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.
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.
Bermuda's accommodation options include something for every taste and budget level, ranging from small bed and breakfast-like guest houses to efficiency units, to large resort hotels. Of particular note is the island's unique collection of cottage colonies, which are Bermudian accommodations that features a main clubhouse surrounded by groups of cottages. With places to stay scattered throughout the island, the majority of properties are located close to the island's South Shore in Paget, Warwick and Southampton Parishes, as well as in Pembroke Parish, just outside the City of Hamilton.
The island's high season runs from April through October, when the sub-tropical island attracts the majority of its visitors, warmer weather, numerous recreational choices and higher prices. During low season, from November through March, lower rates can be found along with cooler temperatures, less crowds and endless activity options.
For accommodations that have restaurants, a Modified American Plan (MAP) consisting of daily breakfast and dinner at the property's restaurants might be available. Since the expense of eating off-property at various restaurants can be costly, purchasing the MAP can be a good value and should be considered.
Guest Houses resemble what Americans call bed and breakfasts, where comfortable guest rooms are offered in an informal living setting. Bermuda's Guest Houses are in old, yet modernized homes overlooking luscious gardens or offering turquoise waters views. Small Guest Houses have at least three rooms, while larger ones have up to 20. Most offer a continental breakfast while a few have a waterfront and/or pool. The larger houses tend to have more expansive facilities that include kitchenette units. In general, Guest Houses are fairly expensive in price.
Examples of Guest Houses include Aunt Nea's Inn at Hillcrest, Edgehill Manor, Fordham Hall Guest House, Granaway Guest House & Cottage and Greene's Guest House.
Housekeeping Cottages and Apartments
Also known as efficiency or self-catering units, Bermuda's Housekeeping Cottages and Apartments are informal accommodations that are divided into two categories, large and small—based on the total number of units each property contains. All apartments and cottages have kitchen facilities where guests supply their own food. While not all units have a beach or pool, none are a far distance from the island's beautiful pink sand beaches that are open to the public. These accommodations are the most cost-efficient on the island.
The larger-sized cottages and apartments tend to be located on beautiful landscaped estates, some with their own beach or waterfront or pool. Others resemble modern apartment-style units that surround a pool or have ocean views.
Less expensive are the smaller cottages and apartments, offering comfortable surroundings. All units have minimal daily maid service while some have a pool.
Bermuda's Large Housekeeping Cottages and Apartments include Angel's Grotto and Astwood Cove Hotel.
Small efficiency units include Barnsdale Guest Apartments, Vienna Guest Apartments and Whale Bay Inn.
A uniquely Bermuda accommodation style, Cottage Colonies are made up of a main clubhouse, groups of luxurious cottages scattered throughout the property's manicured landscaped grounds and a private beach or pool. Offering privacy, most cottages have kitchenettes for snacks and drinks. The clubhouse features the front desk and a reception area, restaurants, a lounge and a bar. Most colonies offer evening entertainment ranging from piano music and dancing, to swizzle parties and local musicians. In addition, a wide variety of recreational and sporting activities including tennis, watersports and golf are available.
Examples of Cottage Colonies include Ariel Sands Beach Club (owned by actor Michael Douglas), Cambridge Beaches and Daniel's Head Village (the island's only tented accommodation and the first hotel development since 1972).
Offering services and entertainment on a lesser scale than resort hotels, Bermuda's small hotels combine the intimate, inclusive atmosphere that can be found in guest houses with additional facilities. Small Hotels range from informal accommodations to luxurious guest rooms furnished with modern-day amenities. Each property offers a pool and patio, while most feature dining rooms and/or bars and a private beach or beach club. These hotels have limited entertainment and recreational facilities, however most sports can be easily arranged. Bermuda's Small Hotels include Hamiltonian Hotel & Island Club, Harmony Club Hotel and Waterloo House.
The island's resort hotels are the most luxurious and the most expensive option on the island, offering the most services, facilities and amenities. Comfortable guest rooms are furnished with all of today's modern amenities. Each resort offers several restaurants and bars, pools, shopping arcades, beauty salons and fitness centers. Most have a private beach or beach club and spa facilities.
Recreational and sporting options include tennis, golf, watersports, bicycle and moped rentals and daily excursions that can be arranged through the concierge or social desk. Entertainment includes piano music, dancing, children's summer program, swizzle parties, barbecues and daily guest activities.
Resort hotels have meeting and convention facilities and play host such groups year-round.
The five resort hotels on the island are Elbow Beach Bermuda Hotel, Fairmont Southampton Princess (The), Fairmont Hamilton Princess, Grotto Bay Beach Hotel and the Sonesta Beach Resort.
Codfish cakes, spiny lobster and fish chowder are some of the local seafood dishes that whet Bermudians palettes; while rum swizzles and the famed dark-and-stormy - a mixture of local Black Seal rum and ginger beer - are the drinks that quench their thirst. While Bermuda does not have a distinctive cuisine of its own, certain local delights await tourists and are definitely worthy of a taste while visiting. Most specialty dishes and drinks are available at local restaurants and can also be found on the menu at hotel dining establishments.
