It seems like everyone I know has a different take on traveling.
Some of us like to keep it fresh and exciting and visit a new destination every opportunity we get. Others, like the familiarity and comfort of finding a destination that can become their home away from home. I think that generally I’m somewhere in between — I have a long bucket list of places to explore, but occasionally I stumble upon a special destination that I can’t wait to return to.
Bermuda is one of those few special destinations.
Our NORWEGIAN BREAKAWAY cruise ship was docked in Bermuda for about 2 ½ days and each day had a different itinerary for me. Honestly, I would have loved to have spend another day on the island — there was just not enough time to squeeze in everything I wanted to do! Luckily, Bermuda is just a short flight away from most major airports on the East Coast. One of my Bermudan tour guides made the comment that it takes less time to fly to New York City (only 1 hr 40 min!) than it does to travel by car from one end of Bermuda to the other! Totally true by the way — traffic in Bermuda is “interesting” and only further complicated by the winding, narrow roadways. Driving in Bermuda is not for the faint of heart.
As I made my way through the island by water and by land, I couldn’t help but start planning my return trip: places to stay, places to eat and things to do. If you’re looking for a long weekend escape with friends, a significant other, or family — read on for all of the details you need for your next Bermuda weekend getaway!
About The Island:
Millions of years ago, the island of Bermuda was born out of volcanic activity deep within the ocean floor. As ocean waters eventually receded it left behind a fish hook shaped mass of land surrounded by miles of colorful coral reefs. It’s those coral reefs and shallow waters that eventually made Bermuda the “hotspot” for shipwrecks!
Bermuda’s first foreign inhabitants were actually domestic pigs that escaped sinking ships nearby and populated the island. Portuguese sailors first discovered the island in 1505, but never set claim on the land. Eventually, when British explorers shipwrecked nearby on their way to the Virginia colony of Jamestown, they decided that conditions on Bermuda were way better than anything Virginia offered and specifically requested that the English monarchy claim Bermuda for its own. In 1612, the British officially settled the island.
Today, Bermuda stands alone in the Atlantic as an offshore financial center with a robust economy and a formal parliamentary government. Most people recognize the trademark white channeled roofs which are not only beautiful to look at, but help locals collect fresh water through a filtered gutter system for every day use. While fresh water might not be easy to come by, rum is thanks to the Gosling Brothers! While headed for America from England with a shipload of spirits in tow, the brothers ended up in Bermuda and simply did not leave!
I don’t blame them.
Where To Stay:
Technically, our lodging was aboard the Breakaway during our 2-night stay, but I did talk to a number of residents and travel professionals about the best Bermudan hotels for those visiting the island. Here are the top 2 that kept coming up again and again:
• Rosewood Tucker’s Point — Tucker’s Point is the most exclusive enclave on the island of Bermuda set atop a hill in a predominately residential neighborhood. Designed in the elegant British Colonial style, you’ll be engulfed in cool shades of blue and white, with elegant woodwork trimmings throughout. That main Manor House looks out over Castle Harbour on one side and Harrington Sound on the other. Truly a beautiful location!
As with most hotels in Bermuda, the private beach is a quick shuttle or gulf cart ride away. The soft pink sand is totally worth it!
• Fairmont Southampton — One of the better known properties on the island and probably the most recognizable with it’s pink towers set against the blue Bermuda waters. Definitely the most family friendly of the bunch, there is a something to do for everyone in the family. One of the island’s oldest restaurants (350+ years and counting!) — Waterlot is a must for those staying at the hotel or if you love a great meal in a gorgeous setting.
What To Eat:
• The Harbourfront (Hamilton) — My family and I stumbled upon this place after a visit to the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute next door (see the “What to do” section below for more details on that!). We were 100% pleasantly surprised and impressed with both the service as well as the really delicious meal. The sushi and seafood are the standouts — make sure to try the Bermudan Chowder. It’s supposedly one of the best on the island. The waterfront view doesn’t hurt, either!
• The Swizzle Inn (Hamilton) — With a slogan like, “Swizzle in, swagger out!” there’s no question that you’re in for a good time here. Home to the original Rum Swizzle cocktail, this is the place to try the Bermudan rum-based drink with a side of casual beach menu fare — sandwiches, salads, pizza, etc.
