Bermuda: Places to Explore

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Dockyard and The Western Parishes

Bermuda is denser than you might imagine. But in contrast to Hamilton and St. George's, the island's West End seems positively pastoral. Many of the top sites here are natural ones: namely the wildlife reserves, wooded areas, and beautiful waterways of Sandys Parish. The notable exception is Bermuda's single largest tourist attraction—the Royal Naval Dockyard.

Its story begins in the aftermath of the American Revolution, when Britain suddenly found itself with neither an anchorage nor a major ship-repair yard in the western Atlantic. Around 1809, just as Napoléon was surfacing as a serious threat and the empire's ships were becoming increasingly vulnerable to pirate attack, Britain decided to construct a stronghold in Bermuda. Dubbed the "Gibraltar of the West," the Dockyard operated as a shipyard for nearly 150 years. The facility was closed in 1951, although the Royal Navy maintained a small presence here until 1976 and held title to the land until 1995.

The Bermudian government and development groups began to plan for civilian use of the Dockyard in 1980. Since then, $21 million in public funds and $42 million in private money has been spent to make the area blossom. Now trees and shrubs grow where there used to be vast stretches of concrete. Private yachts calmly float where naval vessels once anchored, and cruise ships dock at the terminal. Historic structures—like the Clocktower and Cooperage buildings—house restaurants, galleries, shops, even a movie theater. A strip of beach has been turned into a snorkel park. And at the center of it all are the National Museum of Bermuda and Dolphin Quest: two popular facilities that share a fortified 6-acre site.

Outside of the Dockyard, Sandys and Southampton are just a short bus ride away. You’ll notice that Sandys (pronounced Sands) is made up of several islands, all connected by bridges, including the smallest drawbridge in the world. It’s in this parish that you’ll also find Somerset Village, which is a popular spot for swimming and fishing. Southampton is the place to head if you want to soak up some rays; don’t miss Horseshoe Bay.

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