Harbour Island Life | Where to Eat, Drink and Wander
Harbour Island really is a slice of Caribbean magic. It’s pretty much everything you want in a Caribbean island ; colourful clapboard houses, a slow pace of life, an amazing local spirit and of course, a pink (yes, it’s actually pink) sandy beach lined with small but perfectly formed houses and hotels. It reminded me a lot of Bequia in a way, the kind of place you go to once and instantly vow to save all your money until the end of time just to buy a house here. It’s the kind of place I dream of living one day… You get everywhere on golf buggies or bikes, everyone is friendly and wants to say hi and the beach is just the right balance of wild, windswept and tropical all at once. I would of course, have to stop myself from eating the lobster quesadillas at Sip Sip on a daily basis (not sure my waistline or bank balance could handle it) but other than that, I think life on this little island, at least for a few months a year, would be pretty dreamy to say the least…
There’s no denying Harbour Island is expensive; food and drink aren’t cheap that’s for sure and the hotels are pricey too. But unlike places such a Mustique and St Barths (from what I’ve heard at least), there’s a simplicity and lack of pretence to Harbour Island I really loved. Yes there’s The Dunmore hotel which is like a beautiful 1970s country club and of course the newly-opened luxury haven Bahamas House where we stayed (more on that next time), but there’s a charm and a casual independence to the hotels here you don’t get everywhere in the Caribbean. There’s no high rises or swanky European style beach clubs or bars, just beloved local favourite haunts that people keep flocking back to. Some of the houses here are pretty mega sure, but the people who come back again and again seem to come to escape and kick back rather than bling up and be seen. The crowd is a real mix of families with homes here (complete with dog walks on the beach), groups of guys or couples in from their boats, honeymooners and lovebirds on holiday and ladies who weekend in their kaftans and straw hats. I really fell for the charms of this island pretty much instantly (nothing like the wind in your hair as you try to avoid the chickens lining the road on your golf buggy) and could have spent a week getting to know people and places. The main village is where most of the restaurants and a few hotels are with others just five minutes away up on the dunes on the beach. It’s definitely worth hiring a buggy even if you’re only there for a couple of days as there’s no better way to explore the island, get your bearings and do some imaginary house hunting. I love that the island is so tiny you don’t need a car to get around and there’s no such thing as parking bays or road markings (thankfully there are stop signs) to contend with.
To make it simple and easy to digest, I thought I’d break down the places we ate, drank and generally hung out below so if you ever get lucky enough to go here, you can use this as bit of a guide. Near to all the restaurants need booking well in advance for dinner (your hotel will likely do this for you) and it’s worth checking before what’s open when as some places are closed Sundays/Mondays.
Eating and Drinking and Exploring
Lunch at Sip Sip is a real must. There’s a bit of a wait for a table and if it’s peak season, it’s worth going earlier or later rather than right bang in the middle of the day. We settled in with a Goombay Smash and some kind of nutmeg, milky rum drink respectively and the time unsurprisingly went super quickly and we were seated right on the edge of the deck overlooking the beach in no time. 100% go for the lobster quesadilla – it’s the stuff of dreams.
Dinner at The Landing was a really nice way to end on our last night and was the most ‘fine dining’ kind of food we had while in the Bahamas. Definitely get a table outside (load up on the mozzie spray) and settle in for three courses of deliciousness. There’s a nice courtyard to have a drink in before your booking too.
Queen Conch is a technicolour, laidback local favourite on the water in the village that’s again a bit of a must-do on the Briland bucket list (pretty damn photogenic too). Obviously you need to order something with conch in it so we we went for the conch fritter but apparently the salad is pretty great too. The service is slow but just kick back and get into the Caribbean pace of things. Wander down the road and buy a traditional straw bag or fan while you wait. Cash only so come prepared.
Da Vine was a really nice surprise as I hadn’t read anything about this place before I went but a couple from The Other Side told us about it. It’s a little wine bar right on the main street in the village by the water, just up from The Landing, that does some of the best sushi I’ve had in ages. Apparently the chef is ex-Nobu and that definitely wouldn’t surprise me as the sushi was phenomenal. I did that classic thing of getting overly excited by the menu and massively over ordering, so much so we almost had to cancel our black cod because we were so full. Thank god we didn’t as the food just got better and better. Definitely get the brussel sprouts too – insane!
Acquapazza on a Sunday evening for nice Italian food on the bay with live music by The Brilanders going on just below you.
We decided not to eat at The Dunmore as there were other places we wanted to try more but it’s worth popping in for a drink if you have time. The bar is beautiful and there’s a really nice lounge-y area outside you can kick back on.
I didn’t do much shopping apart from having a straw bag bought for me as a surprise (spoilt) after window shopping one day at Eva’s Straw Work but there are some really sweet, if expensive boutiques in town. The Sugar Mill is India Hicks’ store but annoyingly it seemed to be shut everyday we were there so I didn’t get to pop in. There’s also The Island Company for linen shirts, guy’s shorts and dresses etc (not hugely my vibe but perfect presents for mums/dads/people back home). If I’d had more time or a bit of bad weather I’d have probably tried to hunt down some more stores but shopping tends to be the last thing I want to do on holiday believe it or not!
In my next post, we’re staying at Bahamas House as well as heading out on the water for the day and exploring some of nearby islands and beaches so more from Harbour Island next time.