By Nathalie De Grandmont
With its pink-sand beaches, turquoise waters, vibrant flowers, and abundant seafood, the Bermuda archipelago offers a kaleidoscope of colours, plenty of history, and a one-of-a-kind natural setting
Despite the notoriety of the Bermuda Triangle, the Bermuda archipelago itself remains relatively unknown. Located in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Caribbean Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (almost 650 miles) east-southeast of North Carolina, it comprises more than 120 coral islands that feature luxurious vegetation and brilliant colours and enjoy mild temperatures almost all year long. A key British naval base in the 19th and 20th centuries, and still a British Overseas Territory, Bermuda has retained much of its English character.
Isle of Devils
What most people think of as Bermuda is in fact several islands connected by bridges to form a single “island” shaped roughly like a fish hook. It has long been called “the Isle of Devils” for its storms and dangerous reefs and for the cries of a native nocturnal bird—the petrel—that frightened even the bravest of sailors. To learn about Bermuda’s incredible maritime history, start your visit at the Royal Naval Dockyard, the largest of many military fortresses on the island. Today, the site includes a marina, shops, and lively art galleries, as well as the National Museum of Bermuda, which is filled with fascinating objects that were found on the countless shipwrecks around the archipelago. Also check out the Commissioner’s House, featuring Graham Foster’s grand mural covering four walls. The artist traces the 500-year history of the island in a painting filled with details, humour, and folklore—a creation as impressive as the view you can admire from there.
Next, take some time to explore the bays and beaches of the South Shore, including those of The Reefs resort and Horseshoe Bay, where limestone rocks heighten the contrast between the turquoise waters and the pink sandy beach. A long path along the shore leads to Warwick Long Bay, one of Bermuda’s most picturesque beaches. Afterwards, head to Hamilton, the capital, where UberVida catamarans offer pleasant sunset cruises. This is also the perfect place to try the colourful Rum Swizzle, a cocktail favoured by Bermudians.
On your second day, visit The Island of St. George (more commonly, St. George’s Island) and the 400-year-old Town of St. George (a.k.a. St. George’s Town, or simply St. George’s), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tucked away in the alleys around its town hall are charming houses and churches from the 17th and 18th centuries, such as the Old Rectory, Long House, and Tucker House (where you can see furniture and antiques from the 18th century), as well as the oldest Anglican church outside the British Isles, St. Peter’s, with its original cedar altar and ceilings.
At the Lili Bermuda perfumery, owner and Montreal native Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone—who happens to be the honorary consul of Canada in Bermuda—gave us a warm welcome. Be sure to have a sniff of one of her most original perfumes, Mary Celestia, inspired by two bottles of perfume found in the wreckage of a ship by that name in 1864. Other inspirations for her fragrances, says Ramsay-Brackstone, include the sea, the seasons, orange blossoms, roses, and many local flowers. For a few days each week, the boutique’s flowery courtyard becomes a small tea room where you can enjoy that quintessentially British beverage with sandwiches, pastries, and homemade scones.
We went on to explore St. George’s and the surrounding areas by bike with guide Kristin White, visiting the romantic ruins of the Unfinished Church and then winding our way along the banks of Tobacco Bay to Fort St. Catherine (or Fort St. Catherine’s), where the first British colonists landed following a shipwreck in 1609. White, who owns the boutique A Long Story Short (longstoryshort.life), is a local history buff; she also brought us to a few cemeteries. Intrepid cyclists can press on along the Bermuda Railway Trail (a former railway line), which runs along the cliffs and the sea.
After all that exercise, we felt we’d earned a massage at the Natura Cave Spa, located in a cave under the Grotto Bay Beach Resort. Lying comfortably on a platform over the water, you can feel both the heat of the massage and the freshness of the cave as you listen to water dripping from the stalactites.
Marine Life and More
Bermuda is home to a rich variety of marine life, which thrills those who enjoy fishing, scuba diving, and snorkelling, three activities that are mostly done on the North Shore. On the island itself, maximize your chances of spotting the famous petrel by taking a tour with ornithologist Lynn Thorne, who knows and can imitate the archipelago’s national bird like no one else (firstname.lastname@example.org). As she described this incredible seafaring bird, she showed us other migratory birds and the plants and shellfish that live in Bermuda’s rich coastal habitats.
If you’re especially interested in the healing properties of plants, book a walk or guided tour of Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve with Doreen Williams-James. “Nature produces everything our bodies need, and at the right time,” she told us as she had us touch, sniff, and taste some of the edible plants and flowers that she uses in herbal teas, juices, salads, and pastries.
To delight our tastebuds even more, we had no shortage of choices. At lunchtime, we stopped to try the fried-fish sandwiches at Woody’s. These tasty treats are served on raisin bread. We also sampled the fish chowder, with its spicy tomato sauce base, at Aqua Terra. For your evening feast, many restaurants offer excellent farm-to-table (or sea-to-table) cuisine. Our favourites included the deck of The Loren Hotel (Pink Beach Club) and the Huckleberry, part of the Relais & Châteaux chain.
From its exotic cocktails to its flowers and beaches, Bermuda really knows how to entice…one sense at a time.
Good to Know
Getting there: Air Canada and WestJet offer direct flights (less than three hours) from Toronto in winter.
Where to stay: The Reef Resort and Club is an inviting family-owned hotel situated on the South Shore.
Currency: The Bermudian dollar is at par with the US dollar, which is commonly used there.