Bermuda Beach Time
Once you get a taste of this amazing and restful Atlantic oasis, there may be no going back.
The first thing you notice about Bermuda, right from the plane window, is how amazing the colour of the water is – an otherworldly aquamarine blue you only see in travel brochures. Next comes the comforting cognizance that, hey, you survived the Triangle!
So often confused with Bahamas and Barbados, Bermuda is a connect-the-dot maze of 180 bits of island in the Atlantic Ocean, on the same latitude as South Carolina, about a two-hour flight from New York. With a temperate climate, as opposed to tropical like the other Bs, the little paradise is calm and cool, with no income tax, no unemployment and no guns – cue the peaceful easy feeling.
Bermuda was discovered by Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez in 1503, and quickly became the Shipwreck Capital of the Atlantic, mostly due to the storms and a large ring reef that together have sunk an absurd number of ships off its 120 km of coastline. The first real settlers showed up nearly 100 years later, mostly all British. The first native North Americans came to dive for pearls.
More than just the baggy shorts and big onions it is commonly associated with, Bermuda is unequivocably one of the wealthiest islands in the world, shy and private, a little mysterious. The coral walls and white roofs mimick the sand and clouds, framing the lush landscape and winding narrow roads. Left-hand drive and roundabouts reminds you of the British roots, as does the fairly buttoned-down vibe, a residual of the colonial past – all wooden tennis rackets and drinks trollies. Though far from stiff, this cheerio-ness creates a kind of time warp, and the turn-of-the-century photos on barbershop walls will look remarkably similar to the ones you’ll have on your camera.
If you’re a golfer, Bermuda has a number of excellent options, including Port Royal Golf Course, ranked by Golf Digest as the world’s best public course. And if you’re just in it for the pristine paradise, eco-tourism is also big, due in part to the delicate eco-system and the fact that the early settlers enacted what is considered the first conservation laws in the New World way back in the 1600s. As a result, there are 650 types of fish and 360 varieties of birds to keep you occupied on either an underwater adventure or a lazy afternoon in a hammock.
And when you’re not golfing, swimming or lazing, there are plenty of other things to keep you and your family on the go. Take your pick from these checklists beneath the slideshow. And take your time – but try to make the flight home.
The Fairmont Southampton is the hub of the action on this part of the island with great golf, superb steak restaurant Waterlot and a secluded Beach Club. 101 South Shore Rd., Southampton, 866-540-4497, fairmont.com/southampton.
The relaxed Reefs Hotel offers stylish comfort, and one of the cutest places to have lunch—Coconuts. TheReefs.com
The colonial-style Rosedon Hotel is a step back in time and a perfect haven for afternoon tea. Rosedon.com
9 Beaches is a seductive grouping of little cottages on stilts jutting out into the ocean, currently getting a multi-million dollar facelift, reopening in 2017. 9beaches.com
Beau Rivage in the Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort & Spa is the only French restaurant in Bermuda. Award-winning and always busy – and on the list of all the concierge desks. beaurivagebda.com
Tom Moore’s Tavern is the oldest restaurant in Bermuda (more than 100 years), and housed in what used to be a 1650s manor house, owned in the 1800s by the famed Irish poet. Old-style, dripping with Britishness, lots of meat. tommoores.com
Bacci sets the bar for Italian food on the island, with superb veal scallopini, beef tenderloin and lobster ravioli—all very rich and wonderful. Wait staff offer black napkins to people with dark trousers. A first for us. At the Fairmont Southampton, fairmont.com/southampton
The Fairmont Hamilton Princess was a favourite watering hole of Mark Twain, whose statue sits on a bench in the lobby, as well as Ian Fleming, who dreamed up Dr. No at the bar. fairmont.com/hamilton
Located in the Botanical Gardens, Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art has a local focus, but it also houses a small but interesting collection of black-and-white drawings by Georgia O’Keefe, who visited the island in 1933 to recuperate from a nervous breakdown. bermudamasterworks.com
Even if it’s not raining, the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute is informative, interactive and fun, documenting the area’s famous and plentiful shipwrecks. Just the recovered treasure and shell collection in the lower level is worth the trip. buei.org
Take the ferry to St. George’s, where not much has changed in the last century, except for perhaps the plumbing. Stop at St. Peter’s, the oldest Anglican church in the Western hemisphere, which dates from 1612, with parts of the current structure dating from 1713. Stop at the Bermuda Perfumerie, as well as Unfinished Church, which dates from the 1870s.
If you can possibly dodge the docked cruiseshippers, wander around the Royal Naval Dockyard on the northwestern tip of the islands, and take in The Royal Keep, the Clocktower Mall and the Victualizing Yard where they used to prepare and store food for the military. Stop for a pint at The Frog and Onion pub, which “continues in the victualizing business” within the 1850s-era cooperage. Visit dockyardbermuda.com
Pack a picnic lunch, rent bicycles and head out on the scenic Railway Trail. The scenery is unbeatable, and you’ll see a bit of everything from a unique perspective. Visit bermudarailway.net