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Bumming Around Bermuda: Sea, Sand, and Sights
Day 1: Horseshoe Bay
Chances are you came for that legendary pink sand, so don't waste any time finding it. If you think variety is the spice of life, spend the day bouncing from beach to beautiful beach along the south shore. (The No. 7 bus will get you there and back from the city of Hamilton.) Otherwise just choose one and settle in. Our pick is the flagship beach at Horseshoe Bay: a gently curving crescent lapped by turquoise water and backed by South Shore Park. It does get crowded here—but for good reason. Unlike most Bermudian beaches, Horseshoe Bay has lifeguards (in season) plus a snack bar, changing rooms, and beach gear–rental facilities. Families should note that there's also a protected inlet, dubbed Horseshoe Baby Beach, which is perfect for young children. Looking for something more private? Picturesque trails through the park will lead you to secluded coves like Stonehole and Chaplin Bays. Whichever you opt for, bring a hat, plenty of water, and a light cover-up if you plan to stay until evening. Don't forget to slather on the SPF either: bad sunburns and road rashes (caused by skimming the road on a scooter) are the two most common ailments visitors to Bermuda experience. When the sun goes down—and you have sand in every crevice—stroll over to the lively Henry VIII pub and restaurant for an evening bite or a late-night libation.
Day 2: The Town of St. George's
Founded in 1612, St. George's qualifies as one of the oldest towns in the Western Hemisphere and deserves a place on any traveler's itinerary. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a smattering of worthwhile museums, the Bermuda National Trust Museum at the Globe Hotel and Tucker House being chief among them. Historic buildings such as St. Peter's Church also should not be missed. Organized walks and Segway tours cover the highlights. Yet the real delight here is simply wandering the walled lanes and quaint alleys lined with traditional shops, pubs, and cottages. All of those roads eventually lead to King's Square, where you can try out the replica stocks. Nearby is another device formerly used to punish unruly folk—the seesaw-like ducking stool—which serves as the focal point for reenactments starring the Town Crier and a wet wench. (These are staged at noon May through October, Sunday through Thursday; other months on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday only.) If you have time and shoe leather to spare, continue your history lesson outside St. George's at Fort St. Catherine, a hilltop defense built in the 17th century. Stop for a little swimming or snorkeling just below it in snug Achilles Bay or Fort St. Catherine Beach; then cap the day back in town by enjoying a casual meal at the White Horse Tavern on the water's edge.
Day 3: The City of Hamilton
Bermuda's capital city is minuscule by mainland standards. Still it dominates island life and has all the ingredients for a great day out. Since there's a little bit of everything here, you can plot a course according to your individual tastes. Shoppers should make a beeline for the Front Street area to spend a few hours—and a wallet-full of money—in the stores and galleries. Prefer sightseeing? Simply pick up a brochure for a self-guided tour at the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) and hit the streets. Outside the city visit Fort Hamilton: a must-see for history buffs and a great spot for photo ops. Alternatively, you can investigate sunken treasure and seashells without ever getting wet at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (about a 15-minute walk from the city center), or get out on the water itself. Excursion options from Hamilton range from archipelago tours and glass-bottom boat trips to low cost ferry rides. Afterward, gear up to see Hamilton by night. Pubs and clubs start filling around 10 pm, leaving plenty of time for dinner at one of the area's surprisingly diverse restaurants. Port O' Call (conveniently positioned on Front Street) and Ascots (just outside the city in the Royal Palms Hotel) are both Fodor's Choices.
Day 4: The Dockyard
Once a military stronghold and now a magnet for tourists, the Royal Naval Dockyard offers a full day of history mixed with a heaping helping of adventure. Its centerpiece is the National Museum of Bermuda, where you can find exhibits on whaling, sailing, shipbuilding, and shipwrecks set within an imposing stone fortress. Once you've checked out the displays—and taken in the stunning views from the ramparts—head to the Old Cooperage. This former barrel-making factory is the perfect place to stock up on unique souvenirs because it houses both the Bermuda Craft Market (perhaps the island's best-stocked, best-priced craft outlet) and the Bermuda Arts Centre (a high-end co-op with gallery and studio space). After lunch in an area eatery, join one of the educational in-water programs offered by Dolphin Quest at the Keep Pond, or baby your budget by swimming with the fishies right next door at the inexpensive Snorkel Park. Spring through fall, adrenaline junkies can try Jet Skiing (courtesy of Windjammer Watersports); then toast their achievements at the nearby Frog & Onion Pub. If you're interested in a more placid on-the-water experience, take the slow, scenic ferry to Somerset Island and disembark at Watford Bridge. From there explore quiet Somerset Village before sitting down for dinner at the Somerset Country Squire, a traditional tavern overlooking Mangrove Bay.
Day 5: Go Green
For many travelers, Bermuda is synonymous with golf greens, so dedicated duffers will want to spend at least one day putting around. Even neophytes can get into the swing of things at the Bermuda Golf Academy. For other kinds of "green experiences," feel genteel at the Botanical Gardens or go wild at Paget Mash, both near the city of Hamilton. The former is a Victorian venue with formal flower beds and subtropical fruit orchards; the latter a 25-acre tract that covers five distinct ecosystems (including primeval woodlands that contain the last surviving stands of native palmetto and cedar). Spittal Pond, on Bermuda's south shore, is another ecodestination. November to May, it's a major draw for bird-watchers, thanks to the 30-odd species of waterfowl that stop here; in April it attracts whale-watchers hoping to spy migrating humpbacks from the preserve's oceanfront cliffs. You can access more "undiscovered" spots by traversing all or part of the Bermuda Railway Trail. With its lush greenery and dramatic lookouts, this 18-mi recreational route is best seen on foot. Of course, if your boots aren't made for walking, bicycling is permitted, too. (When renting equipment, just remember to request a pedal bike, otherwise you might end up with a motorized scooter.) If you like packaged excursions, Fantasea has a surf-and-turf deal that combines a shoreline cruise with a guided cycle tour along the trail and a cool-down swim at 9 Beaches Resort.
Before going swimming, check Horseshoe Bay Beach's notice board for jellyfish updates. Although the Portuguese man-of-war variety looks like an innocuous blue plastic bag, its sting is extremely painful and poisonous.
Bermuda has loads of beaches—but few lifeguards. The only places you can find them are at Horseshoe Bay, John Smith's Bay, Clearwater Beach, and Turtle Bay from May to October.
The northern end of Court Street in the City of Hamilton is off the typical tourist trail, so you can find some great local eateries and a taste of day-to-day Bermuda life. Be warned, this area is not advisable after dark.
In high season, Hamilton hosts Harbour Nights, a street festival complete with craft vendors and live entertainment every Wednesday evening. Similar events run Monday nights in the Dockyard and Tuesday nights in St. George's. Since certain outdoor activities are only offered seasonally, you should confirm operating times to avoid disappointment. Also try to make any sporting reservations before you arrive in Bermuda—tee times and boat charters are especially in high demand.
Always be cautious if you're tooling around on a scooter. The island's notoriously narrow, twisting roads have a particularly high accident rate and drinking-and-driving is a problem. Don't be scared, just be aware.
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