Pastel houses dripping in bougainvillea, pink-sand beaches and rum swizzles — all are within easy reach (just a 90-minute flight) from New York. Postcard-perfect Bermuda, a speck in the Atlantic Ocean, is closer to North Carolina than the Caribbean — yet a world away from both in culture and vibe. While we can think of 101 reasons to make flower-laden Bermuda your next island stop, here are 10:
Live Like an Astor
New York’s famous Astor family started coming to Bermuda more than a century ago, laying down roots on the island’s east end. After John Jacob Astor IV (founder of St. Regis New York) died on the Titanic, son Vincent Astor (just 20 at the time) became the richest man in America. Vincent loved Bermuda and, in the 1930s, built a home in St. George’s, which included its own private railroad to transport guests around his sprawling estate. The Astor connection continues with opening of the 120-room St. Regis Bermuda Resort (a.k.a. ‘House of Astor’), overlooking St. Catherine’s Beach. The avant-garde Bermudian design by OMBI — turquoise and sea blue juxtaposed with gilded golden accents — harkens back to the Astor days, as does the hotel’s impeccable, signature butler service.
The Sand is Truly Pink
Many islands make the claim, but Bermuda’s beaches are truly pink — ranging from faint blush to bubblegum. There is science behind the hue. The island’s coral reefs are home to red foraminifera (miniscule microorganisms). Their teensy red shells collect on the ocean floor and when washed ashore, mix with sun and sand, creating the rosy color. Some of Bermuda’s prettiest pink beaches — paired with aquamarine water and rugged boulders — are found at Horseshoe Bay and Jobson’s Cove.
Rum Swizzle or Dark n’ Stormy
Rum is the drink of the island. But the jury is out between the Rum Swizzle, a blend of citrus juices, spices and bitters, or the Dark n’ Stormy, made with Gosling’s black seal rum and ginger beer, as the island’s ‘national drink.’ Both are popular staples at bars and restaurants across the island and an obvious must-try. To sample the island’s original rum swizzle, head to the Swizzle Inn, for a pitcher of the famed drink, said to have been invented by the bartenders here in 1932. This original version includes Gosling’s black and gold rum, triple sec, pineapple, orange and lemon juices, Angostura bitters, falernum, and a local sweetener.
Much of the island’s most compelling history rests in St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town is one of the oldest in the Americas, dating back to a group of shipwrecked Brits in 1609. Walk the cobbled-stone streets; hear the stories of the ‘unfinished church’ (a popular wedding spot), Kings Square, and St. Peter’s Church. Then head to the south shore, stopping at a few pink-sand beaches along the way — before ending in the historic Royal Naval Dockyard for some local beer and English pub grub at Frog and Onion, housed in an 18th-century cooperage.
Twizy for Two
In lieu of conventional rental cars, Bermuda offers an eco-friendly fleet of two-seater electric vehicles to explore the island (it only takes about an hour to drive from end to end). Designed by Renault’s Formula One racing team, the two-seater Twizy travels up to 50 miles on a single charge. Renting scooters and bicycles is another popular – and fun – way to see the island. Word of caution: stay to the left. Taxis and buses are another good option, especially at night.
Under the Sea
Ringed by reefs and known to have a shipwreck or two hiding beneath its waters, Bermuda makes for a heavenly diving experience. Snorkeling, off beaches like Tobacco Bay – a ridge of dark, volcanic rock sheltering shallow water and reef – is also a favored pastime. Also popular: Helmet Diving, a cross between scuba and snorkeling. Put on a heavy helmet, equipped with a hose piping in fresh air, and descend via ladder roughly 10 feet underwater to walk around on the ocean floor.
Bermuda’s famous fried fish sandwich is traditionally served on raisin bread, topped with coleslaw, hot sauce or tartar sauce (although other bread varieties are offered). Find it at: Mama Angie’s Coffee Shop in St. George’s, Seaside Grill on North Shore and Woody’s in Somerset. For fresh lobster and fish, head to the island’s staple for nearly 50 years, the Lobster Pot & Boat House Bar in Hamilton. As for fish tacos, there’s no better place than Wahoo’s —the fish is fresh; the restaurant is right on the water.
For unpretentious fine dining, try Mad Hatters in Hamilton, serving elegant local cuisine. Chef Ben Jewett is insanely talented. The menu is small but the restaurant is known for its vast variety of nightly specials.
A nod to Mark Twain (who loved Bermuda and visited often), we also love the Relais & Chateaux Huckleberry Restaurant, with its fresh sea-and-farm-to-table philosophy. The restaurant is located inside the main house and front porch of the Rosedon Hotel.
Another Mark Twain favorite: Bermuda’s famed Crystal Caves. (The writer was the first tourist to descend into them in 1908). Today, the natural wonder continues to enthrall visitors with its eerily beautiful ancient stalactites dangling into crystal waters. Guided tours are given daily.
Bermuda Railway Trail National Park
Once a railway line stretching the entire length of the island, Old Rattle and Shake, is now a national park. The trail is open only to walkers and bicyclists and comes with markers highlighting the history of the railwayand, and is home to a beautiful array of birds.
The Art Scene
Although small in size (just 21 miles), Bermuda’s art scene is significant. Museums and art galleries range from the Natural History Museum, Underwater Exploration Institute and Masterworks Museum to small galleries (Lisa-Anne Rego) and one of our favorites, Jon Faulkner Pottery, in the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Rum is a must take-home souvenir. Grab a bottle of Bermuda Black Seal Rum in Duty Free at the airport. Other notable take-homes include a pair of handmade Della Valle Sandals by Italian-born shoemaker Vincenzo Della Valle; perfume from The Lili Bermuda Perfumery which uses locally grown flowers and botanicals (freesia, rose, ginger, clementine); and of course a pair (or two) of Tabs Bermuda shorts.