In July 10, 1973, The Bahamas gained governmental independence from the UK. To mark the 50th anniversary, we've revisited our conversation with designer, writer, businesswoman and former fashion model India Hicks, who has lived on Harbour Island with her family for more than two decades.
When I renewed my driver’s licence a few years ago, the agent remarked that I had lived on Harbour Island quite a long time. ‘Yes, I’m practically Bahamian,’ I replied.
My husband, David, and I fell in love with the gentle spirit of this place many years ago and I’m very grateful for the privacy it brings, the small school that my children attended and the fact that they all grew up wild, free, and mostly barefoot.
Despite The Bahamas being tropical, I see distinct seasons: lucky nuts wash up on the beach during certain months, there are cooler evenings in the winter and flame trees bloom in July. September and October are normally the rainiest months and come with the theatre of hurricanes, but we have turquoise waters, pink sands, lots of turtles and the occasional pod of happy dolphins to make up for it.
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I’ve explored nearly every cove and cranny of Harbour Island and larger Eleuthera (above), unoccupied when the first British settlers arrived in the 17th century. The Queens Bath (a collection of natural pools) on the latter is quite extraordinary. Windermere Island, which is joined to Eleuthera by a bridge, is where I spent my holidays as a child.
The year I was born, my father built an alarmingly modern beach house on it, inspired by the Egyptian temple of King Zoser. There are five miles of golden sand, peaceful lagoons and fiery sunsets, and the feeling of Robinson Crusoe-style adventures to be had.
Back on Harbour Island, go to Sweet Spot Cafe, for exotic cocktails, such as an island daiquiri, made from coconut rum, mango pineapple and orange juice, or a Coral Heat, with vodka, grapefruit juice, black pepper, lime and sugar . Cocoa Coffee House makes the best cold-brew coffee and Queen Conch (above) the best conch salad.
The freshly caught conch is removed from its shell, cleaned in saltwater to remove the slop and slime (it gets better, don’t give up reading yet) and then freshwater, sliced up and served with onions, tomatoes, sweet pepper, salt, hot pepper, locally grown sweet oranges and fresh lime. They say it’s an aphrodisiac, which might explain my five children (one, admittedly, is a foster child, but it could have something to do with the other four.)
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Shop at The Sugar Mill in Dunmore Town. I run it with my business partner, Linda, and we are always on the hunt for global brands with a distinct point of view. I often find things on my own travels.
To get a sense of proper island life, a private home is the best way to go. David and I have been hosting guests for decades at Hibiscus Hill Harbour Island — three individual houses, each lovingly built or restored and ready for families, wild children and well-behaved dogs. We like to think we’ve come close to perfecting the art of anticipating what people need when they are here.
Ride horses on the beach and snorkel among the turtles. They’re very famous, but I prefer to stay away from the swimming pigs that, on occasion, have been fed frankfurters. I think a donation to a local charity or foundation is a must if you are a guest on a small island. Take a look at Global Empowerment Mission, which works tirelessly to rebuild the homes and lives of Bahamians affected by Hurricane Dorian.
Best of the rest Harbour Island hotels
A peaceful oasis from the bustling, tiny harbour one block away. The blush-coloured building, built in about 1800, has modern additions, sympathetically added by owner Eleven Experience, all arranged around a central courtyard, a freshwater swimming pool and a tiki bar.
Each of the 11 rooms is exquisitely decorated, with coral and bamboo accents, vintage rattan and sumptuous linens. Wooden shutters shelter you from the endless sun and the bathrooms feature copper fittings, full-sized Malin + Goetz toiletries and a handy necessities basket.
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A collection of cottages and residences — that share a central club house, pickleball courts and fitness centre — on a three mile stretch of pink sand beach.
Inside, the rooms — which nod elegantly towards the 1960s — are all decked out in vintage rattan furniture and China Sea prints.
India Hicks’s insider guide to the Bahamas originally appeared in the January 26, 2022, issue of Country Life magazine. Click here to subscribe and enjoy your first six issues for just £6.