Six years ago, a stroke of luck and a crazy story led me, a girl from small-town Texas, to pastel-painted Harbour Island in the Bahamas.
Unlike me, most of the island’s visitors hop down from the East Coast, across the pond from Europe or cruise in from south Florida. In my case, traveling to the island requires a slightly different route. Because I’m constantly asked how to get to Harbour Island, where to stay and eat, and what to do, I’m writing this post! After reading it, I hope you have a clear understanding of the many things that make “Briland,” as the locals call it, so irresistible, as well as how to travel to the island without incidence.
For now, Harbour Island is still a hidden gem – probably because traveling to the island can be difficult. Honestly, I’d much rather it stay the quiet sanctuary I’ve grown to love; A quiet place that is lightly speckled with tourists and roosters who can’t keep time. (You’ll understand the joke once you visit.)
But, it’s too good not to share!
As you read on, you will find five sections: ‘How to Get to Harbour Island,’ ‘Places to Stay (Hotels and AirBnB’s) in Harbour Island,’ ‘How to Get Around Harbour Island,’ ‘Places to Eat (Restaurants, Coffee Shops and Bars) in Harbour Island,’ and ‘Things To Do In Harbour Island.”
Take it all in or skip down to what you need to know. Enjoy!
And, if you have any other questions, please drop me a comment or send me a message on my Instagram account, @travelwithlace. You can also send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or their
How to Get to Harbour Island, The Bahamas
There are three reliable ways to get to Harbour Island. The choice you make depends on where you’re coming from and your transportation preferences. I, for one, hate flying and prefer to take the less luxurious, aquatic route. I will lay out the options so you can make the choice that suits you best.
If you’re a lucky traveler who resides in South Florida, you have the easiest route by far. The trip from FLL (Fort Lauderdale) and MIA (Miami) to ELH is about 50 minutes, direct. Easy.
There are also several flights to ELH from Atlanta, so that’s a great place to start from, too.
For the rest of us, getting to ELH will likely require flying from your homebase (Dallas for me) and connecting in MIA or FLL to make it North Eleuthera. While you can book a round-trip ticket with American Airlines, it’s usually cheaper to book your flight to Florida, and then book a separate ticket to ELH. The only downside to this method is that you have to give yourself multiple hour layover in case you experience delays. Also keep in mind that you’ll have to pick up any checked luggage when you land in Florida, then go back through security to make it to your next gate.
I’ve done this before without incidence. I used Skyscanner to check all the flights between Dallas and S
These are the airlines that fly from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to ELH:
Bahamas Air, Silver Airways, United, JetBlue,
Delta and American Airlines.
(Delta has stopped its route to North Eleuthera due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hope to see it begin again when the virus is under control!)
In some cases, these airlines may be operating together (For example, if you chose American, you may actually end up on a Republic Air jet, etc.)
There are also small charter companies who can take you from South Florida to ELH (and other islands in the Bahamas), including Makers Air, Golden Wings Charter and Aztec Airways.
Once you land in North Eleuthera, you’ll grab a taxi to the dock and a 10-minute ferry from North Eleuthera to Harbour Island. The ferry cost is prohibitively expensive at a staggering $5 per person.
This route is similar to the one mentioned above. Simply book a round-trip ticket that connects in Nassau, or buy a ticket to Nassau and another ticket to ELH. Again, be sure you have plenty of time between flights so you don’t miss the last leg thanks to a delay.
Airlines that fly from Nassau to ELH include Bahamas Air, Silver Airways, Pineapple Air and Southern Air Charters. If you’re extra fancy, you can also charter a private (or semi-private) plane from Nassau to North Eleuthera.
Again, once you land in North Eleuthera, you’ll grab a taxi to the dock and a 10-minute, $5 ferry ride from North Eleuthera to Harbour Island.
Taking the “fast” ferry to Harbour Island is the slowest way to get there, but it’s my personal favorite (only because I hate flying and puddle-jumpers inspire me to breathe rapidly into a brown paper bag).
Anyway, in order to take the fast ferry, you would need to fly to Nassau and stay the night (I recommend Paradise Island as it’s close to the ferry dock, which is known as Potter’s Cay). The ferry leaves at 8:00 am, and check-in is around 6:30 am. Always verify the time on your ticket!
Round-trip tickets for the ferry (Nassau to Harbour Island and back) can be purchased for ~$160 per person at BahamasFerries.com.
During the off-season, the ferry doesn’t run to Harbour Island as reliably as it does during peak seasons because they use it for other routes. Check the schedule for your dates and keep and eye on the company’s social media pages for relevant updates.
