You’re sitting on a striped couch in an open-air sun room. A rum punch—Dronzi’s famous rum punch, you were promised—sits sweating on the table in front of you. Rum bottles line the Driftwood Bar. Wicker chairs surround glass-topped tables, where you’ll soon dig into crab cakes and coconut shrimp for lunch. A quiet freshwater pool is just outside. While sand dunes and the crystal-clear ocean are beyond that. Welcome to the real Bahamas.
The real Bahamas are the Berry Islands. “The Fish Bowl of the Bahamas” cover the northwestern part of the Out Islands. Most of the 30 islands and more than 100 cays are uninhabited; some are owned by a single person or family as a second home. Movie stars flocked here in the late 1960s, and Great Harbour Cay, the largest and northernmost island, almost became the next Paradise Island. You’re so glad it didn’t.
You flew to Great Harbour Cay from Nassau. During the quick flight, you could see swirling sand, almost every shade of blue imaginable, and a handful of deep-sea fishing boats from the air. Chub Cay is considered the billfish capital of the Bahamas, while huge tigerfish and king mackerel are regularly hauled to shore. But you’re not here to fish. You’ve come to relax, walk along a deserted beach, and drink a few more of those rum punches.
You’ll be able to accomplish all of this at CarriEarl Boutique Hotel. The small—only four-room—hotel is just one mile north of the island’s little airport, though it feels perfectly secluded. The hotel’s lovely owners invite you to kick off your shoes, take off your watch, and jump in the pool as soon as you arrive. Your bedroom, the Rooster, has a turquoise-colored ceiling, a ceiling fan, and a cool-to-the-touch stone floor. Doors are rarely closed, much less locked. The small sitting area is the ideal place to sip a cup of fresh-from-the-garden mint tea in the morning or read a book when you need a break from the sun in the afternoon. Plus the restaurant, known as the best in the Berry Islands, will become your hangout spot for the next few days.
Just beyond the hotel, you find your dream beach at the end of a winding path. Great Harbour Cay Beach is nearly five miles long with sparkling white sand. The water does indeed feel like bath water. A handful of sand dollars lie at the edge of the water. A wave retreats to reveal a large starfish. But the best part is that it’s empty. Completely empty. There’s not another person, or even a dog, in sight. You drag a beach chair to the edge of the water to enjoy the peaceful scene. It doesn’t get much better than this.