There are nonstop flights to Hamilton from a number of cities along the east coast of the USA as well as London Gatwick. It is surprisingly a short flight from many major metropolitan areas including New York (under 2.5 hours) and Toronto (about 3 hours). Many airlines service the island with nonstop flights including Air Canada, American, British Airways, Delta, Jet Blue, United, US Airways and Westjet among others.
Bermuda Hamilton (BDA) Airport is small – to match the size of the island. USA citizens go through USA customs here when exiting the country rather than on the mainland.
There are no car rental companies on the island, however you can rent motor scooters – and you will see a number of tourists using these. Taxi’s wait at the airport – it is about a $20 ride into Hamilton (about 20 minutes from the airport). An affordable way to see the island is by public buses. These ply the entire island – blue poles means going away from Hamilton, Pink Poles mean returning to Hamilton. These poles are in front of every bus stop. You can pay as you board or daily passes can be purchased at the Ferry Terminal & Central bus terminal in Hamilton or Post Offices.
Sea Express offers daily ferry service to a number of locations island wide. Visit www.marineandports.bm for current schedules.
Bermuda by bicycle is certainly one way to see the island or spend a few hours exploring. A railway used to cover from one end of the island to the other; the track was removed and today this path is a great way to get around the island by foot or bicycle.
One driver and tour guide you will want to book is DJ or Donovan – he’s a “Bermuda Character” full of lots of local stories and color; he will make your sightseeing on the island an interesting and informative one. He can be reached at: Cell +441 703-2769 or email: email@example.com
The white “stepped” roofs you see all over the island are this color for a reason. Each home has their own water tank and all water collected from the roof is kept for personal use. The water therefore must be sterilized – roofs were historically coated with a lime wash; today a non toxic paint is generally used which acts as the sterilizing material.
The Bermuda dollar is equivalent to the USA dollar – both are readily accepted.
Bermuda is not just one island but rather many islands – some extremely small.
The two most popular drinks on the island are the Rum Swizzle and Dark and Stormy.
The island is very safe for tourists. Perhaps the most dangerous part of a stay here is if you rent a scooter and forget to drive on the left hand side of the island.
Roads are narrow and speed limits are low (generally 20mph or even lower in cities). The main chain of islands is 21 miles long and a leisurely drive will take about an hour from one end to the other.
There are over 400 wrecks surrounding the island and many dive sites.
Bermuda is known for its pink sand beaches – in person, these beaches aren’t completely pink but more of a pink tinge color. Church Bay is among the pinkest of the pink sand beaches on the island.
There are about 62,000 people living on the island. But over 110 churches.
Insurance and re-insurance are one of the largest businesses on the island.
The island was never inhabited when the British came in the early 1600’s. The earliest inhabitants were all from shipwrecks.
Much of the vegetation on the island has been introduced. The only native fruit on the island is the prickly pear. The only native palm tree is the Bermuda Palmetto. The Bermuda Cypress is also native and is prized for its wood.
You will see semi circle stone arches around the island. These are referred to as “moon gates” and to kiss under them means good luck. They are especially popular with honeymooners! These stone arches were introduced to the island by sailors who saw similar looking arches in Asia.
A local custom is for men to wear knee high socks with Bermuda shorts. You will see a number of people who work at hotels wearing these.
It is not often you can benefit from the use of two hotel properties when you stay somewhere but such is the case with a stay at either the Fairmont Princess Hamilton or the Fairmont Southampton. There is a ferry that connects the two properties, leaving several times a day and the ride takes about 30 minutes. This scenic journey is well worth it – head up to the deck and enjoy the gorgeous views, inlets and bays with their aquamarine waters. Both locations have their own features and attractions and guests staying at either can use the facilities at either property.
Fairmont tends to focus on historical properties; the Princess Hamilton dates from 1885 and is the oldest property of all Fairmont hotels. Mark Twain was a frequent visitor to the island and stayed here; he “greets you” from a bench you as you walk in the main entrance. Because of its proximity to Hamilton this is often the choice for the business traveler. It is within 10-15 minutes walking distance of downtown Hamilton. The property features two pools (freshwater and saltwater) – both overlook the nearby bay, and a 31,000 square foot spa. Dress up and visit the “gold room” on the second floor, a perfect place to whittle away an hour or so for afternoon tea and desserts.
