Best of Bermuda
|Bermuda is known
for its pink coral beaches.
Yes! Bermuda can be posh or affordable. Here's the best of where to
stay and what to do to enjoy this Atlantic island paradise.
Text and photos by Toby Saltzman
The sweet snapshot on my mantle evokes memories of a dreamy honeymoon.
Smiling in front of a moongate, there's Ken, with a headful of curls,
sporting Bermuda shorts and knee socks, and me, with a fall flipped
'60s style, wearing tangerine capris and a sleeveless turtleneck.
We'd bought a cheap package holiday without a penny to spare. But
things didn't turn out exactly as we'd planned. So young and naďve
then, we chalked it up to experience.
Forget smooching in front of an ocean sunset at Elbow Beach: the
only view we had was of a rooftop incinerator. Our first day there,
I had a stunning motorbike accident. A freak flat tire on the causeway
sent me and my moped skyward for a loop. Luckily, we landed right-side
up smack between the spokes of the bridge, with no injuries. I hitched
a ride back to the resort with a truck driver who let me squeeze
in among his load of pungent Bermuda onions.
If not for our meal plan, we'd have dined on love alone. Literally
out of cash in those pre-chargex days, we sheepishly snuck past
the bellhop. On the flight home, we vowed to return when we could
afford to leave a tip.
Thirty years later, we indulged in a second honeymoon - this time,
mixing luxury and economy. Ken's curls are gone, as are my curves,
but the island remains as wonderful as we remembered it. Better
still, we're pleased to report that, contrary to its posh reputation,
Bermuda is affordable at last.
|View of Bermuda’s
tiny islands through a moongate.
Situated about 1000 km off the coast of North Carolina, this elegant
British Dependent Territory is actually a narrow chain of some 180
isles, most of them uninhabited. There's no visible poverty here
- Bermudians enjoy very comfortable incomes. Houses are picture-perfect,
with sherbet facades and white limestone roofs. Wild bougainvillea,
hibiscus, oleander and morning glory perfume the air. The beaches
are gorgeous, from intimate coves to long swaths of pink sand. And
the wide variety of hotels and eateries suits tastes from the simple
to the sublime.
Despite apprehensions of staying in our first island "housekeeping
cottage", Angel's Grotto turned out to be a gem. The secluded string
of whitewashed cottages was an easy 10-minute walk from a beautiful
sandy beach. We felt deliciously bohemian in our top-floor efficiency
unit, with its tidy parlor, kitchenette, king-size bedroom, and
private bathroom. Daisy, proprietor of this award-winning hostelry,
noted its popularity with professionals on post-seminar holidays.
She's quite popular herself, perhaps because she arranges for her
guests to play the prestigious, private Mid-Ocean Golf Club.
The cash we saved by staying at Angel's Grotto covered our island
escapades plus one sensational dinner at Fourways Inn, arguably
Bermuda's best restaurant. Surrounded by the muted elegance of chandeliers,
rustic beams, monogrammed silver and piano serenade, we dined splendidly,
starting with Bermuda seafood chowder laced with rum and sherry
peppers, and ending with plump, sweet souffles.
A couple of days later we returned to the Elbow Beach Resort. Contrary
to the saying "you can never go back", we found it romantic to revisit
the scene of our honeymoon - especially since we upgraded to a divine
lanai suite shaded by palms in a lush manicured garden, steps away
from the pink sandy beach. This resort, too, turned out affordable,
because we'd booked an air-hotel charter package through a travel
Bermuda's Best Resort Deals
There are deals to be had in Bermuda, even at luxury resorts. The
trick is to book charter packages that include airfare, accommodations,
transfers, hotel taxes and service charges. Some even offer breakfast
and golf privileges. These resorts - which may be booked individually
- often appear in charter packages. (In Canada, check out Air Canada
Vacations' brochure.) The rates noted below run from April to November.
Fall and winter rates are considerably lower. Check your local travel
agent for best current rates.
Elbow Beach. This luxury resort
overlooking 50 acres of botanical gardens, has hotel rooms and suites
plus lanais. It also offers a magnificent pink sandy beach, huge
pool, spa, five tennis courts, and several restaurants.
P.O.Box HM 455, Hamilton HM BX Bermuda.
Tel: 441-236-3535 Fax: 441-236-8043.
Fairmont Southampton Princess.
Perched on Bermuda's highest point, this grand refurbished hotel
boasts fine dining, fabulous views, indoor and outdoor pools, an
18-hole golf course, tennis courts, a broad beach and the interactive
"Dolphin Quest" program. POBox HM 1379, Hamilton HMFX, Bermuda.
Tel: 800-441-1414 Fax: 441-239-6916
Harmony Club. This all inclusive,
adults-only resort generally provides breakfast, dinner, dine around
privileges, unlimited beverages, use of a motor scooter or free
bus pass, green privileges at a nearby resort, plus use of beach
facilities at Stonington Beach. (Call for current golf details.)
