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Pink Sand Wonderland

By Kelsie Allen Barton | May 4, 2017 | Articles

Having only previously visited Nassau and Paradise Island in the Bahamas during the chaos of college spring break, I am pleasantly surprised when my group’s water taxi docks at tiny Harbour Island just off of Eleuthera—a relatively quick direct flight for Atlantans via Delta—and I glance around to take in the view. No towering hotels or tourist-packed beaches in sight; rather, there are quaint rows of Easter egg-colored homes shaded by palm trees, the perfect perches for staring out at the crystal-clear turquoise sea.

I say quaint, but, in reality, many of these oceanfront houses are mansions—J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler and billionaire businessman Ron Perelman (who hosted Usher over the holidays) are among the island’s famous homeowners. And it’s easy to see why everyone from celebrities to families to honeymooners flock here; Harbour Island is a quiet, charming, secluded escape, but, with some of the best bone- and deep sea-fishing in the world, able to satisfy both thrill-seeking adventurers and vacationers wishing to unwind over sunset cocktails and freshly caught seafood dinners.

A short golf-cart ride—the entire island is only 3 ½ miles long and a ½-mile wide—leads us to Bahama House, the most recent addition to luxury adventure collective Eleven Experience’s roster of global boutique hotels that opened at the beginning of this year. The restored 1800s property nestled in the heart of Dunmore Town—the original capital of the Bahamas—is made up of 11 unique, artfully decorated rooms, including two cottages, with delightful wraparound verandas and adorable nooks for sitting and relaxing at every turn. Design features range from vintage lamps and antique objets d’art to bespoke rattan furniture to tropical prints and textiles that give off 1940s and ’50s Polynesian vibes (don’t miss the powder room near the entrance covered in pineapple wallpaper—it’s the stuff Instagram dreams are made of). Bathrooms are spacious and light-filled, with spalike rainfall showers and full-size Malin+Goetz products—little luxuries that aren’t lost on beauty-loving travelers.

My bedroom on the second floor of The 1800 House sends a smile across my face the moment I enter—the seagrass walls are a soft shell pink, and there’s an upholstered bench at the foot of the stately four-poster canopy bed piled with stacks of colorful coffee-table books, including one by beloved island interior designer India Hicks. Just off of the room is a large porch overlooking the property, including the freshwater lap pool; I see the bay in the distance and know that this view will be magical come sundown.

After a few minutes of settling in, we are ushered outside for welcome drinks at the alfresco tiki bar, followed by lunch prepared by the talented on-site culinary team and served on the breakfast terrace. Afterward, we embark on a tour of the island, stopping to browse handwoven straw bags and hats at a roadside stand, and to gawk at Ma Ruby’s Restaurant, which is rumored to have inspired the Jimmy Buffett classic “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” A late-afternoon beach sesh is capped off with some dangerously strong rum-punch concoctions and apps upon apps at Romora Bay Resort and Marina, where laid-back locals and visitors spend happy hour swaying along to a live band and snapping pics of the burning orange sunset across the bay.

The next morning, our group takes off on a five-minute boat ride to neighboring Eleuthera (the site of the main airport), where we spend the rest of the day exploring this larger island, known for its rolling acres of pineapple plantations. We start by hiking through a dark, damp underground cave, pausing to shine our flashlights on massive stalactites hanging from the ceiling. That outing works up our appetites for lunch at Ocean Tally Bar & Grill, a gem of a restaurant tucked inside a white-stuccoed bed and breakfast on a rocky cliff, making guests feel as if they’ve been transported to a Greek isle. We chat with the spot’s proprietor, Annette (whose artist husband, Stephen Scott Young, taught at the University of Georgia), and nosh on stone crab claws, conch chowder and local lobster salad while the deep-blue waves of the Atlantic crash in the background.

Our final stop? A requisite trip to the Blue Hole, a large natural pool that requires a bit of a leap of faith to access, as it’s surrounded by cliffs on all sides. I somehow muster up the courage to take the plunge and am instantly rewarded with a cool spot for swimming, floating and cheering on my friends as they follow suit.

Back on Harbour Island, we indulge in a sea-to-table dinner on The Landing Restaurant’s illuminated patio, where wine and conversation flow freely. The evening ends with a nightcap inside Bahama House’s intimate rum bar—home to an array of Caribbean spirits just waiting to be sampled.

Day three brings even more adventure aboard The Scorpion, the Bahama House’s private boat that’s available for full property-buyout guests to charter during their stay. Mere moments after leaving the dock, we spot several dolphins jumping gracefully alongside us, a promising sign of the marine life we may see today, says Richard, our friendly and knowledgeable experience manager. He locates a prime spot above a reef for us to go snorkeling, and sure enough, in those calm waters, we discover schools of vibrant fish and some sizable sea turtles (who are surprisingly quick!). After our exploring time is up, we drop anchor beside a white, sandy beach to indulge in a few hours of sunbathing. The Eleven staff, attentive as ever, provide us with everything from towels to umbrellas and sunscreen, then proceed to unpack a chef-prepared picnic lunch and several bottles of Whispering Angel rosé to toast our afternoon of pure, unadulterated R&R.

Our final day begins with a blissful yoga session on the lawn of one of the Bahama House cottages, then is spent traipsing around Harbour Island, popping in Hicks’ stylish boutique, The Sugar Mill, and sipping iced coffee from Bahamas Coffee Roasters. A leisurely lunch at island institution Sip Sip (slang for “gossip”) is a highlight—the lobster quesadillas live up to their legendary status. For the remainder of the afternoon, we wander barefoot in the surf of the famous Pink Sand Beach, which stretches along Harbour Island’s Atlantic Ocean side and is a stunning sight at dusk.

That evening, the Bahama House team treats us to a farewell dinner, with a twist: As we sit down to eat, we’re suddenly interrupted by a traditional Junkanoo dance troupe decked out in exuberant garb who parade their way through the breakfast terrace and invite us to stand up, shimmy and shake as they entertain us with a cacophony of sounds from goatskin drums, cowbells, whistles and horns. It’s a cultural treat unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed—and, based on my short but fun-packed time on Harbour Island in the excellent hands of Eleven Experience, I’ve grown to expect nothing less. Rates from $750 per night (may vary by season), full buyout available upon request, @elevenexperience


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