Years after a Spanish captain first discovered Bermuda in the early 1500s, a fleet of British ships departed Plymouth to sail to the then-colony of Virginia in 1602. Several weeks into the crossing, a storm felled one of the ships, Sea Venture, separating it from the rest of the fleet. The ship ran aground on one of the reefs near Bermuda’s eastern coast. All 150 passengers survived and made it to land, and thus Bermuda became inhabited.
Speaking of shipwrecks, Bermuda’s infamous coral reefs are responsible for roughly 300 shipwrecks. They are also responsible for it’s beautiful pink sand beaches. And then there is the beautiful turquoise water, a curious feature given Bermuda’s relatively northern latitude—due east of North Carolina—for such turquoise waters. Top that off with the quirky British traditions (knee socks and Bermuda shorts are the default business attire) and Bermuda is truly a unique—albeit gorgeous—island.
A year-round destination with a subtropical climate, the island’s peak season is June through September but many people like to visit in the spring and fall, when the summer humidity is less evident but water temperatures are still quite comfortable. Subsequently hotel rooms are typically less expensive this time of year too.
Up until two decades ago, the island had some eighty hotel properties over its mere 20.6-square-miles. Today, the number is half that amount but that is beginning to change.
Where to Stay
Rosewood Bermuda in St. George’s on the north end of the island is steeped in history. Formerly known as Rosewood Tucker’s Point when Rosewood Resorts took over the management of the 88-room Tucker’s Point in 2011 (the adjacent Tucker’s Point Golf Club has been around since 1932) the new resort sits atop one of the highest hills on the northeastern end of Bermuda, next to Castle Harbour and with ocean views from almost every room and window. The reimagined resort welcomes guests with an elegant lobby anchored by a new bar and lounge, plus an atrium courtyard. The 92 rooms and suites are now residential-style retreats that reflect the island’s English colonial heritage—a slight departure from the Georgian colonial look, but nevertheless colonial and reflective of the islands history. Dining-wise, the resort’s signature restaurant reopened as the Island Brasserie. The Beach Club also features a restaurant inspired by the island’s fish markets (plus an updated bar and new luxury cabanas). Wellness junkies will appreciate a modernized spa, Sense . Not so much a complaint as a caveat: while the resort has an enviably large beach (unlike many Bermuda properties), it’s a five-minute shuttle ride away.
If some laps in the resort’s four pools or splashing in the surf don’t constitute sufficient exercise, guests at the resort also have access to the Tucker’s Point Club. This 18-hole course was originally laid out in 1932 and then redesigned in 2002 by Roger Rulewich, former chief designer for Robert Trent Jones. Greens fees start at $205 through mid-September and $225 after. What’s more, guests of Tucker’s Point also receive playing privileges at the renowned Mid Ocean Club, which consistently ranks among the world’s top 100 courses. Originally designed in 1921 by Charles Blair Macdonald, the historic course was enhanced in 1953 by architect Robert Trent Jones.
On the south side of the island, The Reefs—a villa only resort in Southampton—is a great stay if you can afford it. The beloved fixture on Bermuda’s South Shore since 1947—and which Conde Nast rated #1 in the region (including Bermuda, Bahamas and Turks & Caicos) not long ago—is family-owned and operated by the Dodwell family, native Bermudians whose passion for island living and gracious hospitality has delighted generations of loyal guests. Nestled in a pink sand cove surrounded by Bermuda’s wind-swept limestone cliffs, The Reefs echoes the island’s enduring elegance, blending it effortlessly with a youthful, make-our-own-rules spirit that charms friends old and new.
The Fairmont has two locations on Bermuda. The Hamilton Princess—the island’s grande dame, situated on the harbor in downtown Hamilton—went through a full makeover last year, and added the restaurant Marcus’ by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson of Harlem’s Red Rooster. In addition to having its own arcade of fine shopping, the property is a few minutes walk from the high-end shopping on Front Street as well as fine dining establishments like Barracuda Grill, and spots such as the lively bar restaurant The Pickled Onion. Right next door to the hotel, Harry’s is a true see-and-be-seen bar with a happening terrace scene.
Affectionately known as the “pink elephant” due to its size (400 rooms) and light pink façade, the Southampton has a ton to offer at a very reasonable rate. The private beach club is situated on a small, but beautiful pink sand beach on a private cove. The cove is somewhat protected from rough water due to a large rock just a short swim out (or a walk during low tide)—great for snorkeling with kids. If you want a larger beach, the world-famous Horseshoe Bay Beach, a curved stretch of pink sand that connects to other South Shore Beaches and is routinely ranked among the best beaches in the world, is just steps away. The Southamton is bar-none one of the best deals on the island and great for families.
Give the old standbys their due but the most talked about resort right now in Bermuda right now is the newly built (2017) The Loren at Pink Beach. The first hotel built on Bermuda in a decade, The Loren has raised the bar among the island’s resorts with posh yet minimalist rooms and suites which bring a new level of elegance and style to the destination. In fact, The Loren, with its 45 suites and a full spa, represents the first new luxury hotel in Bermuda in 45 years, according to a news release sent by The Loren at Pink Beach. The seaside resort embraces the clean and modern aesthetic of an urban boutique hotel resulting in a set of sophisticated retreats with endless ocean views.
If a beachfront property is not a must, the newly opened Rosedon Hotel offers a great value. The boutique hotel has the look and feel of a stately Bermudian manor with custom designed rooms, classic furnishings and tropical gardens abloom with red poinciana trees and bougainvillea that evoke another era. A short five-minute walk to the colorful capital of Hamilton, Rosedon gives guests the feeling of being on an elegant country estate despite being conveniently located in the middle of the city.
