Bermuda's south-shore beaches are more scenic than those on the north side, with fine, pinkish sand and limestone dunes topped with summer flowers and Bermuda crabgrass. The water on the south shore does get a little rougher when the winds are from the south and southwest, but mainly the pale-blue waves break at the barrier reefs offshore and roll gently onto the sandy shoreline. Because the barrier reefs break up the waves, surfing has not really taken off in Bermuda, though many locals—especially children—love to bodysurf at Horseshoe Bay. Kitesurfing is also becoming increasingly popular. Most Bermudian beaches are relatively small compared with ocean beaches in the United States, ranging from about 15 yards to half a mile or so in length. In winter, when the weather is more severe, beaches may erode—even disappear—only to be replenished as the wind subsides in spring.
Before beginning your adventure, pick up the pocket-sized map of Bermuda available for free in all Visitor Information Centres and most hotels. Complete with bus-and-ferry information, the guide shows beach locations and how to reach them. You can also download maps, brochures, and transportation timetables from the Bermuda Tourism Authority's website at www.gotobermuda.com/official-visitor-guides.
Few Bermudian beaches offer shade, but some have palm trees and thatched shelters. The sun can be intense, so bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen. You can rent umbrellas at some beaches, but food and drink are rare, so pack snacks and lots of water.
Hamilton and Central Parishes
Astwood Cove and Park. On weekends you can often find lots of children and families at this small yet popular beach. The Astwood Park area is shady and grassy, with a great view of the ocean, making it popular among locals for birthday parties, picnics, and weddings. Though accessible via one of Bermuda's main roads, it's quite secluded; the few benches scattered around the area are a great vantage point to share a romantic evening. If you're bringing kids, watch out for the steep climb from the park down to the beach area. Amenities: parking (free). Best for: solitude; swimming. 49 South Shore Rd. , Warwick Parish, WK08. Free.
Elbow Beach. Swimming and bodysurfing are great at this beach, which is bordered by the prime strand of sand reserved for guests of the Elbow Beach hotel on the left, and the ultraexclusive Coral Beach Club beach area on the right. It's a pleasant setting for a late-evening stroll, with the lights from nearby hotels dancing on the water. If you're planning a daytime visit during summer months, arrive early to claim your spot as this popular beach is often crowded. In addition to sunbathers and joggers, groups of locals gather here to play football and volleyball. Protective coral reefs make the waters some of the safest on the island and a good choice for families. It's possible to rent chairs, umbrellas, and other gear from the hotel-owned beach facility, but it can be quite expensive. A lunch wagon sometimes sells fast food and cold drinks during the day, and Mickey's Beach Bar (part of the Elbow Beach hotel) is open for lunch and dinner, though reservations are useful. Amenities: parking (free); water sports. Best for: snorkeling; swimming; walking. Elbow Beach, Off South Shore Rd., Paget Parish, PG04. Free.
Warwick Long Bay. Different from the covelike bay beaches, Warwick Long Bay has about a ½-mile (1-km) stretch of sand—the longest of any beach here. Its backdrop is a combination of steep cliffs and low grass- and brush-covered hills. The beach is exposed to some strong southerly winds, but the waves are usually moderate because the inner reef is close to shore. A 20-foot coral outcrop less than 200 feet offshore looks like a sculpted boulder balancing on the water's surface. South Shore Park, which surrounds the bay, is often empty, a fact that only heightens the beach's appealing isolation and serenity. A summertime concession stand offers snacks for purchase. Note that the beach does not have changing rooms. Amenities: parking (free); toilets. Best for: solitude; snorkeling; swimming; walking. Off South Shore Rd., Warwick Parish, WK08. Free.
St. George’s and Eastern Parishes
Clearwater Beach. On the eastern tip of the island in St. David's, Clearwater is a long sandy strip of beach that's popular with serious swimmers and triathletes who use it as a training ground. But don't be intimidated: the young and old also flock here to wade in the shallow water, and there are buoy markers that identify where the beach becomes deeper. Keep your eyes peeled for turtles!
