Contrasting Bahamas Resorts

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Bahamas MapA sliver of land 110 miles long and often no more than a mile wide, Eleuthera lies an hour by turboprop southeast of Miami. A few minutes’ drive from North Eleuthera Airport, at the so-called “Glass Window Bridge,” the island narrows to the width of the road. On the Atlantic side, the water is a deep and restless sapphire blue, while to the west, it is a luminous expanse of aquamarine, scarcely disturbed by a ripple. For me, the exquisite and infinitely varied colors of the sea are among the perennial pleasures of the Bahamas.

The Cove

The primary purpose of my trip was to stay at The Cove, a secluded 57-room resort acquired in April by the Arizona-based Enchantment Group. (The company’s portfolio includes Enchantment Resort in Sedona — which I have long recommended — and the Tides Inn, a well-known property on Chesapeake Bay.) The previous owner, Sidney D. Torres IV, an entrepreneur from New Orleans, had carried out an ambitious multimillion-dollar renovation in 2012.

View of The Cove’s 40-acre setting
View of The Cove’s 40-acre setting

After a painless 20-minute taxi ride from the airport, we were ushered into the resort’s stark white reception area. Set at the summit of a small hill, it had expansive windows affording a view over much of the 40-acre property. For a few moments, we gazed across lush grounds that sloped down to a rocky point separating two splendid white-sand coves. The situation seemed close to perfect. Having been checked in by a friendly staff member, we were driven in a golf cart down to our Caribbean Cove Suite. At this resort, you really should spend the extra money for a view of (and direct access to) the sands and the sea. Some lower room categories are uncomfortably cramped, and most look out onto lawns and tropical vegetation. The more lavish accommodations, however, are spacious, stylish and well-appointed. The aesthetic is minimalist, consisting of white walls, white sofas, sisal matting on marble floors and contemporary pale-wood furniture. Given the tropical setting, our suite felt cool and uncluttered rather than austere. The marble-lined bath was well-lit and well-equipped. Master Caribbean Cove Suites provide oval tubs and outdoor showers. The most desirable accommodations are the 1 Bed Beach Villas and the two three-bedroom villas. The latter come with private pools and full kitchens, and hence are ideal for families.

I can think of few more idyllic places in which to linger with a sundowner.

Having settled in, we wandered across the powdery sand for a dip in the ocean. The water was calm, warm, and ideal for swimming. For a while, we floated blissfully, gazing up at the cloudless sky. After showering, we strolled over to the horizon pool and the Gregory Town Grill. The latter has a sublime view over a horseshoe cove to the western horizon. I can think of few more idyllic places in which to linger with a sundowner. The dining room at The Cove is housed within a light and airy pavilion nearby. The menu combines Western and Asian elements and offers a sushi list. During our stay, we enjoyed local seafood — grouper, snapper, rock lobster — that was invariably well-prepared and attractively presented. In general, the cuisine attained a much higher level than is customary at tropical beach resorts. Service was prompt and obliging throughout.

Eleuthera is a low-key island and provided few incentives to leave the estate. Therefore, we spent our time reading, swimming and indulging in some serious downtime. At present, The Cove offers a small fitness center, and spa services can be requested. A comprehensive spa facility is apparently under consideration by the new owners. As far as I could tell, the ownership transition has been effected seamlessly. Certainly, the staff members seemed confident and relaxed. Given the experience and track record of the Enchantment Group, I confidently expect this property to flourish. I shall monitor developments with interest.

AT A GLANCE

LIKE: Spectacular location; idyllic beaches; friendly staff.

DISLIKE: The regular rooms are on the small side and rather austere.

GOOD TO KNOW: Harbour Island is 30 minutes to the north, so it is possible to take a land and a water taxi to lunch or dinner.

The Cove 92 Ocean Front Cove Suite, $790; Ocean Front Three-Bedroom Villa, $2,390. Queen’s Highway, Gregory Town, Eleuthera. Tel. (242) 335-5142.

