A Traveler’s Guide to Bermuda – the Beautiful Island Nation

One of the most beautiful places in the world one can ever hope to visit – explore some of the best beaches, museums, forts, natural reserves and much more

A Traveler’s Guide to Bermuda - the Beautiful Island Nation

Bermuda is often incorrectly confused with the Bermuda Triangle where ships and aircraft have been known to disappear into nothingness. Although Bermuda’s name is associated with the foreboding area, it forms just one corner of the ominous and dreaded triangle.

Bermuda, in reality, is a British Overseas Territory comprising a cluster of 138 islands in the North Atlantic Ocean about two hours by air from New York City and some seven hours from London.

Bermuda is shaped like a fish hook bent near the southwest end with the stem protruding towards the northeast.

Out of the 138 islands that make up Bermuda, only twenty are inhabited with seven of the larger ones connected to the main island of Bermuda by bridges and causeways. The rest of the inhabited islands are scattered across the surrounding waters.

Some of the islands are so tiny that they are only good for birds to roost –together accounting for 21 square miles.

From the sea floor right up to 200 feet below the surface, Bermuda is made up of volcanic rocks – the result of a volcanic eruption on the ocean floor about 100 million years ago. However, from 200 feet below the surface up to Bermuda’s highest point, the Town Hill in Southampton Parish, which is 260 feet above the surface, it is all limestone rock consisting of seashells and corals.

Bermuda has a rich seafaring background with many ships meeting their fate along its treacherous reefs. Ironically it was the English ship Sea Venture running aground on the shores of St. George’s Island in 1609 that brought British settlers to Bermuda.

It is, therefore, not surprising that Bermuda has a rich maritime history which can be explored and studied at the numerous museums and forts. The reefs that ran aground many a ship over the centuries offer some of the best wreck diving in the Atlantic.

Other popular activities one can enjoy while in Bermuda are sailing, fishing, snorkeling, golfing and exploring the well-maintained hiking, biking, and bridle trails that loop through the island’s nature reserves.

Horseshoe Bay Beach

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Ranked among the top 20 beaches in the world by Conde Nast Traveller in 2016, the scenic Horseshoe Bay Beach is shaped like a crescent or a horseshoe, as the name suggests, and is considered one of Bermuda’s most famous and popular beaches.

The clear blue waters of the Sargasso Sea lapping gently against this pale pink sandy beach makes for an ideal spot for a family’s day out on the beach. Access to beachside cafés, convenient change rooms, and equipment rental make the Horseshoe Bay an even more sought after location. Finding a good spot here is a challenge of sorts particularly when a cruise ship is in town.

In the colder months, from September to May, you should avoid taking a dip as the water is freezing cold. However, a romantic stroll along the smooth-as-silk sandy beach during these months will do you more good than harm, if any. And, if you happen to be in town during Easter, do make it a point to visit the Horseshoe Bay Beach on Good Friday to witness the beautiful handmade Bermudian kites dotting the clear, azure Bermuda skies.

Location: Southampton Parish (West End)

Hamilton

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Hamilton, the capital and largest city in Bermuda, is home to several top museums, great buildings, and architecture, an Anglican “Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity” that boasts a tower with a panoramic view of the city.

Hamilton is known for its many forts and fortifications and its Royal Naval Heritage in addition to several cinema theaters, hotels, bars and restaurants, markets, squares and plazas, beaches, gardens, boulevards, and walkways.

The street along Hamilton’s harbor front is aptly named “Front Street” which features beautiful colonial buildings colored in soothing pastel shades and is known for its upscale shops.

The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo, home to sharks and turtles, is located northeast of the city.

Ocean Discovery exhibits can be viewed at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.

Saint George’s

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Saint George, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and formerly known as Town of St. George or St. George’s Town was the capital of Bermuda until 1815 when Hamilton City was declared the new capital.

The town is mired in history dating back to 1609 when the founder of Bermuda, Sir George Somers and his men were forced to land here after their ship “Sea Venture” ran aground at a nearby reef. However, it was in 1612 that the first British settlers moved in to claim the town.

A stroll along the narrow streets and lanes of this sleepy heritage town is sure to transport you back to the 17th century – a wonderful experience, memories of which will stay with you for life.

The streets that are barely wide enough for horses and carriages have held on to their original names, some of them referring to local personalities and professions such as Aunt Peggy’s Lane or Printers’ Alley while others such as Queen Street and Duke of York Street bear reference to the British monarchy and crown.

Fort St. Catherine

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Due to the vulnerability of St. George’s and its strategic importance at the time, the British built a series of forts dating back to the early 1600s, one of them being the Fort St. Catherine.

It is a small but well-preserved fort with a number of caves and rooms inside the 17th-century structure not to mention the array of cannons all around. The fully restored fort houses a gallery of dioramas portraying Bermuda’s rich history, replicas of the Crown Jewels of Great Britain, and a collection of vintage firearms.

Royal Naval Dockyard

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Built by slaves and convicts in the 18th century, the Dockyard on Somerset Island served as home to the Royal Navy in Bermuda for more than 175 years. It now includes a multi-million dollar cruise ship dock as well. The naval buildings of the past are now restaurants, shops, and craft studios.

