You’ve seen the shorts And heard mystical stories about the triangle, but maybe you still get Bermuda confused with Barbuda, Bahamas or Barbados. It happens.
Unlike the other islands that start with a “B,” the oldest British colony in the world isn’t in the Caribbean. It’s in the North Atlantic, a short flight from New York, and it’s a very unique place worth putting on your travel list.
There’s a popular option to visit the island by cruise ship from New Jersey, but I decided to skip the extra days at sea and head straight there. All evidence pointed to a hurricane landing about the same time as my plane, but this tiny group of islands was spared, as often happens here. I arrived to clear blue skies. Even more impressive was the blue water that surrounds Bermuda. I’ve never seen any ocean that shade of cyan. It was the end of the season so beaches had just a few sun-seekers. Cruises had been canceled because of the threat of a hurricane. I practically had the place to myself.
The cheapest way to get around is by public bus which is about $4 per ride and covers most of the island. You can rent a two-seater electric car or a scooter if you’re confident driving on the left side of the road. The island makes a hook shape that can be navigated from one side to the other in about two hours. I opted for the scooter and spent two days driving around seeing the highlights of this paradise.
St. George's is just north of the airport and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s a picturesque harbor, old forts and Tobacco Bay beach, a popular sheltered swimming area. There’s fewer white sand beaches and more rock formations than the rest of the island.
Fort St. Catherine has a nice museum and the harbor area has hourly shows with character actors performing in front of the town hall. At first glance, the show looked like something you might see in Boston. The Bermudian accents aren’t really English, and they’re not quite American. A town crier was ringing a bell and accusing a woman of nagging her husband. The penalty—being seated in a metal seesaw of sorts and repeatedly dunked in the water. The onlookers all got to participate and there was a weird thrill to it all.
Just south of St. George's is one of the island’s most iconic spots: The Swizzle Inn. This little pub is famous for its rum swizzle, the Bermudian rum elixir that’s been served here since 1932. This little pub is minutes from the airport, so it makes a nice stop coming or going, and its signature drink is an island tradition. Another popular beverage choice is the Dark 'n Stormy, the semi-official Bermudian cocktail simply made from Goslings Black Seal Rum and ginger beer in a barrel-shaped glass. It’s a Moscow mule with rum essentially, but the island makes it its own.
A short walk across the street and through the park brings you to the entrance of the Fantasy and Crystal caves, two beautiful water-filled caves with escorted tours running throughout the day. The caverns are stunning. Most of the walk is underground at water level. As you walk along the bridges, the lighting shows off the cave formations and amazing crystal clear blueish water below. These are probably the most photogenic caves you’ll ever see anywhere, and it's a nice cool escape from the Bermuda sun. Most of Bermuda is honeycombed with subterranean caverns, but these are the most accessible. The Cafe Ole restaurant near the entrance of the cave has one of the best fish sandwiches you’ll ever put in your mouth, served on raisin toast. There’s enough for two people to share.
To get a real feel for Bermuda history, head all the way to the end of the “fishhook” to the Royal Naval Dockyard. Besides being Bermuda’s most touristy spot, the dockyard is where the cruise ships arrive as well as the location for the National Museum of Bermuda. This giant fort has historical buildings, cannons and other military memorabilia, shipwreck items, and a ton of information explaining the island’s relevance to Africa, Europe, America and the Caribbean. Five hundred years of history is gathered here. There’s also a dolphin discovery area, a snorkeling bay and a few restaurants and bars that cater to overseas visitors.
The beaches are why most people come to Bermuda, and you won’t be disappointed with the pristine coastline. The most popular area is the southeast part of the island that extends from Horseshoe Bay to Elbow Beach. Horseshoe Bay Cove is the most developed with a burger restaurant and bar next to a beautiful stretch of beach. There are plenty of places along the beach to find your privacy if you want to avoid the cruise ship crowds.
Hamilton has the most options for nightlife and restaurants. The Lobster Pot and Boathouse Bar is a great place to grab some bisque. Little Venice is a perfect stop for great Italian and fantastic desserts. If you’re looking for a nice night out, you can’t go wrong with the bar at The Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club and its signature restaurant Marcus. There are plenty of great pubs along the harbor such as Flanagan’s Irish Pub and the Dog House, whose tagline is “Come. Sit. Stay.” Bermuda churns out a few brands of its own local beer if you tire of Dark 'n Stormys.
However you get to Bermuda, or however long you choose to stay, you’ll find that there’s a lot more to the island than what you see at first glance. There’s a unique culture that fits somewhere between Europe and the U.S., but all its own.