Bermuda If You Like

Life in the Past Lane

You don't have to be here long to realize there's much more to Bermuda than sea, sand, and Rum Swizzles. As one of Britain's oldest colonies, the island has more than 400 years of history and, thanks to thoughtful preservation policies, the architecture to prove it.

The jewel in the crown, in terms of period charm, is the UNESCO-designated Town of St. George. As Bermuda's original capital, it has a distinctly colonial feel, and wandering its crooked, cottage-lined lanes is akin to time travel. See the statue of Sir George Somers (who was shipwrecked here in 1609), and view a replica of his vessel before ambling over to King's Square to catch a "ducking stool" reenactment.

The British, keenly aware of Bermuda's strategic significance, kept it well protected from 1612 to 1956—which is why this tiny country has the world's highest concentration of historic forts. Start working through the list at the National Museum of Bermuda, a converted fortress that's now the centerpiece of the Royal Naval Dockyard. Fort St. Catherine, a 17th-century edifice, complete with moat and sprawling ramparts, is another must-see.

The African Diaspora Heritage Trail, part of the international Slave Route Project, shows that Brits weren't the only ones who helped shape Bermuda. This self-guided tour crisscrosses the island, identifying 11 sites related to black Bermudians. Highlights include the poignant slave graveyard at St. Peter's Church and Cobb's Hill Methodist Church, which was built by and for blacks before Emancipation.

Tee Time

Bermuda is a renowned golfing destination and close enough to the United States and Canada to be pitched as "putting distance" from the Eastern Seaboard. The courses are as scenic as the island itself. But don't let their pretty appearance fool you. Many have holes by the sea or atop ocean-side bluffs, so wind and that big water hazard (the Atlantic!) can play havoc with your game.

Laid out by Charles Blair Macdonald in 1921, the classic course at The Mid Ocean Club in Tucker's Town is one of the most spectacular on the island—and one of the most highly regarded in the world. If you can wrangle an introduction from a member (or have your concierge do it on your behalf), you might find yourself on the links with visiting celebrities.

Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton Parish is understandably popular. The affordable public property, fresh from a $14 million makeover, has an impressive pedigree: It's a Robert Trent Jones design and a favorite of Jack Nicklaus. Plus, it boasts Bermuda's most recognizable hole (the sublime 16th), which has been photographed for countless glossy golfing magazines.

You can see why they say, "Good things come in small packages" at the Fairmont Southampton Resort’s Golf Course. The property's 18-hole, par-3 executive course, designed by Ted Robinson, is on a hillside, and its challenging terrain offers a good warm-up for Bermuda's full-length courses. Better still, playing at Turtle Hill Golf Club for an afternoon won't break your piggy bank.

Just Add Water

Boat-loving Bermudians like to drop anchor, crack open a case of beer, and float the day away—an activity that should not be knocked until it is tried. Yet seeing what lies beneath the turquoise waves can be equally enjoyable. Warm, clear water with visibility up to 150 feet, rich marine life, unique topography, and perhaps most important, reliable outfitters, combine to make Bermuda an ideal place for underwater exploration.

Wreck divers know that not all of Bermuda's history lessons can be learned on dry land. Due to the island's treacherous coral reefs, hundreds of shipwrecks from various eras lie in its waters—and companies like Dive Bermuda and Blue Water Divers will take you out to see them. Both operate wreck tours for experienced scuba enthusiasts as well as lesson-and-dive packages for first-timers.

Not ready to dive in? Consider taking an underwater walk. Hartley's Undersea Walk lets you don a specially designed helmet, then descend about 10 feet for some face time with fish. Although the equipment may look strange, the science is sound (helmets operate on the same principal as a tumbler overturned in water) and the experience is unforgettable.

From April to November all you need are fins and a mask to enjoy the Dockyard's Snorkel Park Beach. This sheltered, easy-to-access inlet features exotic sea creatures, submerged artifacts (such as centuries-old cannons), and even floating rest stations. You can rent snorkel gear—along with an assortment of other equipment, including kayaks, pedalos (paddleboats), and Jet Skis—at the site.

Suite Dreams

The island is dotted with one-of-a-kind accommodations, where luxury lodgings are interspersed with posh family-run resorts, old-school cottage colonies, and quaint, sometimes quirky, bed-and-breakfasts. Many properties received renovations, or at least a little lipstick, powder, and paint to host the 2017 America's Cup.

Gracefully perched on Bermuda's south shore, The Loren at Pink Beach is the newest and chicest addition to the island's hotel scene. Splurge-worthy suites and villas feature private balconies or terraces, with sweeping ocean views and tasteful modern decor. Lose yourself in the beauty of the turquoise waters from the comfort of the spa's relaxation room, the sleek, spacious sundeck, or the jaw-dropping infinity pool.

The Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club completed a three-year, $100 million overhaul, which updated and expanded rooms (some with balconies overlooking the harbor), added the new Exhale spa, a new marina, two additional restaurants, an infinity pool, upscale shopping options, and a collection of art, including works by Banksy and Damien Hirst.

Fourways Inn in Paget offers the convenience of a centrally located hotel with the charm of a cottage colony. Guests in these deluxe accommodations are treated to the seclusion of a tranquil garden and the impeccable hospitality one would expect in old-world Bermuda. A lavish Sunday brunch, set in its 18th-century main dining area, has been attracting generations of adoring patrons for as long as anyone can remember.

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