The Six Kinds of Travelers Who Need Bermuda Now
There’s a place so easy and inviting, it’s just what the self-care doctor ordered. Far closer than you probably realized, so stunning that Mark Twain deemed it a preferable alternative to heaven, and ideal in fall, Bermuda is not only beckoning, but also sweetening the deal with free nights or discounted rates at many resorts. And—spoiler alert for the hotelista section of this story—the range of local lodgings is epic.
So answer the island's call ASAP if you're ...
…a time-pressed adventurer
In your mind’s eye, perhaps only grueling transit across a multitude of time zones and language barriers can lead to proper adventures. In reality, though, a 90-minute flight from New York (and just slightly longer flights from various East Coast airports) will land you in the perfect middle ground: a subtropical outpost where you can get that endorphin-adrenaline-dopamine cocktail you crave without having to switch sleeping schedules, languages—or anything else that a time-pressed traveler doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room for. And once you’ve arrived, pretty much everything is close at hand. The entire hook-shaped island occupies about 21 square miles.
Free of jet lag, you can start exploring immediately. One good place to do so? Crystal Caves, where Mark Twain is reported to have been the first foreign tourist in 1908: “We visited a wonderful cave …” he wrote. “The most beautiful cave in the world, I suppose. We descended 150 steps and stood in a splendid place 250 feet long & 30 or 40 wide, with a brilliant lake of clear water under our feet and all the roof overhead splendid with shining stalactites, thousands and thousands of them as white as sugar, and thousands and thousands brown and pink and other tints.” Though you’ll need to pre-book because of Covid considerations (call +1 441 293 0640), little else has changed since Twain’s visit to one of the island’s largest and most awe-inspiring cave systems, as you’ll see from the pontoon bridge that floats over the waters that are still so brilliant and clear, the intricacies of the formations below the surface will rival those overhead.
Another kind of below-the-surface adventure the island is known for: otherworldly snorkeling and diving. That transparent turquoise ring around the island that you can’t fail to notice as you’re landing here is a good tell: From many a beach, you can simply wade into the water, start swimming, and come mask-to-Technicolor face with countless reef dwellers (not least, the endemic Bermuda Creole Wrasse). A few favorite snorkeling beaches to consider: Church Bay, Tobacco Bay and—as the name would suggest—Snorkel Park in the historic Royal Navy Dockyard.
If you want to venture a bit farther afield, consider one of the island’s fabled shipwrecks (which total more than 300): The HMS Vixen is half a mile offshore and only partially submerged, making it the rare wreck that’s as good for snorkelers as for divers. The nearby Sea Garden is another snorkel-friendly site, with kaleidoscopic parrotfish and brilliant damselfish patrolling the brain corals and sea fans. Just know that for these—and all other snorkeling and diving trips—you’ll want a wetsuit in fall.
As for those dives, many of the aforementioned wrecks rank among the most popular destinations, from the shattered Cristóbal Colón luxury liner to the intact King George dredger (the island’s largest fully intact wreck). Also intact—and now an artificial reef with typically great visibility—is the Hermes. Side note to anyone with even a passing interest in Civil War history: Don’t miss the Mary Celestia, a paddle steamer and blockade-runner that ran aground in 1864.
Back on terra firma, adventurers will want to hit the trail: specifically, The Bermuda Railway Trail National Park—the remains of an early 20th-century line that once ran across the island. You can still access 18 of the original 22 miles either by bike or on foot. Just be aware that the trail isn’t always contiguous, and it’s ever changing, from flat and paved to slopes and bridges, but any portion is worth exploring, as is the lush scenery en route.
…a hopeless romantic
Seemingly set-designed for couples, Bermuda comes equipped with pink sand beaches, mystical “moongates” and a literal Lover’s Lane—just for starters.
Begin with the beaches of South Shore Park. You’ll set out from Horseshoe Bay Beach, so named for the shape, but even if you didn’t know that, you’d recognize the place anyway: This arch of pink sand filled with crystalline aqua and accessorized with dramatic rocks is one of the most instagrammed beaches on earth. Making your way northeast across dunes and rocks, you’ll reach Chaplin Bay Beach (a wedding hot spot thanks to its intimacy, sheltering rock walls and, yes, pink sands) then Jobson’s Cove (secluded by the surrounding limestone cliffs). Last, you’ll reach Warwick Long Bay—one of the island’s longest and loveliest beaches, with a coral island protruding just offshore for good measure. The perfect grand finale to your beach walk, in other words.
The South Shore beach path is so romantic, it’s a de facto lover’s lane, but the official Lover’s Lane is inland—and well worth the visit. Head to the Paget Marsh, a 25-acre nature reserve that’s home to cedar and palmetto forests, mangroves, a grassland, and wander along the wooden boardwalk that winds through all of the above.
The moongates, by contrast, require a bit more explanation: The story goes that in 1860, a visit to a Chinese garden—where these circular passageways had long been architectural fixtures—inspired a local sea captain to return to Bermuda with plans for the island’s first version. Over time, moongates caught on to the point that they became a hallmark of Bermudian architecture. Dozens of them—generally made from local limestone—adorn public parks, private homes and hotel grounds, too. According to legend, newlyweds who step through one holding hands are rewarded with lasting happiness. So—whether you’re recently married or just looking for a little extra luck in love—follow in the footsteps of the local newlyweds and kiss, pose and make a wish under these passageways. Then toast to the day’s memories at any of the places in the next section—before retiring to the fabulous accommodations in the section after that.
