Gemma Handy

To explore the island, I choose one of the hotel’s rickety-looking bicycles. It’s the first time I’ve been on one in years. Happily my momentary sense of panic is quickly replaced by the realisation that it is, in fact, just like riding a bike. Cycling in sand however is a slightly different kettle of fish. (The only stretch of tarmac on Pine Cay is the island’s minute runway.) It requires a little more patience and a far slower pace – which is of course thoroughly in keeping with the lackadaisical nature of the island itself.

With the wind in your hair and the cleanest, purest air in your lungs it's impossible not to feel a distinct sense of camaraderie with the world. I pass three buggies in the space of 10 minutes and conclude I must be on the main road.

Down at the marina, a statuesque heron casts its steely gaze across water as clear as glass in search of food. Unperturbed by my presence, it comes here to vie for the ocean’s treasures with the visitors who flock specifically to take advantage of the island's excellent bone fishing.

Back at the resort, I find the bar’s balcony is perfect for sipping sunset cocktails. On a clear day you may just catch a glimpse of the famous green flash as the sun slips over the horizon. The bartender – affectionately known as ‘Bang Bang’ (he used to be a drummer) – pours me a Pine Cay Smile.

After a few slugs of this heady mix of coconut rum, dark rum, Tio Pepe, orange juice and pineapple juice, I see how it got its name. My grin is impossible to shift. But maybe this is less to do with the enthusiastic pouring of the liquor and more due to the overall ambience.

Downstairs, dining is a casual, unhurried affair – what else is there to do? It’s a welcome departure from the lightning speed of too many fashionable restaurants where over eager staff snatch your plate while you’re still chewing the last mouthful. As with everything else here, dinner attire is entirely a matter of choice. Some guests prefer to kick back in shorts and sandals, others choose to dress up for the four-course affair. There have even been a couple of necktie sightings in the last 10 years.

Enamored by the bonhomie of the dining room, I tuck into a starter of fresh mango and onion, followed by an avocado and pine nut salad. My entrée is specially-prepared vegetarian chickpea fritters, cooked to perfection with Moroccan sauce and grilled veg.

Somehow I find room to top it off with a sumptuous Pine Cay lime pie. Afterwards it’s all I can do to refrain from curling up on a lounger like Sampson the resort cat.

Dining is one of the things the resort prides itself on. In the kitchen, the talented culinary team work their magic. There’s almost always fresh ‘catch of the day’ which includes locally caught fish, lobster and conch. Guests can also choose from steak, chops, rack of lamb, duck and Cornish hen. Vegetarian meals, like mine, are prepared upon request. Wednesday evening’s ‘native night’ features an abundance of traditional Caribbean specialities with a poolside barbecue and buffet.

In the morning, there are homemade pastries plus the usual breakfast comestibles cooked to order. I opt for ‘island style French bread’ which basically means it’s dunked in enough syrup and brown sugar to make a doctor recoil in horror. I polish off the lot greedily. English-style afternoon tea is a delightful tradition with an array of tantalising sweet treats expertly whipped up each day by Chef Amy Caffarel.

The pace picks up slightly on Saturday night with a weekly ‘jump up’ bash, although it’s still not exactly the frenzied affair the name suggests. It’s quite possible to indulge in some gentle dancefloor shindigs – while keeping one’s feet firmly on the ground. Local musician Quinton Dean gets the party started around 7pm as guests tuck into a variety of barbecued fare, salads and desserts.

Another of Pine Cay’s zany customs is ‘birthday junkanoo’. Tonight it’s Hilda, one of the Club’s long-term members, who will be celebrating. Based loosely on the Bahamian festive street parades, known for their vivid costumes and rhythmic beats, the staff grab colourful accessories, drums and whistles before launching themselves on the unsuspecting victim.

A box full of gaudy hats, masks and hand-held instruments is kept in the kitchen specifically for this purpose. We all giggle as we delve in for the best maracas, cow rattles and headgear before snaking our boisterous way around the tables. Hilda does her best to look surprised.

Sporadically, resort management stage a ‘drive-in movie’ night with the island’s inhabitants lining up in their golf carts to watch short comedy classics with popcorn. Favourite shows include Fawlty Towers, The Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello.

Within just a couple of days here I find I’ve already adopted an island stroll and devil-may-care demeanour. This is complemented by an excellent Swedish massage at the on-site spa, not to mention a certain smugness at having been let in on the secret which is Pine Cay.

And, from my picturesque balcony perch, watching the incandescent sun prepare to bed down for the night, it seems Bev was right. This insouciant sanctuary with its anachronistic charms and just the right mix of luxury and home comforts is precisely what the doctor ordered.

If I could bottle it, I’d be a millionaire.