Also, bear in mind that the ferry dock – Potter’s Cay – in Nassau and the ferry boat – the Bohengy III – are anything but luxurious. In fact, the dock is pretty shady and always full of questionable individuals who’d like to offer you a ride in their fraudulent taxis… so, schedule your taxis to and from the dock ahead of time. Your hotel’s concierge can arrange your taxi, which I highly recommend, as it’s more reliable than calling a taxi company yourself. And, if you find a good taxi driver in Nassau, ask for his/her phone number! Otherwise, when you return to the ferry dock, an attendant should be able to help you find a suitable ride back to your hotel or the airport.
All that to say, it’s really not a scary place. Just don’t flaunt your valuables.
Fast Ferry Problems? Here’s Plan B!
If you’re unable to take the Fast Ferry (occasionally they cancel/alter their schedules) you can reach out to Spanish Wells Luxury Charters on Facebook. They provide 45-minute speed boat transfers between Nassau and Spanish Wells. Spanish Wells is a few miles from Harbour Island. From there, you can take the government ferry (which runs until 5:00 p.m.) to North Eleuthera, grab a taxi across to the next dock, and then ferry once more to get to Harbour Island.
Places to Stay in Harbour Island, the Bahamas
Hotels and Resorts (Least Expensive to Most Expensive):
Tingum Village $150 – $250 / night
If you’re looking for a luxurious retreat, Tingum Village probably isn’t for you. However, it’s still an extremely charming hotel that’s worth mentioning. Tingum Village is owned by a long-time Harbour Islander who goes by the name of “Ma Ruby.” Her daughter, Juanita, runs the hotel with a lean staff. The back suites are spacious with comfortable king-size beds and private entries. It’s definitely a no-frills place, but it gets the job done and the complimentary breakfast of freshly-baked bread and fruit is icing on the cake.
Romora Bay $350 – $700 / night
Like Valentine’s, Romora Bay has its own marina for guests with boats of all kinds.
They also have 14 guest rooms with king-size beds that have views of the surrounding water, as well as the separate Hadden House, which has 3 bedrooms with en suite bathrooms. Guests enjoy the Romora Bay pool, reserved beach chairs on Pink Sands Beach, reverse osmosis fresh water (which is more important than one might think), the Sunset Restaurant and Bar and several other amenities.
The Landing $350 – $500 / night
The Landing Hotel is nothing short of historic, as the property has been around since the 1800s. Many of the rooms and the restaurant deck overlook the Harbour (more specifically, the government dock) on the west side of the island, which makes it the perfect place to watch the sunset. Every room features a four-post bed dressed in Ralph Lauren linens. Guests are welcome to enjoy the pool, which is surrounded by lush greenery, as well as reserved beach chairs on Pink Sands Beach.
Coral Sands Hotel $350 – $1,200 / night
Coral Sands sits on Pink Sands Beach, which makes it an obvious choice in terms of location.
They also offer a range of accommodations to suit every guest, including rooms, suites, cottages, bungalows and the 3-bedroom Villa Carissa private home which features vibrant, playful decor and a private pool. They also have an elegant, beach-front restaurant and bar for breaks from the beach.
Valentine’s Resort and Marina $400 – $850 / night
Valentine’s is another classic option, but this resort sits on the “bay side” of the island. Valentine’s Marina is a cheerful, bustling place that welcomes yachts, sailboats, and fishing boats throughout the year.
If you choose to stay at Valentine’s you’ll enjoy access to two restaurants that overlook the marina, Cocoa Coffeehouse, the Dermalogica Spa, ample golf cart parking, a quiet pool and reserved beach chairs on Pink Sands Beach. The resort’s rooms are traditionally decorated and reasonably priced compared to the beach-front resorts. You may find their prices dipping below $400 in the off-season.
In addition to their standard resort and marina amenities, the Valentine’s Dive Center also offers experiences for beginner, intermediate and advanced diving.
The Rock House $400 – $1,000 / night
The Rock House is another historic property, as it’s been around since the 1940s. According to their website, the Rock House was originally a home turned into a bed and breakfast. Now, it’s been renovated and adjoined to a former Catholic schoolhouse, making it much larger and better equipped. Guests at the Rock House have access to their restaurant, bar, pool and reserved beach chairs on Pink Sands Beach. It’s also a great option for those who want a more adult ambiance because they only accept guests over 18.
The Dunmore $600 – $2,000 / night
The Dunmore is, in my mind, the most iconic resort on Harbour Island. The towel shack that overlooks Pink Sands Beach is painted white and light turquoise, which goes perfectly its backdrop of pale rose-tinted sand and bright Bahama-blue water. If you don’t stay at this timeless resort, at least swing by for a photo.
