Considerably cooler than the Caribbean islands that lie south of here, Bermuda is best known for its stunning pink sand beaches (the result of sand mixed with the crushed red skeletons of reef-dwelling protozoa), Bermuda shorts (standards business dress for men when worn with a blazer, tie, and knee socks), and “the Bermuda Triangle” (a debunked myth about the not-so-mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft in a huge swath of ocean that includes Bermuda).
Bermuda is a 21-squaer-mile archipelago of 7 major islands and 143 smaller ones interconnected by bridges and causeways. When the British sailing ship Sea Venture wrecked here in 1609 en-route to Jamestone, Virginia, (very likely inspiring Shakespeare’s play The Tempest), a few stalwarts stayed on to claim it, making it England’s oldest colony.
The beaches alone were reason enough to stay behind. Typically, South Shore Beaches – postcard Horseshoe Bay is one of the most popular – are more scenic than those on the north side. No hotels sit directly on Bermuda’s beaches, but the venerable 50-acre Elbow Beach Hotel, built in 1908, is as close as you can come. Now a Mandarin Oriental, the 98-room property has the island’s finest spa, afternoon tea, and excellent dining that runs from the romantic Lido restaurant to Mickey’s, the best bistro-on-the-beach – sample the island’s signature Dark ‘n’ Stormy (Black Seal rum and Barritt’s ginger beer) here.
For utter serenity from sunrise to sunset, set off by scooter (there are no car rentals in Bermuda) to the soft and truly pink Warwick Long Bay. With over 200 square miles of near-virgin reef and clear waters, Bermuda offers excellent diving and is one of the world’s great shipwreck diving capitals. Easily reached historic wrecks include everything from the Sea Venture to Civil War paddle wheelers and the 1930s luxury cruise liner Cristobal Colon.
But it is perhaps golf that Bermuda is most famous for. There are more golf course per square mile here than anywhere else in the world. Six public and two private golf clubs offer spectacular scenery, challenging course (seven are championship standard), wind – plenty of wind – plus a tradition of excellence not easy to find outside Scotland. Riddell’s Bar, established in 1992, is the island’s oldest and most picturesque club. Belmont Hills, challenging and undulating, opened a year later. The private Mid Ocean Club, long considered the island’s finest, has a rival in beauty and challenge in the Tucker’s Point Golf Course, dramatically refashioned out of a 1932 champion course at Castle Harbour. Next door is the 88-room rosewood Tucker’s Point, the first luxury hotel to be built in Bermuda since 1970. The flawless Point restaurant, spa, and some of Bermuda’s most beautiful saffron are a few of its many boons.
Bermuda’s popular “cottage” are a local tradition best exemplified by the hillside 1920s-era Cambridge beaches resort & spa, a refined country-club-like property on the island’s extreme western edge. It occupies a 30-acre peninsula edged with coves and four powder (but not pink) sand beaches. Daily afternoon tea is observed punctiliously, and the formal Tamarisk Restaurant is a long-time favourite.
Situated on a dramatic limestone cliff over-looking a perfect pink beach, the Reefs is small, all-inclusive, and boasts a fanatically loyal following. A reservation-with-a-view at Coconuts is among the most coveted on the island, while its Royston’s restaurant is a more formal choice.
Staying right in the small capital city of Hamilton is an unexpected delight when you’ve checked into the Rosedon Hotel, 1960 home expanded into an impeccable 44-room inn that serves a large teatime spread and an equally wonderful breakfast. All it lacks is a pink beach – but Elbow Beach is just a 10-minute scooter ride away.
BEST TIME: May – Oct for nice weather; Jan – Feb for Bermuda Festival; Jun for sailboat racing; late Sep-early Oct for Bermuda Music Festival; late Oct for Bermuda Tattoo.
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