Surrounded by water so transparent you can see its inhabitants from the surface, you’ll hardly be mystified by the abundance of fresh local seafood, but you’ll be no less dazzled by the flavors (and, okay, the surroundings). One of the best confluences of both is Wahoo’s Bistro & Patio, named, as you might guess, for a fish that’s abundant in these parts. Wahoo gets a multitude of treatments on this menu—grilled, fried, chowdered, taco’d—and everyone has a favorite. Still, you’ll find that you get as much local flavor from the setting: the harbor-facing end of a cobbled lane in the UNESCO-designated 17th-century enclave of St. George’s.
Other go-tos include Blu Bar & Grill, where the local bounty finds its way into everything from Italian to Asian fusion dishes; Port o Call, where September marks the celebrated start of spiny lobster season on the menu (a season that lasts through fall and winter); and the Village Pantry, where you’ll find legendary Bermuda fish chowder among other crowd pleasers.
Of course, a major component of the culinary scene here is rum—and more specifically, a local brand that gave rise to two trademark cocktails. In one case, that trademark is literal: The Dark ‘n Stormy is officially enshrined as a blend of Goslings Black Seal Rum and ginger beer—and is one of only four cocktails in existence to hold a trademark. Though the quantities and proportions are officially prescribed, there’s always room for a little magic in mixology, so the drink does vary ever so slightly from bar to bar—and you may well want to sample as many takes as possible to reach your own conclusions—but just know that Harry’s serves a crowd favorite version.
The island’s other signature cocktail—the Rum Swizzle—varies a lot more widely from bar to bar, so there’s an even more compelling case to be made for tasting your way through a whole succession. But make sure to include the reported original in that lineup: Head to the historic Swizzle Inn for the house blend of Goslings Black Seal Rum, Goslings Gold Seal Rum, triple sec, pineapple juice, orange juice, lemon juice, Bermuda falernum (a syrup) and angostura bitters.
On the topic of originals, historic hotels are a specialty of the island—as are gleaming modern resorts, relaxing retreats and all kinds of other stays in between. But the first place any hospitality and history buff will want to consider is the grande dame herself: The Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, a Fairmont Managed Resort and the island’s oldest hotel, having opened in 1885. Affectionately known as the Pink Palace, this waterside spread has since undergone a series of expansions and modernizations—not least, the addition of Bermuda’s first full-service hotel marina. (Note that the Beach Club occupies a separate, private cove that you reach via jitney.)
Another modern addition to the Pink Palace that has generated a lot of buzz, as well as art tours: a staggering collection of works by Andy Warhol, Rene Magritte, Shepard Fairey, Bridget Riley, Henri Matisse and Ai Weiwei, for starters. Still, the hotel’s historic bones remain strong enough that you can very much picture the place when the likes of Ian Fleming (and yes, Mark Twain before him) used to hang here.
Other beloved historic spots to consider include the private peninsula-occupying Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa, the island’s first cottage-style stay at nearly a century old (though elements of the property date back to the 1600s) as well as the lushly landscaped Royal Palms Hotel, a turn-of-the-century grand estate turned midcentury guest house turned 90s boutique hotel. But if you’re looking for something at the new and newsy end of the spectrum, check out—and perhaps into—The St. Regis Bermuda Resort.
The most anticipated opening in recent memory, this historic fort-adjacent retreat hugs the shoreline of St. Catherine’s Beach, whose transparent turquoise waters serve as an idyllic backdrop for the resort's pools, loungers and cabanas. Wellness seekers will want to proceed immediately to the resident Iridium Spa for personalized, precious element-infused treatments, while golfers will want to hit the Five Forts Golf Club—18 vista-blessed holes that make up the latest addition to an already formidable Bermudian golf scene. Which…tees us up for the next section.
…an avid golfer
Bermuda, which claims more golf per square mile than anyplace else on earth, is home to seven courses (eight if you count mini-golf)—the common denominator being the stunning surroundings and media acclaim. Take the Port Royal Golf Course, for example: Deemed a top public golf course by Golf Digest and Bermuda’s finest by the New York Times, this is also the island’s longest course, with 18 championship holes arrayed over 6,842 yards—the 16th hole being legendary among pros.
Another 18-hole favorite is Turtle Hill Golf Club. Named one of the best par-3 courses in the world by Golf Magazine—and the best par 3 by the World Golf Awards—these challenging holes and Atlantic-view fairways set an appropriately dramatic stage for the Dark 'n Stormy World Par 3 Championships.
If it’s nine holes you seek, head to the Ocean View Golf Course. The name is a tipoff to the vistas you can expect, and the four-star Golf Digest rating is a nod to both the challenge and fun here.
And to immerse yourself in history as well as beautifully lush surroundings (Central Park’s Frederick Law Olmsted had a hand in them), check out the Mid Ocean Club midweek, when the course is open to non-members. You’ll be following in the footsteps of the likes Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Babe Ruth, the last of whom is said to have had one of his biggest off-field rivalries with the fifth hole: In 1934, the King of Swing reportedly launched 11 balls into the nearby mangroves before clearing the hazard on attempt number 12.
…a remote worker
As workcations continue to trend, Bermuda makes them especially easy with Work from Bermuda Certificates, lists of resources and a directory of broadband and remote workspaces. But who is anyone kidding? The best part of working here is the stunning island that will become your extended “office.”