POBox PG 299, Paget PG BX, Bermuda.
Tel: 888-427-6664 / 441-236-3500. Fax: 441-236-2624
rally near Long Beach Bay.
Housekeeping Cottages and Guest
To help the island shed its pricey image, Bermuda Tourism released
the Inns of Bermuda booklet, containing a selection of elegantly
refurbished guest houses, nifty self-catering units, and humble
cottages - all clean and cheerfully attended, with a wide variety
of amenity options. "Completely self catering", I discovered, means
a kitchenette, no meals, a communal barbecue and private bathroom
with minimal towels. Local shops stock everything, but it's smart
to pack your own supplies like extra soap, shampoo and snacks. Here
are a few of Bermuda's best. (Rates for double occupancy, in US
dollars, are subject to change without notice.)
Angel's Grotto. This cozy self-catering
complex, just a short walk from the beach, has private access for
swimming and snorkeling near the reefs in Harrington Sound. Guests
can also visit the famed Mid-Ocean Golf Club. Rates: from $140 for
1-bedroom; from $225 for cottage which sleeps up to eight.
P.O. Box HS 81, Smith's HS BX, Bermuda.
Tel: 800-550-6288. Fax: 441-293-4164.
Astwood Cove. Set in pretty
surroundings with a view of a park and citrus orchards, the tidy
apartments have kitchenettes and showers but no tubs. Guests use
the nearby Mermaid Beach Club. Rates: from $120 for apartment and
$225 for cottage per night.
49 South Road, Warwick WK 07 Bermuda.
Tel: USA: 800-637-4116 Canada: 800-563-9799
Monro Cottages. This seaside
resort of self-catering cottages borders tennis courts and the Port
Royal Golf Course (argued by some to be Bermuda's best), and overlooks
its own private beach. Rates: from $200 per night.
POBox SN 99, Southampton SN BX Bermuda.
Tel: 441-234-1175. Fax: 441-234-3528.
Oxford House: Proprietor Ann
Smith has decorated this award-winning12-room guest house with English
antiques, oriental rugs, and pretty chintz. Although it lacks a
pool, it's well-located near Hamilton restaurants, shops and the
local bus to the beach. Rates: from $155 per night, with continental
POBox HM 374, Hamilton HM BX, Bermuda.
Tel: Canada: 800-272-2306, USA: 800-548-7758
Royal Palms Hotel & Restaurant:
This lively small hotel, once an estate home, is within walking
distance of Hamilton. It boasts pretty Bermudian architecture, individually-decorated
rooms (some with kitchenettes), a pool and the popular Ascot's Restaurant.
Rates: from $170 per night, with breakfast.
P.O.Box HM 499 Hamilton HM CX, Bermuda.
Tel/Fax: USA: 800- 799-0824, 441-292-1854/1946.
Tel: Canada: 800-678-0783
line the roadsides.
Bermuda's Best Splurge
Huddled around a tranquil garden with a private pool, Fourways
Inn is the queen of Bermuda's cottage colonies, with
a guest list that includes Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The
Inn has garnered every top hospitality industry award for its sumptuous
suites with private patios, kitchenettes, sitting rooms and fancy
marble bathrooms. It's also the site of the superb Fourways Inn
Rates: from about $230 per night, for two, including continental
P.O. Box PG 294, Paget PG BX, Bermuda.
Tel: 441-236-6517 / USA: 800-962-7654
Cambridge Beaches. Bermuda's
original cottage colony is where John Lennon wrote his Double Fantasy
album, and David Bowie hung out at the bar. The resort's resident
snorkeling and diving expert leads underwater photography expeditions
to the spectacular Eastern Blue Cut Reefs. Located on a peninsula
surrounded by beaches, the resort features a spa with indoor pools,
tennis, croquet, a putting green and "introductions" to all private
golf courses. Rates: from $380 single or $420 double,with breakfast
Somerset MA 02, Bermuda.
Phone: 800-468-7300 / 234-0331. Fax: 441-234-3352.
The Reefs. Beautifully located
on a high cliff overlooking its private beach, the Reefs has rooms
and cottages terraced into the cliff. Rates: from $196. per person
with breakfast and dinner.
56 South Road, Southampton, SN 02, Bermuda.
Tel: 800-742-2008. Fax: 441-238-8372.
Ariel Sands Resort. This exclusive,
1950s cottage colony was recently bought and renovated by Michael
Douglas. It has a retro '50s decor loaded with the star's movie
memorabilia, a fancy spa, two pools, a private beach, tennis court,
putting green and gourmet restaurant. Rate, including breakfast
and dinner: from about $290 for room with breakfast; suites from
$460; cottages from $770.
