Valentines Residences, Resort & Marina

Harbour Island, Bahamas


Walking Tour of Harbour Island

posted by on September 30th, 2013

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 three-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 overflowing dump. 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 the map from My Harbour Island

North end, bayside (45 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 Dunmoretown (rest of your life)

North end, bayside

Sarah, matriarch of the straw ladies in BahamasAt the foot of Government Dock you’ll meet Sarah, matriarch of the straw ladies. At 89 she doesn’t open up her stand as often anymore, says she has a touch of “the grouch” in her foot. But you can’t do better than to start off your walk with a hat from her or one of the other vendors.

Just beyond the first few straw vendors is the new fig tree planted to replace the beloved ancient tree that served as town center until its demise in hurricane Floyd. And across from the tree is the Harbour Lounge, originally the dining room for the old Pink Sands hotel across the island. Today it’s one of the best spots to have a drink and watch the sun set.

Little Boarding House at Harbour Island, BahamasThe yellow house at the corner of Bay Street and Murray is Little Boarding House. 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 homes. Just past it is the Loyalist, seen at right, a fine example of the early architecture.

Continuing up Bay Street, each house is a delight. Note particularly the large white one with red trim, Dunmore Cottage. On this site stood the summer home of Lord Dunmore who laid out the town in 1791. Rounding the point, you’ll see up ahead the fisherman’s dock. Partially destroyed by Floyd, this is still the place most people buy fresh grouper, snapper, and conch at days end.

If you continue to the end of Bay Street, you’ll pass the dump on your right and the power station on your left. But just beyond you’ll be rewarded with the sight of the shallow bay called Girls Bank which 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.

North end, bayside beach at BahamasAt this point you can retrace your steps or circle the edge of town by climbing the hill of Coconut Drive. You’ll pass Gusty’s, a place you’ll want to return for nightlife. Four houses beyond is the well-stocked Shells ‘n Tings shop of Iris Lewis. And you’ll be near one of the island’s highest spots with a commanding view from several hundred feet.

At the end of the road turn right onto Nesbit Street. Pass the water tower, Barrack Street,

the ballfield on your right and Angela’s Starfish restaurant on your left, a great place for the best deal meal of fried grouper, salad, peas and rice. 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.

South end, bayside

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 is the new John Bull duty free shop which abuts the 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 Marina and historic residences that get ever more lovely as you approach the end of the street.

Government dock at South end, bayside in BahamasAt the dead end you’ll be rewarded by a lovely view of the bay to the south and of the historic canons 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, before the days of computers—or even card catalogues. Just behind the library is the island’s pride, the new medical clinic completed in 1998.

Head back down Dunmore Street toward town to pass 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.

You are now in the heart of the downtown, just blocks from the Royal Bank of Canada, and Island Real Estate, as well as several gift shops and Chacara lumber, the Walmarts of Harbour Island.

Angle off onto King Street and in another block you’ll come to Blue Sticks gift shop 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.

North end, oceanside

From Arthur’s Bakery, walk south along Dunmore Street and turn left onto Chapel Street. You’ll pass the Methodist Church on your right, the bright yellow Church of God on your left, and then the cemetery on your left.

Keep going past the bougainvilla-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. When you get back to the public access point, we recommend lunch or a drink at the beach bar of one of the hotels. Coral Sands makes a perfect piña colada and offers sandwiches ranging from a hot dog to a lobster salad sandwich. Or if you’re on a budget, a grouper burger at Pink Sand’s Blue Bar could be just the way to sample their classy ambiance.

After lunch stroll 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 the old Oceanview Hotel which is currently 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.

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. Just past the building is an ancient fire truck tethered under a thatched roof like an old mare. This is what stands between the island and destruction by fire.

At the corner you’re back to Dunmore Street. Turn right and you’re just three blocks from Arthur’s Bakery.

South end, oceanside

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 back toward town. You’ll see several dozen beach-front houses—some a lot closer to the water than they used to be before Hurricane Floyd.

After about a mile you’ll pass 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 the former Oceanview Hotel, which is now a private residence. From here on you pick up the route back to town described in the north end oceanside walk above.

South end, interior

Haunted Mansion at Harbour Island Marina, BahamasFor 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 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, and adjacent to the reportedly haunted mansion.

Returning to Colebrook Street, turn left to head back to town. When you reach the big curve to the left, instead turn right and into the driveway of Farmer Anthony, one of the island’s most beloved characters. With any luck, this gentle man who was once a Benedictine monk may have some melons or tomatoes you can buy.

Heading back around the big curve, it’s time to make your choice about lunch: a bayside buffet at Romora Bay Club or a terrific grouper burger under the palms at Ma Ruby’s. It’s a tough enough choice that you may have to come back this way.

Village of Dunmore Town

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.

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