Fun fact: This signature look of this resort was the inspiration for the tiny outhouses around the Bahamas’ latest mega-resort, Baha Mar. They even got the wood-plank shingles right!
Pink Sands Resort $600 – $2,000 / night
Pink Sands is a beautiful resort property that features cottages and private homes. The layout of the property makes it extra special because each cottage and house is separate from one another for added privacy. The
Rental Properties on Harbour Island
(Least Expensive to Most Expensive):
Touchstone’s House ~ $421 / night
- 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom
- Fresh fruit trees on the property
Mainbrace ~ $580 / night
- 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom
- Just a few steps from Pink Sands Beach
The Chatterbox ~ $600 / night
- 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom
- Another adorable, famous home on the island
The Jewel Box ~ $840 / night
- 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom
- An adorable, famous home on the island
Coral House ~ $1,000 / night
- 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom
- Historic, instagram-worthy home drenched in whimsical coral and pink decor
The Yellowbird House ~ $1,215 / night
- 5 bedroom, 5 bathroom
- Split property – history main house and recently built guest cottage
- Beautiful, private pool and indoor/outdoor seating area with bar
The White House ~ $2,500 / night
- 5 bedroom, 5 bathroom
- Rebuilt and refinished in 2018
- Clean, white decor and luxe finishes
Rosalita Beach Front House ~ $15,000+ / night
- 6 bedroom, 6 bathroom
- Ultra-luxurious and huge!
How to Get Around Harbour Island
Getting around on Harbour Island is a breeze! You really only have two options:
Golf Cart Rentals on Harbour Island
You can rent golf carts from multiple places, but I like Dunmore Rentals and Fruit Rentals, which are easy to access from the government dock. Golf cart rentals are usually $50-60 per day.
Dunmore Rentals takes cash and credit
Fruit Rentals isn’t quite so official. Simply walk to the brightly-colored golf carts with fruit painted on them, and someone will be there to trade you keys for cash.
You can also call Stan Pennerman ahead of time at (242) 359-7701.
If you would like to rent a bicycle, reach out to Michael’s Cycles on their website or by email at MichaelsCyclesBriland@gmail.com. They also offer golf cart, boat
Things to Do On Harbour Island
Relax on Pink Sands Beach
Hanging out on Pink Sands Beach is a given! It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the Bahamas, and it’s so unique compared to other Bahamian beaches I’ve visited. The bright turquoise gradient you see when you come through the mangroves is unreal. The waves on Pink Sands Beach are slightly more noticeable than some of the shallow beaches in the Bahamas, but in a pleasant way that won’t knock you over. The sand is so soft, and the pink tint can be seen best where the rolling waves meet the dry sand. Don’t be tricked by the over-saturated photos you’ve seen online. Pink Sands Beach has a hint of pink, but it doesn’t look like someone poured Pepto Bismol on it. The beach’s characteristic light pink hue comes from the thousands of conch shells that have been transformed into sand over time.
Visit the Shops in Town
Harbour Island has surprisingly good shopping! My favorite place to visit is Shine, which is owned by Bahamian-German artisan named Stephanie. She collects beautiful clothes and housewares from around the world and hand-makes jewelry from herkimer diamonds and other beautiful materials. The store is split in two; one building with clothes, jewelry and textiles (where you’ll find Stephanie) and another across the street full of housewares. If you like stores like Anthropologie, you’ll love Shine.
Calico Trading at Valentine’s
Valentine’s also has an adorable shop called Calico Trading, which has jewelry, clothing, swimsuits and other souvenir-worthy items. Across the walkway, you can find a plethora of well-designed t-shirts in the Dive Center store, as well as sunscreen! I always pick up Sun Bum SPF 50 from the Dive Center on the first day of our trips.
Harbour Island Canvas
Harbour Island Canvas is one of the newest and coolest shops on the island. They sell canvas bags of all shapes and sizes crafted from recycled sails. They have cute, water-resistant bags for smartphones and other valuables, beach totes, backpacks, and large duffle bags. You can also find Harbour Island Canvas water bottles, t-shirts, dog collars and leashes, and other accessories.
As far as useful souvenirs go, this the best shop on the island!
(Harbour Island Canvas opened after Hurricane Dorian passed through Abaco. In Abaco, the brand is called Hopetown Canvas, so you’ll see Hopetown Canvas items in the Harbour Island shop, too!)
Blue Rooster is a cute boutique inside a historic Bahamian house stocked with airy tunics, dainty jewelry and various island-friendly accessories.
This beautiful little store offers a selection of mens, womens and kids items, housewares and original pieces of artwork.
