By Oda Solms-Baruth
Where is Bermuda?
This exotic destination is closer than you imagine. For those of us living on the east coast you will be surprised to learn that this famous island retreat is only 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Air Tran offers direct flights from BWI to Bermuda with a 1h 45min flight time, letting you travel from the Beltway to Horseshoe Bay in a matter of a few hours.
What to Expect?
Take a window seat. From the moment your jet approaches this pristine 21-mile long island you immediately see the splendor it has to offer. The island itself is lush and green, surrounded by warm turquoise blue water barely covering the many reef beds that seem to extend out to the horizon. Skirting this picturesque island along its coast is the main attraction; flawless pink sandy beaches promise hours of relaxation and leisure. Bermuda has some of the finest beaches in the world. Best of all they are free and always open to the public.
Thanks to the British influence Bermuda has an air of dignified informality. The beaches and landscapes are well manicured, the homes are immaculately cared for, each tinted with a unique pastel hue and topped with a flawless limestone roof, and the Bermudians are smartly dressed in their world famous shorts and knee-socks.
Boasting more golf courses per square mile than any other country and offering luxurious resort properties such as Cambridge Beaches and Elbow Beach, it is no wonder why Bermuda has a reputation for being a destination reserved for the well-to-do. And, while there is no getting around the fact that Bermuda is not an inexpensive paradise (the average home on the island sells for 1.2 million and the minimum wage is said to be around $25 per hour), it is possible to visit the island with modest means and well worth it based on the natural beauty of the beaches alone.
Horseshoe Bay, Church Bay and Somerset Long Bay are just some of the beaches that dot the coast line. From a scenic cove surrounded by dramatic rock formations to a long continuous stretch of blushing pink sand, you are sure to encounter beaches in various forms. Most allow easy access to the reefs, which make them ideal for snorkeling and exploring the underwater world of colorful fish.
What’s the Weather Like?
Bermuda is a sub-tropical archipelago made up of 181 islands, islets and rocks. Although mistakenly thought to be in the Caribbean, the island is warmed by the gulf stream so it experiences all four seasons. With winter temperatures dropping into the 60s and the summers staying in the mid 80s, the island is never too cold or too hot. The high season for travel in Bermuda begins in April and ends in October when the weather begins to cool down.
How to Explore?
Visitors aren’t permitted to rent cars on the island so many choose to rent scooters to get around; this is the most common mode of transportation in Bermuda. Two wheels seem to be enough for thousands of visitors each year and they can be a fun and flexible way to explore. Just remember the speed limit is 35 kilometers per hour and Bermudians drive on the left. If you’re not up for zipping around on a scooter, you can easily get around by taxi, bus or ferry.
Recommended Places to Stay
Fairmont Hamilton Princess
Opened in 1885 and named for the daughter of England’s Queen Victoria, Princess Louise, this landmark luxury hotel is conveniently located in the town of Hamilton. The Fairmont Princess offers well-appointed guest rooms, some with harbor views and private balconies. The grounds of the Hamilton Princess include both freshwater and saltwater pools, a pool-side bar and grill, and a complimentary ferry over to the Fairmont Beach Club in Southampton.
Elbow Beach Hotel & Spa
Owned and operated by Mandarin Oriental, this intimate luxury resort features 98 guestrooms surrounded by landscaped gardens overlooking the private pink sand beach. The property has recently seen a $5.5 million refurbishment project and all of the cottage style accommodations have been enhanced with lavish amenities. All rooms offer guests the ultimate in entertainment systems, luxury interior goods, exclusive Mandarin Oriental bedding and linens, iPod docking stations, personal espresso machines and luxury bathroom facilities. You can dine at the 2011 Best of Bermuda Gold Award winner for Best Place for an al fresco meal, Sea Breeze Terrace, or the casual ocean side beach bar, Mickey’s Beach Bistro & Bar and enjoy the view while you sip on any one of their island cocktails.
The dreamy accommodations and grounds of Cambridge Beaches are the perfect mix between quaint and modern. Open the windows in the evening and listen to the exotic songs of the tiny tree frogs that combine with the warm breeze that brings with it the scent of the gardens of this beautiful resort. It’s seemingly romantic enough to bring the bronze life sized nude Desmond Fountain sculptures to life, which are found throughout the resort (www.desmondfountain.com). Dining can be enjoyed at either the Tamarisk Room overlooking Mangrove Bay or the more casual open-air beach-front Breezes restaurant. After dinner, find one of the resorts’ hammocks to relax in and enjoy a moonlit beachside view.
