Bermuda See And Do
The pink-sand beaches of this island are unlike any others in the Caribbean. Most people think the color comes from broken shells and bits of coral, but it's actually the ground-up skeletons of tiny, plankton-like sea creatures called forams that lend the sand its rosy hue. Horseshoe Bay Beach on the south shore in Southampton Parish is the most famous; a wide arc of pink sand, it also tends to be the most crowded, partly because it has facilities such as changing rooms and a café. More secluded is Jobson's Cove in Warwick Parish, adjacent to the half-mile Warwick Long Bay Beach, an almost secret hideaway perfect for snorkeling. John Smith's Bay in Smith's Parish is usually frequented only by locals but it's such a long beach that it never feels crowded.
Royal Naval Dockyard
Tel: 441 234 1418
Not just for nautical buffs and history majors, the Maritime Museum is a fascinating (honest!) collection of exhibits dedicated to Bermuda's social, nautical, and military history. One of the most popular attractions on the island, it is made up of eight buildings on six acres of the Royal Naval Dockyard. The Commissioner's House atop the citadel is the world's first cast-iron building (built in the 1820s) and displays maps from the 16th to the 19th centuries, maritime art collections, and a room dedicated to Bermuda's role in the slave trade (seeing actual chains used to bind slaves for transport is especially haunting). The Keep Pond, once used for ammunition transportation, is the home of Dolphin Quest, a research and educational facility where guests can swim with the smiley mammals. Those not interested in getting wet can observe the theatrics from the sidelines (15 Maritime Lane; 441-234-4464; www.dolphinquest.org).
One of the best ways to explore St. George's Castle Harbour is by renting a boat. Thirteen-foot Boston Whalers with Bimini tops are available at Blue Hole Water Sports (Grotto Bay Beach Resort; 441-293-2915; www.blueholewater.bm). The "dudes" at the front desk will point out the rough, reefy spots that you should avoid, but no formal boat-handling instruction is offered; still, maneuvering the boats is a cinch, and each comes with a cell phone in case you get stuck. From the water, you can get a firsthand look at the new Tucker's Point development and the lavish mansions at Tucker's Town Bay. A few minutes east is a scene worthy of Robinson Crusoe: Castle Island, where you can anchor offshore and snorkel the clear waters or picnic on the deserted beach.
169 South Road
Tel: 441 236 4201
Although the entire island could rightly be considered a botanical garden, this spectacular 36-acre property lets you see some of Bermuda's prettiest plants without wearing out your hiking shoes. There's a subtropical fruit garden, a cactus garden, enclosure-free butterfly zones, greenhouses, an aviary, and a miniature forest—there's even a garden for the blind, with especially aromatic flowers and herbs, and informational plaques inscribed in Braille. The pretty picnic area is a great place to bring a snack and a book and veg out to the sounds of the birds and bees.
Bermuda's prime big-game fishing season is April to November. That's when yellowfin tuna and blue marlin frequent its warm waters, along with barracuda, billfish, and shark. Even during the "off season" from December to March, though, wahoo and smaller tuna are plentiful. Contact the St. George's Game Fishing and Cruise Association for charter boat availability and recommendations (441-297-8093). Fishing aficionados swarm the island between the first and second weeks in July to participate in (or watch) the annual Big Game Classic (407-571-4680; www.bermudabiggameclassic.com).
With nine golf courses scattered across its modest landmass, Bermuda has more greens per square mile than any other place in the world. The 18-hole par-three course at Fairmont Southampton Golf Course has several lakes and elevated tees. Originally built in 1921, the world-famous private course at the Mid Ocean Golf Club in Tucker's Town has repeatedly hosted the PGA tour (441-293-0330; www.themidoceanclubbermuda.com). Also in Tucker's Town, Tucker's Point Club has one of the most expansive views on the island: From the 13th tee you can gaze across Harrington Sound all the way to the Royal Navy Dockyard, some 20 miles away (441-298-6970; www.tuckerspoint.com).
