Bermuda is a land of pink sandy beaches, clear turquoise seasand picturesque old colonial towns. Britain's oldest colony wasonce known to fearful sailors as Devil's Island, its shallow watersand coral reefs claiming many shipwrecks. Today, these reefs andwrecks provide a wonderful playground for swimming, snorkeling anddiving.
The archipelago of Bermuda lies 650 miles (1,046km) off the eastcoast of America in the Atlantic Ocean, forming one corner of thelegendary Bermuda Triangle. The seven main islands are linked bycauseways and bridges, and stretch just 20 miles (32km) from tip totail.
The majority of American visitors think of Bermudafondly as being English in character. British visitors, bycontrast, seem to feel that it has a strongly American flavour. Thereality is somewhere in between. Bermuda has a unique culture thatdraws influence from both British and American traditions. Businessattire on the island might constitute a jacket and tie with Bermudashorts, while bikinis are banned further than 25 feet (7.6m) awayfrom the water!
Not just a coveted holiday destination, Bermuda hasbecome a centre of high finance thanks largely to generous taxadvantages and advanced satellite communications. Majorcorporations have flocked to set up shop on the island, helping thecountry become one of the richest, per capita, in the world.
With its stunning natural beauty and close proximityto Florida, Bermuda has become a popular destination for cruiseships and yachts, with over 200,000 people visiting the islandsfrom cruise ships every year.
'You go to heaven if you want - I'd rather stay here inBermuda.' gushed Mark Twain in the 19th century, and Bermuda'spromise of sun, sea and paradise still lures thousands ofvacationers to its shores year after year. The island is surroundedby a fantastic coral reef that harbours colourful fish and hasensnared scores of shipwrecks, making for memorable diving andsnorkelling at spots like Elbow Beach in Paget Parish. Elsewhere,the crystal-clear waters of Southampton Parish provide the perfectconditions for kayaking and yachting.
The offerings on land are splendid as well. Visitors can play around at one of nine world-class golf courses, including theBelmont Golf Club, Ocean View Golf Course, Port Royal Golf Course,St. George's Golf Club, and The Fairmont Southampton Golf Club.Booking ahead in summer is advised. Tourists can also hike peacefultrails and sunbathe on glorious, pink-sand beaches, or stroll thecrooked streets of the colonial settlement of the Town of StGeorge, Britain's oldest surviving town in the New World, which isso well preserved it has been designated a World Heritage site.
Bermuda boasts a balmy climate that's comfortable for most ofthe year and friendly people who readily strike up conversationswith strangers. There is plenty of distinctive local colour aswell, from a landscape of tidy pastel houses to dapper businessmendressed in Bermuda shorts.
Fort Hamilton is a substantial Victorian fort with apanoramic view of Hamilton Harbour, built in the mid-19th centuryduring a period of rising tensions between Britain and the USA. Theramparts are mounted with 18 ton artillery pieces capable of firing400 pound (181kg) cannonballs through iron-hulled vessels. Nearbyis Clarence Cove, a popular beach forming part of Admiralty HousePark. The house itself dates from the early 19th century, built asthe residence of the Royal Navy's regional commander. Anothermilitary echo along North Shore Road, Black Watch Well, was dug bytroops of the famous Scottish regiment during a drought in1849.
Paget is a delightful park providing the perfectenvironment to experience the island's flora. It is a fragranthaven of exotic subtropical plants, flowers, and trees. Highlightsof this 36-acre paradise include the palm garden with nativepalmetto trees, the subtropical fruit garden, a garden for thevisually-impaired which features scented plants, a ficuscollection, and a flowering hibiscus garden. There are greenhouseswith orchids, bromeliads, a miniature forest, an aviary, and avariety of flowering houseplants. The white house on the grounds ofthe Botanical Gardens is Camden, the official residence ofBermuda's Premier, open for tours except when official functionsare scheduled.
Harrington Sound is a large inland sea five miles (8km)northeast of Hamilton. Its calm waters provide perfect sailingterritory. The Sound is linked to the ocean by the narrow FlattsInlet where changes to the tide are magnified and waters rushbeneath a bridge connecting the two sides. On the north side of theinlet, opposite Flatts Village, is the Bermuda Aquarium wherevisitors can enjoy more than 100 species of indigenous Bermuda fishin ocean and reef environments. Located within the same complex isthe Natural History Museum and zoo that features animals from theCaribbean, Australia, Asia, Madagascar and the Galapagos.