Once a staple food, codfish cakes are still enjoyed throughout the island, especially during traditional Sunday brunches, while Cassava Pie, whose authentic Bermuda recipe dates back to the 1600s, is a Christmas tradition. Bermuda's fish chowder, a spicy soup made with either rockfish or snapper - flavored with local black rum and sherry peppers sauce - is a national dish.
Bermuda has over 100 restaurants scattered across the island for visitors to choose from, with something to please just about every budget and food craving. Reservations are recommended for dinner and Sunday Brunch, especially during high season, and most restaurants automatically add a 15 percent service charge to the bill instead of a tip.
Dining facilities range from small roadside cafes to smart casual eateries to formal posh dining rooms; and most types of cuisine can be found, including Italian, Indian, Chinese, French and Mexican - to name a few; however, Jewish visitors should note that there are no kosher restaurants on the island, nor are there any vegetarian-only dining establishments. In addition, while there are fast food restaurants in Bermuda, there are no popular chains such as McDonald's and Burger King (but you will find only one KFC).
Most hotels throughout the island offer on-property dining. Many small hotels and cottage colonies have one dining room, while resort hotels normally have several restaurants for guests to choose from. Poolside and outdoor dining options as well as lively buffet barbeques are popular at hotels, mainly occurring during high season. Optional meal plans of daily breakfast and dinner can be purchased at most properties. As the expense of eating off-property at various restaurants, which can be costly, purchasing the meal plan can be of good value. In addition, certain hotels that offer meal plans also provide guests with exchange privileges to dine at other hotel restaurants. If money is a concern, guests should consider the optional all-inclusive package at Grotto Bay Beach Hotel, where meals and drinks are included or the Harmony Club Hotel, which is the island's only all-inclusive hotel.
St. George's Parish
In the town of St. George, visitors should stop by San Giorgio Ristorante. Located on Water Street, this waterfront Italian serves Mediterranean cuisine and has been called one of the island's best. Guests can choose to dine either indoors or out, overlooking St. George's Harbour. Dress is smart casual and prices are moderate.
Also popular is Freddie's Pub, overlooking King's Square, where traditional fish and chips and other English fare is served in a restored 18th century building. Dress is casual at Freddie's and prices are moderate.
The Swizzle Inn at Bailey's Bay is a must for all new visitors to Bermuda. Named in honor of Bermuda's popular Rum Swizzle, the inn features a relaxed atmosphere and an eclectic menu of local pub food that attracts both Bermudians and visitors alike. Dress is casual and prices are inexpensive.
On the more elegant and formal side, Tom Moore's Tavern, on Walsingham Lane, is a former 17th century private residence featuring limestone walls, wooded beams and fireplaces. Guests dine on continental specialties including Bermuda lobster when it's in-season (from September through March). Jacket-and-tie is preferred, and prices are moderate.
Located on Bermudiana Road in Hamilton, Portofino is a popular restaurant featuring Italian cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere where locals and visitors alike gather. Dress is casual and prices are inexpensive to moderate. Reservations are recommended.
If a good steakhouse is calling your name, then the Colony Pub Steakhouse at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess is a must. A short walk from the city, this restaurant is accented by a cedar-paneled bar and a favorite of locals. Guests can expect huge portions of an entrée of their choice, from the steaks and lamb chops to the baked potatoes and onion rings. Dress is smart casual and prices are moderate. Paget Parish
The highly acclaimed Fourways Inn restaurant is located in a restored private home that was built in the 1700s. International cuisine and seafood delights are served in a setting of old-world décor and charm. Jacket-and-tie is required and prices are expensive. Reservations are necessary.
Situated dockside overlooking the Little Sound, the Waterlot Inn at the Fairmont Southampton Princess (The) was once a 17th century private home. Mediterranean cuisine is served in an intimate atmosphere captivated by candlelight and elegance. Jacket and tie are required and prices are moderate to expensive. Reservations are necessary.
European cuisine is the specialty at Henry VIII, named after the oft-married King of England. Guests dine in one of four rooms, all of which are decorated in rich oak paneling to create an English and pub-like setting. Jackets are required and prices are moderate.
A perfect family restaurant, Beethoven's Restaurant & Bar is located at the Clocktower Centre at the Royal Naval Dockyard. Local yet sophisticated delights are sure to be a hit in this cozy and intimate setting. Dress is casual and prices are inexpensive.
Sunday Brunch is a popular meal in Bermuda, but it tends to be a bit on the expensive side. Although pricey, there's always a huge selection of foods, ranging from hot, cold and spicy to fish, fowl and seafood, to choose from. Restaurants offering Sunday brunch are listed in the Saturday edition of the Royal Gazette newspaper.
Considering its British background, there is no wonder why traditional afternoon tea is an everyday occurrence in Bermuda. Most hotels offer free afternoon tea with scones to their guests, while visitors to the Lighthouse Tearoom at the Gibb's Hill Lighthouse in Southampton can enjoy an English tea for about USD 6.