Located 1050 kilometers (650 miles) off the coast of North Carolina is a 55 square-kilometer (21 square-mile) island dotted with pastel-colored houses, pink sand beaches and narrow winding roads. As a self-governing British colony, Bermuda is comprised of 181 small islands and islets connected by bridges and causeways that resemble a fishhook from the air.
Bermuda is divided into nine parishes or "tribes," as they were called back in the 1600s when the island was first surveyed. The original eight tribes, named after prominent shareholders in the Bermuda Company, included Sandys, Southampton, Warwick, Paget, Pembroke, Devonshire, Smith's and Hamilton, and were divided by narrow lanes. While some tribe roads are remnants of the past, others exist today as shortcuts to major roads and footpaths found during walks around the island. St. George's, considered public land back in those days, is the island's ninth parish.
Each parish is unique. St. George's captures the island's past with structures dating back to the 17th Century - now they are modernized, and pastel-colored buildings make up the government and shopping destinations in the city of Hamilton and Pembroke Parish. Nature reserves and scenic bays can be found in Sandys.
St. George & St. George's Parish
Situated on Bermuda's East End, St. George's houses the island's first capital, the town of St. George. Founded in 1612 when the Sea Venture was shipwrecked off the coast, the Town has experienced little change in the past 400 years and illustrates what life was like in past centuries. A current revitalization project - ensuring not to jeopardize the Town's unique historical character - will restore cobblestone streets, monuments and structures, as well as add a new Heritage Visitor Centre, waterfront promenade and boardwalk. In November 2000, the town of St. George was named a World Heritage Site.
Also found in the Parish is
Centrally located, Pembroke houses capital city Hamilton, which replaced the Town of St. George as capital in 1815. Known for its shopping, international business and culture, Hamilton is home to the island's governmental system and Parliament.
Front Street, lined with rows of distinctive, pastel-colored buildings, houses the main ferry terminal, department stores, banks, restaurants and is where parades and other local happenings can be found. During high season, from April through October, cruise ships can be seen docked in Hamilton Harbour, along the street.
Outside of the capital to the northeast is
The westernmost of all Bermuda's parishes, Sandys is the furthest away from the island's airport. While an expensive taxi ride, the parish is served by four ferry stops, as well as the island's buses.
Attractions on the West End tend to be natural such as Mangrove Bay, Ely's Harbor and Springfield and
East of St. George's, Hamilton runs from the North Shore to the South Shore and is best explored by moped, bicycle or taxi. The area has deep limestone caves, including
Smith's sits between Hamilton and Devonshire, running from the North Shore to the South Shore and overlooking part of Harrington Sound. The island's three main roads—North Shore Road, Middle Road and South Shore Road - pass through Smith's, each offering scenic views from narrow and winding roads.
Devonshire runs from the North Shore to the South Shore - set between Smith's to its east, Pembroke to its northwest and Paget to its southwest. At one time, the parish housed the British Army headquarters with the majority of the land used for military purposes. Today, the only remnants of base are a former hospital, now a government ministry headquarters, a graveyard, and the Officers Mess - now the Police Recreational Club.
Nature can be seen throughout the parish at the nine-hectare (22-acre)
To Devonshire's west is Paget, extending from Hamilton Harbour on the North to the South Shore. Best for exploring, the Parish is home to the Bermuda National Trust headquarters at Waterville and other historic houses.
The parish features the 15-hectare (36-acre)
Set between Southampton and Paget, Warwick spans from the Great Sound to the South Shore. The parish is the most densely populated of all parishes and is famous for its South Shore beaches.
South Shore Park extends from Chaplin's Bay, a scenic public beach, east passing over Stonehole Bay and
Southampton is the second-most western parish sitting between Sandys and Warwick, overlooking the Great Sound. Due to the long distance, getting to the parish from the airport is an expensive taxi ride.
When it comes to walking tours in Bermuda, the options are endless. There are pink sand beaches, beautiful parks, vibrant gardens and nature reserves that welcome visitors and encourage exploration. In addition, the City of Hamilton, the Town of St. George and the Royal Naval Dockyard are great areas to discover on foot. Each area offers weekly-guided tours that are free, as well as self-guided walking routes that are highlighted in brochures available in tourist centers.
Bermuda Railway Trail
Tracing the route of island's only train that was once called the "Old Rattle and Shake," the Bermuda Railway Trail is a scenic public walkway and bridle path. The trail stretches for nearly 21 miles and is made up six sections of varying length, starting in Sandys Parish and traveling east across the island to St. George's Parish. While no motor vehicles are permitted on the trail, certain sections do not meet up and require other means of transportation in order to connect the two. A guide highlighting the Railway Trail routes is available at tourist centers. In 2000, the Railway Trail was named a National Park and is currently undergoing a major renovation. Current areas where the trail ends prematurely will eventually be revised, and private parklands will be linked.