The Fairmont Southampton boasts its own 18 hole golf course, the beautiful Willow Stream spa and a private pink tinged beach. Talk to Mark, the owner of the watersports shop located on this beach – he is one of the most down to earth guys you will meet and can help outfit you for paddle boarding, snorkeling, diving and kayaking. All equipment is available for rent here. And there are a number of secluded stunningly beautiful beaches and coves within walking distance from the property. One of Bermuda’s most well known beaches, Horseshoe Bay is also close by. A trolly takes people from the hotel down to the beach.
As with any stays at a Fairmont you can enroll for free in the Fairmont Presidents club for additional benefits including use of wifi property wide: www.fairmont.com/fpc/enroll
Beaches – Horseshoe Beach is among the most popular beaches in all of Bermuda and during warm days is packed with sun bathers. This beach is located within walking distance of the Fairmont Southampton. However, there are many beaches in this part of the island including a number of secluded small coves and nearly empty beaches (all within walking distance of Horseshoe Bay).
Bermuda is known for its “pink sand beaches” but in actuality these beaches contain more of a pink tinge with only a small component of the sand pink in color. The pink comes from red colored organisms living in the sea, crushed by the waves and then washing onto the Bermuda shoreline. Church Bay has some of the pinkest sand of all the beaches. For fewer crowds and a stunning location visit some of the beaches and the rocky outcroppings in Warwick Long Bay.
Boat Tour – for a relaxing way to see Bermuda (as well as a different perspective of the island and its history) look no further than a tour with Reggie Matthie and his 75 foot custom built luxury yacht. Often his son will tag along providing help and insights on the journey. This boat has lower deck lounge style seating and upper deck open to the air couches and chairs. This is a great way to explore the smaller waterways of the Island with an insiders perspective.
Alternatively – Captain “cookie” Brown runs Destiny Water Tours. When one grows up in Bermuda, the ocean is a major part of your life. Captain Brown got his start at age 8 when he and friends built and sailed a boat out of plywood. Over the years he’s moved onto much larger boats – today he is the captain of his own boat – the M.V. Destiny.
Crystal Caves is one of Bermuda’s premier attractions…for good reason. Many caves have large stalactites and stalagmites (Crystal Caves certainly has their fair share of these) but what sets this cave apart are the delicate long and narrow crystal tube like formations that glitter in the light. The cave was discovered in 1905 by two young teenagers who lost their cricket ball in a “hole in the ground” – the original entrance was a steep set of wooden steps down from their original discovery. This entrance proved to be too steep and the current entrance was blasted through the limestone rock a few years after their discovery.
The bottom of the cave is covered in sea water which rises and falls with tidal fluctuations. It is extremely clear. A floating pathway leads through the main cavern – you are surrounded by crystal spires – formed over eons by the dripping of water containing mostly calcium carbonate. Bermuda has a number of caves on the island. A tour here is guided and lasts about 40 minutes. Visit: www.caves.bm
Underwater Exploration Institute is one of the must visit attractions on the island; their focus is on education and appreciation of the under water world which surrounds Bermuda. The diversity of sea life contained off Bermuda’s shores is remarkable. Bermuda exists because of an old volcano – the land on the island is a limestone cap covering the original lava from the volcano. The drop off is precipitous around the island – down several miles to the floor of the ocean. As a result there is a wide array of sea life ranging from the most diversity within 50 feet of water around the coral beds all the way down thousands of feet to the giant tube worms and giant squid.
The Jack Lightbourn Shell Collection is on exhibit; this is one of the world’s largest and best shell collections. Jack has collected shells world wide for many years – one room contains over 1,200 shells. And this is only a quarter of his entire collection! Highlights here include colorful and intricate shells, the Coxcomb Oyster shells (in part providing the inspiration for the shape of the Sydney Opera House) as well as the first shell in Jack’s collection.
