Har­bour Is­land

BA­HAMAS’ LIT­TLE IS­LAND

World Travel Magazine - - Front Page - PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANA LUI & WORDS BY DANNI LANDA

In­ter­lop­ers call them the Out Is­lands but the Ba­hami­ans know how spe­cial their wa­tery back­yard is so they call them the Fam­ily Is­lands. My favourite char­ac­ter in this glit­ter­ing col­lec­tion is Har­bour Is­land – the in­sou­ciant younger sis­ter who gets on with her own thing in her own style. Har­bour Is­land, known to lo­cals as Bri­land, was cre­ated by the uni­verse to my ex­act specifications of what a trop­i­cal is­land should be – re­laxed, lux­u­ri­ous and free from pre­tence.

The flight from Mi­ami barely reg­is­ters un­til the grey swathe of the North Eleuthera land­ing strip comes into view. The scruffy shed-like ter­mi­nal is ex­actly as it should be, con­jur­ing thoughts of clammy gentle­men in linen suits with se­crets to keep ac­com­pa­nied by icy trop­i­cal cock­tails. My Ba­hamas is firmly set in a 1940s era film star­ring Cary Grant and Lau­ren Ba­call.

Ex­cite­ment builds to an ex­quis­ite ache dur­ing the 5-minute wa­ter taxi ride to Har­bour Is­land and as my foot lands on the dock and I breathe in that steamy trop­i­cal air, I am fi­nally at home. Be­fore I know it a golf cart has putt-putted me away to The Ocean View Club where I plan to do a whole lot of prac­ti­cally noth­ing while manag­ing to si­mul­ta­ne­ously feel like I’ve done ev­ery­thing and met all the peo­ple I will ever need to know.

Four dogs splayed out against the tiles of the en­trance greet me in the only way hot dogs can, with an in­do­lent wag of the tail and a bit of a stretch. Be­ing wel­comed at the Ocean View Club is like be­ing en­veloped in a big warm-hearted trop­i­cal hug. Ben Sim­mons, the cur­rent owner, grew up here. His mother, the in­domitable Pip Sim­mons in­her­ited the place from her fam­ily and ran it as a ho­tel un­til pass­ing the ba­ton to Ben and his part­ner Char­lotte “Char­lie” Phelan.

Bo­hemian is such an hack­neyed word th­ese days. Any mean­ing it may have once held has faded away like the weft of aged vel­vet. But hon­estly, it’s what comes clos­est to de­scrib­ing the sun laden and sea washed so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the Ocean View Club. Ben and Char­lie have stepped di­rectly into Pip’s non-con­form­ist, free­think­ing, stylish shoes turn­ing this fam­ily-home cum lush guest­house into a bea­con of is­land chic. It is lux­u­ri­ous but also care­free and com­fort­able. You might be for­given for be­liev­ing

you ac­tu­ally live here.

I’m in the Kitchen Cot­tage with its canopied four­poster bed and bright yel­low claw foot bath, which I eye up for a late night soak be­fore bed. Each of the nine rooms are dec­o­rated in ac­cor­dance to its out­look and his­tory. As ex­pected my room used to be the kitchen and while there’s no whiff of fry­ing bacon I can’t help but feel the resid­ual warm glow of the many fam­ily mo­ments this room once wit­nessed.

The ab­so­lutely first thing any­one should do on ar­rival on Har­bour Is­land is com­mune with the sea. The is­land is fa­mous for it’s pink sands and while I am partial to a peachy tint the real beauty is in the tex­ture. They call it pow­der - like snow ex­cept with­out the dis­com­fort of ski gear. One side of the is­land looks out to the At­lantic and the other kisses the Caribbean, the com­mon thread be­tween them is the vast spec­trum of blue - from glassy green to pierc­ing turquoise it is pic­ture post­card per­fect.

Even though the is­land is only 3 miles long and half a mile wide the beach ap­pears to go on for­ever. The few peo­ple that pass my way of­fer friendly waves or stop for a chat. That even the most hard-headed city folk are able to shed their big smoke ar­mour and talk to a stranger is tes­ta­ment to the lib­er­a­tion the is­land pro­vides. Ev­ery­one is friendly and gen­uinely happy to see you. It’s con­ta­gious and not long be­fore I my­self start to wave at com­plete strangers.