Port O’ Call Restaurant
Port O’ Call is an elegant establishment offering fresh local seafood at a reasonable price in the heart of Hamilton, Bermuda’s charming capital. Try the Pan Seared Lemon Sole served with Sauteed Spinach, New Potatoes and Chive Buerre Blanc and be sure to save room for the Baked Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Berry Puree. Celebrate Happy Hour in “The Lounge” at Port O’ Call weekdays from 4-7pm, beers and wine starting at $5.
Mickey’s Beach Bistro & Bar at Elbow Beach Hotel
At Bermuda’s only bistro on-the-beach, enjoy the fresh fare while looking out onto the exclusive Elbow Beach. Mickey’s serves one of the best Bermuda fish chowders, a spicy seafood chowder served with a splash of dark rum and a dash of sherry pepper. Mahi mahi ceviche, seafood salad, rum swizzle—Each dish and cocktail is fit for a king and queen. The service is also excellent. Our Romanian waiter, Edy was professional yet amicable and offered us his favorites on the menu, which were all delicious choices.
Botanical Gardens and Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art
Sunny colored Frangipani, Birds of Paradise, vibrant Hibiscus and Banyan Trees are just some of the lush tropical flora at the Botanical Gardens, a close walk from the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
The Historic Town of St. George
For the history buff, don’t leave Bermuda without a visit to St. George Parish. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic town of St. George located on the eastern tip of the island has been continually occupied since the early 17th century and known to the locals as “down de country.” Among other sites, be sure to explore the oldest surviving Anglican Church outside of Great Britain, St. Peter’s Church, established in 1612. Take a whiff of the Bermuda cedar once you step inside. And, visit Fort St. Catherine. This impressive fort overlooks the beach where the island’s first settlers landed in 1609.
Navy Yard Maritime Museum and Dolphin Quest
Located on the grounds of the Maritime Museum where you will find displays of Bermudas Maritime history and easily spend an hour watching in amazement as the dolphins, four adults and three young, play around in the natural bay aquarium at Dolphin Quest (www.dolphinquest.com). At 37-years old, Sirrus is the grandmother to three of the other friendly marine mammals and seems to be the star of the show; spinning, jumping, kissing, whistling and clicking, all for a handful of chum. It’s no wonder why these intelligent animals with such sweet appearances and playful demeanors are loved so dearly by trainers like Robyn Trainor. Originally from South Africa, Robyn has been teaching dolphins for seven years at Dolphin Quest. Besides the shows and interactive programs Dolphin Quest offers visitors everything from an in-water experience (for those adventurous enough to jump in with these 400 pound mammals) to the chance to get up close and personal without getting wet. Dolphin Quest has an established reputation as an international organization devoted to public education and conservation of marine wildlife. Dolphin Quest offers trainer camps and internships throughout the year.
Why Visit in September, October or November?
The Bermuda Department of Tourism is inviting vacationers to extend their summer fun on Bermuda’s pink sands through October this year with the launch of the island’s Endless Summer Promotion. The Endless Summer offer is available for booking now through October 25, with travel dates now through October 31, 2011. Travelers booking a minimum of four nights can receive either a $400 resort credit at participating properties or a $400 airline credit. For more information on Bermuda’s Endless Summer Promotion including applicable blackout dates and restrictions, visit www.gotobermuda.com or call 1-800-BERMUDA.
Golf enthusiasts looking to travel to Bermuda to watch Darren Clarke, the newly crowned winner of the Open Championship, vie for the title of 2011 “Champion of Champions” at the 29th PGA Grand Slam of Golf, October 18-19, 2011, can now book flexible travel packages at the tournament’s official hotel sponsor, The Fairmont Southampton, along with several other of the islands top resorts. The 593-room Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda’s largest resort, has debuted special three-, four- and five-night packages, starting at $336 per person, based on double occupancy, allowing visitors to attend the grand finale of the professional golf season and also work on their own golf game with rounds on some of Bermuda’s finest courses. Visit www.gotobermuda.com or call 1-800-BERMUDA.
Elbow Beach’s “Girlfriend’s Getaway & Give Back” package, offers ladies a fantastically feminine escape with travel dates available through the end of November. For each package booked Elbow Beach Hotel will donate $250 to Breast Cancer Research in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. The package includes 3 nights accommodations in a plush two-bedroom premier ocean view suite, a spa day including salt or pink sand body scrub, massage, manicure, pedicure, hair and M.A.C. make-up application, a professional photo shoot at the on-site location of their choice and disc of images, dinner at Sea Breeze Terrace, private beach cabana, and perfectly chilled champagne and Godiva chocolates among other little yummy extras. For more information and to make reservations contact Elbow Beach directly at +1 (441) 236-3535
Oda Solms-Baruth is Co-Publisher for the Southern Maryland Woman magazine.