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For a tiny island territory tucked in a remote corner of the western Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda has a lot to offer. It’s famous for its pink-sand beaches (like Horseshoe Bay Beach and Elbow Beach) and British charm, but travelers should know there is so much more to experience. And since it's less than two hours away from most eastern U.S. airports, it's a great last-minute getaway from the states.
Bermuda is a British island territory that’s actually made up of 181 islands, islets and rocks – it’s not just one continuous landmass, as popularly thought. It encompasses 21 square miles and has 75 miles of spectacular coastline nestled in a sparkling blue-green sea.
The capital city of Hamilton is the epicenter of the country. It is home to a bustling yet scenic harbor as well as museums, galleries, shops and beautiful gardens. Front Street in Hamilton has a great view of the harbor and is where travelers can find many of the shops, restaurants and museums. For more sightseeing and shopping, the Royal Naval Dockyard is a great stop, as it’s home to the British Maritime Museum as well as a pedestrian mall with restaurants and shops aplenty. The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo is a great place for families visiting Bermuda (and kids 5 and under get in for free). Visitors can see over 100 species of indigenous fish as well as animals from many other parts of the world. Families may also enjoy visiting the Bermuda Botanical Gardens, 36 acres of gardens that include a tropical fruit garden, a palm garden and a miniature forest.
Travelers seeking adventure in the water will be delighted with the many shipwrecks and coral reefs to explore when scuba diving in the shallow waters. The clear ocean waters offer unlimited visibility. Kayaking, waterskiing, parasailing and yachting are other popular water activities in Bermuda.
For its small size, Bermuda has a surprising amount of activities to choose from. Travelers will not be disappointed, from the easy accessibility from the U.S. to the many opportunities for adventure.
Valid passport needed for entry
Bermudian dollar (American dollars are widely accepted but travelers’ checks and money orders in American dollars are not accepted)
Bermuda is a unique tropical-island paradise located in a remote corner of the western Atlantic Ocean. It is a peaceful vacation spot nestled in a sparkling blue-green sea. When the wind blows, Bermuda's islands, islets and outcrops are washed with white-topped, cool-green waves.
It's the diversity of color that first enraptures many visitors to Bermuda—not just of sky and sea but also of sand, trees, shrubs and flowers. The beaches are creamy white and flecked with pink; the trees are a variety of lush greens. Pink oleander lines the roadsides, and riotous vines tumble over limestone walls. Even the houses on Bermuda are colorful—pastel walls topped by white stepped roofs.
Add to this excellent restaurants, no cars, reliable sunshine, opportunities to purchase European goods, and a variety of land and water activities, including cricket, afternoon tea and sailing, and it's no wonder that vacationers return to Bermuda year after year.
Sights—British history, shops and restaurants at the Royal Naval Dockyard; great views of Hamilton Harbour from Fort Hamilton; stalactites and stalagmites at the Crystal and Fantasy Caves; extensive views of Bermuda from Gibb's Hill Lighthouse.
Museums—Bermudian and European 18th- and 19th-century paintings at the Bermuda National Gallery; the National Museum of Bermuda at The Keep, the largest of Bermuda's forts; model ships at the Bermuda Historical Society Museum; scuba-diving exhibits at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute; unusual architecture at Verdmont Museum.
Memorable Meals—Local cuisine at The Spot; excellent fish at the Lobster Pot; terrific fine dining at Ascots Restaurant.
Late Night—Heart-pounding dance music at Cosmopolitan Ultra Lounge and Nightclub in Hamilton; tropical cocktails at Club Aqua.
Walks—Cliff walks to see Bermuda longtail birds; strolls through colorful flowers at the Bermuda Botanical Gardens; tours of the historic streets of St. George.
Especially for Kids—Native fish, exotic reptiles and pink flamingos at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo; dolphin interactions and educational programs at Dolphin Quest Bermuda in the National Museum of Bermuda; swims with the fish at Snorkel Park Beach in Royal Naval Dockyard.
This isolated bit of paradise in the Atlantic is less than a two-hour flight southeast of New York. The closest land is North Carolina, 650 mi/1,050 km west.
The self-governing British territory is made up of 181 small islands—the largest of which are connected by bridges and causeways, creating a landmass shaped roughly like a 21-mi-/34-km-long fishhook that is no wider than 2 mi/3 km.
The first known European to sight the islands was Spaniard Juan de Bermudez (from whom Bermuda takes its name) around 1505. Spain left the islands alone, and they remained unsettled for another century.
In the 1500s, Bermuda became an important landmark and a significant hazard for ships crossing the Atlantic. Storms often swept ships onto the reefs that surround the islands. One such wreck led to the colonization of Bermuda.
In 1609, the Sea Venture, an English ship loaded with colonists en route to Jamestown, Virginia, struck one of the reefs. The colonists found Bermuda a good place to be marooned, especially because of the wild hog population, which provided a steady supply of meat. The castaways built two new ships and sailed onward the next year, but their brief stay encouraged settlement on the islands.
By 1612, there was a permanent British settlement, which started in St. George's. Originally ruled by the Virginia Company, it became a British Crown Colony in 1684 and eventually became an overseas territory. The population is a diverse mix, including those whose heritage can be traced to Africa, the U.K., the Azores, the West Indies and several other lands.
