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Harbour Island, Bahamas: Day Trip Travel Guide

I will admit, another reason we chose to stay on Eleuthera during our Bahamas vacation was its proximity to Harbour Island. I had seen this little island pop up on travel guides for the Caribbean, and whenever I saw photos of the famous Pink Sand Beach, my heart fluttered. It seemed to be too good to be true, and I wanted to see it for myself. We couldn't afford to stay on Harbour Island (it tends to be pretty pricey with mostly upscale/luxury hotels), but we did head over for a day trip, and we really loved it.








I will say, though, that we definitely experienced some hiccups on our day trip, so I'm happy to share how to avoid making those same mistakes and maximizing your time on the island, especially if you just go for the day. And boy, is it worth the effort to visit!

In the meantime, if you'd like to read about our stay on Spanish Wells, another lovely and charming tiny island in Eleuthera where we made our home-base, you can pop over here.



Mid-April/2019.



We spent five nights on Eleuthera as part of a trip that also combined Savannah & Charleston. For Harbour Island, we visited for the day.



So, this part is a little tricky, and if you read my post all about Spanish Wells, you may have guessed how we arranged our excursion: Pinder. The morning we wanted to visit, we called Pinder's Supermarket, and arranged for a water taxi from Spanish Wells to Gene's Dock on North Eleuthera, then a taxi from the dock to another dock that has regular water taxis to Harbour Island. We grabbed one of those water taxis, and arrived on Harbour Island. Make sure you have cash for all the taxis (it was a bit more than we were expecting - about $80 RT for both of us). Online, we read the whole thing could take up to an hour and half, but both ways, it only took us about 35 minutes each way total. Pinder's services provided the water taxi from Spanish Wells and North Eleuthera as well as the car taxi to the Harbour Island dock, which made it very seamless. We have the driver a time we'd be back at the dock for pick-up, and they met us exactly on time.







If you're staying on the main island of Eleuthera, you'd just have to rent a car to drive to a Harbour Island dock, or get a taxi to bring you. If you're staying in central Eleuthera, you can use Three Islands Dock close at Governor's Harbor to pick up your water taxi. We took a ferry from North Eleuthera somewhere near the airport, but sadly, I have no idea what the name of the dock was. From there, you just grab any available ferry, which look like small fishing boats. We were very unsure what to do when we got there because it's all very casual, so we just asked around. Someone pointed to a small boat, and when we walked over to it, we just asked, "Is this going to Harbour Island?" and they said, "Yes, hop on in." When we were using it, it was mostly locals going to the island to work for the day. It was an adventure for sure!



Once we were on Harbour Island, here's where we made our first mistake: we didn't rent a golf cart, despite the fact that everyone online, and everyone we ran into, told us to. While looking at everything we wanted to do on Harbour Island, the maps made it seem very easy to get around. It's a small island (only 3.5 miles long), and we primarily wanted to just explore the beach and the main town since it was only a day trip. We also thought if we felt like it later in the afternoon, we would walk to one side of the island to explore en foot because we both enjoy walking.

Well, friends, this was a huge mistake, and let me share why.

Yes, the island is small, and yes, it's pretty manageable, but there are no sidewalks, and it was way busier than we thought it would be. And walking was not enjoyable for the most part. On some of the smaller side streets in the morning when we first got there, walking around was lovely. We could take our time, stop and take photos at pretty houses and sites. But the main roads were busy with cars and golf carts flying by us, and we could never walk next to each other because we had to single-file to avoid being hit by motorized vehicles. They were also very loud since the streets are so small, so really, it took all the enjoyment out of walking around. We both agreed that if we got a do-over, regardless of our plans, even if we just planned to do the beach, we'd both without hesitation pay the $50 to rent a golf cart for the day.






To rent a cart, you can Google places online and reserve in advance, and they also have them available right at the dock as you first enter the island. Our AirBnB host told us to never pay more than $50 for a day trip because standard rates are $50 for 24 hours. When we first did some research online before we decided to not rent one, the cheapest I found was $45 for a day. You could try to negotiate if you plan on only being there for a day trip, but from what we read, just plan to spend about $50.







I loved this house because of the neutral colors and wood tones - totally my jam.



