Pink-sand beaches and turquoise waters mixed with a touch of British, North American and Caribbean cultures make Bermuda uniquely attractive to travellers from around the world.
Discovered in 1505 by the Spanish, Bermuda was later colonized and settled by the English in 1612. The former capital, St. George, currently stands as one of the earliest English settlements of the New World. It is now recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Hamilton has been the capital of Bermuda since 1815.
Bermuda offers a year-round temperate climate and is a manageable 21 square miles in size. And the good news for Canadians is that the island destination is only a 2.5-hour flight from Toronto.
Jill Dill, projects manager for the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said the island has seen a resurgence in tourism as of late, with numbers up double digits since 2015.
“The America’s Cup in 2017 really put us back on the map,” she said. “There are a wealth of experiences to be had here, and, for Torontonians, it’s just over two hours away. The misconception is that we’re in the Caribbean. We have Caribbean influences, but we’re very distinct and different. This is not your ordinary island.”
She added, “we’re a bit of Caribbean, a bit of British, a bit of North American. We offer a quaint island experience. There are so many nooks and crannies.”
Dill noted that the island “is like one big resort” and advises that visitors take the time to explore, but also be sure to make time to get to one of the many beaches. Horseshoe Bay Beach is the most famous, but Bermuda boasts beaches by the dozens. It’s quite common for visitors to even have a beach to themselves.
“It’s definitely an island to be explored, [and it’s] very safe,” she said.
Getting around the island is easy with bicycles, taxis, buses, scooters and ferries the most common modes of transportation. Visitors can explore Bermuda by renting an electric two-seater Twizy, designed by Renault’s Formula One racing team. They can travel up to 50 miles on a single charge. Due to strict environmental laws, rental cars are not available.
Bermuda basically consists of three sides, West End (Royal Naval Dockyard), Central (home to Hamilton) and East End (St. George).
Visitors can immerse themselves in Bermuda’s past by visiting historic towns, churches and forts, in addition to visiting the Royal Naval Dockyards, home to the National Museum of Bermuda.
Tip: Be sure to check out the Hall of History in the Commissioner’s House, an impressive two-storey mural painted by local artist Graham Foster. The mural, which took 7,000 hours to complete, depicts 500 years of Bermuda history and culture.
Much of Bermuda’s activities revolve around the water with watersports offerings being amongst the best in the world. They include world-class scuba diving (there are an estimated 300 shipwreck sites available to be explored), snorkelling (there are reefs teeming with aquatic life), boating (in particular, sailing), jet skiing, paddle boarding, fly boarding, and deep-sea fishing. Helmet diving is also available, where visitors can walk on the ocean floor – no scuba lessons or experience required – using a unique helmet-diving system with large glass windows.
Other activities include world-class golf, birding and whale-watching (March-April optimal time). Visitors can also unlock the secrets of the Bermuda Triangle at the Ocean Discovery Centre. If that’s not enough, try hiking or riding the Railway Trail, a former train route that is now a scenic 18-mile-long pathway across the island. Or, check out Bermuda’s Botanical Garden or Crystal Caves.
On the infrastructure front, the big news for Bermuda is the coming of a new airport terminal building, scheduled to open sometime next summer.
The US$280-million facility will be state-of-the-art and feature six covered passenger boarding bridges (no more walking on the airport aprons as passengers at LF Wade International Airport have to do now).
While no definite opening date is set, officials say the switch from the existing terminal will happen overnight. Construction of the new 277,300-sq.-ft. terminal by Aecon Group Inc., a Canadian construction company, is on schedule and on budget.
Other features include more lounges, improved concessions, restaurants and duty-free offerings. Pre-clearance for US departures will remain, and security screening and immigration will be streamlined and modernized for a more efficient check-in and arrivals.
The new facility is also designed with sustainability in mind to minimize environmental impact and maximize efficiencies. Being located further inland, the new terminal will be more resistant to hurricanes and is being built at a higher elevation than the existing one.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation options in Bermuda vary from Airbnbs to five-star luxury hotels. The following are a few worth noting:
The Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort & Spa has 60 rooms and offers guests two restaurants, a full-service spa and golf course. Other amenities include free WiFi, a 24-hour fitness centre, a bar/lounge and poolside bar.
Overlooking Hamilton Harbour, the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club offers a range of luxurious guest rooms and suites (harbour, garden, pool or city views). The hotel underwent a $100-million renovation in 2016.
Amenities include numerous restaurants and bars, exclusive, private beach club, spa and fitness facilities and event space. The art collection of the Hamilton Princess is remarkable and located throughout the hotel. The collection includes pieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol and René Magritte. Guided tours are offered every Saturday (free for guests).
The luxurious Rosewood Bermuda is the centrepiece of Tucker’s Point, Bermuda’s premier resort, golf and beach club. With just 88 rooms and suites, guests feel they are part of an elite club with exclusive access to the largest private pink-sand beach in Bermuda. The resort features five restaurants and bars, as well as a 12,000-sq.-ft. spa, fitness centre, dive and water sports centre, tennis courts, croquet lawn, and four pools.
The Fairmont Southampton features 593 rooms, including 11 signature suites, 23 one- and two-bedroom suites, two split-level duplex suites and two penthouse suites. All rooms feature private balconies, marble bathrooms with Le Labo bath products, walk-in closets, plush bathrobes, Keurig coffee-makers, and WiFi.
The 40-room Rosedon Hotel offers a slice of tranquility right in the heart of Hamilton. Centered around an early 20th-century mansion, amenities at the Relais & Chatueaux property include a small pool.
On the horizon is a St. Regis hotel (tentatively set to open in 2021) and a Hilton Tapestry Resort.
SELLING BERMUDA MADE EASY
• Bermuda is a sub-tropical destination and enjoys four distinct seasons.
• Bermuda’s destination web site www.gotobermuda.com is jam-packed with useful information and sample itineraries to help in travel planning.
• Bermuda produces quarterly seasonal guides which are full of relevant and up-to-date activity information. The latest “Fall Guide” is available at https://www.gotobermuda.com/document/out-here-fall-guide-2019.
• Holidays in Bermuda – https://www.gotobermuda.com/article/bermudas-holiday-celebration-guide.
• Meetings and Events video – https://www.gotobermuda.com/video/bermuda-meetings-events.
• Top Outdoor Event Spaces & Meeting Venues – https://www.gotobermuda.com/article/bermuda-meetings-and-events-top-outdoor-venues.
• Bermuda’s “Adventure Almanac” – https://www.gotobermuda.com/sites/default/files/adventurealamanc_airtemps_for_fahrenheit_and_celsius_2019.pdf – provides helpful information on what activities are best and when and includes average monthly air and water temperatures throughout the year.
• Affordable and free activities – https://www.gotobermuda.com/list/21-free-or-affordable-things-to-do-bermuda.
• Beaches – https://www.gotobermuda.com/article/bermudas-top-rated-beaches.
• Arts & Culture – https://www.gotobermuda.com/bermudafall.
• Itinerary ideas for leisure travel – https://www.gotobermuda.com/itinerary/the-perfect-72-hours-bermuda.
• Meetings and group itineraries – https://www.gotobermuda.com/list/10-reasons-to-choose-bermuda-your-next-meeting.
• Culinary culture – https://www.gotobermuda.com/food.
• Accessibility – https://www.gotobermuda.com/article/accessible-bermuda.