The Sugar Mill Trading Co.
The Sugar Mill Trading Co. is owned by Briland’s most famous resident, India Hicks. There, she sells an eclectic array of beautiful clothing, bags, and accessories – as well as the remaining stock from her own jewelry line (which she closed in 2020). The shop is located on Bay Street to the left of the government dock. The awning is red with a skull and crossbones, so you can’t miss it!
Explore the Abandoned Haunted House
According to the island legends, the pink haunted house on Harbour Island was briefly inhabited by a young, newly-married couple. Supposedly, the pair got into a fight and stormed out of the house, each going their own ways. They house was left full of wedding gifts and the table was set for dinner, but they were never seen or heard from again. People claim to have seen their misty, white figures floating around the ruins of the home.
Take a Photo With the License Plates at Uncle Ralph’s Corner
Uncle Ralph’s corner is a random spot in the center of town covered with license plates from around the world. It’s an iconic part of Harbour Island, and a perfect place for a quick photo opp.
Visit the Iconic Driftwood Trees
If you leave the government dock and head west on Bay Street, you’ll curve around the edge of the water, going past Shine, the Sweet Spot Cafe, Queen Conch and the hustle and bustle of town. You’ll soon meet a curve in the road at the base of the steepest hill in Briland. Looking straight ahead from that curve, you’ll see a shallow stretch of water with abandoned boats and two picturesque driftwood trees. You can’t visit Harbour Island without walking out to visit these iconic features.
Take a Wildlife Excursion
There are so many animals that call the waters around Harbour Island home, including lighting fast sea turtles, pods of dolphins, giant red starfish, manatees, the infamous swimming pigs and more! One of my favorite things to do is take a boat ride around Harbour Island, North Eleuthera and Spanish Wells with Spanish Wells Fishing. Captain Ryan Neilly and his son know exactly where to find the best wildlife the islands have to offer!
If Spanish Wells Fishing is booked up, reach out to Mus Be Dreamin’ Charters or arrange a trip with the Valentine’s Marina staff.
Go Deep Sea Fishing, Reef Fishing or Bone Fishing
I’ve been reef fishing with Ryan of Spanish Wells Fishing on two occasions. Both times, we caught tons of gorgeous fish, from Strawberry and Nassau Grouper to Queen Triggerfish (which my dad says “pull like a whale”). If you’re not into reef fishing, you can also books for deep sea fishing and shallow-water bone fishing among the mangroves of the surround islands.
Go Scuba Diving with the Valentine’s Dive Center Crew
Valentine’s employs PADI certified scuba divers who can teach beginners to dive for the first time or take advanced divers out to explore the beautiful underwater landscape surrounding Harbour Island. If you’re interested in seeing some of the underwater sites you’ll find in Briland, visit Anita Kainrath and Neil McPhee’s (Valentine’s PADI Certified Divers) Instagram accounts.
Play Pool at Gusty’s
Every respectable town has a famous, little dive bar. In Dunmore Town on Harbour Island, that dive bar is Gusty’s. Gusty’s is perched atop the hill above the driftwood trees, and looks out over the bay. Inside, the floors are made of sand. Visitors and locals come by Gusty’s for a cold Kalik, Goombay Smash and a game of pool.
Grab a Drink at Daddy D’s
If you’re looking for nightlife, look no further than Daddy D’s nightclub. At Daddy D’s, there’s plenty of room for dancing and fully stocked bar that operates into the early morning hours.
Visit the Valentine’s Resort & Marina Fresh Picks Farmers Market
According to their advertisements, the Fresh Picks Farmers Market happens every Wednesday from 10 am to 3 pm behind the Cocoa Coffee House. The farmers market features fresh fruit and vegetables and artisan goods.
Buy a Personalized Bag form A and A Hidden Treasures
I could have included this with the shopping I mentioned earlier, but I think A and A Hidden Treasures deserves its own paragraph. A and A Hidden Treasures is off the beaten path, not too far from the Sugar Apple Lodge. Here you’ll find souvenirs, pretty conch shells, and handmade straw bags. Reach out to A and A on Instagram ahead of your trip to have a tote bag customized with your initials or unique design. Many of Harbour Island’s brides have bags customized by A and A for as gifts for their bridesmaids. You can also find A and A’s signature items at the Fresh Picks Farmers Market on Wednesdays.
Where to Eat in Harbour Island
Queen Conch on Bay Street is a great place for traditional Bahamian cuisine. Stop by for freshly-friend conch fritters, Bahamian mac and cheese, crack lobster and conch salad.
Arthur’s Bakery (for those of you who can enjoy wheat!) is the place to go for delectable pastries, coffee and breakfast on Harbour Island. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about their decadent coconut bread and fresh omelettes.
