YES – without a doubt Harbour Island is kid and family friendly! We are back from what we hope will become an annual family trip to Harbour Island in the Bahamas and once again it did not disappoint! This is our second trip to Harbour Island – we were last there in 2019 for our baby moon when I was pregnant with Palmer – and while I’m typically all in favor of exploring new destinations, we purposely chose to go back knowing we were traveling with the girls. Our itinerary wasn’t all that different from our first trip – it’s a small island after all – so instead, I’ll talk you through some considerations of traveling with kids to Harbour Island.
Harbour Island is family friendly
This is something we noticed on our first trip and was a big deciding factor when we were exploring destinations. When I say family friendly, I don’t mean it in the obnoxious way that going to Orlando [no offense – there just are A LOT of kids/families that vacation there] may be but rather kids aren’t frowned upon at hotels or restaurants. Even though the restaurants are arguably “fancy” they all still have kids menus, high chairs and welcome families for dining. There’s actually this weird exclusive vibe there because most people you meet on Harbour Island have been coming every year since they were a baby, their parents have been coming since they were babies and so on and so forth. As a one-timer, you almost feel like an intruder.
There is no hospital on Harbour Island
This is honestly something I probably should have researched ahead of time but there is no hospital on Harbour Island. Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way. On day five of our trip, Isla woke up all out of sorts. She was super fussy, sleepy and had no real appetite – a dead giveaway something was wrong since my girl LOVES food. We ended up taking her to the public clinic on the island and she was seen by the nurse there who was professional and gentle with our baby and concluded that she may be dehydrated. I still have my doubts but she woke up feeling much better the next day so we didn’t really need to take any further action.
From what I saw of the clinic is clean and well equipped but our visit was quick. I also have no idea what they charge for a visit since the nurse looked at Isla for free – which was so kind of her. One downside is that the hours of operation are limited, they usually close by 2 or 3pm every day. I heard [from others I met on Harbour Island] that there is a doctor who lives on the island and works at the public clinic. They also have an emergency number so if something happens after hours, you can call and still be seen there by the nurses or doctor. I am pretty sure though that any serious cases need to be flown off the island to Nassau and I would imagine that’s not cheap, not to mention super scary!
No commercial chains, hotels or restaurants on Harbour Island
The fact that there are no commercial chains, hotels or restaurants on Harbour Island is something I personally really like. At the same time, I recognize this may be a negative for others. I think it really comes down to the type of vacation family you are. Harbour Island certainly isn’t for everyone – it’s a bit rustic, remote and small. There are a limited number of places to stay, eat and shop but its unique charm can’t be matched. We love it there but if you’re a resort person, for instance, I can’t say confidently that you will like Harbour Island.
Harbour Island is difficult to get to
There is no airport on Harbour Island so unless you fly private – which actually many do – it can be relatively involved to get to. You have to fly into North Eleuthra Airport, taxi to the harbor, get on a water taxi across to Harbour Island and then taxi to your hotel. While it sounds complicated – it’s actually really quick. In total it probably takes 30 minutes from the time you land to your final destination so while it’s a lot of steps, it’s super easy. I think the trickiest part is the flight since there is a limited number of flights to North Eleuthra each day. [Note: We try to stick with Star Alliance partners so we had to first fly to Fort Lauderdale, stay overnight and then catch an early Silver Airways flight to the Bahamas.]
Harbour Island is not crowded
We visited in April which is when it is arguably the most crowded but the beaches were wide open. Your kids can run and play in the sand without fear of walking through someone else’s beach setup or kicking up sand in their face. However, because the island is small, there are not a ton of hotels or houses available so be sure to reserve accommodations early. Same goes for restaurants. There is a limited number of places and most require reservations so book those all ahead of time to make sure you can get in where you want!
The sand is powder soft and water swimable
This point was a big factor in our decision. Last year we went to Cape Cod and while we love the vibe there, many of the beaches are filled with rocks, shells, seaweed and horseshoe crab shells. All well and fine for adults but navigating that with a two year old and a crawling/mouthy baby would be a challenge. The pink sand beaches here are powdery soft and void of most ocean debris. The ocean water is super warm, the waves aren’t too rough and there’s a long, gradual wading area.
Kid Friendly Activities
This may be another controversial topic but I personally think there are plenty of good, wholesome, kid-friendly activities on Harbour Island. Obviously there’s the beautiful beaches and warm Caribbean waters. You can also charter a private boat for the day to see the sea turtles, swimming pigs and starfish or visit isolated beaches and deserted islands. You can snorkel, paddle board or ride horses on the beach. But there are no arcades, mini golf, go-karts, movie theaters, etc. so if that’s what you’re into on vacation – this may not be your destination.
