If your summer has felt like a bummer,
consider a warm sunny island with pink sandy beaches. Just a two
hour flight ($199 each way), and you can be strolling
one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Closer than the
Caribbean and milder in temperature, since Bermuda shares the
latitude of Myrtle Beach, this British island will quickly charm
you with its turquoise blue waters, sunshine and trade winds.
Having tired of this summer’s drizzle, we pounced on airfare to beautiful Bermuda ($200 round trip plus tax) for a mid-summer retreat. Leaving Maine for a morning flight out of Boston, by midday we were sipping Rum Swizzles by the water in the sultry 85-degree air of this romantic island (actually a coral reef atop a dormant volcano).
We couldn’t decide which of Bermuda’s famed Fairmont hotels to stay at, so we chose both, starting with the oldest first. The Fairmont Hamilton Princess (circa 1885) is a 410-room pink hotel overlooking Hamilton Harbor. Named for Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise, she declared Bermuda a chic destination in the late 1800’s and the rest is history. Her lavish hotel was built to the finest standards, which continue to this day with meticulously kept grounds, spectacular views of the harbor as mega yachts pass by, and an elegant interior where High Tea is honored, among other debonair traditions.
Two outdoor harbor view pools offer salt & fresh water swimming, a spa and a putting green, plus two restaurants provide amusement in this urbane four-diamond hotel.
After R&R at the hotel, we walked the few blocks to the capital city’s center to the shops and dining on Front Street. We loved the Bermuda fish chowder spiked with Rum at the Hog Penny. At the Pickled Onion nightclub (Bermudians are nicknamed “onions) we found a lively group of locals and ex pats, all swizzling rum. As we strolled back to our hotel in a warm flower-infused breeze, we passed live bands at vibrant outdoor cafes on the waterfront. Bermuda feels safer, and more sophisticated than most Caribbean islands, but there is a similar island joie de vivre.
The deals are best at the Hamilton Princess on weekends, since this in-town hotel is busy with business clientele midweek. During our weekend, we explored Hamilton, took a boat excursion out of the harbor, and enjoyed the posh Princess, then we rode the free water ferry (exclusive for Fairmont guests) to the sister hotel, The Southampton for our final two days.
The Fairmont Southampton is also a palatial pink hotel; this
one perched high on a hillside with water view balconies from
all of its 593 rooms. A 100-acre resort surrounds the pink crown
hotel, built in 1972, with an executive golf course, a private
beach club, and tennis. Staying at the Southampton, you have six
restaurants, an Explorer camp for kids, Bermuda’s biggest and
best spa, and a nightclub all at your whim.
We bee-lined to the beach club, a stunning cove with silky sand surrounded by jagged coral cliffs. Beach chaises and umbrellas are provided; kayaks, floats, snorkel gear and dive equipment are available to rent. And barefoot waiters deliver cool drinks and juicy burgers to your spot in the sand. Snorkeling just 100 yards from our perfect beach chaises, we discovered rainbow colored parrotfish and trunk fish, floating over pillar coral and gigantic sea urchin in the brilliant blue waters.
For the most “Bermudaful” beach walk ever, we lathered on sunscreen (Bermuda’s sun index is a 10+), and walked to South Shore Park (the park gates are next to Southampton’s private beach club).
With just swimsuits, sunglasses and a camera (a must), we explored the satiny pink sand of Horseshoe Beach, considered one of the top 10 beaches in the world. We continued for two miles along a labyrinth of coral caves amid crashing waves to find more hidden beach bays. This is truly one of the most spectacular places on the planet (just break away from the cruise ship day trippers – they don’t walk too far or too fast).
Another scenic walk from the pink hotel, visit Gibb’s Lighthouse, the highest point on Bermuda for a panorama of the entire archipelago. One caveat: you must climb 185-steps to the top of the 1844 oldest cast-iron lighthouse in the world.
If this sounds like excessive effort, treat yourself to a day at the Hotel’s Willow Stream Spa– for $29 you get a fluffy robe and slippers, admission to the fitness facilities, a private indoor pool and outdoor hot tubs with spectacular views, steam and sauna rooms (plus a tempting menu of a la carte treatments).
Southampton’s dining options require serious decision making skills (or better – a week). There’s an Italian bistro Bacci at the golf course, the beachfront Ocean Club for sunset and sushi, the chic lobby bar Jasmine, poolside at Wickets, the mahogany yacht-themed Newport Room, and the historical steak house - 1670 Waterlot Inn (reputed among the best in Bermuda – I agree). After dinner, the Cellar is the spot for cocktails and dancing, while the Jasmine Lounge often has live jazz.
Four days of exploring this lush island, swimming the crystal clear blue waters, soaking up the sun, and enjoying Bermudian hospitably was not enough. Having stayed at both Fairmonts, I preferred the resort setting of the Southampton. However The Hamilton Princess is the place if you like to be in town, close to the bars, shop and restaurants – as many folks we met said they favored.
Staying a few nights at each you get the best of both worlds, the cosmopolitan ambiance of the grand historic Hamilton in the heart of the colony’s capital, then relaxation at the sun and scenery filled Southampton resort with the best beach club.
Bermuda is a quick, classy getaway for New Englanders. You will see sun, truly pink sand (created by the crushed coral), and men in Bermuda shorts (the delightfully proper male dress code of knee socks and bright coordinated knickers).
Bermuda is four centuries old, early explorers wrecked their ships on the 138 island reefs that comprise Bermuda – earning the legendary name “Isle of the Devils” (and making way for fantastic diving and snorkeling). Now you can have a devilishly good time in Bermuda.
Bermuda’s best 10 tips:
Visit Horseshoe Beach - listed among the top 10 beaches in the world. Slather on the sunscreen, carry your camera and enjoy the most beautiful beach walk ever.
Taste Bermuda’s Fish Chowder - this rich dark chowder is laced with local Dark Rum and sherry. Our best bowl was at Hog Penny, a British pub in Hamilton.
Avoid the Cruise ship crowd - ships dock primarily at the Dockyard and St. George’s, so head elsewhere when they’re in port.
Chat with the “onions” - local term for Bermudians. They are friendly charming people that love sharing tips and tales of their island.
Skip the moped, ride the bus - Bermuda public buses are friendly, cheaper than cabs, and surely safer than mopeds on the tight twisty island roads. Visitor may not rent cars.
While the weather is typically warm and sunny, Bermuda’s official drink is “Dark ‘n Stormy” of ginger beer with Goslings’ Black Seal Rum.
Look for deals to Bermuda, including resort credits when you book 4 or more nights.
Bermuda’s season is best April to early November.
Bring US your money - US dollars are accepted on par with Bermudian currency.
Be prepared that Bermuda is pricey, you get what you pay for…can you put a price tag on sunshine?