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Lifestyle

Island Time

By Mark Ellwood

Bird’s-eye-view of the beach and ocean with two people in lounge chairs

Aerial view of Bahama’s stunning beach. Photo By Ellen McKnight/Alamy.

There’s never been a time quite like this for The Bahamas, according to Theodore Elyett. The Nassau-born 39-year- old is one of the island nation’s foremost designers; recording artist Michelle Williams and stage actress Cynthia Erivo are both devotees of his red carpet–ready gowns. He learned to sew hanging out at the clothing factory his mother ran. “I’d sneak in and steal all the spare fabric, playing around to find my own aesthetic.” And while Elyett is proudly celebrating his 25 years in business, he’s most proud of his nation’s milestone: five decades since The Bahamas gained independence from the UK. “It feels like two different generations are coming together for a common goal. There’s such a big sense of unity now between the generation that was part of British rule, and the one that enjoyed the freedoms the earlier generation fought for,” he says. “Tourism came to a standstill during the pandemic, but it’s rebounded, so we’re celebrating unity and normalcy, and who we really are as Bahamians.”

Four Seasons garden filled with greenery and purple and orange flowers

The Legendary Versailles Garden walk at The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort.

The nation, its 700 islands scattered like pieces of a broken necklace off the southeast corner of Florida, are emerging once again as one of the Caribbean’s prime destinations (even if it’s not technically on the name-sake sea, the nation is culturally considered to be part of that wider region). Airlift is increasing radically from the US— JetBlue is starting direct non-stop flights from Los Angeles this winter, and Alaska will shadow it on that route, as well as offering service from Seattle. Tradewind, the charter and short haul specialist best known in New England, opened a Southeast Florida base this September, driven in part by the demand for private flights to nearby destinations like this one. The appeal of The Bahamas is self-evident to most luxury travelers, says Alabama-based Ragan Stone, a travel specialist with expertise in the country: “Spend a week in The Bahamas, and you notice guests on the first day looking at their phones, and the women still have on makeup, and their hair is fixed,” Stone notes. “But in a few days, there’s no more makeup, no one is looking at Instagram, and the outfits are noticeably more casual. It’s a place to disconnect and embrace a slower pace.” The easiest base in The Bahamas is Nassau, the anchor of New Providence island; there’s the small, aptly named Paradise Island, which is connected to its northern coast by a pair of bridges (thank American socialite Huntington Hartford for that name—he rechristened it from Hog Island when he snapped up the spit of land on a visit in the late 1950s).

Ocean view with palm trees and greenery with two white beach chairs

The Bahamas is a destination filled with serene blue oceans and sandy beaches allowing guests to disconnect and unwind. The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort offers just that. Photo by Christian Horan.

Just west of Nassau, you’ll find the most famous sand strip of all, the two-and-a-half-mile long Cable Beach. “So much of what The Bahamas is today is the fact they’ve never lost their beauty: golden sands, turquoise seas,” says interior designer and socialite Tara Bernerd, a regular visitor thanks to her husband’s love for the islands. The palette of this archipelago has provided ample inspiration for creatives like Bernerd and Elyett. The latter’s elaborate, often beaded gowns nod to Junkanoo, the twice-yearly national celebration that fuses African traditions into a fiesta of costumed parades and parties heavily redolent of a sun-soaked Mardi Gras. “The textures, the patterns, the volumes, the detailing, I incorporate all of these—we’re an island nation inspired by our African roots.” Most of Elyett’s textiles are island-made, such as a recent collaboration with local brand Bahama Handprints.

Aerial view of The Coast of Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas, with a Kayak

The Coast of Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas known for it’s flat seas are perfect for boating. Photo by Getty Images.