The Bermuda Craft Market with its display of handicrafts made on site for sale plus the imposing Bermuda Arts Center which holds exhibitions of local art are sure to take up several hours of your time but definitely worth the trouble.

The Dockyard’s focal points, however, are the Clocktower Centre and the impressive National Museum of Bermuda, set in the body of the fort and encompassing the beautifully restored Commissioner’s House circa 1823.

Another endearing feature of the Dockyard is the popular Dolphin Quest educational program which allows you to interact with the friendly Dolphins.

You can also spend some quality time observing the glassblowers and potters at work in their respective studios.

National Museum of Bermuda

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Located at the Royal Naval Dockyard and one of its most popular attractions, the National Museum of Bermuda is housed inside Bermuda’s largest fort featuring seven bastions and eight historic exhibit buildings tracing the island’s fascinating history. Some of the themes on display are battles, shipwrecks, whaling, yachting, and maritime arts among others.

The 19th-century Commissioner’s House is located on the upper levels of the museum and houses antique furniture and exhibits relating to Bermuda’s military and social history.

The Museum Playground and Playhouse serve the purpose of keeping the children occupied, entertained and trouble-free.

Address: 1 The Keep, Royal Naval Dockyard

Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse

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The top of the 35-meter-185-steps high Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse is an excellent vantage point offering spectacular 360-degree views of the Bermuda coastline and the sparkling Atlantic beyond.

On a lucky spring day, you may just get to see migrating whales – making the exhausting climb to the top all the more worth your troubles. By the way, there are landings on the way up that provide resting spots with a view and information on the history of the lighthouse.

Address: Lighthouse Road, between South Shore and Middle Roads, Gibbs Hill

Crystal and Fantasy Caves

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At Bermuda’s Crystal and Fantasy Caves, you can venture 37 meters below the earth’s surface to view a subterranean lake and impressive crystal formations. Walkways on floating pontoons thread through the cave and provide a great vantage point to peer at formations rising from the depths of the pool. Looking up, you can admire the many beautiful stalactites and crystallized soda straws descending from the cave’s ceiling. A state-of-the-art lighting system illuminates the formations, and informative guides share details about the caves’ history and geology.

Address: 8 Crystal Caves Road, Hamilton Parish

St. Peter’s Church

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Completed in 1612, St. Peter’s Church is the oldest Anglican church site in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. The church’s architecture is simple yet graceful and showcases architectural styles from the 17th century onwards. Composed of red cedar, the hand-carved altar is one of the oldest pieces of woodwork in Bermuda. Other highlights include the collection of silver and the baptismal font believed to be more than 900 years old. The churchyard contains many headstones, which date back more than 300 years, including those of slaves.

Address: Duke of York Street, St. George

Bermuda Railway Trail

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The Bermuda Railway Trail is a good way to see hidden parts of Bermuda. This 29-kilometer walking and bike trail winds across cliffs, woods, beaches, and dunes along the route that belonged to the Bermuda Railway. Called the” Old Rattle and Shake,” Bermuda’s only train made its first run in 1931 and was dismantled by 1948.

Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art

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The Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, located within the lush surroundings of the Botanical Gardens, exhibits a proud collection of more than 1200 specimens of Bermuda-inspired art.

In addition to a permanent collection of artwork from the likes of Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Albert Gleizes, the Museum also promotes work of local artists with the help of rotating exhibits.

The museum also features two main galleries, a gift shop, and café.

Address: 169 South Road, Paget Parish

Spittal Pond Nature Reserve

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Spittal Pond Nature Reserve is spread over 60 acres of lush space teeming with flora and fauna. It is Bermuda’s largest protected area featuring hiking trails, vantage points for bird watching, and wildlife-rich wetlands.

Bird watchers are likely to spot more than 30 species of waterfowl – especially during the migration season.

Spittal Pond is also the location of the original Portuguese Rock, carved by a shipwrecked Portuguese sailor in 1543.

Address: South Road, Smith’s Parish,

Best time to visit

So, when is the most appropriate time to plan a visit to Bermuda? It all depends on your personal likes and dislikes and how you intend to spend your time on the island nation. However, as far as tourism is concerned, the peak season starts in May and ends in October when a maximum number of tourists makes the most of Bermuda’s offerings. As high as 85 percent of them are from the United States while Canada and the UK – along with some other countries – account for the remaining 15 percent of tourist activity on the island.

Weather

May to October (High/Peak Season): Average day temperature – high 80s (°F); average night temperature – high 60s (°F); humidity – low 80s

November to April (Low/Off Season): The temperature varies between high 60s (°F) to low 60s (°F). The day time is pleasantly cool although you will need jackets in early mornings and late evenings.

Coolest month: February with an average temperature of 66°F

Hottest month: July with an average temperature of 80°F

Transportation:

While renting a car in Bermuda is not possible as the law prohibits it, scooters – or “bikes” as the locals prefer to call them – are available for rent. Do bear in mind that Bermuda is still a British overseas territory and they drive on the left side of the road.

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