You can find reasonably priced accommodations – though that can also get really expensive – but for whatever reason, the food and alcohol are really expensive. Maybe because it’s all really good or maybe because it’s an island and things are harder to import but we probably spent on average $450/day on food and drinks. Granted we ate and drank to our hearts desire but that’s also really just two adults since the kids don’t each that much. Once you account for VAT and gratuity it really starts to add up. If you’re traveling with older kids, I think renting a house in town is probably a more affordable way to go so you have the option to cook at home.
Transportation by Golf Cart
I’m honestly not sure if this is a pro or con but transportation on Harbour Island is mainly by Golf Cart. We rented ours through the hotel from Queen of Carts. Outside of the quick taxi rides to/from the harbor, we really didn’t ride in any cars and therefore did not need car seats. That being said, we traveled with the Doona for Isla which converts from stroller to car seat seamlessly however, we did not use it in the golf cart. Typically Kevin would drive, Palmer would sit between us and I would hold Isla on my lap. Everything is a five minute golf cart ride or less so that system worked for us!
Beach front hotels
There are a good amount of hotel options along the Pink Sands Beach on Harbour Island. With little kids especially this is key since you’re back and forth to the room depending on nap schedules. We brought an audio monitor so we could put the baby down and still hear her on the beach and we also took turns splitting nap times. It’s nowhere near what it’s like to take a beach trip before/without kids but with the amount of effort and gear it takes to get the kids dressed, ready and setup at the beach, it’s convenient to have a beach front home base.
Accommodations & Country Specific Details
Stay: Ocean View Club
This is our second time staying at Ocean View Club and we both really like it and would absolutely stay there again. The property really is the definitely of shabby sheek – eclectic and nice but perhaps a little more wind/sun worn than when we last visited. I’d also say the service didn’t seem to be as good this time around. I honestly hate to say that because they were also really sweet to us and our babies but there were times where I felt like an inconvenience. They also dropped the ball on one of our dinner reservations – which was actually our favorite spot from the last visit – and then there was no availability so I was little annoyed by that.
Overall, I was super impressed with our cottage, Overso. There was plenty of space for a king bed, cot for Palmer and crib for Isla. It even had a little kitchenette with electric kettle [perfect for making bottles], stove and full size refrigerator. We had our own private entrance and a large terrace which we hung out on during naps or after the kids went to bed. We did have to to switch rooms for the last two nights to a smaller room on the lower terrace and I would NOT recommend those rooms in general or with kids. They are directly under the upper terrace where breakfast and dinner are served so it can get noisy and there is simply not enough space for the kids, their beds and all their things.
Two additional things I did want to note. Ocean View Club does not have a pool. I know that’s a big draw for many families traveling with kids. We’re more beach people so it wasn’t a huge deal for us but even I would have liked a pool to hang out in post nap in the afternoons. The second thing is that they charge you for using the crib [$20/night] and the cot [$35/night] – which I didn’t realize until after we checked out.
I also wrote this review before going back and rereading the last review I wrote and I will say I still very much agree with most of it! If you’re interested in my perspective from 2019 – pre-kids, you can read it here.
To Harbour Island: By air via United Airlines and Silver Airways. I believe Delta and American also fly directly to North Eleuthera Island.
From the airport:
1. Grab a taxi right outside of the airport to Three Island Dock [$5/person and takes 5 minutes]
2. Once you arrive at Three Island Dock, take a water taxi across to Harbour Island’s Main Dock. [$5/person and takes 5 minutes]
3. From the Main Dock grab a taxi to your hotel. [$5/person and takes 5 minutes]
Around Harbour Island: As mentioned earlier, we rented a golf cart through our hotel. I believe the 4-seat golf cart is $80/day.
Currency: Bahamian Dollar (BSD) and US Dollar (USD) accepted everyone. Exchange rate is one to one.
Outlet Adapter: The standard voltage is 120 V. The standard frequency is 60 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type A and B. Standard United States adapters.
Passport/Visa Requirements: To enter the Bahamas, you must have a passport valid for at least six months from the date of departure. British and American passport holders can enter with less than six months remaining on their passports if visiting for up to 21 days.
COVID/Vaccinations/Medicines Requirements: We had to show proof of negative COVID test and apply for the Bahamas Travel Health Visa [$40/adult] to enter the country. We also had to test within one day of returning to the US which we did through the hotel for an additional cost. The last thing I’ll note here is that some businesses on Harbour Island still require face masks. Our hotel and most of the restaurants did not but a few smaller establishes did including Arthur’s Bakery, Bahamas Coffee Roasters and Dunmore Deli.
Weather: We had pretty perfect weather while visiting in mid-April. It did rain Friday evening and not just a quick shower – like down poured for a few hours that made the island difficult to navigate. Other than that though, had sunny days with moderate cloud coverage from time-to-time and a decent amount of wind. Plus, the air and water temperatures were perfect during the day and evening temperatures were pleasant.