Bahamas Coffee Roasters and Bistro
I love the Cocoa Coffeehouse! The first time I visited Briland, it wasn’t open yet. Now, when I visit I get my all-time favorite coconut latte! They brew Starbucks Coffee and offer a range of traditional Starbucks drinks, including frappuccinos. They also have sandwiches, smoothie bowls
Coral Sands Beach Bar
I’ve had lunch at the Beach Bar at Coral Sands Resort a handful of times now. It’s usually fairly quiet and their view of the beach is fabulous. We’ve had the conch fritters and the thin-crust prosciutto pizza with artichoke petals, which were both delish!
A couple of trips ago, my husband and I even enjoyed an impromptu airshow put on by three hobbyist pilots with World War II fighter planes. Needless to say, it was a great experience!
The Sweet Spot Cafe
The Sweet Spot Cafe has a revolving menu of vegetarian lunch items with an Asian-Indian flare. They also have a selection of fresh juices, smoothies
Ma Ruby’s Restaurant
I’ve had the privilege of meeting Ma Ruby, who I mentioned in my description of Tingum Village, on two occasions. Both times, she was sitting in her chair on the patio of the hotel, chatting with anyone who passed by. I’m not sure who operates her restaurant (probably Juanita or her son), but it’s a staple on Harbour Island. The restaurant is most famous for the cheeseburger, which served as the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
By the way, Ma Ruby’s burgers are served on toasted bread, so they’re a bit different than the one pictured above. I just didn’t have a photo to share!
Valentine’s Rooster Tail Bar & Grill
Valentine’s Rooster Tail Bar & Grill is one of my favorite places to grab lunch in Briland. It overlooks the marina, which is always bustling with boats. The only downside to its location is the fleet of flies that hang around waiting for fishermen to clean their catch. Their fried grouper fingers are out of this world! The batter is light and crisp and grouper is simply the best fish to fry (in my opinion). Sadly, I have food allergies and can no longer enjoy Valentine’s Rooster Tail Bar and Grill like I used to, but if you’re allergy free this is a must-visit restaurant.
Plus, they have pina
SipSip is yet another iconic spot on Harbour Island. It was even mentioned in the “Crazy Rich Asians’ book. I went recently and had the curry chicken salad while my dad had a fried fish sandwich. It was good but it’s a touch overpriced, in my opinion. However, their view of Pink Sands Beach is stunning (obviously!) and I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about the lobster quesadillas.
Da Vine Sushi Bar
Da Vine is a highly-rated Japanese sushi restaurant a few yards up from the Landing Hotel. You can’t miss it – it’s near the fabulous wall covered in vines. They served an extensive selection of fresh-from-the-sea sushi and sashimi. I truly can’t think of a better place to have sushi than steps from the sea on Harbour Island. (And yes, I’m looking at you, Japan!)
Up until a few days ago (February 2019) they also operated as a wine bar, offering an array of wines imported from around the world. Now, they’re going to focus solely on serving up the best sushi in Briland.
The Rock House
The Rock House – another beautiful restaurant with awe-inspiring views! The Rock House is a great spot for a romantic dinner with traditional seafood cuisine. Here you’ll find a selection of delicate grilled fish, Bahamian lobster, pastas and handcrafted cocktails.
Don’t get me started on the Landing! It’s been five years since the “best meal I’ve ever had,” which was enjoyed on the Landing’s deck. That was my second time eating outside on their patio, soaking in spectacular sunset dipping below the shadowy outline of North Eleuthera. I had the filet and my husband had the lobster. Two, butter-dripping, outstandingly-delicious meals. I’ve been here four times now, and hope to have 400 dinners here before it’s all said and done. And, if you’re into spirits, the Landing has its own line of dark spiced rum known as Afrohead. I’ve heard it’s fabulous if you can handle the bite.
Aquapazza is an Italian seafood restaurant that overlooks the marina at Romora Bay. They serve several incredible dishes including lobster ravioli, seared tuna, eggplant parmesan and tons more. They also have great cocktails and, of course, wine.
Enjoy your time in Harbour Island!
I hope that this crash course on all things Harbour Island has been helpful for your planning! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send me a message on Instagram or reach out to the Harbour Island crew at email@example.com or on their Instagram account, @harbourislandbahamas..
Are you a Brilander or frequent visitor who knows something I don’t!? That’s very possible, as I’m only about to visit the island once or twice a year. If there’s anything I need to add or improve, please let me know! I want to be sure this guide is as helpful as possible.
Thanks for swinging by the blog! Until next time. xx