views

Holidaying through rose-tinted spectacles

BEACHES are what the Caribbean does best, and you&rsquo;ll struggle to top the postcard perfection of Pink Sands in the Bahamas. Gazing out across the sand, it&rsquo;s as though you&rsquo;re seeing the world through rose-tinted spectacles, as the swathes of powder edging Harbour Island have a fantastical salmon-tinged hue. Crushed pinky shells of microscopic marine animals from the offshore barrier reef account for the colour of the three miles of galloping pink sand which run for almost the length of this chi chi little holiday island.<br /><br />Because the deserted wide beach faces the Atlantic, there is a little surf &ndash; albeit very gentle &ndash; while the pristine turquoise water, the safe snorkelling, and the sheltered swimming add to its appeal. Pink Sands is easily the most beautiful beach in the Bahamas &ndash; and a regular contender for the best in the world.<br /><br /><strong>WHERE TO STAY</strong><br />The Pink Sands resort that was to be my home for half of my Bahamian retreat, effortlessly combines beach hut simplicity with celebrity cachet &ndash; truly epitomising &ldquo;shabby chic.&rdquo; The bedrooms in this sophisticated hideaway are in 25 pastel-coloured cottages spread over tropical gardens behind the namesake beach, and were designed in an eclectic range of styles by Barbara Hulanicki, founder of Sixties boutique Biba.<br /><br />My spacious two-bedroom Garden Room was just off the main pathway to the beach and had simple but characterful furnishings. For those looking to splash out there is the deluxe two-bedroom ocean view Bimini cottage, with its own jacuzzi on a large outside deck. All cottages at Pink Sands feel private, with the air of a bohemian private home rather than a hotel, making it a favourite for the rich and famous.<br /><br />Neighbouring Pink Sands is sister resort Coral Sands, which also reclines along the edge of the beach, offering the same sense of seclusion at slightly lower prices. Coral Sands was recently refurbished by designers David Flint Wood and India Hicks and the resort now boasts a glamorous yet casual new bar and restaurant area.<br /><br />While this 36-room resort feels a little more like a hotel, I spent a few utterly blissful days here soaking up the unbeatable ocean views in the luxurious Beach House, a spacious two-bedroom suite located bang on the beach in its own private setting.<br /><br /><strong>WHAT TO DO</strong><br />One of the best things about Pink Sands is the fact there isn&rsquo;t much to do, which means you can spend all day on the beach doing nothing without feeling guilty. Nonetheless, if you can bear to tear yourself away from your sun-bed, you can wile away a few enjoyable hours snorkelling in the shimmering sea or kayaking around the coast. Bone, reef and deep-sea fishing can all be arranged, or, for a real Robinson Crusoe experience, let staff pack a picnic for you to enjoy on your own nearby deserted island.<br /><br />One of the highlights of our stay was a late breakfast at the Blue Bar, gazing out over the sea while a larger-than-life Bahamian mama brought us our &ldquo;sunny side up and grits&rdquo; &ndash; at a characteristically Bahamian pace. Best for lunch was the colonial-style Beach Bar at Coral Sands while al fresco candlelit dining (think roasted grouper, smoky conch chowder and cajun grilled lobster) at the Pink Sands Garden Terrace is the perfect way to round off the day.<br /><br /><strong>WHERE TO GO</strong><br />At just three miles long and half a mile wide, Harbour Island is designed for the lazy traveller &ndash; and when it comes to getting around, golf cart is the way to go.<br /><br />This laid-back island with a population of 2,000 is home to one of the oldest community in the Bahama, and is characterised by a plethora of &ldquo;barefoot chic&rdquo; beach bars and boutiques that are infused with colonial charm.<br /><br />On the harbour side of the island, several of the old houses have been turned into retreats that have attracted the likes of Zara Phillips; The Landing House Hotel and Restaurant, co-designed, owned and run by India Hicks, is also located here.<br /><br />The best way to get a true taste of island life is by ambling along the drowsy little lanes, past the pretty pastel coloured clap-board houses covered in hibiscus and bougainvillaea, stopping to pick up hats, jewellery and all manner of trinkets as you go. <br /><br /><strong>WHERE TO DRINK</strong><br />Harbour Island&rsquo;s inimitable night-life revolves around three main watering holes; you can dance in the sand at Gusty&rsquo;s, get down with the locals at Daddy D&rsquo;s and shoot hoops at Vick Hum Club. Each has a very different feel, and it&rsquo;s own big night of the week, but wherever you go, locals and Hollywood stars can be found mixing effortlessly over a cocktail or two.<br /><br /><strong>FURTHER AFIELD</strong><br />It&rsquo;s worth taking a ferry across to Eleuthera Island for the day to drive along the snaking coast and soak up the exquisite scenery. Stop off on your way to take in the view from Glass Window Bridge over the grey Atlantic on one side and the deep blue Exuma Sound on the other, and pay a visit to Preacher&rsquo;s Cave, the spot where the island&rsquo;s founders landed.<br /><br />For a little light refreshment, enjoy a pina colada just outside Gregory Town &ndash; the pineapple capital of the Bahamas and home to the annual pineapple festival. Or, better still, pick your own pineapple on a pineapple farm tour; these can be organised through the Bahamas Tourist Office (www.bahamas.co.uk).<br /><br /><strong>GETTING THERE</strong><br />The flight from the UK to Nassau International is around nine hours, followed by a 30 minute charter flight to North Eleuthera. From here, take a taxi to the North Eleuthera dock, a ferry transfer to to Harbour Island and a taxi or golf cart to Pink Sands. Total transfer time after the charter flight is around 20 minutes.<br /><br />British Airways (www.ba.com) flies from London Heathrow to Nassau International Airport from &pound;574 per person return including taxes, and Take Flight Air Charters (www.takeflightcharters.com), based at Million Air private charter facility offers fully-serviced five-seater Piper Aztecs to transfer you from Nassau to North Eleuthera. Water taxis run on demand for the short journey from the water taxi station on North Eletheura to Harbour Island marina. <br /><br /><strong>RATES </strong><br />Prices at Pink Sands start from $600 per cottage per night for a one-bedroom Garden Cottage, and from $750 for a one-bedroom Ocean View Cottage; prices for Bimini Cottage start from $1,900. At Coral Sands, prices start from $315 per room per night for a Garden View Room and from $365 for an Ocean View Room; prices for the Beach House start from $1,200 based on four people sharing. Both resorts are currently offering a fifth night free when you book four nights or more; Pink Sands is also offering a 15 per cent discount on two, three and four night stays from now until the end of August.<br />www.pinksandsresort.com <br />www.coralsands.com