Bahamas resident India Hicks talked to Tripsavvy about her island home, Harbour Island. The British-born celebrity became famous as Princess Diana's 13-year-old bridesmaid. In 1995, she left a life of international modeling for love and family this tiny Bahamas isle in the Caribbean.
Today, India is back in the fashion world as a designer for her own lifestyle brand, India Hicks. which is strongly inspired by her Harbour Island. Here, India tells Tripsavvy what she loves about Harbour Island, in her own, ultimate-insider words.
"Harbour Island is a crust of land only three miles long by half a mile wide. It is set off the coast of the bigger island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas' Out Islands."
"If you're looking for seclusion on Harbour Island, that's easy. But when you want a change of pace, you can have it. Harbour Island is easily reached by inter-island flights and by ferry, including a high-speed boat to Nassau in the Bahamas."
"As wee as it may be, Harbour Island makes visitors feel very at home. Welcomes are genuine and smiles are wide.
"There are several hotels and some pretty villas to rent here. My own home, Hibiscus Hill, has some cottages to rent. That is, when and if the invasions of family members leave!"
History Involves Both British & Americans
"The Bahamas are now independent but were for centuries part of the British Empire," says India Hicks. "Harbour Island's history goes back even farther when it was inhabited by indigenous tribes."
"In the age of exploration, the island was called Briland, and residents are still called Brilanders. They are very proud of their past. Since this is the Caribbean, of course, that past includes sugarcane and rum. You can read island lore on Briland.com."
"As you walk past the bay, you will see the Loyalist Cottage, built-in 1800. Loyalists were American colonists who sided with the British during the Revolutionary War era."
"As everyone knows, this was the losing side. The Loyalists were run out of the newborn United States. Some fled north to Atlantic Canada. Other Loyalists settled down in the Bahamas. Some ended up in Briland, surrounded by flowers and the aquamarine Caribbean. Not a bad way to lose a war!"
An Aquatic Playground
"You should spend at l east one afternoon on Harbour Island near, on, or in the water. You can take a swim off one of Harbour Islands' quite legendary pink sand beaches. The water is gentle and very warm. And the turquoise hue is unbelievable."
"You can rent snorkel equipment and wade right into the bay. Look for sand dollars and sea biscuits, but don't touch. Another aquatic activity: head down to Bottom Harbour to watch the turtles darting about. Keep a lookout for the family of dolphins who live here."
"You can take a spin with Captain Bob Griffin, who lives on the neighboring island of Current. Captain Bob will take you out on his boat to dive for conch or to spearfish whilst introducing you to a few friendly sharks."
"Or for a little more "depth," go scuba diving with Valentines Dive Center. (Their dive dock is shown above.) If you're not yet a certified diver, you can do a scuba "resort course" in the morning and be 30 feet into the deep by the afternoon! It is truly another world beneath the seas."
Things to Do for Landlubbers
"Not everything on Harbour Island involves getting your hair wet! Zipping around via golf cart is the mode of transport here – no cars. You can rent a golf cart from our friend Sunshine. Or you can rent bicycles and cruise around at a leisurely pace."
"You can fall asleep under an umbrella on one of Harbour Island's quite legendary pink sand beaches. At the PLP dock, watch the fisherman bring in the day's catch. And right here on the dock, you can witness an aggressive game of dominoes, considered a national sport in the Bahamas."
Things to Do for Night Owls
"After the sun sets - spectacularly, I might add - there's nightlife on this bitty island. At night, you can wear your jeweled flip-flops to the Dunmore Beach Club for dinner, on the terrace, under the stars, the ocean before you and the tradewinds caressing you."
"And you can go dancing at Daddy O's into the wee hours if you have the energy. After a night of dancing, the most refreshing thing is a local Kalik Beer. I like to walk off a big meal by heading on foot up Gustie's Hill, which has marvelous views. The night sky, full of stars, and the midnight-blue sea below...it's almost too beautiful."
Delicious Things to Eat
"Harbour Island has its own take on Bahamian food. It's very fresh and tasty and served with flair.
"I like to go to Sybal's Bakery for local Bahamian breakfast of grits and stewed fish. Sunday Brunch could be at The Landing, where they serve ricotta pancakes and fresh-baked coconut bread."
"However, if you are feeling brave, Avery's offers the local dish of souse in all of these delightful flavors: chicken feet, pig feet, chicken, sheep tongue. This meat is what the local plantation workers ate, and they found ways to make it taste very nice."
"After a morning lying on the pink sand beach, you will want to wander into Sip Sip for lunch. "Sip-sip" is the local term for gossip! And at Sip Sip you will indeed hear all the gossip, local and otherwise, and see anyone who's anyone. I recommend the Lobster Quesada and a Gombay Smash drink."
"The Queen Conch shack at the top of the PLP dock is a must for a late-afternoon snack. (And TripAdvisor reviews say so too!) Here, the local conch salad is made to order from local giant conch. The meat is pulled from its shell, chopped and mixed with the juice of limes and sour orange and local tomatoes, onions and green peppers. But beware: ask for 'tourist strength.' Anything else might blow your bikini off. If you are feeling adventurous, ask for the conch's pistols. Harbour Island men say, 'It puts lead in your pencil.'"
One-of-a-Kind Shopping Opportunities
"For such a small place, Harbour Island has more than its fair share of sweet boutiques where you can find one-of-a-kind fashion and keepsakes."
"At the top of Gustie's Hill, you will come across The Sand Dollar Shop. Here you can find many locally made treasures including little bottles of pink sand, which Harbour Island's beaches are renowned for. You might want to take one home to prove pink sand really does exist."
"I have a soft spot for The Sugar Mill Trading Co. It's my boutique. Here you will find an eclectic mix of treasures found from my travels around the world, everything from a $1,000 embellished evening caftan to a child's bucket and spade. The Sugar Mill also is the flagship store for India Hicks Fine Jewelry."
India Hicks and her husband, David, own a magical Harbour Island inn called Hibiscus Hill. "The houses we have built are reflective of the wonderful, local West Indian style," says India. "Their bedrooms are cinematic lovers' retreats. Most rooms have large, wooden ceiling fans that purr as they gently ruffle the air. We conjured the rooms with images of old Bahamian manor home in our minds."
"We have built or restored each house with fastidious care, and every one has its own personality. A lot of the furniture was handmade on-site by island carpenters. The house's living rooms open onto porches. They face the ocean or the toy-like village of Dunsmore Town, with its narrow streets and brightly painted frame cottages."
"Although they are guest houses, they have the feeling of a home filled with the gleanings of our travel and nomadic lives." These things include: "seashells from our scuba dives (all abandoned by their creatures first!); family photographs; native paintings from Cuba and Haiti; lacy mosquito nettings intricately woven in India; handmade bed linens; meticulously built model boats."
Intrigued by India Hicks and Harbour Island? Here's how to connect and start planning a visit to her Bahamian home. Check out India's fashion and lifestyle website, India Hicks. Read more about India's family and life on Harbour Island. And stay fresh and sane in the air with India's travel tips for making coach flights feel like business class.