Clearwater is one of the few beaches in Bermuda that has a restaurant on the premises. Gombey's serves kids' picnic favorites such as burgers and fries as well as island classics like Bermudian fish chowder and Jamaican jerk chicken. There's also an in-house bar when the five-o'clock-somewhere mood strikes. Beach bathrooms, lifeguards during the tourist season (April through September), and a playground make this a great choice for families. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); toilets. Best for: partiers; sunrise; swimming; walking. Off Cooper's Island Rd., St. David’s Island, Saint George’s Parish, DD03. Free.
Fort St. Catherine Beach. One of the larger north-shore beaches has water deep enough for a serious swim. If and when you get beach-bummed out, head over to the military fort next door, for which this beach is named. A quick tour of the structure will be a welcome break from the strong sun, as there is little shade along the beach. For a romantic evening, enjoy a beautiful alfresco meal at Blackbeard's Hideout overlooking Achilles Bay just across the street. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free). Best for: solitude; snorkeling; sunset; swimming. Coot Pond Rd., off Retreat Hill Rd., St. George’s, Saint George’s Parish, GE04. Free.
Gates Fort Park and Builder's Bay Beach. Named after its neighboring military fort, Gates has a very small beach that is popular with local families. The park is off Barry Road, not far from Alexandra Battery, a favorite diving spot of St. George's children. It's also near Builder's Bay Beach, a good spot for snorkeling. From the Gates Fort you can enjoy an unobstructed view of cruise ships as they navigate the reefs through the Town Cut. Amenities: parking (free). Best for: solitude; sunrise. Barry Rd., St. George’s, Saint George’s Parish, GE04. Free.
John Smith's Bay. Just past Spittal Pond Nature Reserve, this beach consists of a pretty strand of long, flat, open sand. The presence of a lifeguard in summer makes it an ideal place to bring children. The only public beach in Smith's Parish, John Smith's Bay is also popular with locals. Groups of young folks like to gather in the park area surrounding the beach for parties, especially on weekends and holidays. If you're not in the mood for a festive bunch with music and plenty of beer, this may not be the place for you. Lots of scooter parking is available, as is the occasional local food vendor. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (free). Best for: partiers; snorkeling; swimming. South Shore Rd., Smith’s Parish, FL06.
Shelly Bay Beach. Known for its sandy bottom and shallow water, Shelly Bay is a good place to take small children. It also has shade trees, a rarity at Bermudian beaches. A large playground behind the beach attracts hordes of youngsters on weekends and during school holidays. There's also a nearby soccer and cricket practice field and a public basketball court. Keep an eye out for the food truck that often stops in the parking lot behind the beach. There are no public changing rooms, but a bathroom facility is by the upper parking lot. Amenities: parking (free); toilets. Best for: partiers; swimming. Off North Shore Rd., Hamilton Parish, CR03.
Tobacco Bay. The most popular beach near St. George's, this small north-shore strand with ample parking is huddled in a coral cove surrounded by rock formations. Its beach house serves burgers and salads as well as specialty cocktails. Equipment rentals including umbrellas, chairs, floaties, and snorkel sets. It's a 10-minute hike from the bus stop in the town of St. George's, or you can flag down a taxi. In high season the beach is busy, especially midweek, when the cruise ships are docked; check the website for information on Friday-night events, bonfires, and live music. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free); toilets; water sports. Best for: snorkeling; swimming. 9 Coot's Pond Rd. , St. George’s, Saint George’s Parish, GE04. 441/297–2756; www.tobaccobay.bm. Free.
Turtle Bay Beach. Down a stretch from Clearwater Beach, adjacent to Cooper's Island Nature Reserve on St. David's Island, Turtle Bay Beach offers the same tranquility but with a bit less traffic. The water's also a deeper turquoise color here and very calm. If you're lucky, you might even spot a turtle. There's also a lifeguard on duty from April to September. When your tummy grumbles, it's a short walk to Gombey's Restaurant. Amenities: food and drink lifeguards. Best for: solitude; snorkeling; swimming. Cooper's Island Rd., St. David’s Island, Saint George’s Parish, DD03. Free.
