pink sand beaches. It’s a perfect end to a long weekend on Harbour Island.
If you have the time (or money) after heading back to Eleuthera, stick around for an extra day or two – there’s plenty to see and do there as well!
Disclosure: Portions of this trip were sponsored by Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.
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About the Author
Vagabondish founding editor, Mike Richard, is a Rhode Island native, professional web designer and travel junkie with an unhealthy addiction to backpacking, hiking and seeing the world. He enjoys knit hats, small, declarative sentences and speaking in the third person. His professional credits include "Woman's World magazine contributor" and having once been interviewed by Tyra Banks (seriously).