Second-Time Travel: Bermuda

The sun sets over Hamilton Harbour. (Photo: Jennifer Hill)

One of the best things that I’ve discovered about living on the Eastern Seaboard is that Bermuda is only a short 90-minute flight from most of its major cities. Depending on the season’s flight schedule, one can be up at dawn and on a Bermuda beach by noon. (This is far faster than battling it out in Montauk or planning 18 months in advance for a summer share.)

The warm balmy weather, crystal blue water, gorgeous scenery, impeccably polite locals and delicious cuisine all beckon. Bermuda is an easy-going place where one can swim, snorkel, dive, hike, sail, golf and find many other enjoyable ways to pass the time. The evenings are Hollywood-perfect with just the right amount of humidity and breeze for dining al fresco followed by a moonlit walk as the tiny tree frogs serenade you. From the moment one spots the tiny island with the multi-colored houses from the plane, Bermuda is instantly relaxing. Over the past several years, my husband and I (and, now, our toddler son as well) have been hopping on a plane and hitting the island at least two times a year, so we’ve gotten to know a thing or two about the best places to stay, eat and swim.

A daytime view of Hamilton Harbour from the Fairmont Hotel. (Photo: Jennifer Hill)

Where to Stay

We stay at The Royal Palms, a boutique hotel which is just a short 10-minute walk from the center of Hamilton. Sonja and Susan lead a staff dedicated to gracious hospitality in a cheerful and calming Caribbean colonel setting. The rooms are comfy, the breakfast bar with the waffle maker fuels the morning, and the beautiful grounds make it super easy to get lost in time and never want to leave. It was the recipient of Trip Advisor’s 2014 Traveler’s Choice Award for the Best Hotel in the Caribbean based on guest satisfaction. It also boasts an excellent restaurant, and the staff will happily arrange or recommend activities.

Should The Palms be booked, then the Fairmont Hamilton Princess is also a great choice (be sure ask for a renovated room). It has beautiful views, especially of Hamilton Harbour (take a dip in the resort’s infinity edge pool for a stunning, uninterrupted view), good food and a free ferry to its sister hotel, the Fairmont at Southampton, which is right next door to Horseshoe Bay Beach. 

The Best Eats

Dine on the Best Fish: For seafood, the Harbour Front Restaurant is outstanding for grilled fish, sushi and desserts. It’s the best fish on the island (this is from someone who rarely eats anything from the sea). Be sure to reserve a table outside at sunset to enjoy the fantastic sunset while you dine. It’s a nice walk from the center of Hamilton, too. They also do a lovely job of honoring special occasions.

Get a Rum Swizzle: No trip to Bermuda is complete without a visit to the Swizzle Inn. It’s a Bermudian institution and the home of the Rum Swizzle. There are two on the island and they each have great pub food fare including an insanely delicious fish sandwich. It’s a wonderful choice for a midday lunch after a morning at the beach.

An English Pub: As it’s one of her Majesty’s colonies, Bermuda is known for excellent pubs. The Hog Penny Inn in the center of Hamilton does a fine job of the traditional English basics, including fish and chips. If you’ve ever done a pub crawl, this place will make you feel nostalgic, too.

Off the Beaten Path: The House of India has outstanding Indian food that would please the most discerning Brit. Arrange a taxi to get there. A local may just drive you back! If you are near Horseshoe Bay, Café Coco is a 10-minute walk away. Dine seaside on beach favorites in a pleasant, tranquil setting with plenty of much-needed shade.

Don’t Forget a Ginger Beer: Ginger beer is an island staple and a refreshing way to hydrate and keep up one’s sugars in the hot sun. Gosling’s Ginger Beer is a favorite.

A Killer View: The Lido at Elbow Beach has a beautiful seaside restaurant and upstairs lounge with killer views and outstanding cocktails.

Where to Swim

Horseshoe Bay is one of the best beaches in the world. It has deep and shallow waters that are crystal blue and green. Bring or rent beach chairs. Walk to the left of the main horseshoe to find some small, out of the way beaches where one can feel as though the island is your own. We come back here time and again because everything about it is truly perfect, including the fantastic snorkeling. Located in Southhampton Parish.

Elbow Beach, which is located just a bit closer to Hamilton, is great for long, uncomplicated walks and windsurfing.

Church Bay Beach has some of the best snorkeling. (Bring or buy snorkeling gear before you visit!)

TRAVEL TIP: Be sure to pack ample sunscreen. That Bermudian sun is fierce! The pleasant breeze makes it easy to forget that you’re baking, so be kind to your skin lest you get a lecture from your dermatologist.

Get Some Culture

A visit to the Botanical Gardens is a beautiful way to learn about the island’s foliage and still work on your tan.

The Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute is a fun museum for the underwater adventurer and whole family with great activities throughout the year. Check out the calendar to see if an adventure fits into your trip.

Lest you be from the United Kingdom or just an Anglophile, Bermuda has its own Marks & Spencer department store and a miniature version of the food hall to stock up on your British staples before you return stateside.

Tips for Getting Around

We love the hot pink buses that traverse the island, as well as the public ferry. Since rental cars are not allowed, buses, bikes, scooters and taxis are your choices for transport. The buses go to all of the beaches, are clean and comfortable and travel frequently enough to make it a reliable. The drivers will happily provide directions and recommendations if you ask. But beware (and be careful): scooters make it difficult to enjoy the rum swizzles.

Be sure not to check your suitcase before hitting the duty-free shop to stock up on dark rum and delicious (if sweet) ginger beer.

TRAVEL TIP: You clear U.S. customs in Bermuda!

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