Ceramicist Florence St George shares her insider guide to The Bahamas, taking readers to one of the Caribbean’s hottest spots.
Essential items to pack?
A bikini and a sarong. Straw bags and hat that you’ll pick up on the island. I’d also recommend a cashmere scarf for the air con in the summer and for the offshore sea breeze in the winter.
The best time to visit the Bahamas is…
I’d say between November and June during the cooler months as July to September is the hurricane season and it can get hot and sticky. That said, I always suggest to friends that they bring a cashmere scarf and a pair of sheepskin boots to wear with your bikini on the beach as the north wind can be surprisingly chilly.
Our first pitstop should be…
The Bahamas is made up of 600 islands, each one with its own character and individual charm so take a perfect sailing trip or island-hopping visit on and around the Abacos, visit Man-O-War Cay which is alcohol free ,or travel to Guana Cay which is definitely not (you can have a nipper at Nipper’s Bar & Grill).
Your favourite hotel to check-in at is…
We recently stayed at the Rosewood hotel and our kids loved the waterpark and slides. The all-inclusive thing is usually one we avoid but Bahamar in Nassau was the exception. I loved it and a spin at a roulette table there – just the ticket for the occasional gambler.
For an early morning workout head to…
Gold Rock in Grand Bahama which is surrounded by 50 miles of pristine virgin beaches.
Where should we go for breakfast?
Hang out by the main entry port/ government dock – the heart of every island town – where you can catch up on the local ‘sip sip’ (gossip), find a fishermen to take you diving for conch, and then make a conch salad – a spicy ceviche-like Bahamian staple with alleged aphrodisiac like qualities.
How about for a long, lazy lunch?
The Other Side, a solar powered glamping site in Eleuthera that’s situated across ‘the other side’ from Harbour Island (hence the name). Totally wild with lovely beaches. Bring bug spray if you go in the summer. Or the Stoned Crab, a beautifully decorated, family run restaurant in Freeport.
And for dinner with friends?
Harbour Island is tiny and only accessible by boat. Here you can watch locals and jet setters alike climb aboard the five-minute ferry and enter a microcosm of the Bahamas. It boasts mind blowing beaches and amazing restaurants, but also local conch shacks and a dive bar called the Vic-Hum Club with the world’s largest coconut. There’s also a hatch in the street-facing wall that you can order drinks through even after you’ve been thrown out of Daddy D’s nightclub.
A must-try spot for date night?
A picnic dinner under the stars on a floating jetty at the Cove Hotel in Eleuthera.
Your favourite restaurant in town?
Budget: Conch salad from a farmers’ market.
Blow Out: Dinner at Shuang Ba in Bahamar, Nassau.
Where should we head post-dinner?
Daddy D’s on Harbour Island or head for the roulette table in Bahamar.
The drink to order at the bar…
A ‘rum drum’ cocktail.
The best place for people watching…
The culture spot to rave about…
Rake and Scrape Music. It’s not just to listen to but it tells the story of the people, their brilliant sense of humour, and very often their love lives! You can find a rake and scrape band playing (actual saws and goat skin drums) at local bars on weekends. Also, Junkanoo – a rhythmic Mardi Gras with festivals (rush outs) in the summer, on Boxing Day and on New Year’s Day.
The best place to treat yourself is…
Seaplane rides as you island hop after long lunches, beach picnics in Exumas, and embrace your inner James Bond with swims in the Thunderball Grotto.
For great shopping head to…
The Tern Gallery at the island house in Nassau. The owner, Lauren Holowesko has a background at Sotheby’s and a brilliant eye for island talent. Browse the beautiful art works by local photographer Melissa Alcena or ceramicist, Anina Major. You can also find a few of my pots here. I’d also recommend The Sugar Mill in Harbour Island with its carefully curated, local treasures and a sprinkling of designer bikinis too.
The one place only locals know about…
The north shore of Grand Bahama for bone fishing; an unbelievably wild, quiet, and magical spot with flats that go on for miles. Eagle rays and stingrays breed here, turtles nest here, and sharks hunt here. It’s a fizz of wildlife activity. It’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop.
For the best views head to…
The Dunmore on Harbour Island for stunning views of the pink sandy beaches and for cocktails that’ll grow hairs on your chest.
For a change of pace try…
Sailing regattas in Georgetown. See the beautiful handmade sloops compete and embrace the passion of the races and the parties afterwards regardless of who wins. We met Captain Luther a few years ago, a generous-spirited and immensely talented boat builder and he is currently hand building a small Bahamian sloop for us, and a mini one that can run in the shallows for our son.
Great day trips include…
Shark diving with ‘the shark lady’ Cristina Zenato in Grand Bahama. She encourages large bull sharks in the wild to fall asleep in the palm on her hand and removes the fishing hooks from their gills. Check her out being interviewed on David Attenborough’s Blue Planet.
A visit to Coral Vita’s coral farm – who happen to be my neighbours and are the winners of this year’s Earth Shot prize – is also a must. They use micro-fragmenting to cut and grow the corals in tanks on land and then they replant them back in the sea, doing their best to protect our island with coral restoration.
A book to read before we go (or while we’re there)?
Any Human Heart by William Boyd – my favourite book.
How should we spend the final day of our trip?
Grand Bahama for world class bone-fishing with North Riding Point fishing club; it has access to fishing grounds and mangroves that are the breeding ground for so much marine life that even non fisherfolk will love a day on the flats. Forget swimming pigs, open water dolphin swims or tiger shark encounters are much more exciting!
What’s your Bahamas secret?
3 Rum Drums at the Dunmore in Harbour Island sets you up for a fabulous afternoon.
In a word, the Bahamas are…