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Briland: Quiet For Good Reason
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Posted by:Jun 14th 2011, 03:32:44 pm
Fig Tree News Team

June 14, 2011
Absolute serenity in the Bahamas
One of the most beautiful spots in the Caribbean

By Steve MacNaull, Special to QMI Agency

Ranked best in the Bahamas, if not the whole Caribbean, Pink Sands Beach on Harbour Island runs the entire 5-km east coast of the island. (STEVE MACNAULL/Special to QMI Agency)

There's nothing to do on pretty little Harbour Island in the Bahamas.

And that's exactly why residents and tourists like it.

Or rather love it.

The 2,000 full-time residents are a happy bunch, waving at every passerby and more-than-willing to extoll the virtues of this 5-km long by 1-km wide slice of tropical paradise just off the coast of North Eleuthera.

And 98% of the tourists on the island are repeat visitors.

That means my wife and I, who visited for five days as Harbour Island newbies, are more than likely to be back.

"Harbour Island can be whatever you want it to be," Coral Sands Resort manager Pamela Barry explains to me while we're staying there at a stunning oceanfront cottage.

"Sure, we have guests who hole up in their cottage and venture no farther than the beach."

And what a beach it is.

Consistently ranked the best in the Bahamas, if not the Caribbean, Pink Sands Beach is a wide swath of powdery eye candy that runs the entire length of the east coast of the island.

And the 39-room Coral Sands holds pride of place right smack dab in the middle.

If you're not careful, you'll find yourself gushing about the pink-hued sand's texture and the way it reflects light when covered by the shallow gin-clear waters and light green and turquoise when submerged under deeper water.

The odd cloud isn't a problem in the almost violet sky, But Barry also has suggestions for getting out and about, if so inclined.

With a golf cart for novelty transportation - even though there isn't a golf course on Harbour Island - there are a bunch of things to see and do, none of them heart-thumping or monumental, but all of them memorable and life changing in their own little way.

There's coffee and breakfast to be eaten at Arthur's Bakery, an island institution for it's famous cinnamon buns.

Necessities have to be picked up at Bristol's liquor store (some native Kalik beer and Chilean white wine, perhaps) and the Piggley Wiggley grocer.

Shopping runs the gamut from affordable souvenirs at Dilly Dally (easy to find with all the arrow signs declaring "Dilly Dally up dere") to trendy at ex-model and Princess Diana's bridesmaid India Hick's boutique The Sugar Mill on the main street.

Speaking of the main street, it's called Bay Street and it's one of only a dozen streets on the whole island.

You can't get lost walking or driving your golf cart on Harbour Island because every street eventually leads to where you're going, even if it's via the opposite direction after hitting a dead end.

Harbour Island isn't the bragging sort of place, but it is home to the most photographed place in the Bahamas, the oldest nightclub in the Bahamas and the Cheeseburger in Paradise.

The cheeseburger is rustled up by Ma Ruby, the 77-year-old matriarch at the restaurant of the same name that served Jimmy Buffet and inspired his hit Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Vic-Hum Club has been in business for 56 consecutive years and is the quintessential island dive bar with rusting car licence plate decor and an outdoor dance floor.

The most photographed place is the Lone Tree, a.k.a the Model Tree, at Girl's Bank - a shallow water bay.

The giant piece of driftwood was somehow planted there upright in 1992 by hurricane Andrew and almost immediately photographers and their models - from honeymooning couples to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue - came a snapping.

The highest our heart rates get is from strolling along the beach and taking Valentine's Marina's snorkel tour to nearby Man Island to drift over coral heads with colourful triggerfish, tangs, parrotfish and the odd sea turtle, stingray and barracuda.

It's not a holiday if you don't gain a couple of pounds.

Easy enough to do at the Coral Sands lunch terrace overlooking the beach and ocean; its nighttime dining room; the restaurant at Runaway Hill (the little inn owned by ex-Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers hockey star Mark Messier); and the two-tier verandah restaurant at Rock House Hotel, considered to be the best on the island.

Island specialties tend to be snapper and grouper fish, done a variety of ways from gently sauteed to blackened.

Some 25% of Canadians who visit the Bahamas now do so in the summer.

With it no longer just a winter destination, Air Canada and WestJet continue daily non-stop Toronto-Nassau flights year-round.

Harbour Island is a short flight via North Eleuthera or ferry ride from Nassau.

Overnight rates at the Coral Sands Resort start at $250 US for a hotel room, $600 US for an oceanfront cottage.

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