It’s hard for us to keep a straight face sometimes when friends ask, “So, what’s to see in Harbour Island.”
“What’s not to see?” we’re tempted to reply.
Everywhere you look in Harbour Island, there’s something to bathe your eyeballs: pastel cottages dappled by crimson bougainvillea, sensuous palms, a turquoise bay studded by yachts and working boats, and of course, that gorgeous 3-mile beach.
That’s not to say that everything is pristine. You’ll also see dilapidated houses, rusting cars, chickens feasting in trash cans, and unfortunately, an occasional fellow who’s had too much to drink. If you want a total Hollywood stage set, this is not the place for you. But if you keep your eyes open, you’ll see something unique and interesting everywhere you walk.
Here are a few suggestions for where to head. You can plot them out on our map.
North end, bayside (1 hr or 1 hour 30 minutes: historic homes, a lovely bay, a steep walk to a grand vista)
South end, bayside (30 minutes: historic homes, the library, and town center)
North end, oceanside (1 hour 15 minutes: churches, beach, some cool resorts, public buildings)
South end, oceanside (1 hour: serious beach walking)
South end, interior (1 hour: Ma Ruby’s, Romora, Harbour Island Marina, and farmer Anthony)
Village of Dunmore Town (rest of your life)
Start where you came in, at Government Dock.
At the foot of Government Dock you’ll find the traditional local straw market. You can’t do better than to start off your walk with a sun hat from Eva. Competition with the newer upscale shopping is tough, so offer to pay her if you want to photograph her colorful stand.
Just beyond the first few stalls is the fig tree whose ancestors hosted the town bulletin board until the coming of phones. Across from the tree is a pink private residence that was formerly the Harbour Lounge, dining room for the old Pink Sands hotel across the island.
The house at the corner of Bay Street and Murray is Little Boarding House, once featured on the TV show “House Hunters.” Over 200 years old, it is currently a private home but was the town’s first boarding house originally run by two sisters who also held the first Catholic mass in their home.
Just past it is the Loyalist, the oldest house on the island and another fine example of the early architecture.
Continuing up Bay Street, each house is a delight. Note particularly the large white one with blue trim, Dunmore Cottage. On this site stood the summer home of Lord Dunmore who laid out the town in 1791 (see nutshell history).
At the point, step put onto the old cement dock at Fort Point, and enjoy the view across the bay to Eleuthera, referred to locally as “the mainland” or simply, “the land.” You may see a local taking her daily swim.
Rounding the point you’ll see up ahead the fisherman’s dock. Come here to purchase the day’s catch of fresh grouper, snapper, lobster, and conch.
Beyond the dock several food stalls and bars make up Briland’s “Soho.” Here you can purchase a meal to take out or a drink to watch the sun set with. Stop at Queen Conch to watch Lavon Percentie chop fresh tomato, onion, and lime into her conch salad. It’s the ceviche of the Bahamas. For big games, folks gather round the big screen out over the water at Beyond the Reef.
If you continue to the end of Bay Street, you’ll pass the power plant and refuse transfer station on your left. But just beyond you’ll be rewarded with the sight of the shallow bay called Girls Bank which was is presided over by a solitary driftwood tree. The tree is a draw for many international fashion shoots, and the crystalline water beckons you to wade out several hundred yards before you’re up to your knees. A favorite spot for bone fishing and even an occasional wedding.
At this point you can choose the short or long way home. The short way is to round the bend and turn right onto Dunmore Street. It will take you back into the heart of town passing the tennis court and ball field, with Angela’s Starfish restaurant on your left–often the only non-hotel restaurant that’s open Sunday night. Then just four more blocks till you’re back at Arthur’s Bakery.
The long way to finish this walk is to climb the hill of Coconut Drive. You’ll pass Gusty’s, a bar for the night owls. Four houses beyond on the right is the well-stocked Shells ‘n Tings shop of Iris Lewis. Then you’re at one of the island’s highest spots with a commanding view from several hundred feet.
At the end of the Coconut Drive turn right onto Nesbit Street. Pass the water tower, Barrack Street, the ballfield on your right and Angela’s Starfish restaurant on your left. Turn left past Angela’s and you’re on the main street of town Dunmore Street.
Four blocks down on the right is Arthur’s Bakery. And you definitely deserve a latte and a pineapple muffin.
From Government dock, head south along Bay Street. At the foot of the dock is the gracious Landing hotel and restaurant housed in the original customs house. Just beyond are stone steps leading up to Rock House hotel. A subterranean entrance at street level is shuttered by blue padlocked doors.
Continuing down Bay Street you’ll pass Valentine’s Resort and Marina. Walk out to their bar for a great view of yachts from around the world.
Beyond Valentines are historic residences that get ever more lovely as you
approach the end of the street. At the dead end you’ll be rewarded by a lovely view of the bay to the south and of the historic cannons at Roundhead.
Turn back from the dead end, and take the first right onto South Street. At the end of the block you’ll come to the beautiful pink Sir George Robert’s Library under two of the most magnificent trees on the island. Be sure to step into the library if it’s open to view an exhibit of photos of island history as well as to experience the pure essence of libraryness. Just behind the library is the island’s pride, the new medical clinic completed in 1998.