Dun­more Town is the name given to the tiny col­lec­tion of streets that make up the com­mer­cial cen­tre. The whole place fits in per­fectly with my 1940s trop­i­cal film noir fan­tasy. Rows of pas­tel cot­tages in the New Eng­land colo­nial style sit cute-as-a-but­ton along the streets. Pinks, greens, blues and yel­lows all with white picket fences and eaved win­dows. It would be no sur­prise to find a sul­try Rita Hay­worth sit­ting on a porch sip­ping freshly made lemon­ade.

Har­bour Is­land has long been the do­main of a cer­tain niche within the jet set crew. It’s rel­a­tive iso­la­tion means that only true be­liev­ers make it across from the glitzier re­sorts. Aris­to­crats, fash­ion­istas and a rab­ble of global drifters dom­i­nate the lo­cal scene. Th­ese are not the os­ten­ta­tious types though – there’s more sub­stance than flash and the smat­ter­ing of gor­geous, exclusive and hip

bou­tiques are ev­i­dence of the kind of spend­ing they’re ac­cus­tomed to.

Linda Grif­fin and India Hicks – for­mer Ralph Lau­ren model, au­thor and Prince Charles’ god­daugh­ter – own the Sugar Mill Trad­ing Co. on Bay Street. This lit­tle shop is packed with all sorts of de­li­cious good­ies. Hicks’ own la­bel rubs shoul­ders with Melissa Od­abash biki­nis, caf­tans by Royal Jelly Har­lem and any num­ber of gor­geous trin­kets picked up on the owner’s world trav­els. I ac­ci­den­tally pur­chase one of Hicks’ clas­sic no has­sle-tas­sel neck­laces and just can’t re­sist the sig­na­ture skull and cross­bones towel.

Dakes Shoppe stocks home­wares, art, cloth­ing, ac­ces­sories and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. I take ad­van­tage and pocket a cou­ple of tins of my favourite Fat and Moon lip tint as well as a few John Der­rian post­cards which I know I will prob­a­bly never send. Miss Mae’s is Pip Sim­mon’s shop and re­flects her ec­cen­tric and en­chant­ing per­son­al­ity. A slew of other beau­ti­ful high-end bou­tiques sat­isfy the shop­ping urge but for some­thing re­ally dif­fer­ent I set­tle on Eva’s Straw for a hand­made tra­di­tional bas­ket bag.

While the world fa­mous Bri­land Conch Salad can be had at other venues, The Conch Queen is the spir­i­tual home of this is­land del­i­cacy. Lo­cated on the pier this brightly painted col­lec­tion of wooden bar stools and ta­bles boasts the best snacks with a view. Freshly caught conch are chopped up and tossed in a cit­rusy salsa and doused with chilli. It’s Ba­hamian ce­viche with a twist made all the more de­li­cious by the su­per friendly staff and am­bi­ence.

With friends ar­riv­ing just in time for cock­tail hour a re­fresh is re­quired. Back at the Ocean View Club I get chat­ting to own­ers Ben and Char­lie who sug­gest a jaunt over to their other project on North Eleuthera Is­land.

Fit­tingly called The Other Side we agree to pop over for a night or two at some point. Af­ter a quick dip and a mini si­esta un­der a para­sol I head over to The Dun­more to meet the re­cent ar­rivals and take in the sun­set.

The Dun­more is an­other per­fect lo­ca­tion for my Golden Years of Hol­ly­wood fan­tasy but de­spite the glam­orous set­ting with its is­land chic decor and un­in­ter­rupted views the star of this bou­tique ho­tel is the food and cock­tails. We or­der a bunch of dishes in­clud­ing

stone crab claws, lob­ster tail, Ca­jun spiced chicken and Caribbean Bouil­l­abaisse. While we wait an­other round of Goom­bay Smash mag­i­cally ap­pears. It is the def­i­ni­tion of a clas­sic trop­i­cal cock­tail – rum, pineap­ple, rum, co­conut and more rum – and fright­en­ingly easy to drink.