The three above, as with the majority of the courses on Bermuda, are private, often with limited access for nonpatrons, and requiring advance booking. Most hotel concierges can make arrangements for a round of play; alternatively, you can make your own on www.bermudagolf.bm.
Tee times on all three of Bermuda's public courses—Ocean View, St. George's, and Port Royal—can be easily arranged with one phone call (441-234-4653). Port Royal, first designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., in 1970, recently completed a major renovation, reopening in June 2009.
A fascinating remnant of Bermuda's role in the British–American conflict, this massive compound of 19th-century buildings on the tip of Bermuda's western hook was once the largest British naval facility outside the U.K. But though huge cannons and stacks of cannonballs are everywhere around the Dockyard, a shot has never been fired from any of them. The grounds are so expansive they never feel crowded, and wandering around inspecting the bastions and fortresses is a lovely way to spend an afternoon (and burn off some of the calories from last night's daiquiris). Some of the most beautiful views on the island can be found here—even when you look down, you'll be able to see huge blue parrot fish and other sea critters beneath the crystal-blue water. You might also encounter a matted sheep flock, kept on site to trim and fertilize the grass (the sheep are particular experts in the latter, so don't wear nice shoes). If taking home a souvenir is essential, stop by the on-site Bermuda Art Centre (www.artbermuda.bm; 441-234-2809) and the Bermuda Craft Market (4 Freeport Rd., Cooperage Building; 441-234-3208), where the work of resident artists is for sale.
As a navigational point for ships crossing the Atlantic to and from the New World, Bermuda was on the map for sailors in as early as the 16th century. Unfortunately, the jagged reefs surrounding the island weren't, resulting in literally hundreds of shipwrecks—tragic for the ship passengers, but gravy to modern-day scuba divers. The myriad wrecks surrounding the island have in fact made Bermuda a sort of underground playground, where divers can visit French 19th-century three-mast warships, Civil War–era paddle steamers, and even an early 20th-century Spanish ocean liner. Blue Water Divers & Watersports runs daily dive trips to these wrecks, as well as other, less arduous sites; its boats leave from Somerset Bridge in Sandy's (441-234-1034; www.divebermuda.com). Dive Bermuda, which operates out of the Fairmont Hamilton Princess and the Fairmont Southampton (441-238-2332; www.bermudascuba.com), also runs boat dives to a variety of reef spots around the island.
The historic town of St. George's, the landing site of English colonists shipwrecked en route to Virginia in 1609 and the oldest continuously occupied town of English origin in the Western Hemisphere, was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. Apart from its perfectly preserved architecture, alleyways, and lanes, one important sight is the replica of the Deliverance, the ship built to carry most of the survivors of the 1609 shipwreck onward to Virginia. St. Peter's Church, believed to be the oldest continuously operating Anglican church in the Western Hemisphere, is also worth a stop on Duke of York Street; some parts of it date from the original 1612 construction, others have been added through a series of restorations from the 17th through 20th centuries. Stroll through the cemetery behind the church, where the whitewashed gravestones shimmering in the sun seem oddly cheerful. Designed as a humbling punishment, the stocks and ducking stool in King's Square are now a setting for festive tourist snapshots.
Tel: 441 236 7369
This historic house-turned-museum is filled with an extensive and rare collection of antiques—most of which were amassed by John Dickinson, the wealthy shipowner and Bermudan politician who built the mansion in 1710. Among the treasures occupying the house today are pieces of vintage cedar furniture made on the island, 17th-century oil paintings, and English porcelain. Many of the locally crafted antiques, such as the drawing room desk and cabinet and three bedroom tallboys, showcase a rare transitional style that combines elements of 17th-century medieval-type aesthetics with 18th-century Georgian. It's amazing that the house has been so beautifully preserved, given that until 1951 it was occupied by a rather eccentric spinster who refused to modernize the property with plumbing or electricity.
Closed Sundays and Mondays; closed Tuesdays Nov. to March.