Pink Sand Beach
As I said, this was the main reason I wanted to visit Harbour Island. The beach, actually and simply called Pink Sand Beach, has been referenced as one of the best beaches in the Bahamas, and sometimes in all of the Caribbean. We pretty much made a beeline for the beach after getting off our ferry (after first making a quick pitstop at Arthur's Bakery in town for some snacks- but more on that below). We had also read online that you could rent beach chairs and umbrellas at any of the public access points of the beach, which we definitely took advantage of because it was only $20 for two lounge chairs and an umbrella with a small little table - and you got them the entire day. Just make sure you bring cash! Prices vary at different locations, and we read online to bring $30 in cash just in case.



The sand at this beach was definitely the pinkest we saw on our trip.

That pastel hue is not exaggerated in the photo - that's how it looked!




A lot of people enhance the saturation of the sand in photos, but you can see that's it's rather subtle in person.
The general consensus seems to be the sand's pink hue comes from years of broken coral and shell pieces
that mixed with the sand. It really was so soothing and pretty to look at. 



Friends, this beach was everything I hoped it would be. We got there via Chapel St, following it all the way to the end where beach access begins (past Coral Sands and Pink Sands hotels). You'll see signs in town that will point you in the direction of the beach. Many hotels on the beach block off access because it's private for hotel guests only, so be sure to look for public beach access (it's easier to find than you think). You'll see the rental shacks right as you enter, and many of them also offer drinks (alcoholic included!) and snacks, and your beach chair rental will also include use of giant floaties! At least, it did at our location.


Entrance to Pink Sand Beach from Chapel St.

The chair rental area. Get there early to grab one in the front row!

The chair rental shack, which also offered drinks and snacks. 

And the beach? It was perfection. We got there around 10:30a and they hadn't scraped the seaweed yet, but they were working on it. But it really was beautiful, pastel-hued, soft, powdering pink sand with warm, turquoise waters. You could easily walk for a while on the shoreline, and it wasn't super crowded. It was just such a great day, and one of our favorites of all our days in the Bahamas. Bring some snacks, order some drinks, pop open a book, take a nap, go for a dip - I mean, does it get any better than that?


Snorkeling isn't great here, but Josh needed to try anyway.
It's really more of a swimming and relaxing beach.

Thankfully we got chairs in the front row with a perfect view of the water.
I wish we could have stayed all day until sunset.


To be honest, beyond that, we didn't do much because of our golf cart mistake. After beach time and lunch, we thought we'd walk around and explore the island a little, and we didn't get very far before we just decided to walk back to the beach again and soak up the view for another hour or two before heading back to the ferry. Even though we left our chairs, when we came back, the lady recognized us, and since we bought drinks, she let us lounge around on some chairs for an hour or so.

Shops
Before heading back to the beach, we did pop into a couple of shops: Sugar Mill Trading Co and Blue Rooster. I was a little underwhelmed by Sugar Mill, and didn't really finding anything that caught my eye. It's owned by India Hicks, a model who now lives on the island, and everyone seemed to speak very highly of the shop. It just wasn't my style. Blue Rooster was more appealing to me. It was a lot of beach wear and apparel, but I loved their jewelry selection. Much of it was very expensive, though, so I walked out empty-handed, but enjoyed my time strolling through and looking at their pieces. Beyond that, there weren't many other shops. A few stands and shacks when you get off the ferry with more touristy items: handbags, hats, etc., but the shopping isn't something you should come to the island for.

Inside Sugar Mill Trading Co.


The Lone Tree
Because of our golf cart issue, we didn't quite make it here, but I'd like to visit next time. This little tree arrived on Harbour Island around 1992 during a hurricane, and just kind of landed in an upright position on the shore near Girls Bank on Bank Street. It looked like a cool little site online, and I wish we had gotten to see it, so I would suggested seeking it out during your visit if you have the time.



Since we were only here for the day, we just grabbed a quick bite at a cafe in the morning, and also stopped for lunch, but we loved both places we visited.