Nature and Scenic Walks
Treks through Bermuda's Nature Reserves and National Parks are a great way to get up-close-and-personal with the island's native flora and fauna, as well as sample some splendid scenery.
Bermuda Explorers Program
The Bermuda Explorers Program is a collection of guided tours aimed at providing visitors with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the island's cultural and heritage offerings. Ranging in price from $20 to USD 35 per person, the tours can be arranged through the participating program contacts, hotels, or local tourist centers. Tours in the Bermuda Explorers Program include:
Arts and Architecture Walk
A self-guided tour of Hamilton's local art galleries, beginning with a before-hours look at the permanent collections of Bermuda National Gallery led by a museum curator. Stops include the Bermuda Society of the Arts, the Regal Gallery, the Windjammer Gallery and the Bermuda Archives, where gallery owners and representatives will be on hand to answer questions.
Led by longtime Bermuda resident Jo Cook, this flexible walking tour explores areas of the island that are off-the-beaten path and not normally known to tourists. Participants gain special insights into the island that can only be learned from a local.
Native Adventure Tours
Photographer Tarnell Simons combinations photography with nature walks in this tour, which is individualized to create a unique experience, as well as a picture postcard photo album. Participants will learn about the aspects of history and culture behind each stop, as well as receive tips on how to capture the beauty of each location.
Bermuda Lectures and Tours
Walk through areas that are off-the-beaten path and ways from the normal tourist traps, such as tribe roads, railway trails, quiet lanes and National Park and reserves. Led by a qualified educator, weekly tours include an educational lesson into the island's flora and fauna, geology, history and architecture.
Cultural nature walks are led by a historian and explore the story behind the Caribbean Junkanoo dancers and the group's link to Bermuda's Goombeys. Various island plant life and plant uses are also discussed.
Bermuda, an archipelago made up of seven main islands (now connected by bridges) and approximately 170 small islets and rocks, lies about 1050 kilometers (650 miles) east of North Carolina's Cape Hatteras.
Today, the name Bermuda conjures up visions of pristine beaches, manicured golf courses and cool breezes; however, early in its history, sailors dubbed Bermuda the "Island of Devils," based on the belief that the region's frequent shipwrecks were caused by monsters that had attached themselves to the doomed vessels. In actuality, the islands had been formed by a combination of volcanic eruptions and coral build-up, and the dangerous coral reefs surrounding the islands were truly to blame for the many disasters.
The islands' modern history began in 1505, when the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez sighted it from his ship. He didn't stop, but he did take good notes on the islands and named them "Las Bermudas" on his map. Subsequent attempts to land on Bermuda were thwarted by the coral reefs, but one ship managed to anchor off Bermuda in 1525, making the first detailed mappings of the area. In 1538, the first men landed on the islands on a mission from the King of Spain searching for a riches-laden ship that had been lost for two years.
The shipwrecks continued to prevent settlement of the Bermuda until the early 17th Century, when a shipwreck actually led to the first long-term habitation of the islands. Sir George Somers was leading a group of ships from England to Jamestown, Virginia, when his ship, the Sea Venture, wrecked along the east coast. As the rest of his party headed on to Virginia, he and his crew stayed on for approximately a year to build new ships. The wreck of the Sea Venture, which was widely reported back in England, inspired Shakespeare to write "The Tempest." Somers returned to Bermuda two years later, intending to claim it for the Crown, and died there.
By 1612, 60 English settlers moved permanently to Bermuda, under the charter of the Virginia Company. More settlers, slaves and laborers followed soon after them. Bermuda rapidly became a slave-trading center and remained so until the British abolished slavery in 1834. Rule of Bermuda transferred from the Virginia Company to the Crown in 1684.
During the early years of settlement, three main forts were built on Bermuda. Fort St. Catherine, at the far eastern end of the island near St. George, is the largest. The two other forts, which were built to protect Hamilton Harbour, are Fort Scaur and Fort Hamilton, both dating back to the 1600s. St. George originally served at Bermuda's capital, but in 1815 the capital was moved to Hamilton. Colonists believed that Hamilton's location on the main island and its protected harbor provided more opportunity for growth.
During the American Civil War, Bermuda's proximity to the mainland United States made it an ideal base for Confederate blockade-runners. Later, during Prohibition in the United States, bootleggers and smugglers operated out of Bermuda. After Prohibition ended, Bermuda developed its two current industries: banking and tourism. Banking was a natural extension of Bermuda's history as a trade center. Tourism was a natural extension of the island's legendary beauty.
Over the course of its history, renowned writers, musicians, and artists have come to Bermuda and found inspiration in its landscape. Some of these luminaries include playwrights Noel Coward and Eugene O'Neill, who owned the same home there at different times; poet John Donne; and writer Mark Twain. Artist Winslow Homer was also a frequent visitor.