Where to Eat
The only true beach bar and bistro on the island, Mickey’s Beach Bistro (“Mickey’s” to most) at Elbow Beach is an institution loved by locals and visitors alike. Sip an island cocktail prepared by Bermuda’s best bartenders while listening to the waves break and gazing at the wide open Atlantic. Their eclectic menu and versatile wine list rounds out a great overall experience—a must stop while on the Island.
For cheaper eats, head to Art Mel’s Spicy Dicy (in Hamilton and in St. George’s) for what many—including Marcus Samuelson himself—believe to be the best fish sandwich on the island. The traditional Bermudian fish sandwich—deep-fried and served on raisin bread with lettuce, tomato, tartar sauce, coleslaw, and perhaps a touch of hot sauce and some sauteed onions—is one of the best fish sandwich anywhere.
Of course, nothing right now in Bermuda compares to Marcus’, particularly in terms of pure aesthetics—though the food is great too. To say Marcus Samuelson’s namesake restaurant in the Hamilton Princess Hotel is breathtaking would be an understatement. From the mosaic-tiled bar to the array of modern art from the hotel’s owners, including original pieces by Andy Warhol, Liu Ye and Nelson Mandela amongst others, the space is visually striking, especially during sunset when the sunlight is magnified and refracted through the dining room’s enormous windows. Formerly the Gazebo Room (once a grand ballroom), the cavernous restaurant offers a central bar and beautiful views of the ocean. The open kitchen creates a show all in its own, with chefs creating Samuelsson’s specialty including Jerk Pork Belly, and tantalizing Fried Chicken Waffles. Additional dishes pay tribute to Bermudian culture, such as Grilled Bermuda Onion and Fish Chowder Bites among others, while dishes such as whole, roasted island catch and fried yard bird—a riff on Samuelsson’s hit dish at New York’s Red Rooster—are livelier than anything Bermuda has seen before.
Maree, a white-tablecloth spot at The Loren with equally equisite ocean views and food to match represents a more boutique setting. Menu items like gnocchi in lobster beurre blanc and duck confit cannelloni are prime examples of Bermuda’s burgeoning culinary scene.
While first time visitors to Bermuda may expect the cuisine to be “Islandy,” like the Bahamas or Caribbean, the British influence holds strong, resulting in quite a bit of pub fare.
Over in the more bustling Hamilton Parish lies The Swizzle Inn a landmark known as Bermuda’s oldest pub and favored by both locals and visitors. It also happens to be the birthplace of Bermuda’s original Rum Swizzle, the deliciously potent national drink made with Goslings Black Seal Rum, Barbados Rum, Triple Sec, pineapple juice, orange juice, Bermuda Falernum, and Angostura Bitters.
For more British style pub fair, head to the The Frog and Onion Pub which calls an old barrel making building home and is also attached to the Dockyard Brewing Company. This authentic British-style pub was created in 1992 by a Frenchman (Frog) and Bermudian (Onion), hence the name. The historic Cooperage, completed in 1853, was converted to five storehouses in the 1940s. With the pub serving great comfort food, it pairs perfectly with an ale from Dockyard Brewing Co., Bermuda’s only microbrewery. Featuring 5 different types of beers and ales, it is a favourite destination of locals and tourists alike who wish to sample artisanal beverages of exceptional quality.
Those looking for a happy medium between pub fare and slightly more modern island cuisine, look no further than Barracuda Grill—sister restaurant to Frog & Onion and a permanent fixture (usually #1) atop Trip Advisor’s influential list. It also happens to be a favorite of island native Michael Douglass and wife Katherine Zeta Jones. Try the fish chowder which has become an island favorite. Entrees vary from locally caught fish, like pan-seared snapper, to imported delicacies like Kobe beef.
If you’re not staying at Tucker’s Point (and you’re not a member or don’t know one) then Mid Ocean is not an option. But many will argue that the prestigious Port Royal Golf Course is just as good—and easily as beautiful. Originally designed by famed course architect Robert Trent Jones in 1970, the Port Royal Golf Course of Southampton Parish underwent a $14.5 million refurb back in 2009. It now features resewn fairways and tee boxes, a new irrigation system and a grandiose clubhouse. Although the course has incredible ocean views, at 6,842 yards, it is also Bermuda’s longest and perhaps most challenging course so beginners beware. (Non-members can book a tee time at Port Royal Golf Course up to seven days in advance. The course is public and open to all players daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.). But be prepared to pay hefty greens fees and book well in advance.
For a less highfalutin activity (and completely free of charge), the beaches in Bermuda are a top-of-the-list activity. While there are many to recommend, Horseshoe Bay Beach in Southampton is hard to beat—it is consistently ranked among the top beaches in the world and is easily on par with the best stretches of sand in the Bahamas and Caribbean. Given Bermuda is about an hour a forty minutes flight time from New York, Boston and Washington DC, the beaches and water grace you are truly amazing.
Crystal Cave— just minutes away from the Loren, offers an educational perspective of what literally underlies Bermuda—in breathtaking fashion. Between Harrington Sound and Castle Harbour, the cave, and its sister Fantasy Cave, lies some 120 feet below the ground. As you walk on a pontoon bridge that stretches over clear underground pools, you’re surrounded by shiny stalactites and stalagmites. The cave was only discovered in 1907 by two boys whose cricket ball had rolled down there.
And of course, no trip to Bermuda is complete without some ample time cruising the island on a moped. Just remember the Island is British and stay on the left side of the road!