The island of Bermuda is one of my favorite places on Earth! And, I’ve been to some of the nicest destinations! But, Bermuda holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been to the island three times in the last thirty years, spanning 1987 – 2017. The dates reflect our first and last trip, which my husband and I made as a couple during the summer months. A 2007 trip, at a different time of year, included our three sons.
The country of Bermuda consists of a small archipelago off the coast of the southeastern United States. It is not part of the Caribbean, but further north in the Atlantic sitting about 650 offshore of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. For this reason, summers are lovely with stable warm temperatures, usually in the 80s, and not much lower at night in the upper seventies. July is often thought to be the best time of year to visit with an average high of 85 and the average low of 77. I’ve been once in late July, once in early August, and once in March (cold). Summer is definitely the time to go to this island if you enjoy beautiful beaches and outdoor activities.
While Bermuda has a huge heart and long history, the island itself is small. At 20.54 square miles, it is easy to travel from one end to the other during your trip. However, each parish (area) in Bermuda offers something a little different and you’d do yourself a disservice if you decide to just travel from one tip to the other just to say you did it.
Staying on the island requires some research before you go to determine your best fit for lodging and nearby attractions, as well as pre-determining if you’ll eat at your hotel or find food in one of the many restaurants. It is not an inexpensive trip, but one definitely worth saving for. So, here are some of my suggestions and they are going to get personal. They are based on my experience and knowledge of the island learned by travelling there.
One of the most important things you need to know about a trip to Bermuda is that you need to arrange your airport-hotel transfers before you go. There is no airport service to provide this. When we first travelled there, only one service existed. Now, there seem to be a few more. But, do not rely on hotel shuttles or cabs. Not many (if, any) hotels have shuttles and cabs are expensive. You need to arrange your transport; you cannot take luggage on a bus in Bermuda! We used CEO Transport and it worked well. Make sure you understand there might be limitations on luggage, too.
All three times we’ve travelled to Bermuda, we’ve elected to stay in one of the islands flagship hotels. Our first visit was for our honeymoon, in 1987. We stayed at the Elbow Beach Hotel and had a Modified American Plan (not sure it is called that anymore) which included breakfast and dinner at the hotel. Your dining time was assigned, one of two sittings, and one had to “dress” for the meal. This meant (in 1987) that my husband needed a suit coat and tie and I needed to wear a dress. It was not our favorite part, but did lend an air of “specialness” to the occasion each day. Having the hotel meal plan meant two things, 1) our food was “covered” in our reservations and 2) we had delicious food and great service that we didn’t have to hunt for on our own. It was perfect, in my opinion. My husband’s fish was even filleted right at our table! It was memorable!
Elbow Beach sits on its own stretch of pink sand, an iconic hallmark of the Bermudian islands. We did not have much reason to go too far afield on this trip because we really had everything we needed right at the hotel. We were able to rent mopeds right at the hotel and using them we travelled around the island to explore. We also rode the island’s public transportation – pink buses – to reach places like St. George and the famous Swizzle Inn. Bermudians are friendly people and will respond to polite questions for directions and suggestions of where to visit. By the time we decided to visit the island for our subsequent trips, we bought 5 day bus passes to get all the rides we needed to anywhere on the island. It was an easy and affordable way to travel. One huge consideration is that visitors cannot rent vehicles on the island, although you can rent the mopeds. The dangers of driving on the left around twisted roads lined with old coral abutments are real, however. There have been both visitor and native fatalities involving moped on the island from high speed, lack of knowledge regarding the roads, and failure to yield right of way. We have not driven there since 1987. I do not think we ever will. Take a bus; the drivers are friendly and they know where they are going.
The last two times we visited Bermuda, we stayed at the Fairmount Southhampton Princess. Like the Elbow Beach Hotel, it is one of the larger and upscale places to stay on the island. It also has its own beach and is within walking distance to Horseshoe Bay Beach, which is a wide pink sand beach that is not to be missed on your island visit.
