The Bahamas is one of the most biodiverse places on earth; rich with reefs, lagoons, deep sea, and mangroves–offering a unique place to play in the sea all year-round.
Very often, it is the people, who we encounter in our travels, that make our experiences the most enriching. This couldn’t be more true than in Harbour Island. The warmth, wit, charm, and talent of so many local faces and our diverse culture are what make Briland so endearing.
Briland has a history that runs deep for thousands of years, but most notably known for Independence Day (both US and Bahamas), reggae, Junkanoo, folklore art, and regattas.
Local cuisine inspired by the sea and West African heritage, like peas n’ rice, conch salad, Bahama bread, lemon-drenched triggerfish, coconut cream pie, and the list goes on. Swig it down with sips of Gully Wash or our oh-so-famous beer, Kalik.
The colonial architecture is mixed with all the colors of the Caribbean. Loyalist cottages line the streets with their striking pastel hued clapboard shutters. They evoke a bygone era that has managed to maintain its footing and safeguarded the island.
Indigenous populations on Harbour Island included Lucayans and Arawaks, who were wiped out by Christopher Columbus. By the mid-16th century, the island’s population was decimated and the island was uninhabited. It would remain empty for about 100 years.
In the mid-17th century, British puritans in search of religious freedom, known as the Eleutheran Adventurers, settled on Eleuthera across the water, then on Harbour Island. These settlers established an independent government and settlement that lasted for nearly 70 years–until they surrendered rights to the British Crown in 1717.
For years, life was harsh on the island, with locals making their living by assisting ships wrecked on the reefs. Then, Lord Dunmore, the Governor of Virginia, fled from the United States during the Revolutionary War to The Bahamas, and became the Governor of the Bahamas. He established Dunmore Town, where he owned his summer residence, featuring New England architecture.
After the Emancipation Proclamation of 1834 escaped slaves integrated with the locals and the island’s population rose. Citrus and fruit farming, as well as shipbuilding, sugar refining, and rum making, became the main industries until World War I. Tourism came to the island in the 1920s, but took off when Bahamas Airways began flying to the island in 1941. From then on, tourism remained the island’s main industry.
Political independence came in 1973, when the Bahamas became part of the British Commonwealth. Since then, technological advancements have come to Harbour Island, but it still retains its original authenticity and secluded island charm. As of 2010, it has 1,761 inhabitants.
Find out more on our Discover Dunmore Town Experience.
_Photography by Baharchives