Some visitors draw exhilaration rather than inspiration from the outdoors here. Sabina St John is one of them. She and her husband come regularly to The Bahamas to the ultra-luxe resort community of Albany, a short drive from Nassau, where starchitect Bjarke Ingels has worked on new, high-profile homes. St John raves about the sailing and riding on and around the island. “The boating is stunning because the seas are so flat,” she says. St John’s favorite time to visit isn’t in the winter, though, but rather the summer: the crowds are thinner, she says, and the waters of the oceans are balmy, usually in the upper 80s. Breezes baffle the humidity, too. For her, the appeal of The Bahamas any time of year is obvious. “There’s complete privacy here. You can be with your family and not be bothered or mobbed by others,” she says, “It’s very luxurious, yes, but in a funny way it’s also quite unspoiled. It’s just a wonderful lifestyle.”

Four Seasons Aerial shot of Beach with Umbrellas, lounge chairs and pool views

Postcard-perfect beaches are just a step away at The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort.

WHERE TO STAY

The Ocean Club was opened in the early 1960s by the wealthy American businessman and socialite Huntington Hartford, who filled it with world class names (Gary Player was the golf pro) and art. That gilt by association continues under the Four Seasons operation. The company recently masterminded a renovation of the 35-acre complex; book one of its villas for the plushest experience. The Baha Mar complex outside Nassau is the latest luxe hospitality addition: Among the trio of brands in the complex, you’ll find Grand Hyatt, SLS, and Rosewood. Be sure to duck out at least once to the high-octane waterpark that’s also part of the complex. The kids’ club is impressive, too, with a focus on education and outdoors activities. If you’re traveling without children, says Ragan Stone, opt for the Goldwynn Resort on Cable Beach, a new boutique option with 81 rooms, about two minutes’ walk from the beachfront and with multiple oceanfront bars and restaurants. Make sure to check out the five-story installation by local artist Kishan Monroe at the property’s heart.

Slim Aarons photograph of guests lounging by the pool at The Ocean Club’s Versailles Gardens in 1968

From Assouline’s new tome, “The Ocean Club:” Jet-setting photographer Slim Aarons snapped this photo of guests lounging by the pool at The Ocean Club’s Versailles Gardens in 1968. Available at Assouline, Bal Harbour.

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK

Don’t leave without trying a little cracked conch, the national snack. The best place for classic cooking is The Traveler’s Rest in Nassau. London-based restaurateur Giorgio Locatelli branched out to the Bahamas in 2021, bringing his buzzy scene and riff on classic Italian food to Mogano. Baha Mar’s roster of restaurants is surprisingly impressive: The standout is Marcus Baha Mar Fish + Chop House, Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s beachfront fish restaurant. Bon Vivants is a craft cocktail bar and café that’s earned international accolades; its owners just added another site, the Dilly Club, at Atlantis Paradise Island. The Paradise Island Wine & Food Festival is a great excuse for a visit in March (13–17). In the Fall, there’s also the Baha Mar Bahamas Art and Food Festival held in October.

The Bartender pouring liquor behind The Ocean Club Bar

The Martini Bar at The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort is the most famous James Bond bar in the world, which was showcased in the 2006 film Casino Royale. Photography by Christian Horan.

Atlantis Dilly Club Bar

The Dilly Club at Atlantis Paradise Island. Photo by Robyn Damianos.

WHAT TO DO

Golf is a prime pastime here—try the Jack Nicklaus–designed 18-holer at Baha Mar—as is riding; Mariposa Stables, run by Erika Adderley-Coello, is ideal for more seasoned horse-lovers. Diving and boating are options as well: The best dive site near Nassau is undeniably Periwinkle Reef, where the teeming, colorful fish are visible even in shallow water. And, before you leave, honor the island’s rum-making culture by taking a tour of John Watling’s distillery.

Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course with two men playing on the course

A Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, Royal Blue was ranked #1 on Golfweek’s Best of 2022. Photo from Baha Mar.

LOGISTICS

If you’re flying commercial to Nassau’s main airport, remember that it offers both TSA PreCheck and preclearance for Customs, streamlining journeys and allowing you to bypass any formalities when returning to the US. For the easiest experience, book VIP meet-and-greet for your arrival and departure with Royal Airport Concierge or Nassau Flight Services.

WHAT TO PACK



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