Start in Nassau, Then Explore Harbour Island
With the beginning of spring finally in sight, the 700 tropical islands and cays of the Bahamas are calling our name. But where to begin? The best flights are into Nassau, so set up camp there for a couple days before hopping a 30-minute flight to Harbour Island, which is known for pastel colonial homes, pink sand beaches and golf carts in lieu of cars. The beautiful Bahamian islands have long attracted the rich and famous, but fear not: It’s all charm and no pretension.
Where to Stay
The One & Only Ocean Club, Nassau
The One & Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island Drive feels like a European private estate--complete with a personal butler, classical sculpture garden and decor fit for a queen (albeit a queen who enjoys a little rum punch). Start your day with yoga by the sea, then laze by the infinity pool, nosh on a lobster club and gingered beet salad and take your relaxation to the next level with a four-handed massage. Oh, and there’s also complimentary children and teen programs, plus free passes to Atlantis's water park for the whole fam.
Coral Sands, Harbour Island
Follow the narrow streets of Dunmore Town from the Bayside to the Seaside, past 17th-century churches and cottages, and you’ll hit the idyllic Coral Sands hotel. Among the first resorts to attract the Hollywood set, Coral Sands has a Caribbean colonial style, with a fresh, modern renovation. Dip in the seaside pool, play a round of tennis, take out the ocean kayaks, sip a Bahama Mama under a thatched umbrella and eat diver scallops with caviar sauce (as many times as possible). Just don't oversleep or you’ll miss the sunrise beach walk.
Where to Eat
Go where the conch is fresh and cocktails are flowing
In local slang, Sip Sip means gossip. And this is definitely the spot where Brilanders (Harbour Island folk) come to gab over contemporary Bahamian fare like conch chili, octopus salad and ginger margaritas--with stunning ocean views, of course.
Guys, this is your chance to play British aristocrat in a legit 17th-century Bahamian summer home. Explore the plantation-style space (designed by Harbour Island poster child India Hicks) and head to the terrace overlooking the sailboat-studded harbor for lobster with lemongrass risotto or coconut tamarind chicken.
Conch salad is available all over the island, but the hands-down best is Queen Conch’s secret recipe. This ceviche-style dish is diced to order with the freshest possible shellfish, veggies, chili and lime. Lines can be long at this Bay Street snack stand but sooo worth the wait.
What to Do
From golf cart history lessons to underwater adventures
History Tour by Golf Cart
As the nation’s first capital, dating back to the early 1700s, Harbour Island is where Bahamian history and style began. Hop in a souped-up golf cart with fifth-generation Brilander Martin Grant (reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org) and explore the charming loyalist cottages, the country's oldest church (it's bright pink, btw), plus the best local haunts.
Interested in fly-fishing? Not so interested in freezing river water and dopey rubber pants? You can keep your Tory Burch tunic and Chanel glasses on when you learn to cast for these coveted, silver Caribbean fish. Ask the hotel for its preferred bonefishing pro and spend the day wading on Girls Bank or taking a flat boat into the shallow inlets and mangroves.
The Devil's Backbone
This jagged ridge of shallow coral reefs has been a shipwreck magnet for hundreds of years. That's bad for pirates, but incredible for snorkelers and divers looking to explore sunken relics. Valentine's Dive Shop runs great trips all over the area, including Carnarvon: a 100-year-old lighthouse repair ship where you can swim through the boiler and spot eagle rays, turtles and even hammerheads.
What to Pack
Scarf meets Sarong
Let designer India Hicks be your muse. Her graphic scarves in lightweight voile microfibers double as an evening shawl and sarong at the beach--and look even better with a light dusting of pink sand.
With around 340 days of sunshine per year, the Bahamas demands a good hat--and a stylish one at that. It should be straw and fabulously floppy to obscure your face just enough to keep people guessing.
Underwater Phone Case
If your cell phone has become your camera of choice, don't sideline it on your snorkel and scuba trips. Get it ocean-ready with an underwater case. You can snag one for as little as $10 or upgrade to a hard case with lenses for $90.