Bermuda Bucket List: An Insider’s Guide to the North Atlantic Island

By Jillian Dara

Growing up on the island of Bermuda, I was aware of the association of its mythical triangle and misplaced locale in the Caribbean Sea. But when I left for college, I was stunned by just how many people on the East Coast hadn’t ever heard of, never mind visited, the island—especially considering how easy it is to access from North America’s main hubs. What this twenty-one-square-mile island in the middle of the North Atlantic may lack in size it compensates for in culture and the bounty of nature that suits an idyllic weekend trip (or longer!). Being a native to the island, let me give you an insider’s guide to this British Overseas Territory located just under 700 miles off the coast of North Carolina.

Define the trip you want to have

It may sound obvious, but this is something you should determine first and foremost before booking your trip. Do you want an active trip? A proper lazy beach trip? Or perhaps something in between? This will help direct where you stay. 

Because Bermudians drive on the left side of the road, travelers cannot rent a car during their stay, but bikes and Twizzies (electric motor cars) are available to rent. However, the windy, narrow roads are difficult to navigate, so tourists often rely on taxis, the costs of which can add up. If you want to explore as much as possible, you can budget for taxis or stay somewhere central, allowing access via walking or cycling. 

Plan a trip during shoulder season

Corresponding with the misconception of Bermuda’s misjudged locale in the Caribbean, its weather is often miscalculated too. The island is subtropical, meaning winters can be cool, though not cold—but still not primetime for the beach, something the country prides itself on. Plan a trip for May or June before the summer humidity peaks or in September as humidity begins to drop for autumn. I personally love the end of May as Bermudians welcome summer with May 24, or ‘Bermuda Day,’ when many locals take their first dip in the ocean and that celebratory start to summer washes over the island.

Visit an uncrowded beach

Postcards commonly point to Horseshoe Bay Beach, so unsurprisingly, that’s where the tourists end up. Of course, stop by to see the world-class beach, but if you’re looking for a more peaceful scene, head to Warwick Long Bay and venture to the right of the parking lot for intimate coves that you’ll likely get to keep to yourself for an entire afternoon.

Seek out a fried fish sandwich

The island’s unofficial national dish is a behemoth piece of fried fish (usually snapper or mahi-mahi) between raisin bread smeared with tartar sauce and built with the works (lettuce, cheese, and onion). It may sound heavy for a warm climate, but when you wash it all down with a refreshing Dark ’N Stormy (one of the island’s famed cocktails) and round out the meal with a dip in the ocean, it all fits perfectly.

Take in the sunset over the harbor

As the sun dips below the horizon, the island glows with pastel hues that, when reflected in the dark waters of Hamilton Harbour, sets the scene for a magical happy hour. Try Marcus’ at the Hamilton Princess or the poolside bar at Newstead Belmont Hills for two unique vantage points. 

Hop on a boat for the best views of the island

To appreciate the island’s size, unique shape, and rainbow-colored homes dotting the coast, climb aboard a ferry or rent a boat for the best photos you’ll take during your trip. If you choose the latter, seek out a sandbar and anchor for an afternoon swim in the divinely clear waters near Mangrove Bay, Ely’s Harbour, or Castle Harbour. 

Dine by the sea

There are countless restaurants with views of the sea, but to actually get beachside access is less popular than you may think for an island in the middle of the ocean. Seabreeze at Elbow Beach offers up tapas-style dishes as well as sushi and pitchers of cocktails that are best paired with the soundtrack of crashing waves. Try to time your reservation for happy hour (five to seven in the evening), and you can even stroll along the beach between courses. 

Book a tee time

Bermuda golf courses are world-class courses that host PGA tours, including the most recent Bermudian Championship in October 2020. Whether you’re a pro or are only onboard for the drinks, you’ll enjoy the round with a side of views from the likes of Port Royal, Tucker’s Point, Turtle Hill, and Mid Ocean Golf Clubs. 

Indulge in a different type of tea time

If even the ocean views can’t entice you to play a round on the greens, you have the option to spend your tea time with ornate sandwiches and decadent sweets. The tradition of high tea is one of British royalty and is an indulgent way to spend an afternoon out of the sun. Try Huckleberry, the Hamilton, or Fairmont Southampton, and be sure to book in advance. 

Drink Gosling’s rum

The aforementioned Dark ’N Stormy is a Gosling’s-standard cocktail that’s trademarked to the island. The tangy ginger beer balances the sweet, dark rum, and a squeeze of lime seals the flavors together. If you’re looking for Bermuda’s other go-to, the rum swizzle is a fruity, punch-like drink that—albeit corny in name—packs a punch. Order up a swizzle at any local haunt, but for an undeniably tourist venture, a pitcher at The Swizzle Inn is well worth the tourist branding. 

After you’ve tackled the off-beat, and if you’re still searching for more to cap your trip, there are a few “musts” that you should add to your list, even if it means joining the crowds! Shop around the new capital in Hamilton, explore the old capital of St. George, climb the Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse, swim in the grotto at Tom Moore’s Jungle, or tour the old forts from St. Catherine to Dockyard. The confluence of British and Caribbean cultures, combined with a wartime history and modern-day beaches that dazzle, depict the island’s slogan perfectly; Bermuda really is “another world.”

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