• Port O’ Call (Hamilton) — Front Street is the main shopping drag in Hamilton and the location of this Bermudan contemporary. The fish is supposedly some of the freshest on the island as the harbor fisherman literally bring their catch of the day through the front door.
• The Beach House at Blackbeard’s Hideout (St. George) — Worth the extra effort to get here, The Beach House is set up top on a hill overlooking Achilles Bay. The open air location is the perfect partner to the Caribbean menu focused on local ingredients.
What To Do:
• Horseshoe Bay Beach (Southampton) — Even if you’re staying on a gorgeous Bermudan beach property, this beach is absolutely a must see. The water is perfectly turquoise, clear and warm. The water temp was 85 degrees when we visited! The soft, pink sand and rock formations are what make this beach one of the highest ranked in the world. Make sure to arrive early as beach umbrellas and chair rentals go quickly! Don’t be overwhelmed by the peak season crowds, though. If you walk a just few feet to the left of the main entrance you’ll be able to find a quieter spot to kick back and take in the sights. While there is a bar and beach restaurant on site, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend either — overpriced and kind of blah.
• Crystal + Fantasy Caves (Hamilton) — Let me preface this by saying, I’m an earth science nerd. I was probably more excited by this cave tour than anything else on the day’s agenda and it did not disappoint. Discovered in 1905 by two 12 year old boys trying to find their lost cricket ball, this complex of underground caverns was opened to the public in 1914 by the property owner — Mr. Wilkinson. The Wilkinson Family still owns and manages the cave properties and today you can explore the caverns safely over decks and floating pontoons that rise and fall with the tides. The stalactites and stalagmites are thousands of years old and are just spectacular in person! You’ll also get to take a peek into Cahoe Lake — a 55 ft deep body of water comprised of mix of sea water from the ocean and fresh water that’s absorbed through the limestone walls of the cave.
Just a quick note — this cave complex is about 120 feet below the surface and requires ascending and descending 83 steps and steep inclines that can get extremely slick. Wear comfortable shoes and perhaps skip this tour if you have an injury or a preexisting medical condition. My 5 year old was able to easily navigate these features — so children are DEFINITELY encouraged!
• Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo — I wish we had more time to spend at this family friendly attraction. My kids were obsessed with the exhibits — both at the aquarium, as well as the zoo! There is an emphasis on the conservation of Bermudan biodiversity here, which I thought was really interesting and unique. The seals were pretty cute, too.
• Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute — We stumbled upon this interactive museum as we disembarked the Hamilton ferry. At the end of the pier, right on Front Street sat a little train-shaped trolley car which for $39 pp, will transfer you to the BUEI and cover the price of admission. The BEUI was opened in 1997 to enhance visitors’ understanding of the mysteries of the ocean and learn about the historic shipwrecks of Bermuda. If you’re intrigued by pirate tales and sunken treasures, you’ll be right in your element as there is an entire section of the Institute devoted to legendary scuba diver and shipwreck expert, Teddy Tucker and his lifetime of treasure hunting work.
• Somerset Bridge Watersports — My brother and his girlfriend spend a fair amount of time researching island jet ski options and they can confirm that this is the best on the island. For $125 pp they were taken on a 75 min guided jet ski tour around Bermuda with top of the line equipment and instruction. They raved about their experience and would definitely recommend this company to anyone looking to jet ski, boat, kayak or snorkel.
What To Pack:
• Fashion in Bermuda can be best described as “British proper.” As a colony of the United Kingdom, much of the fashion in Bermuda is inspired by conservative English attire. Obviously, Bermuda shorts got their start on the island when residents found it too hot to wear the long pants typical in the U.K.
• Many restaurants require a more formal dress code including collared shirts and jackets, so make sure to pack appropriately, especially when traveling with a spouse or loved one.
• Save your highest heels for another trip — walkways and paths in Bermuda are often long and winding (and many times uphill!) so comfortable shoes are a MUST.
Have you been to Bermuda? I would love to hear about any amazing places, activities or things that I may have missed. You know… to start planning my next trip!