Ceramicist Florence St George’s inside guide to the Bahamas
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I moved to the Bahamas in 2013, just after I got married. Henry, my husband, works for the Grand Bahama Port Authority – he brought me here for our sixth date. At first it was tricky as I had very few friends around, but I got to know the area quickly. That’s the joy of island life: you’re part of a community.
Grand Bahama, where we live, is an island of two halves – industry on one side and total wilderness on the other. We’re out on the beach near the wild flats of North Riding Point, which is excellent for catching bonefish. Here you’ll find people like Cristina Zenato, a conservationist who removes fish hooks from sharks’ mouths. Diving with her is something else: sometimes she goes down in her chainmail and puts the sharks to sleep in her lap. Nearby we’ve also got Coral Vita, a farm that restores dying reefs. I’ll often take people to visit both, followed by a daiquiri at The Stoned Crab on Taino Beach. The cocktails there are off the hook.
We regularly hop over to Harbour Island, the Bahamas’ answer to St Tropez – all rosy beach and quaint picket fences. The Dunmore hotel near the island’s famous Pink Sands Beach is incredible; order a Rum Dum at sunset. And if you’re lucky enough to get an invite to [writer and designer] India Hicks’ house, she and her husband make fantastic cocktails. Dancing under the stars at their New Year’s Eve parties is one of the coolest things to do, and there’s also her boutique, The Sugar Mill, on the island’s bayside. Traditional music here is called rake and scrape; Henry often books bands to play at our house.
To get to Harbour Island, you take a boat from Eleuthera, a long, thin isle in the centre of the archipelago. Landing in Eleuthera is stunning: it’s known for its pineapples, so you get the sweetest, most delicious fruit here. I like to stay at The Cove, which has pretty little cabanas on the beach, but there’s also The Other Side, a solar-powered glamping site – watch out for midges.
Nassau, the Bahamas’ capital, is another good base for island-hopping. I recently stayed at Baha Mar, a resort with a waterpark. Five years ago it would have been my idea of hell, but it’s really nice with kids, and there’s a great Chinese restaurant called Shuang Ba. Your average traveller doesn’t visit the Bahamas to eat Chinese, but for me, a sort of Bahamian, it’s exciting. About 20 minutes to the west you’ve got Tern Gallery, run by my friend Lauren Holowesko Perez – it has some of my ceramics, as well as paintings by Bahamian artist Tessa Whitehead.
But if you’re visiting the Bahamas, it’s most likely for the mindblowing beaches: white sand that’s like finely milled flour floating through your feet. On Grand Bahama there’s Gold Rock Beach, which opens up for miles and miles at low tide, and Bootle Bay, where I go shell collecting. The sunsets are probably the most beautiful I’ve experienced anywhere, and if you lie in bed at sunrise with the curtains open, the whole room turns a warm, glowing orange. My daughter comes in and says, “It’s on fire, it’s on fire!”
My pottery practice has been influenced by being here. When I lived in England, a lot of my work was grey and white, but my recent collections are all pinks, yellows and blues. When you see the water rippling in the sand beneath your feet, you can’t help it. I also put sand into my pottery when I glaze it, add seashells to the bottom of pots and forage for clay – there’s an extraordinary amount near the old freshwater caves. A good one to visit is Owl’s Hole, where Cristina [Zenato] also leads trails.
If you’re coming here and want things done quickly, you’ll be disappointed. It’s a relaxed way of life, and it has to be – for six months of the year, it’s 38 degrees in the shade. Yes, everything is slow, but Bahamians are some of the kindest people I’ve met. They want to see you relax, and that’s very special – if you’re here to appreciate the islands and be cared for, you’ll have an incredible time.