Arthur's Bakery
Located in town, and close to the ferry drop-off point, you should definitely stop here when visiting. It's a pink building with painted fruits and breads on its shutters. We ordered a variety of breakfast pastries to bring to the beach with us including coconut bread (Which we also snacked on every morning during our vacation since it's a full loaf of bread), a cinnamon stick, cinnamon bun and something else that I honestly can't remember, but I know it was amazing. I also grabbed a mango & passionfruit smoothie, which was equally as delicious. Everything from here was so, so good and I still think about that coconut bread. Arthur's also takes cards, which is a plus.



Inside Arthur's Bakery.




Sip Sip
From what we read online, you have to go here, especially if it's your first time to Harbour Island. We usually don't opt to go to the hot spot whenever we visit places, but the general consensus seemed to be your island experience would not be complete without a meal at Sip Sip. And so, off we went! When we were ready to leave our beach chairs, we actually just walked along the shore to Sip Sip since it's right on the water. It was about a 10-minute or so walk.

The walk to Sip Sip - not too bad, amiright?


Once there, we meandered up the beach to get to the staircase leading to the restaurant, and lucky us, we got a table for 2 right away! Once we left, the wait times seemed to be pretty long because quite a few people were outside.

The staircase that leads right to Sip Sip from the beach.


I'm so, so happy we decided to go here and I now understand that it's popular for a very good reason. The food was spectacular and the drinks were fresh and delightful. The atmosphere can't be beat, with a deck overlooking the beach (sadly, we got a table further back on the deck, so we weren't right up against the edge where we could see the beach, but even from where we sat, we could still see the water). There were only a few tables inside the restaurant not on the deck and the bar is also inside, where you can grab a drink while you wait for your table. 

I got the lobster quesadillas, and at $45, it hurt to order them. But honestly, they were worth it (and we knew going into it that food in the Bahamas is pricey). Josh got a blackened beet salad, which he loved. I also ordered a Goombay Smash, which is a popular drink in the Bahamas (and also, what I ordered everywhere else we went on vacation because I loved it so much).








- I repeat, get a golf cart!

- One thing I had read online before our trip was that Harbour Island is often referred to the Nantucket of the Bahamas. Once we got there, I didn't really see that. I loved our time here, but one thing to note is that while it's a more luxury destination with multi-million dollar homes, fancy hotels and upscale restaurants, it's still also very rural. Much like our time on Eleuthera and Spanish Wells, we saw chickens and roosters in the roads, passed by goats and saw some equally dilapidated homes. Shopping isn't a huge activity on the island, either. None of that is bad, and is certainly should not deter you from the island, but for those reasons, it was just different than what we pictured in our heads. In fact, all of those things made it an even more special and unique island to me. It's just something to be aware of. Most people come here for the beach, the restaurants, a bit of luxury if staying at a hotel, and a small island feel.

- Bring cash for beach rentals if you need them.

- The geography of the island is hillier than I imagined. Golf carts would have been nice for that reason as well. Just be prepared if you're walking, there are some steeper inclines. For that reason, this combined with the heat made for even more uncomfortable walking.

- Spend most of your time at the beach when doing a day trip. Get there early (around 9a if you can) and maximize your time here. In our opinion, it's the star of the island, and also, why locals come here. If you want to break away from your beach chair rentals for lunch, ask them to hold them for you (we saw quite a few chairs with "reserved" signs on them, and we're pretty sure people were breaking away and coming back throughout the day. We wish we had come back right after lunch for another swim since we loved the beach so much.

- If you get the golf cart, budget about 1-2 hours to drive around. The side streets are so lovely, and you'll get to see the whole island, which I wish we had done. There's always next time! Because we definitely want there to be a next time.

I loved our time on Harbour Island, and as much as we had the one big regret, we'd go back in a heartbeat if (when!) we visit the Bahamas again. Do you have a favorite island in the Bahamas or Caribbean you like to visit?



Gingham Ruffle Dress: J.Crew Factory
Panama Hat: J.Crew Factory
Blue Wrap Swimsuit: Old Navy (order the Tall size, even if you're short-waisted)
Blue-Striped Backpack: Color discontinued, but a Navy version is available here.
Sunglasses are Warby Parker, but no longer available (the style is called Banks if you fancy yourself an eBay hunt).





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