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Bahama House

Harbour Island’s hideaway.

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There are those who escape by way of flashy casinos or resorts, and then there are those who escape by simply escaping. Harbour Island, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, is a mere sliver in the archipelago made up of the Bahamas’ 700-plus islands. The more populated Bahamian hubs welcome cruise ships and boast resort behemoths, but Harbour Island sits apart from them. Accessible only by boat—the nearest airport is a 10-minute water taxi ride away on North Eleuthera—it is part of the Out Islands or, as locals proudly qualify them, “the family islands—the real Bahamas.”

The famous pink sand beaches lining Harbour Island are not quite the hot pink you find filtered on Instagram; in reality, the sandscape is a soft coral canvas, the flecks being the crushed shells of microscopic reef-dwelling creatures called foraminifera. Harbour Island is the place where Bill Gates, Usher, and Jennifer Aniston are said to hide away—though vacationing celebrities go undisturbed by the 1,700 or so Brilanders (“BRY-landers” is the term for the island’s locals, from the words “Harbour Islanders” running together), who predominantly navigate the island by way of golf carts. Nowhere is this tranquility more apparent than within the white picket fence of Bahama House, an Eleven Experience property that’s considered the place to stay on Harbour Island.

Accessible only by boat, Harbour Island is part of the Out Islands or, as locals proudly qualify them, “the family islands—the real Bahamas.”

Opening the front gate reveals a secret garden of palms, hibiscus, crinum lily, and mahogany trees enveloping the lodging’s gabled dwellings. Debuting as Bahama House in December 2016, the property dates back to the 19th century. Composed of 11 suites built in a colonial style with a touch of tropical joie de vivre, the collective details amount to what general manager Anne Ward terms a “high in tech, high in vintage” aesthetic: bamboo and rattan furniture are juxtaposed with the hypermodern amenities guests have come to expect (tablet-controlled temperature and lighting). Little comforts—scented candles, stocked mini-fridge with quick nibbles and local beer—make for a truly cozy stay.

By day, the shaded outdoor bar—mere steps from the freshwater lap pool—is the place for a Sky Juice cocktail (surprisingly refreshing sips of gin, coconut water, and condensed milk), while an alcove rum bar proffers over 50 selections for a nightcap. Bahama House does not have a restaurant on-site, but chef-prepared breakfasts of fresh fruit smoothies, puff pastry guava braids, and lobster omelettes come together in a tucked-away kitchen; for some evening bites, fried conch fritters are a Bahamian must-try. At the Landing and Rock House restaurants, only a stroll away, seafood-forward dishes rule the menus and ocean views set the scene.

There’s no restaurant on-site, but chef-prepared breakfasts of fresh fruit smoothies, puff pastry guava braids, and lobster omelettes come together in a tucked-away kitchen.

The waters surrounding Harbour Island beckon and an array of activities are on offer, with the promise of snorkelling boat tours to nearby caves, scuba diving for all skill levels, and bonefishing and deep-sea fishing excursions guided by expert captains. Preparation begins long before you set foot on the island, with a Bahama House experience manager creating a tailored itinerary so that upon arrival, you are set to enjoy the carefree pace of island time.

Bahama House is the only tropical destination in the portfolio of Eleven Experience, a Colorado-based hospitality collection whose roster includes five properties and one boat globally: Crested Butte and Almont in Colorado, a chalet tucked into the French Alps, a converted Icelandic sheep farm, as well as a Hatteras yacht that sails the Everglades and South Andros in the Bahamas. Known for delivering adventure-focused programming (think mountain biking, fly-fishing, and heli-skiing), Eleven Experience beckons “adventure capitalists” to partake in authentic experiences that reach “beyond the perfect 10”. True to this ethos, Bahama House delivers an island adventure with an emphasis on unwinding. From a shoreside of rosy grains, the waters stretch in a gradient from brilliant turquoise to a horizon of deepest indigo with no apparent end in sight, making for a beach day quite unlike any other.

Photos courtesy of Eleven Experience.

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March 28, 2018