Because Bermuda lacked the water and soil to be a major agricultural producer, its fortunes were tied to trade. Much of the trade was with the U.S., and during the Civil War, Bermuda grew rich by trading English arms for Confederate cotton. After the war ended in 1865, Bermuda fell on harder times. But during the 20th century, the islands began to develop one of the world's first tourism industries, Bermuda's second-largest business.
During the 1960s, offshore banking, financial services and insurance also became important to the islands. Business remains Bermuda's largest business; it serves as the global base of operation for Jardine Matheson and the headquarters for Bacardi.
Under the Westminster system of government, Bermuda was governed by the United Bermuda Party (UBP) from the early 1960s to the late 1990s. During that period, Pam Gordon became Bermuda's first female premier. In 1998, the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) swept into power after a general election and remained in power until December 2012.
The One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) won the election in December 2012 with Hon. Craig Cannonier as premier. Michael Dunkley was elected premier in 2014, and E. David Burt took office in 2017 and continues in office today.
Bermuda's foremost attractions are beaches, golf, tennis, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, nature preserves, cricket, sailing, shopping and relaxation.
A clean, fairly formal, semitropical destination with beautiful beaches, trees and flowers, Bermuda can be a relaxing destination, albeit an expensive one.
Bermuda's rosy beaches contain two ingredients that give them a signature sparkle. The pink cast comes from tiny scarlet protozoans of the order Foraminifera, which cling to the reefs while alive and color the sands after death. The reflectivity comes from crystalline quartz, a nonnative mineral transported there in the guts of migrating birds.
The title of John Lennon's Double Fantasy album was inspired by the name of a flower he saw in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. Lennon wrote some of the songs for the album while staying in Bermuda.
Although it's only 21 mi/34 km long, Bermuda has more than 125 churches, giving it "holy" status as one of the locations with the highest number of churches per capita in the world.
The first game of tennis in the Western Hemisphere was played in Bermuda by Sir Brownlow Gray's family in 1873. The next year, the family's American houseguest, Mary Outerbridge, introduced the sport to the U.S. on Staten Island.
Debate still rages over whether there is a mysterious, fatal force operating in the Bermuda Triangle, an area whose three corners are marked by Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico. An astonishing number of planes and ships have mysteriously disappeared there, and theories abound about who or what is responsible.
Rainwater is the main source of water on Bermuda, as there are no rivers or other major sources of freshwater. The rain is funneled from the roofs of buildings into underground tanks. (In most hotels, the water is purified.) Islanders take their roof collection systems seriously: When a new roof is added to a house, it's christened with a splash of Bermuda black rum.
Every year on Boxing Day (26 December), the Gombey dancers parade around the islands, singing and dancing in elaborate costumes and masks. Gombey is the word for rhythm in Bantu and is also the name of a skin-covered drum developed in Africa and brought to Bermuda by slaves.
On Good Friday, many people in Bermuda like to eat homemade fried salt codfish cakes with their hot cross buns. They also fly homemade kites.
Visitors are outspoken in their admiration for the islands. "You go to heaven if you want," said 19th-century author and humorist Mark Twain. "I'd rather stay here in Bermuda."
Cruise ships usually anchor in the Great Sound, the large bay in western Bermuda, or tie up at King's Wharf at the Royal Naval Dockyard at the northwestern end of Bermuda. The Royal Naval Dockyard is the only port in Bermuda that can accommodate the larger cruise ships. Smaller ships can dock in Hamilton and St. George's.
There are cruise terminals at the docks, which have public phones, restrooms and a tourist information booth. All shops and points of interest are within walking distance, making this a great port for sightseers.
There is a dedicated minibus shuttle at the King's Wharf terminal that goes to Horseshoe Bay Beach. Priced at US$14 round-trip, the shuttle runs from the cruise pier daily 8 am-3 pm. The last return bus leaves at 6 pm.
The towering stone buildings in the Dockyard that were once part of the early-19th-century British naval installation now house shops and restaurants. There's a maritime museum and a lagoon, where visitors can swim with dolphins. The dock—opposite the main Dockyard buildings—offers phones, restrooms and a tourist information table. Ships that anchor in the Great Sound often tender their passengers to the Dockyard in smaller craft.
The parishes of Southampton and Sandys form the "hook" of Bermuda, sometimes known as the West End. Many of the sights lie on Somerset and Ireland islands, which are connected by short bridges to the main island. They're a half-hour drive from Hamilton. Ferries also run from Hamilton to several stops on both islands. It takes about a day to see the area.
One stop to make in Southampton Parish is Gibb's Hill Lighthouse (about 5 mi/8 km southwest of Hamilton), the oldest cast-iron structure in the world. It offers fantastic views of the islands and ocean.
Somerset Island is a charming and sleepy place. Visitors should take the time to visit Fort Scaur, which offers extensive views of Bermuda.
The road continues from Somerset and, after crossing two small islets, reaches Ireland Island, site of the Royal Naval Dockyard, one of Bermuda's premier attractions. There, visitors will find the National Museum of Bermuda, Dolphin Quest Bermuda, the Commissioner's House and plenty of shops and restaurants.
The local icon is an old navy storehouse with twin 100-ft/31-m towers—one for a clock, one for a tidal indicator—and walls 3 ft/1 m thick.
Those who are up for more walking can explore the 21-mi-/34-km-long Bermuda Railway Trail.
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