P.O.Box HM 334, Hamilton, HM BX, Bermuda.
Tel: 800-468-6610 / 441-236-1010.
|A garden with lily
ponds at the Gibbons Estate depicts a map of Bermuda.
Bermuda's Best Things to See
Scooting around the island on moped, beach hopping, hiking along
old converted railway trails, horseback riding along the dunes,
sailing, sport fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling around the reefs
and golf are favorite island pastimes.
Getting around: There are no
rental cars available in Bermuda, so tourists get around by mopeds,
taxis or buses (individual fares are $2.50; 15 tickets cost $15).
Biking is another option. A word of caution: Pack your own helmet,
or rent a motorcycle helmet. Driving is on the left side of the
road. You can rent bikes from Eve Cycles (tel: 441-236-6247) or
Oleander Cycles (tel: 441-236-5235) or Wheels Cycle (tel: 441-292-2245)
for about $25 per half-day.
Moongates and gardens: Along
the way, stop if you see a moongate. According to Bermudian legend,
lovers who pass through a moongate will be forever blessed with
happiness. There's a pretty, Chinese moongate among the green shrubs
at the entrance to the Gibbons Estate, whose beautiful gardens boast
a lily pond depicting a map of Bermuda. (Open 9-5, free admission.)
Capital appeal: Hamilton, the
picturesque harborfront capital of Bermuda, is easily explored on
foot. Local maps denote buildings of significant architecture: City
Hall, Sessions House, Secretariat, Bermuda Historical Society.
Water world: The $21 million
Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute is the world's first scientific
institute to focus entirely on deepwater exploration and research.
Among the fascinating exhibits: a ponderous 1900s diving suit and
a series of shrunken human heads showing the gruesome effects of
deepwater pressure. A demonstration of dive technology shows how
the bends, pain and even death are caused by nitrogennarosis when
divers decompress too fast. The magnificent shell collection is
arguably the world's best. You can even ride the world's first simulated
"deepwater submersible" down to the 12,500 foot base of the Bermuda
History lesson: St. George's
Town, where Bermuda's original settlers were shipwrecked in 1609,
encompasses the historic Town Hall in King's Square with its wooden
racks for doling out punishment; a warren of delightful shops; St.
Peter's Church (the world's oldest continuously used Anglican Church,
circa 1612); and impressive Fort St. Catherine, which proved useless
since the point of land was buffered by perilous reefs.
The Royal Navy Dockyard was
once the strategic outpost of Britain's Royal Navy, dubbed "Gibraltar
of the West." Accessible by bus or ferry ($3.75), it houses nautical
museums, the Arts Center, the Bermuda Craft Market and a slew of
Crystal Caves: Bermuda's crystal
caves, lurking eighty feet underground, are a spelunker's paradise
with vast caverns of stalagmites and stalactites. Check times for
daily guided tours. (tel: 441-293-0640; admission: adults $8, kids
Ocean playground: A mecca snorkeling
and scuba diving, Bermuda's waters thrive with brilliant fish swimming
through gardens of sea fans and anemones. While snorkeling is sensational
at Church Bay, Dockyard Bay and Tobacco Bay, adventurous types may
prefer tailing barracuda through the labyrinths of masts and hulls
of the 400 shipwrecks, some dating to the 15th century. Guided sea
excursions (with short lessons) for snorkeling, scuba diving and
other watersports are easily arranged through any hotel concierge.
Sail away: To rent sailboats
or small crafts, call Salt Kettle Yacht Charters (tel: 441-236-4863),
Mangrove Marina (tel: 441-234-0914), or the Bermuda Canoe Association
(tel: 441-234-2328). Kayaks or canoes cost $15 to $20 per hour.
A word of caution to solo sailors: stay within the protected waters
of Great Sound, lest you enter the Bermuda Triangle….
Horsing around: For horseback
riding, call Spicelands Riding Centre (tel: 441-238-8212). Breakfast
plus a 90-minute ride costs aout $45.
Fun with Flipper: Dolphin's
Quest, operating out of the Marine Museum at the Royal Naval Dockyard,
is the place for face to face encounters with live dolphins. Educational
and interactive programs are available for adults and children over
5 years old. Contact Bermuda (1-800-Bermuda) for current details.
Tee time: Bermuda is a golf
paradise with emerald fairways to suit every taste and level of
play. To avoid disappointment, book tee times before you arrive.
For details, call (800)Bermuda.
Bermuda weather: The temperature averages a humid 84'F in summer,
and a comfortable 68'F in winter. April, May are delightful. December
and January are good for golf. March can be unpredictably rainy.
The Bermuda dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar which is accepted
everywhere. Don't forget: sunscreen, beach mats or towels, portable
umbrellas or tents to shade babies.
Toby Saltzman is an award-winning travel writer and photographer.
She is publisher and editor of www.travelterrific.com.