Bermuda deserves attention for its stunning natural beauty and the diversity of its attractions. Here are just a few of its highlights
Since Sir George Somers was hurled ashore by a violent hurricane back in 1610, Bermuda has been notching up quite a fan club. The list of those who have fallen in love with it range from Irish poet Tom Moore to Italian president Silvio Berlusconi and Hollywood film stars like Michael Douglas. When I visited the islands to write my guidebook I, too, was instantly won over.
This band of 180 or so islands (only a few are inhabited) set implausibly adrift in the Atlantic, is laden with lush vegetation and sandy beaches that look like they have stepped straight from the pages of a travel brochure. It also boasts an expansive coral reef and world-class golf courses.
Bermuda is neatly divided into nine parishes, each with its own highlights. Like all visitors, I gravitated towards the capital, Hamilton, where the pastel-hued buildings and laidback way of life are a million miles away from any notion of a ‘city’ that I have. It is here that you will find Barracuda, one the best restaurants that I have dined in on the islands, where spiny lobsters and fresh oysters are standouts on a seafood dominated menu.
The capital also hosts two of my favourite hotels – the Fairmont Hamilton Princess and the Rosedon. The former was the first hotel to open in Bermuda, and since welcoming her first guests in 1885, she has set the standard for service and comfort on the islands. The Rosedon, meanwhile, is bursting with Bermudian charm and has a lovely palm-shaded garden.
When it comes to old world charm, St George, for me, trumps Hamilton. Here, wonderful whitewashed old stone buildings look just like they did back in the 17th century. The town is so evocative of the heyday of the British Empire that UNESCO placed it on their World Heritage list in 2000.
St George isn’t the only deeply historic place in Bermuda, and the shoreline is dotted with impressive fortifications. The best preserved is St Catherine’s Fort, also in St George parish. A raft of lighthouses also stand guard over Bermuda’s sandy coastline, with a visit to Gibbs Lighthouse Tearoom in Southampton a must. The best time to visit is for breakfast or brunch, when great sea views accompany the wickedly creamy eggs benedict.
Southampton is also renowned for its beaches and golf courses. Another of my favoured hotels, the Fairmont Southampton, has both. After playing a round on its golf course, or taking a dip in the Atlantic from the private beach, you can ease your weary limbs at one of Bermuda's best spas. What is really good about the hotel, though, is its excellent dining options. For me, the highlight is steaks that have been hung for 21 days before being served in the candlelit interior of the Waterlot Inn. Another nice touch is the private boat that shuttles guests to its sister hotel, the Fairmont Princess.
Even if you’re staying at the Fairmont Southampton, make sure you strike out for Horseshoe Bay – a gorgeous pink-sand beach that is ranked among the best in the world. Another beach that I love is Elbow Beach in Paget. To really make the most of it, I recommend you stay at the ultra-luxurious Elbow Beach hotel.
In Paget also be sure to visit Bermuda’s lush subtropical botanical gardens. Ambling along the paths of this beautiful landscaped park is incredibly relaxing and the free guided tours are great.
The highlights in Bermuda’s other parishes are varied. Bermuda apparently boasts the highest concentration of limestone caves on the planet, with the most accessible and the most visually impressive being the Crystal and Fantasy Caves in Hamilton parish. I love the azure blue lake that reflects the remarkable formations.
The parish is also home to the Bermuda Aquarium and the legendary Swizzle Inn. The focal point at the aquarium is a mesmerising 260,000-litre tank complete with is own coral reef. The Swizzle Inn, meanwhile, is a Bermuda institution where the potent Rum Swizzle cocktail (whose exact ingredients are a closely guarded secret) was conceived. Comfort food comes in huge portions.
My all-time favourite activity in Bermuda, though, is swimming with the dolphins at the Dolphin Quest – where they work with rescued dolphins and those born into captivity. It is in the Royal Naval Dockyard that I also do most of my souvenir shopping, with Bermudian glass, Bermuda rum cakes and ornate pottery all making perfect gifts. Sandys parish was also home to another of my preferred hotels – the deluxe cottage colony at Cambridge Beaches.
Regardless of where you eat, sleep or play after visiting Bermuda, you too will join the island’s growing army of fans.