Bahama House, Harbour Island: A 19th century paradise perfect for a 21st century escape

Tucked away to the north of Eleuthera is the Bahamian paradise of Harbour Island, where you'll find the delightful Bahama House Hotel. Melanie Bryan paid a visit.

Situated a jet plane, a small plane, a taxi, a water taxi and, finally, a golf-cart ride away, Harbour Island isn’t the easiest place to get to, but it’s worth it. A private haunt of the rich and famous, this three mile by half-a-mile island is described as the Caribbean’s crown jewel.

Bahama House, one of the island’s newer residences, is 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 featuring a blissfully warm lap pool and equally blissful – albeit for other reasons – tiki bar.

Bahama House, Harbour Island, Bahamas

Sleeping a maximum of 22 guests, each of the 11 rooms is exquisitely decorated, with coral and bamboo accents, vintage rattan and sumptuous linens. Colonial-style wooden shutters shelter you from the endless sun and the quietly whirring fans on the perfectly white-washed high ceilings gently cool you.

Mix in the odd, quirky wooden skull, sea shell artwork or wicker monkey lamp and you have an achingly cool, yet wonderfully homely space to relax in – yet one with a touch of James Bond gadgetry, thanks to the hi-tech panels resembling iPads which let you control everything from air conditioning and lighting to shower temperature and background music. The bathrooms follow suit: think with copper fittings, walk-in rain showers and full-sized Malin + Goetz toiletries and a handy necessities basket.

Bahama House, Harbour Island, Bahamas

For all its calm and serenity, what sets Bahama House apart is infectiously cheery experience manager, Richard Bullard. He can arrange anything, including a water-based sightseeing excursion on the hotel’s 37ft boat (turtles, stingrays and dolphins are among the friendly locals), at the drop of a hat. A visit to Sand Dollar Beach is a must —this stretch of sand in the middle of the ocean is best enjoyed with a Goombay Smash cocktail.

Bahama House is open from November to July 31. Rooms from $600 (£455) per night, based on two people sharing, including breakfast, après-snacks, pre-arrival planning and round-trip transfers from North Eleuthera airport. It’s also available for exclusive hire; see for more details. 

Bahama House

Food and drink

The all-inclusive breakfast is a particular highlight – fresh fruit and juices, a dizzying array of warm pastries and a daily hot special – the coconut French toast with maple bacon is one to watch out for. And come sunset, enjoy chef Nikoya Lightbourne’s local stone-crab claws at the tiki bar with a refreshing Bahamamama or Coconut Sky Juice.

Bahama House, Harbour Island, Bahamas

Coconut French toast by Chef Niki Lightbourne (Pic: Melanie Bryan)

If you’re heading out, don’t miss the chance of grabbing some conch fritters and spicy sauce from one of the harbourfront shacks. For something fancier, however, there are couple of lovely options. The Landing has a main room dominated by a huge portrait of first Miss Bahamas, and serves up delicious seafood. There’s also the recently-renovated Dunmore Beach Club, where you can sit on the verandah and eat a spicy grouper curry or Caribbean bouillabaisse while you watch the moon slowly rise over endless pink sands and crystal-clear blue sea.

Things to do

Hit the beach

Harbour Island’s beach is famous for its pink sands created by coral fragments. Go snorkelling on the reef or try your hand at canoeing, paddleboarding or boogie boarding or just lay back under a parasol and read a book while drinking in the immense beauty of it all.


Jump on a beach cruiser bike to explore the local area and you’ll find all manner of beachwear, homewares and jewellery in the boutiques around town, including the Dilly Dally (handpainted signs around town will tell you to ‘Dilly Dally Dis Way’ and ‘Dilly Dally Dat Way’), the Blue Rooster or India Hick’s famous Sugar Bay boutique. You can also ask hotel staff how to get to Alice’s – she made all the rugs in the rooms by hand, and came in to the property to stitch them together personally. Her little store has a fine array of rattan bags, beach hats and other natural souvenirs.

See where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean

Take a day trip to North Eleuthra island, where you can view the meeting point of the stormy, dark-blue Atlantic and calmer, aquamarine Caribbean from the Glass Window Bridge.

BA fly direct to the Bahamas five times a week – and you can find more places to stay in the Bahamas here

No, he’s not an extra from Death in Paradise – this really is the local police chief (Pic: Melanie Bryan)