The stretch of land between Harrington Sound andCastle Harbour is riddled with caves. Located 80 feet (24m)underground, Crystal Caves never ceases to amaze with its dramaticstalactites and stalagmites. There is a wonderful walk over thepontoon bridge to Cahow Lake, with crystal-clear water that reachesa depth of 55 feet (17m). Visitors can also enjoy a leisurelystroll through the Palm Garden. A little further on are theLeamington Caves with their incredible crystal formations andunderground pools that can be explored along well-marked paths.More caves are located on the grounds of the 300-year-oldWalsingham House, now a well-known restaurant.
Many attractions are located around King's Squarewhere a beautiful 18th century town hall overlooks the old pilloryand stocks. The hall is no longer in use but does provide greatphoto opportunities. Located close by is the dunking stool wheregossips and petty offenders were forced to endure the humiliationof being dunked in the harbour. A few minutes walk from here is theOld State House, Bermuda's first all-stone structure and oldestbuilding, dating to 1620. Originally known as Sessions House, itwas the first permanent home of the colonial assembly, which untilthen, had held their debates in St Peter's Church.
Located North of King's Square is Somers Garden, named after thecolony's founder whose ship, , was wrecked off the island in 1609. Finding ita fairly nice place to be washed ashore, Sir George Somers built areplacement vessel from the local cedar, left some sailors behindto establish British claim to the islands and then headed home. Hereturned within the year but died shortly after arrival, leavinghis heart, quite literally, on the island (his vital organs andentrails are in a small tomb in the Garden). The rest of his body,however, was sent back to England, as was customary at thetime.
St Peter's Church is one of Bermuda's most cherishedlandmarks, and the oldest Anglican Church outside Britain. Theoriginal wooden structure was built in 1612 and its roof isthatched with palmetto. Among St Peter's many treasures are amahogany altar, the St George's chalice that was presented in 1625,a Bible from 1594, Charles I silver, open cedar timber beams,beautiful chandeliers, and marble memorials to some of the Island'searliest governors. St Peter's served as the only public meetingplace in Bermuda until the State House was built. The churchyard isalso well worth walking around in, with tombstones telling storiesof epidemics, shipwrecks and war.
Somers Wharf is steeped in the varied and vibranthistory of St. George's. The Wharf has commanded a bird's-eye viewof the Old Town's fascinating maritime past, situated on thepicturesque edge of St George's Harbour. Today, Somers's Wharf is atastefully redeveloped area on the waterfront with a selection ofshops and restaurants. The Carriage Museum has a collection ofwell-maintained carriages ranging from a dog-cart to a four-horsebrake that ruled the roads until as recently as 1946 when cars werelegalized. Situated nearby is Tobacco Bay, a good spot for swimmingand snorkeling.
On the northern tip of St George's Island is Fort StCatherine, overlooking the beach where Sir George Somers and hisshipwrecked crew came ashore in 1609. Bermuda's first governor,Richard Moore, who was a carpenter by trade, built a wooden fort onthis site several years later. Today it is a massive fortificationcomplete with a moat, drawbridge, ramparts and a maze of tunnels.Fort St Catherine is now used as a museum containing periodweapons, colourful dioramas, a wax figure of Queen Elizabeth II,and replicas of Britain's crown jewels. An audiovisual presentationfocuses on the many forts located around Bermuda.
The world's smallest drawbridge links Somerset Islandto Bermuda's main island. The section that flips up is only twofeet (60cm) across, just wide enough to allow a sailboat mastthrough. At the centre of the island set in nine hectares (22acres) of parkland is Fort Scaur. It was built during the AmericanWar of Independence to protect the Naval Dockyard and is now agreat picnic spot with good views of the island. Somerset Long Bay,with its 600 feet (183m) of brilliant-white sand is the largest andbest of the island's west side beaches.
