I had the good fortune of having lived and graduated from high school in Bermuda. When I tell people this their reaction is typically “really?“ I often ask in return, “Are you surprised that I lived in Bermuda or that I actually graduated?“ Typically, Bermuda is not considered by most travelers as an affordable vacation destination. It is listed as one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Yet, it is within reach for most tourists. Many mistakenly identify Bermuda as being in the Bahamas while it is approximately 400 miles off the coast of North Carolina and part of the Gulf Stream.
The architectural design style is unique, with exterior walls painted in beautiful pastel colors and their roofs are the color white with stair-stepped construction to capture rainwater, which is then diverted to a cistern below the houses and then filtered and purified. While it may be easy for me to say it is “within reach” (my younger sister is the principal of a school there and her husband works in the water purification business), she and her family leave their home once a year to travel abroad to get away from what Bermudians call “rock fever”… the island is only 20 miles long.
On this trip from Orlando to Bermuda, I invited my friend, Tara S., a special needs Teacher, to join me on her first trip there. Here are some helpful tips to guide you to some unique experiences for an amazing vacation in Bermuda. Firstly, let me say that my past travel experiences have proven that if you live in the eastern United States, there are two destinations that are less than three hours away by plane that are equal to being in a European country. Montreal and Bermuda. The shape of Bermuda resembles the shape of a fishhook. The eye of the hook would be at the eastern end and is where some of the first European settlers landed at Saint David’s Island. Their town of St. George’s was established there in 1612 and is where the oldest surviving Anglican Church outside of the British Isles is, as well as the oldest continuously used Protestant Church.
In the middle of the island is the city of Hamilton, known as a principal home to the reinsurance and banking industry. To the far west lies Royal Dockyard, the tip of the hook and the main cruise ship port. It’s important to note that Bermuda is no Cancun nor Ibiza nor Mykonos. It’s not a party island. It’s a very sophisticated, respectful, welcoming and safe island. That having been said, one inexpensive, fun musical experience is to take the 90-minute, $20-per-person (plus the cost of drinks ) sunset cruise from downtown Hamilton. No food is served, so best to eat beforehand along Front Street. Barracuda restaurant has been a staple there and is recommended. Before the America’s Cup in 2017, the only way to get around in Bermuda was to rent a scooter, take one of the famous pink buses or by taxi.
Now they offer EVs, two-person rental cars (no international driver’s license required for US citizens). Here is a tip, the EVs come with side-by-side seating or front and back. It can be nerve-racking and not very scenic if you’re sitting in the back, so I recommend a vehicle like TAZZARI (Bermuda car rental, LTD. ). I do not recommend renting a scooter unless you have experience driving a motorcycle. You will be driving on the left-hand side and there’s not a lot of wiggle room here for error. Typically, on one side is a coral stone wall and on the other is oncoming traffic. Another option is if you want to go to a certain location, say a private beach like Jobson’s Cove (which reminds me of The Baths in Virgin Gorda) there are taxi drivers available for hire at $60-$70 an hour. You can enjoy a dip in the ocean soak up some sun and your driver will be waiting to take you back.
After arriving at the airport, you crossover a very narrow flat bridge, the causeway. Just passed that, on the right, is the famous Swizzle Inn. It’s a must-stop to have one of their famous Rum Swizzle drinks served in a small jug for under $20. One should suffice between two people, unless of course, you find yourself very thirsty. Also, take advantage of the exterior photo op, and be sure and leave behind one of your business cards or a note on the inside decorated walls of previous tourists. We took advantage of the opportunity to stay in a beautiful home near Flatts Village, located in the center third of the island. There are two very nice restaurants there, Rustico, and the Village Pantry. While some of the more expensive hotels, like the newer modernist-designed Loren Hotel, run around $1,200 a night, there are many air B&Bs available in the $ 200-a-night range. Most of the best-known beaches are along the South Shore such as Horseshoe Bay, and Warwick Bay beaches. There are only two beaches on the North Shore to either side of Flatts Village. One is Shelley Bay, a very tranquil and family-friendly beach with shallow waters and a playground next to it. A more secretive, hidden gem is Police Beach, which spans approximately 100 yards wide on a super secluded small bay.
Like some privately owned beaches in California, this privately controlled beach allows access by the owner, at their discretion, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. So that you do not get lost, here are some references as to location. It is located along North Shore Road to the west of Flatts Village by approximately 3/4 of a mile. They converted the old railroad track along the North Shore to a pedestrian walkway. It is where the pedestrian walkway crosses over the road you’ll see a small parking lot. You’ll need to cross the road and follow a small pathway, approximately 200 feet downhill to a gate. While you may see a lock, if you reach over and lift up the latch and it opens, then you’re in. Be sure to wear some decent traction shoes since the pathway there is gravel.
The small town of St. George’s is a great day trip. It’s a 45-minute ferry ride from Royal Dockyard. It consists of small boutique shops and restaurants. I recommend Wahoo restaurant for some great, reasonably priced lunches. I also recommend visiting The Perfumery for Island-made perfumes and colognes. One of the newer designed hotels lies at the very eastern tip of St. George; while it is a St. Regis branded hotel, in my opinion, it’s quite bland when it comes to colorful architecture. It is also Bermuda‘s only casino hotel, located at the end of the island, remote from everything else. The main city Hamilton, resides in the center of the island, known for its famous Hamilton Princess Hotel with a great location; however, it comes at a price. The hotel does have the uniqueness of being able to take ferries to most parts of the island at a reasonable price. At the far western end is the Royal Dockyard. I find it, with the massive cruise ships and crowds, to be unappealing, with the exception of the maritime museum.
The Bermuda Tourism Authorities’ motto is “Lost yet Found”. Hopefully, if you’re wondering where to go next on your travels, consider Bermuda and the insider tips in this travelogue to get lost in the island’s enchanting beauty and found by reconnecting with yourself and loved ones.
*A special thanks goes out to my sister Sarah B. and her husband Allen for their wisdom of the island and all it has to offer.”
John Kaiser authored this travel article.
About the author:
John Kaiser is a regular contributor to The Design Tourist as a travel writer with a deep appreciation and understanding of architecture, art and culture. He is a founding member of the Central Florida Modernist Group, also known as Nils M. Schweizer Fellows, a fan club of individuals who appreciate Mid-century Modern architecture and design. His personal residence, designed by Modernist architect Nils M. Schweizer, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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