Because of Bermuda’s location and its treacherous reefs there have been many shipwrecks on the island. The “treasure room” contains some of the “bounty” that has been recovered from these wrecks including gold and silver coins, bottles dating back several hundred years and items from specific ship wrecks.
Seasonal highlights offered through the Institute include whale watching and their popular “evening glow worm tours” taking in the light produced from bio-luminescent fire-worms which swim near the surface of the ocean.
Royal Naval Dockyard is one of the premiere destinations on the island. Major cruise ships also stop here. Within one complex there is a wide diversity of activities to choose from.
Stops here can include a visit to the Clocktower Mall with its two picturesque 100 foot towers, the National Museum of Bermuda, Segeway tours, a Watersports center, Snorkel Park Beach, restaurants (including Bonefish Bar & Grill) and an arts center.
St George. This charming and picturesque town sits on the waterfront and is a must visit. It’s narrow streets with dazzling white and colorful buildings creates an ideal set for photography enthusiasts. The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage site full of old churches, out of the way shops, small restaurants, and picturesque buildings. St. George was the original capital of the island and boasts the island’s first building, St Peter’s church which dates back over 400 years.
Lido – this restaurant boasts good food, a romantic setting, a wide sandy beach and expansive views of the ocean. Visit: www.lido.bm
Swizzle Inn is one of the culinary “institutions” on the island. A sign at the door warns you to leave the “baggies”, plain white tees, skullies and hoodies at home. It is a place that has character and a gift shop (not often qualities that reflect good food) but the Swizzle Inn delivers quality food and portions. Our recommendation: the rockfish – a delicate tasting fish caught in the local waters.
With some of the most intense and strongest Rum Swizzles on the island your visit may be living testament to the following quote: “Swizzle Inn and Stagger out!”. Visit: www.swizzleinn.com
After lunch, dinner or drinks at the Swizzle Inn, pop across the street for some delicious home made ice cream at Bailey’s. They have some unique flavors including a “dark and stormy” modeled after the island’s well known alcoholic beverage.
Goslings is the oldest business in Bermuda having been founded in 1806; it is still under the same family ownership. Their start goes like this: they tried to start a business in one country, (the USA), but ended up starting the business in another (Bermuda). After trying to reach America and spending 91 days at sea they found no winds and put in port at Bermuda. They never left!
No tours are given but they have a well stocked spirits shop with all their own productions as well as a wine shop in downtown Hamilton (Front Street) with wines from all over the world. For unique liqueurs look no further than their Loquat Liqueur, a specialty drink made from the Loquat fruit which grows all over the island. Older rums are also available for purchase.
Hamilton is a hot spot for little bars and restaurants. For a hip drinking experience hit the upstairs bar and restaurant, the Pickled Onion. www.thepickledonion.com
Henry VIII serves up an eclectic cuisine including Steak, Seafood and Sushi all under the same roof. This is one of the more lively places to party on a Saturday night with live music and plenty of dancing in their Oak Room Pub. Visit: www.henrys.bm
“The Dock” at The Waterlot Inn is located at the water’s edge just down from the Fairmont Southampton. This is a great place for lounging dockside, enjoying drinks along with appetizers. Perfect for watching the sun go down. Often live music to.
The official Bermuda Department of Tourism is the go to updated site for all things relating to the island. Visit: www.gotobermuda.com
Our son and his family went to Bermuda for spring break. They stayed at the Mandarin Elbow Beach. They commented that food (from grocery stores to restaurants) was expensive. It’s the nature of islands I guess. Many locals recommended Paraquet restaurant and they said it was fine. They had great Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Princess. It was one of the highlights of a busy stay.
Yes – the food is a bit pricey. I did not have a chance to try Paraguet – thanks for that recommendation. Yea, the “high tea” at the Fairmont is def a highlight – everyone dresses up real nice 🙂
Dave great post and thank you for the review, i see your still busy traveling the world, great posts and keep it up. When are you coming back to Bermuda?
Take care my good friend,
DJ Taxi aka Donovan
DJ – good to hear from you! Yes, its been nonstop travel since the Bermuda trip. I hope to get to Nevis later this year – no plans yet to return to Bermuda – but that can easily change 🙂