Get to know this chic and low-key island in the Out Islands of the Bahamas, and one of the 20 Best Places to Live 2017. Get the inside scoop on Harbour Island, including where to eat, drink, play, and stay. 

By Bob Curley and Tracey Minkin
April 15, 2017

Have you died and gone to heaven? You may think this every time you wake up in Briland (as it’s known to residents), this tiny, sophisticated, but decidedly laid-back jewel tucked into the crook of Eleuthera in the Out Islands of the Bahamas. Live among clusters of charming, pastel cottages on small blocks where all streets seem to lead to the water, get to know the variations in pink sands, and watch the beautiful people quietly come and go (or stay and become your neighbors). The sparkling flats teem with fish for adventurers, and the boutiques quietly flaunt a new cadre of curators. And the Bahamian culture infuses everything here with an ease and candor that keeps the dream beautifully real.

Harbour Island by the Numbers

Population: 1,762
Average July high: 88
Average January low: 61
Average commute time: 28 minutes
Number of sunny days: 340

Best Beaches and Other Attractions

Pink Sands Beach runs for three blush miles along the entire length of the eastern shore of the island. In addition to its divine color, the strand is protected by an outlying coral reef, which makes for crystal waters and fantastic swimming and snorkeling.

While the beaches on Harbour Island are sugar-fantastic, the sandy strands, coves, and limestone caves on nearby Eleuthera may change your life. Take a water taxi and arrange for a car from Fine Threads to check out Surfer's Beach, Winding Bay, and Ten Bay Beach, along with Preacher's Cave, The Queen's Bath, and Glass Window Bridge.

Founded by Tories fleeing America during the Revolutionary War, Dunmore Town is famous for its “New England by way of the tropics” architecture. A walking tour of the compact community can include stops at the Loyalist House — Harbour Island’s oldest dwelling — as well as the Dunmore Cottage, the former Customs House (now The Landing hotel), and the town’s fishing dock and straw market. Don’t forget to fuel up with a Key lime tart from Arthur’s Bakery.

On the boutique side of the equation in Dunmore Town, India Hicks's haute-bohemian Sugar Mill Trading Co. on Bay Street and the charming Blue Rooster on King Street are indispensable stops. Dake's Shoppe on Crowne Street is the new kid on the block and a tastemaker's dream collection of clothing and home goods.

For old-fashioned souvenirs, head to A&A Hidden Treasures on Queen's Highway. The sweet little stall is filled with trays, baskets, and bags handmade by Alice Mather from silver palm plait.

Finally, take the ultimate day sail aboard Sail Eleuthera's elegant sloop Eventide: Beachcomb on uninhabited islands, snorkel crystalline waters, and enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch.

Where to Eat and Drink

Bahamas Coffee Roasters is the only locally roasted coffee in the Bahamas, and the Dunmore Town café is the perfect hangout to take an easy start to the morning. Also on the morning must-list: The Landing's ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter; they’re as divine as Harbour Island itself. For lunch, Sip Sip continues to reign supreme as the de facto midday hub of local life. Order the lobster quesadilla.

They're classics for a reason, and you cannot say you've been to the Bahamas, much less the Out Islands, without a decent conch salad and at least one Goombay Smash. At Queen Conch, every conch salad is assembled from scratch, so watch your conch, tomatoes, onions, sour orange, and goat peppers go from chopping board to plate. And you must have at least one Goombay Smash—the Bahamas' official drink is composed of white rum, dark rum, and coconut rum in pineapple juice with a Myers's floater. The Rock House ups the ante by doing them frozen.

The sunset views from the terrace of The Rock House are an elixir unto themselves. And after a night spent over stone crab, fresh fish specials, and Junkanoo pasta with shrimp and lobster, someone's bound to propose.

On neighboring Eleuthera, head to Whale Point for crafted cocktails, organic produce, and local seafood at Tally Bar, the restaurant at Ocean Tally, an alluring property with stunning new cottages.

Where to Stay

On famous Pink Sands Beach, the Ocean View Club's 14 rooms will take your breath away with their dreamy, colorful interiors, Bahamian porches, and turquoise-infused water views. In the heart of Dunmore Town, The Landing will seduce you with its plantation-style lines; 13 crisp, white guest rooms; and Insta-perfect bar. 

Yacht culture, sports fishing, and diving will win your heart at Valentine’s Resort, which has home-like suites, villas and townhouses in a clapboard-clad marina village with a waterfront bar and restaurant.