Where there is mu­sic and Ba­hami­ans there will be danc­ing. The is­land’s nightlife is charm­ingly down home. While a top in­ter­na­tional DJ might be staying on is­land the bars and clubs are lo­cal hang outs with zero pre­ten­tious­ness. We hop over to Daddy D’s for a boo­gie and at some point make our way back to bed. The morn­ing waits with its prom­ise of in­dul­gent is­land liv­ing.

Break­fast at The Land­ing is es­sen­tial to any stay on Har­bour Is­land. Their fa­mous ri­cotta hot­cakes with hon­ey­comb but­ter and banana set us up per­fectly for a morn­ing out on pad­dle­boards. Un­der­neath us masses of colour­ful fish dart about and then sud­denly we are sur­rounded by sea tur­tles. Gor­geous, el­e­gant, slow and wise we watch in si­lence as they glide un­der and around un­til fi­nally they swim away and we all break out in whoops of in­cred­u­lous laugh­ter. This is real!

A short speed­boat ride takes us to The Other Side – Ben and Char­lie’s sec­ond ho­tel sit­u­ated on North Eleuthera. Sus­tain­ably built and op­er­ated and sim­ply divine the re­sort is a mix of what they call shacks and tents and what I call the epit­ome of de­sign chic. A mag­i­cal night starts with watch­ing the sun­set fol­lowed by din­ner and a moon­lit walk along the beach. It’s al­most too hard to leave the next morn­ing un­til we re­mem­ber we are go­ing back to Har­bour Is­land, so ev­ery­thing is just fine.

On the last day we stop in at Sip Sips for spicy conch chilli, but­tered grits with fish and an ir­re­sistible slice of choco­late banana pud­ding. There’s just enough en­ergy left to lie around on the soft pink sand and lazily start plan­ning the next trip to Har­bour Is­land. While I watch an hum­ming­bird har­vest nec­tar from trop­i­cal blos­soms I muse on the pure beauty of this place and it’s in­hab­i­tants. Here there is al­ways time for a wave, a smile or a chat. The sun­sets are con­tin­u­ally re­defin­ing the con­cept of beauty. The stars are sur­pris­ingly brighter ev­ery night and the peo­ple – well, they just keep on smil­ing.

Pre­vi­ous page, aerial view of the Ocean View Club on Har­bour Is­land This page, from top, main port on Har­bour Is­land; book shelf at the Other Side re­sort; ho­tel re­cep­tion over­look­ing trop­i­cal green­ery Op­po­site, clock­wise from top left, bed­room de­tail at the Other Side; it’s all in the de­tails; the tents on the Other Side; coral dec­o­ra­tion; in­te­rior of one of the tented rooms at the Other Side; speed boat con­nec­tion with Har­bour Is­land; fresh young co­conuts

This page, from top, sunbeds and para­sols of the Dun­more Ho­tel; colour­ful colo­nial houses of Dun­more Town; a restau­rant deck on Eleuthera Op­po­site, clock­wise from top left, Har­bour Is­land golf carts; wooden sign­post; palm trees and gar­den view at the Other Side; Is­land Trea­sures; fishing boats; Tree Trunk Room in­te­rior at the Ocean View Club

This page, from top, beach chill­ing at the Ocean View Club; colo­nial house de­tail; Har­bour Is­land’s fa­mous pink Church

Op­po­site, clock­wise from top left, break­fast at the Ocean View Club; key to the Tree Trunk room; boat with the seag­ulls dur­ing sun­set; wooden bar on the Other Side; pink colo­nial house; conch shell; colour­ful sign at the Valen­tines Ma­rina

This page, aerial view of the reef just off the Ocean View; steps go­ing down to the beach at the Ocean View Club; com­ing into land at Eleuthera Op­po­site, clock­wise from top, Ocean View Club; lo­cal art us­ing old num­ber plates; colo­nial house; Sugar Mill Trad­ing Co., India Hick’s shop in town

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