When we went with our boys, in 2007, we did not have a meal plan. This ended up being a very bad decision! The trip started out bad by arriving late and being extremely hungry – so hungry we ate in the hotel bar and had spaghetti that was the worst we’ve ever had. My husband was attending a conference, so each morning he left for the presentation. We had food from the grocery store, like cereal, in the room and any spare donut or muffin he could bring back for us. Each day, during the entire trip, we obsessed over where we would eat or find our meals. We ended up using the hotel pool bar/grill multiple times which satisfied our need to feed our family of five. But, before that we wandered down streets looking for restaurants and came up short. We saw a side of Bermuda on this trip we didn’t relish.
Between 1987 and 2007, homelessness seemed to explode on the island. We were also unprepared for the prices of food in the grocery store. Again, we visited this time in March and it was cold! We did realize this was going to be the case but did not put as much stock in it as we should have. Snorkeling off the beach at the hotel in wetsuits was fun as was a visit to St. George and the Marine Museum. The most memorable time was spent going to the top of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse to look out over the Atlantic Ocean. However, we would not go back to Bermuda outside of the summer months again.
Our last visit, three years ago in 2017, was probably our best! We knew the island well enough to plan well! Again, we elected stayed at the Fairmount Southhampton Princess. We arranged to just have breakfast included in our meal plan. This was such a wise decision! The days of our trip started with gathering delicious food from a buffet with every kind of breakfast food one can imagine. Waiters, dressed formally in black and white, served our fresh squeezed juice and hot coffee or tea while we sat in a wide windowed room overlooking the green grass and turquoise water beyond. We ate well and this allowed us to skip lunch! Each day, now aided by the internet, we easily scoped out where we would eat dinner. Choosing a place for two was much easier than choosing a place for five. It made for some memorable meals.
One of the meals we really enjoyed was at the Hog Penny English Pub near Front Street. My husband had Shepard Pie that was delicious! I tried a beer with a shot of dark rum floated on top – an island specialty. It was a crowded, noisy pub but we would go back in a minute! A return trip to the Swizzle Inn was also in order – this is the only restaurant we ate at on all three visits to Bermuda. It is right on the bus line and you have to go to have a rum swizzle at least once during your trip! We road the bus. We visited the lighthouse again. And, we took two ferries to go to Hamilton and St. George, instead of driving the mopeds. One of the advantages of staying at the Fairmount hotel in Southhampton is that there is a ferry dock adjacent to the property. Riding the ferry through the smaller islands of the archipelago that are dotted with pastel houses was a highlight of this trip.
However, another advantage of this hotel is that there are several outstanding restaurants on site and we took advantage of that. We ate at the Ocean Club twice, overlooking the beach and feasting on locally secured fish, dining does not get much better than this! On our last night we ate at the Italian Restaurant nestled on the highly regarded golf course of the hotel, which might have morphed into a Mediterranean style eatery since we visited. But, the meal was delicious. We took advantage of the Cabana Bar and Grill on the Beach as well as Wicket Burger Bar the pool side restaurant. The great thing about this property is that while it has a host of amenities, you can also grab something and find a quite spot for your morning coffee or afternoon cocktail. We swam in the pool almost every night, too! Needless to say, we would recommend this hotel!
Whilst writing this, I decided that Bermudians are a resilient people. COVID -19 hurt their tourist trade. I read that the Southhampton Princess in going to wisely use this time for renovations. The Swizzle Inn that had opened a second location in Warwick Parish fourteen years ago, will now be closing and operations will be consolidated at the original Bailey’s Bay location. We’ve only been to the original. Hopefully, they will survive. To us, and probably many others, The Swizzle Inn seems synonymous with Bermuda, itself.
There’s so much more to explore about a trip to Bermuda! But, it seems that exploring accommodations and some food is enough for today. Happy (Virtual) Travels!