Dockyard and Western Parishes
Chaplin and Stonehole Bays. In a secluded area east along the dunes from Horseshoe Bay, these tiny adjacent beaches almost disappear at high tide. Like Horseshoe Bay, the beach fronts South Shore Park; it often experiences a strong wind and surf, so the waters may be too cloudy to snorkel. Wander farther along the dunes and you can find several other tiny, peaceful beaches before you eventually reach Warwick Long Bay. Amenities: parking (free). Best for: solitude; swimming; walking. Off South Shore Rd., Southampton Parish, SN08. Free.
Horseshoe Bay. When locals say they're going to "the beach," they're generally referring to Horseshoe Bay, the island's most popular. With clear water, a 0.3-mile (0.5-km) crescent of pink sand, a vibrant social scene, and the uncluttered backdrop of South Shore Park, Horseshoe Bay has everything you could ask of a Bermudian beach. An on-site bar and restaurant, changing rooms, beach-rental facilities, and lifeguards add to its appeal. The Annual Bermuda Sand Castle Competition also takes place here.
The undertow can be strong, especially on the main beach. A better place for children is Horseshoe Baby Beach, at the western end of Horseshoe Bay. Sheltered from the ocean by a ring of rocks, this cove is shallow and almost perfectly calm. In summer, toddlers can find lots of playmates. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: partiers; swimming; walking. Off South Shore Rd., Southampton Parish, SN08. Free.
Snorkel Park Beach. This is a popular spot for tourists as well as local families who like to treat their children to a sheltered white-sand beach and pristine views of the water. Enjoy local and American cuisine while sipping a frozen cocktail at the beach's Hammerheads Bar and Grill; on-site water-sport and beach equipment rentals are available for kids and parents. A playground outside the park features a 70-foot, wooden green moray eel and a replica of St. David's Lighthouse. Snorkel Park Beach is just a short walk from the Dockyard cruise terminal, so it attracts many cruise passengers. Before you leave, stop in the Clocktower Mall and the Bermuda Craft Market to pick up a souvenir or two. Also nearby are restaurants, the Dockyard Ferry Terminal, and an ATM.
At night, Snorkel transforms into a lively nightclub area, especially on Monday and Thursday when live DJs spin top 40, soca, reggae, and dancehall hits. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free); toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; snorkeling; sunset; swimming. 7 Maritime La., Dockyard, Sandys Parish, MA01. 441/234--6989; www.snorkelparkbeach.com. $5; check website for special-event prices. Daily May–Oct.
Somerset Long Bay. Popular with Somerset locals, this beach is on the quiet northwestern end of Bermuda, far from the bustle of Hamilton and major tourist hubs. In keeping with the area's rural atmosphere, the beach is low-key and great for bird-watching. Undeveloped parkland shields the beach from the light traffic on Cambridge Road. The main beach is long by Bermudian standards—nearly ¼ mile from end to end. Although exposed to northerly storm winds, the bay water is normally calm and shallow—ideal for children. The bottom, however, is rocky and uneven, so it's a good idea to put on water shoes before wading. Amenities: parking (free). Best for: solitude; swimming; walking. Cambridge Rd., Somerset, Sandys Parish, MA02. Free.
West Whale Bay. This beach can be a secluded oasis if you go at the right time: sunset. To get to the beach, you need to cross a large grassy field and walk down a natural rock formation path. If you're looking to avoid the crowds and experience a breathtaking view, this is your spot. West Whale Bay is one of the best spots in Bermuda to view humpback whales as they pass through the waters near the island on the way to their northern feeding grounds in late winter and early spring. The park also features several picnic tables and public bathroom facilities. Amenities: parking (free); toilets. Best for: solitude; snorkeling; sunset; swimming. Whale Bay Rd., off Middle Rd., Southampton Parish, SN08. Free.