The island government handles all of its domestic issues except for security, while the Commonwealth is in charge of defense and foreign affairs. The leader of the government is a Governor, who is appointed by the Queen of England. The Bermuda Parliament governs local affairs. The parliament consists of a Lower House (or the House of Assembly) and an Upper House (the Senate). A nationally elected Premier handles the day-to-day working of the government and appoints ministers.
Today Bermuda attracts the everyday visitor as well as the rich and the famous, all of whom enjoy its stunning beauty, clean air and comfortable weather.
Known for its pink sand beaches, pastel-colored houses and turquoise waters, Bermuda is a bit more relaxed when it comes to the entertainment scene. While there is after-dark action on the island, more options are available to those who visit during high season, from April through October. But there are no worries to be had when it comes to finding something to do at night from November through March as the crowds are less and prices are normally lower.
The best way to find out what is going on in terms of entertainment and nightlife is to pick up copies of free publications, such as Preview Bermuda, Bermuda Weekly and This Week in Bermuda, at the island's tourist centers and hotel concierge and social desks. These magazines highlight the schedules of upcoming activities and events that will take place around the island. Local television and radio stations also provide visitors with details of scheduled cultural events and nightlife happenings across the island. Music
Visitors can find what is known as lounge entertainment in many of the hotels across the island. Lounge entertainment can be anything from classical piano tunes to a musician strumming a guitar to a local band playing the steel drums. Other properties set an island mood in their restaurants as calypso bands play appropriate dining music while guests indulge in fine foods and some also offer the opportunity for dancing.
Pubs across the island have long been a mainstay of the local entertainment scene and are a great place for visitors to mingle with the locals. Devonshire's Clayhouse Inn is where locals and visitors alike gather to watch shows starring limbo dancers, the Bermuda Strollers, and other local bands. Caliban's Bar at Ariel Sands has emerged as a great place for nightly Bermudian entertainment as is Hubie's Bar in Hamilton. Located on Angle Street off of Court Street, Hubie's is the place to be on Friday nights, where anyone and everyone from governmental officials to store clerks to local punks can be spotted enjoying some jazz. One thing to note is that the bar closes at 10 p! Some other pubs and bars of interest include the Hog Penny, The Pickled Onion and Flanagan's in Hamilton, The Swizzle Inn in Bailey's Bay and Freddie's in St. George's.
The City of Hamilton's Front Street also houses two of the island's most popular nightspots. The Oasis nightclub is the place for rock and disco that draws a younger crowd, while Club 40's disco dancing scene allows guests to show off their best moves on the island's largest dance floor.
For those who are looking for more than just musical entertainment, there are a variety of options that tourists can turn to. Local festivals, cultural events, art exhibits and theatrical performances and concerts are other ways that visitors to get their fill of the island's entertainment. In addition, most of the island's large resort hotels offer nightly after-dinner shows during the April to October high season. Taking place annually during the months of January and February, the Bermuda Festival draws to the island a host of internationally acclaimed artists who perform classical and jazz concerts as well as theatrical productions. Visitors also have the opportunity to enjoy local artist performances during this time in the Festival Fringe, which complements the Bermuda Festival. Bermuda's Philharmonic Society puts on several programs throughout the year, including classical music concerts that are performed by the entire Philharmonic as well as by soloists. These programs take place at several places across the island including the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Hamilton, King's Square in St. George's and the Royal Naval Dockyard.
The Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society features some of the island's best amateur actors. Plays are scheduled throughout the year at the Society's Daylesford Theatre headquarters in Hamilton. Be sure to order tickets in advance as most of their performances, including the Christmas pantomime, sellout.
As the only destination outside of the United States to enjoy the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Bermuda has hosted the Harvard University group for nearly 30 years. This satirical troupe performs at the island's City Hall Theatre in Hamilton during Bermuda College Weeks in March and April.
Bermuda is also home to some renowned art exhibits. The Hereward T. Watlington Collection, which includes paintings from the 15th to 19th centuries, is housed at the Bermuda National Gallery. Located in City Hall on Church Street in Hamilton, the gallery also offers other exhibits, lectures and theatrical presentations.
One of the hottest nightspots is the "Don't Stop the Carnival Party." Running from early May through October, this party starts with a boat ride to Hawkins Island in the Great Sound followed by an evening of entertainment. Guests can look forward to an island barbeque, open bar, live band, limbo contest and dancing under a sky fully lit by stars, as well as lots of fun. Fantasy Cruises operates an evening cruise during high season on a catamaran, where a strolling calypso-playing artist entertains as you sail through calm waters. For some late afternoon enjoyment, the Calypso Cruise makes a stop at Hawkins Island for swimming and snorkeling, and then continues its journey through the islands of the Great South as guests are entertained by the Tropical Beat duo.