Beach Villa interior at The Cove  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Beach Villa kitchen at The Cove  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Beach Villa bath at The Cove  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Grounds beside the restaurant at The Cove  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
View of the beach from our patio at The Cove  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

The Dunmore

Walkway leading to the tranquil beach at The Dunmore - © Envision Works Inc.Harbour Island lies a half-hour drive and a brief water taxi ride from The Cove. The speedboat takes little more than five minutes to cross the channel to Dunmore Town, an exceptionally pretty and peaceful settlement with quiet streets lined by wooden English Colonial houses decked out in an entire chart of bright pastel colors. The Dunmore has long been a favorite of Harper subscribers, partly because of its three-mile, pink-sand Atlantic beach, but mostly, I suspect, because of its seclusion and ineffable tranquility. Comprising just 15 cottage-style lodgings set on a hillside at the end of a long, winding driveway and surrounded by mature gardens, this is a true hideaway resort. At times in the book-lined colonial-style clubhouse, it can be hard to believe that The Dunmore is a hotel at all.

Modernity has arrived in the form of private bars, espresso machines, flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi.

Upgrades and refurbishments had provided an excuse for a return visit. The property now boasts a glamorous new swimming pool. However, it is a stretch to describe the recently installed handful of treadmills and elliptical machines as a “gym facility.” My preferred accommodations remain the Ocean View Deluxe Cottages and Junior Suites, which have terraces with hypnotic views of the sands and the ocean. Their décor is low-key, with chiefly neutral colors and simple rattan furniture, while the baths offer generous dimensions, stall showers and whirlpool tubs. Modernity has arrived in the form of private bars, espresso machines, flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi. Having checked into our cottage, we discovered that the air conditioning was malfunctioning and noisy, but a technician arrived promptly and dealt with the problem successfully.

Overall, The Dunmore is more relaxed than it once was — jackets are no longer required for dinner and the staff are charming rather than deferential — but the updated property still offers an ambience of understated patrician charm.

AT A GLANCE

LIKE: Deep tranquility and seclusion; congenial “country club” atmosphere; magnificent pink-sand ocean beach.

DISLIKE: The lack of a proper fitness room and spa facilities.

GOOD TO KNOW: This is a low-key traditional property, ideal for those who want to relax, read and play tennis.

The Dunmore 95 Ocean View Deluxe Cottage, $750; Ocean View Cottage Suite, $950. Harbour Island. Tel. (242) 333-2200.

Beach at The Dunmore  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Refurbished pool at The Dunmore  - Envision Works Inc
Restaurant terrace at The Dunmore  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Ocean View Suite at The Dunmore  - Envision Works Inc.
Ocean View Suite interior at The Dunmore - Envision Works Inc.
Ocean View Suite living room at The Dunmore - Envision Works Inc.
Ocean View Suite bath at The Dunmore  - Envision Works Inc.

Rock House

Main lounge at Rock House - Photo by Hideaway Report editorFive minutes away by golf cart, Rock House provides a complete contrast. The 10-room hideaway is located in the heart of town — though still only a few minutes’ walk from the beach — in a slightly elevated position that provides diverting views of the harbor. The principal building feels like a sophisticated private residence, with overstuffed sofas, ceiling fans, antique busts, framed drawings, gilded sconces and piles of art books. On dark wood tables, framed family photographs vie for attention with those containing more familiar faces, including two recent U.S. presidents and one of Manhattan’s most high-profile magazine editors. A central courtyard contains a 40-foot pool surrounded by loungers and curtained cabanas. Here, the aesthetic seems to be of Moroccan inspiration, with rich, vibrant colors — chiefly cobalt blue and primrose yellow — that form an electric contrast to the swathes of purple bougainvillea that festoon the trunks of the surrounding palm trees.

Accommodations at Rock House tend to be relatively small, but are attractively furnished in a traditional style. “Nautilus,” for example, comes with a king-size bed, dark wood furniture, a coral block floor topped with sisal matting, floral curtains, framed prints of seashells and a generally subdued color scheme of ocher and lime green. The bath is compact, with a single vanity and a shower over the tub. The most desirable room is probably “Seahorse,” as it has a private terrace that provides direct access to the pool. Those in search of more space should opt for one of the three suites, the largest of which, “Asian,” comprises two bedrooms, two baths, a living room, a dining room and a private cabana.

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The restaurant, which has a magical terrace overlooking the harbor, is justly well-regarded for its menu of Continental and Bahamian dishes. In high season, it becomes a fashionable gathering point, and the hotel acquires a party atmosphere that may not appeal to everyone. The only other amenity is a surprisingly large and well-equipped fitness room. If you are looking for a chic hideaway with excellent food and consistently friendly staff, Rock House offers considerable appeal.

AT A GLANCE

LIKE: Sophisticated interior décor; pretty swimming pool; surprisingly well-equipped fitness room; excellent restaurant.

