Bumming Around Bermuda: Sea, Sand, and Sights
Day 1: Horseshoe Bay
Chances are you came for that legendary pink sand, so don't waste any time finding it. Spend the day bouncing from beach to beautiful beach along the south shore (Bus 7 bus will get you there and back from the city of Hamilton), or just choose one and settle in. Our top pick is the flagship beach at Horseshoe Bay, a gently curving crescent lapped by turquoise water and backed by South Shore Park. It does get crowded here—but for good reason. Unlike most Bermudian beaches, Horseshoe Bay has lifeguards (in season), changing rooms, and on-site food, drink, and beach-gear rentals available at Rum Bum Beach Bar. There's also a protected inlet, dubbed Horseshoe Baby Beach, which is perfect for young children. Looking for something more private? Picturesque trails through the park will lead you to secluded coves like Stonehole and Chaplin bays. When the sun goes down—and you have sand in every crevice—stroll over to the lively Henry VIII Pub and Restaurant for an evening bite.
Day 2: The Town of St. George
Founded in 1612, St. George's qualifies as one of the oldest towns in the Western Hemisphere and deserves a place on any traveler's itinerary. This UNESCO World Heritage site has a smattering of worthwhile museums, including the Bermuda National Trust Museum at the Globe Hotel and Tucker House. Historic buildings such as St. Peter's Church also should not be missed. Organized walks and road train tours cover the highlights. Yet the real delight here is simply wandering the walled lanes and quaint alleys lined with traditional shops, pubs, and cottages. All those roads eventually lead to King's Square, where you can try out the replica stocks. Nearby is another device formerly used to punish unruly folk—the seesaw-like ducking stool—which serves as the focal point for reenactments starring the Town Crier and a wet wench. (These are staged at 12:30 pm May through October, Monday through Thursday and Saturday; other months on Wednesday and Saturday only.) If you have time, continue your history lesson outside St. George's at Fort St. Catherine, a hilltop defense built in the 17th century. Stop for a swim just below it in snug Achilles Bay or at Fort St. Catherine Beach, then cap the day back in town with a meal at the White Horse Pub & Restaurant on the water's edge.
Day 3: The City of Hamilton
Since there's a little bit of everything here, you can plot a course according to your individual tastes. Shoppers should make a beeline for the Front Street area to spend a few hours in the stores and galleries. Prefer sightseeing? Pick up a brochure for a self-guided tour at the Visitor Services Centre (VSC). Outside the city, visit Fort Hamilton: it's a must for history buffs and a great spot for photo ops. Alternatively, you can investigate sunken treasure and seashells without ever getting wet at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (about a 15-minute walk from the city center), or get out on the water itself. Excursion options from Hamilton range from archipelago tours and glass-bottom-boat trips to low-cost ferry rides. Afterward, gear up to see Hamilton by night. Pubs and clubs start filling around 10 pm, leaving plenty of time for dinner at one of the area's surprisingly diverse restaurants.
Day 4: The Dockyard
Once a military stronghold and now a magnet for tourists, the Royal Naval Dockyard offers a full day of history with a side of shopping and adventure. Its centerpiece is the National Museum of Bermuda, where you can find exhibits on whaling, sailing, shipbuilding, and shipwrecks set within an imposing stone fortress. Once you've taken in the stunning views from the ramparts, head to the Old Cooperage. This former barrel-making factory is the perfect place to stock up on unique souvenirs, because it houses both the Bermuda Craft Market (perhaps the island's best-stocked, best-priced craft outlet) and the Bermuda Arts Centre (a high-end co-op with gallery and studio space). After lunch in an area eatery, join one of the educational in-water programs offered by Dolphin Quest at the Keep Pond, or swim right next door at the inexpensive Snorkel Park Beach. Spring through fall, adrenaline junkies can Jet Ski with H2O Sports. For a more placid on-the-water experience, take the slow, scenic ferry to Somerset Island and disembark at Watford Bridge. From there, explore quiet Somerset Village before sitting down for dinner at the Somerset Country Squire, a traditional tavern overlooking Mangrove Bay.
Day 5: Go Green
While dedicated duffers spend at least one day putting the island's top greens, neophytes can get into the swing of things at the Bermuda Golf Academy. Other essential "greens" include the Bermuda Botanical Gardens and Paget Marsh Nature Reserve, both near the city of Hamilton. The former is a Victorian venue with formal flowerbeds and subtropical fruit orchards; the latter a 25-acre tract that covers five distinct ecosystems (including primeval woodlands that contain the last surviving stands of native palmetto and cedar). From November to May, Spittal Pond Nature Reserve, on Bermuda's south shore, is a major draw for bird-watchers, thanks to the 30-odd species of waterfowl that stop here; in April it attracts whale-watchers hoping to spy migrating humpbacks from the preserve's oceanfront cliffs. You can access more "undiscovered" spots by traversing all or part of the Bermuda Railway Trail. With its lush greenery and dramatic lookouts, this 18-mile recreational route is best seen on foot or by pedal bike. If you like packaged excursions, Fantasea Bermuda has a surf-and-turf deal that combines a shoreline cruise with a guided cycle tour along the trail, and a cool-down swim at a Somerset beach.
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