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Bahamas with the Kids: Harbour Island Essentials

by Christina Ohly

Photo: Virginia Osborne

It's not that this three-mile stretch of sand in the Bahamas is unknown. It’s that Harbour Island's relative inaccessibility has kept developers, big hotels, and obnoxious types away. Their loss is your gain: delicious food, the most pristine pink sand beach on the planet, just enough nightlife, and a pleasingly international vibe. (Nassau is an easy flight from Europe, which explains the Brits, the Italians, the French.) The perfect mix of local warmth and nice amenities, Harbour Island is a far cry from the kids clubs and sprawling spas so common at mega resorts. In other words, the island may be pricey, but that won’t stop the chickens and lizards from wandering across your patio.

WHERE TO STAY

The two-bedroom casitas at Pink Sands are great for families. The Balinese vibe was cultivated by the former owner, British music exec-turned-hotelier Chris Blackwell, and it leaves you feeling even farther away. The beach is gorgeous and the water is calm, clear, and shallow. Just down the path is Blue Bar, great for patio dining overlooking the sea — and for a Goombay Smash, the killer Bahamian rum drink that will kick anyone's ass. Coral Sands next door is under the same management and is another good option for cool parents and kids. Both properties have saltwater pools, but neither has fancy fitness facilities.

WHERE TO EAT

Head to town. The Landing is incomparable: amazing local ingredients (langoustines, grouper, fresh chicken curry), refined yet simple cuisine, a beautiful setting under trees, twinkling lights. Kids love the easy feeling of the India Hicks-backed venture; parents love lazing on outdoor settees aside the odd luminary. The Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz, Uma and Arki — all island regulars. (For more info, read The Landing postcard.) Mornings must begin with freshly baked Bahamian herb bread or croissants at Arthur's Bakery.

When you’re ready for a night without the progeny, ask Pink Sands to call a sweet sitter and head to Rock House for the gay/Euro/fabulous scene and the cuisine. Here, too, the focus is on fresh, locally caught fish and ingredients. The crowd stays late, lounging on couches around a central, sleek pool area. How totally Ibiza. 

WHAT TO DO

My kids loved taking a guided boat ride with Duke, a local conch and bone fisherman. Just ask for him at the town dock. The affable Duke picks up starfish, follows sea turtles, and finds shallow bays where kids can swim. Golf carts are de riguer on Harbour Island, and what kid doesn’t love a golf cart? The snorkeling is terrific, as is watching the conch guys come in with the day’s catch and clean the beautiful shells. It won’t take much to make you happy here. 

WHERE TO SHOP

All ages love the Dilly Dally, located at the main intersection in town, for Bahamamian straw goods, "briland" tees, postcards, and jewelry and ornaments crafted from pink conch shells. (In other words, the irresistible trinkets you buy on holiday and start questioning on the plane ride home.) India Hicks' Sugar Mill is the glamorous source for caftans, European finds, and beach gear. Ditto the Blue Rooster on King Street, where you'll find gorgeous sundresses, scarves, and unique sandals. Even a trip to mini-supermarket The Piggly Wiggly is good fun, just to see what came in on the boat from the mainland that day.

Christina, a Fathom contributing editor, writes about travel, food, fashion, and design for the Financial Times' How to Spend It, Town & Country, and Conde Nast Traveler. She travels the world to teach her kids (and herself) about the world around them.

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