Coming out of the library turn right to back down Dunmore Street. You’ll pass the Royal Bank of Canada and a mini mall with an office supply store. At the next corner is one of the Island’s quirkiest sites, “Uncle Ralph’s Aura Corner.” Local house painter and convivial roustabout “Uncle Ralph” Sawyer has permitted generations of tourists to add to his collection of eclectic hand-painted signs with sayings such as, “When you’re skating on thin ice, you might as well dance,” or “You are the puzzle piece that fell behind the sofa that completes the sky,” and a few less printable. Leave some change if you take a photo; Ralph will give it to the medical clinic.
Continuing, you’ll pass the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, and Miss Mae’s Fine Things before arriving at the tiny triangular park that commemorates Harbour Island’s first doctor. Sit a spell at the fountain knowing you’re at the center of town. On your right are the Island Treasure gift shop and the Methodist Church. To your left on King Street is is Chacara Lumber, the Walmart of Harbour Island. Drop in if you still love old timey hardware stores.
Continuing on King Street, in another block you’ll come to the Sand Dollar and the Blue Rooster gift shops and Pigly Wigly food store. Turn right at this corner, go just one more block, and you arrive, surprise, at Arthur’s Bakery. Time for a cappuccino, or, if it’s lunch time, maybe a lobster sandwich.
From Arthur’s Bakery, walk south along Dunmore Street and turn left onto Chapel Street. You’ll pass the Methodist Church on your right largest building on the island, then the Lighthouse Church of God on your left– site of the island’s most intense praise music on Sundays. In another block you’ll pass the cemetery on your left.
Keep going past the bougainvillea-shrouded entrance to Pink Sands Resort on your left and then Coral Sands Hotel on your right. The road turns into a public access path down to the beach, and after just a few steps, a blast of full-out Caribbean blue overwhelms you with a sudden desire to say a prayer of thanksgiving.
Turn left to walk north along the beach. Every hundred yards you go adds about a million to the value of the properties you can just glimpse the roofs of along the bluff.
Unfortunately, the few public access points to the road behind these houses can be hard to find, so you’ll have to retrace your steps. We recommend you plan to have lunch eventually at both the classy hotel beach bars that flank the public access point you came in on. Coral Sands makes a perfect piña colada and offers sandwiches ranging from a hot dog to a lobster salad. Pink Sand’s Blue Bar also offers a lobster salad; it gives your mouth something to do while your eyes try to count the shades of blue they’re drinking in.
After lunch stroll south down the beach a few hundred yards past Dunmore Beach Club to the next public access point indicated by steps and an orange life ring.
You’ll come up alongside Sip Sip, another good lunch spot, and the old Oceanview Hotel which is now a private residence.
Proceed straight down Court Road to pass children playing outside the bright yellow All Ages School and then Batelco, home of the local Bahamas Telephone Company. You can rent a cell phone there.
As you cross Colebrook Street, the street you’re on becomes Gaol Street. It’s pronounced like “jail” and in fact is the site of the jail as well as the magistrate’s office and post office. Across from them is the Commissioner’s residence, site of large public gatherings including the annual Christmas tree lighting.
At the corner you’re back to Dunmore Street. Turn right and you’re just three blocks from Arthur’s Bakery.
From Government dock, hire a taxi and ask them to take you south to Third Reef, that’s the southernmost access point to the beach. At the beach, turn left to walk north back toward town.
You’ll walk about a mile on pink sand, passing several dozen beach-front houses before you see Runaway Hill Club with its hibiscus mural fronting on its oceanside pool. Beyond Runaway is a tumble of small cottages that were originally built as bathhouses for those with homes in town.
You can cut back to the road at the access stairs at brightly painted Sip Sip. From here on you pick up the route back to town described in the north end oceanside walk above.
For this one we recommend a bicycle, rented perhaps from Michael’s Cycles on Colebrook Street near Love Lane. From Michael’s, turn left to go south on Colebrook. You’ll pass the colorful Avery’s restaurant on your left and Seagrapes nightclub and the medical clinic on your right.
Ride right on by Ma Ruby’s restaurant on the left and the entrance to Romora Bay Club on your right at the turn. We’ll be recommending you stop at one of these for lunch on the swing back.
Follow the left/right curve in the road and ride about another mile passing the old air strip. At the end of the road is Southbar, a private residential development. Swing back and follow the signs to the Harbour Island Marina, a good place to stop for a drink. It’s adjacent to the reportedly haunted mansion.
Returning to Colebrook Street, turn left to head back to town. Just before the big curve to the left, stop at A&A gift stand. The first “A” is farmer Anthony, a notable local character who farmed this patch until ill health forced his retirement. You may want to ask the second “A,” his daughter Angela, if he’s up for a visit to tell you about his past as a Benedictine monk and gun runner.
Heading back around the big curve, it’s time to make your choice about lunch: a bayside buffet at Romora Bay Club or “cheeseburger in paradise” under the palms at Ma Ruby’s. It’s a tough enough choice that you may have to come back this way.
Once you’ve taken the walks listed above, you’ll have seen most of the significant sights. But every side street is worth seeing, and there’s nowhere it’s unsafe to walk. So just wander around some.
All roads lead back to Arthur’s Bakery eventually.