DISLIKE: Most accommodations have combination tubs and showers.

GOOD TO KNOW: In the evening during high season, the inn has a party atmosphere that may not appeal to everyone.

Rock House 91 Seahorse Room, $380; Asian Suite, $680. Hill Street, Dunmore Town, Harbour Island. Tel. (242) 333-2053.

Bar lounge at Rock House - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Pool at Rock House - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Daybed at Rock House  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
“Nautilus” room at Rock House  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Dining room of
Restaurant terrace at Rock House  - Perry Joseph

Kamalame Cay

Having taken a water taxi back to Eleuthera, we flew to Andros, which lies just 15 minutes by air southwest of Nassau. A hundred miles long and a maximum of 40 miles wide, the island has a total land area larger than the rest of the Bahamian islands combined. Although it is regarded as one island, Andros is actually an archipelago, consisting of hundreds of cays connected by mangrove-lined estuaries and tidal swamps. Three main islands — North Andros, Mangrove Cay and South Andros — are separated by “bights” that connect the east and west coasts. The interior is almost impenetrable and is said to contain one of the largest tracts of unexplored land in North America. A local population of about 8,000 lives along the east coast, where a succession of small communities is linked by a single atrocious road.

Andros is wild and remote, and I suddenly became aware that nature there is abundant and pristine.

Having landed at Andros Town, we headed north to Staniard Creek, where a private ferry transports guests across a channel to Kamalame Cay. Frankly, on another occasion, I would allow myself the extravagance of a direct helicopter or seaplane transfer from Nassau, rather than subject myself to the craters and corrugations of the “highway.” Fortunately, the resort is worth the effort and inconvenience. A pod of dolphins accompanied the ferry, cavorting just a few feet from its bow. Andros is wild and remote, and I suddenly became aware that nature there is abundant and pristine.

Flats near Kamalame Cay  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Our Cottage Suite at Kamalame Cay  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Our bedroom at Kamalame Cay  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Our bath at Kamalame Cay - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
View from our suite at Kamalame Cay  - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Overwater spa at Kamalame Cay

Many guests come to pursue bonefish on the nearby flats (see sidebar), but the resort is equally well-suited to those in search of refined seclusion. Having checked in at the “Pineapple House” reception area — the only place on the 96-acre island with Wi-Fi access — we were driven in a golf cart to our Cottage Suite, “Wild Dilly.” This proved to be an attractive limestone structure overlooking a stretch of white-sand beach and an expanse of calm turquoise sea. The octagonal air-conditioned interior featured a high peaked ceiling, a king-size bed, a small kitchenette and French doors that opened onto a wide veranda. The restrained décor was in a traditional island style, with pale lemon-colored walls, dark wood furniture, white cotton-covered armchairs, sisal matting, framed prints and well-stocked bookshelves. The bath was light and airy, though a little smaller than one might wish, with a shower over a soaking tub and a single vanity. This minor drawback aside, we were thoroughly delighted by our temporary home. Kamalame Cay offers a variety of accommodations (for a maximum of 60 guests) that range from less expensive Marina Rooms, which are chiefly suitable for fishermen, to lavish four-bedroom villas ideal for families.

Meals are taken either in the atmospheric Great House or at the Tiki Bar & Beach Grill next to the swimming pool. (Room service is available on request; breakfast baskets are delivered each morning; and villa guests may engage the services of a private chef.) Menus feature local seafood, as well as imported meat and game, and the wine list is unexpectedly extensive. Throughout our stay, we were impressed by the quality of the cooking and the charm of the waitstaff. Amenities include a sophisticated overwater spa with glass panels through which to observe marine life, at the end of a long pier.

When making our reservation, we had been unsure what to expect at Kamalame Cay, and we came prepared for disappointment. Instead, we discovered an exceptionally stylish and well-run hideaway that it was a wrench to leave.

AT A GLANCE

LIKE: End-of-the-world atmosphere despite proximity to Nassau; exceptionally comfortable and distinctive accommodations.

DISLIKE: Very little, though the public areas can be rather dark.

GOOD TO KNOW: This resort will appeal to fishermen and non-fishermen alike; arrange a helicopter or seaplane transfer, as the local roads and scheduled air services are dire.

Kamalame Cay 94 Beach Suite, $595; Cottage Suite, $725. Andros Great Barrier Reef, Staniard Creek Settlement, Fresh Creek. Tel. (242) 368-6281.

By Hideaway Report Editor Hideaway Report editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
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