Whether sunbathing, swimming, or entertaining thekids, there is a beach in Bermuda for all-comers. The sweepinghalf-moon of Horseshoe Bay is recognised as one of the world'sfinest beaches. Wawrick Long Bay, on the east fringe of South ShorePark coastal reserve, is a wonderful stretch of pink and whitecoral sands, great for snorkeling. West Whale Bay welcomes HumpbackWhales in April and rewards visitors with spectacular sunsets.There are summer bonfire and music nights on Tobacco Bay Beach,also a haven for marine life. Church Bay and Clarence Cove bothoffer safe swimming and snorkeling year round, while those seekinga bit of peace and quiet can head to the tiny but stunning Jobson'sCove.
Bermuda's largest and most accessible nature reserve offersexcellent trails and the island's finest bird watching. The reserveattracts scores of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, with thegreatest variety to be found during spring and autumn. Of the twodozen shorebird species that feed at the edge of the brackishSpittal Pond, the Lesser Yellowlegs are the most abundant. Egretsand Herons are frequent visitors as well. Visitors can also walkalong a scenic mile-long nature trail that runs through the reservealong the shoreline and through woods and farmland.
A former Royal Naval Dockyard turned holiday resort,King's Wharf is a favourite port of call for cruise liners visitingBermuda. The old Georgian maritime fort has been re-invented into aplayground for the thousands of cruise passengers who come ashore.The old buildings of the dockyard, constructed by convicts fromprison ships and once known as the 'Gibraltar of the West', havebeen cleverly adapted to suit the new resort role, now housingcinemas, craft markets and malls. Local tour operators also offer avast range of activities to amuse and amaze the thousands ofholiday visitors that flock into the Dockyard every week.
Situated in the picturesque Flatts Village, the BermudaAquarium, Museum and Zoo was founded in 1926 and is one of theworld's oldest aquariums. The aquarium is home to over 200 speciesof fish, making it a fantastic place to spend the day with the kidsexploring marine life and coral exhibits. The zoo is also home tomore than 300 birds, reptiles, and mammals from the oceanicislands. The Natural History Museum is also located here, givingkids more than enough variety to keep them entertained.
Displaying over 500 years of maritime history, theBermuda Maritime Museum is a wonderful place to take the kids for aday out in Bermuda. At the museum visitors learn about Bermuda'sdiscovery and early settlement through a collection of 16th and17th century shipwreck artefacts recovered from local waters. Kidswill love the canons and displays. The Museum is located at thewestern end of Bermuda at the old Keep, inside the large fort atthe far end of dockyard. Ferries run regularly between Hamilton andthe dockyard, and between the dockyard and St. George's.
Bermuda used to have a public railway that served the island'seastern and western cities between 1931 and 1948. In 1984, thegovernment opened the Bermuda Railway Trail as a walking trail andbridle path. A great way to spend a few hours with the kids, thetrail can also be cycled, ridden on horseback, or evenroller-bladed in certain areas. This 21-mile (35km) trail is agreat way to see the island's natural flora and fauna and toexperience some breathtaking views and do a spot of bird watching.Organised walking tours are also available.
Located at the Royal Naval Dockyard, the BermudaSnorkel Park is a wonderful place for kids to explore the marinelife that surrounds this island. There is even a beach bar andrestaurant where parents can relax with a cocktail while the kidsenjoy all the water sports on offer, such as jet ski tours,pedalos, kayaks and even a giant water slide. The picturesque beachprovides easy access for exploring the amazing sea life, and is theperfect environment for kids and adults alike to learn how tosnorkel. Calm, clear waters provide a safe environment forsnorkelers of all levels.
Bermuda weather features a very mild climate with very littlecold. Temperatures average 68°F (20°C) in winter and 86°F (30°C) inmid-summer, although they have been known to soar far higher insummer when humidity can become uncomfortable. The best time tovisit Bermuda is March or April, as the temperatures are moderatelywarm and islands are yet to see the full rush of high season.
Some facilities are limited in the winter months but room ratesare much cheaper over this period. For those primarily interestedin playing tennis or golf, winter is the time to come. Short butheavy showers can occur during any time of the year so it isadvisable to bring suitable clothing.
The Bermudan Dollar (BMD) is divided into 100 cents, and is tiedto the US Dollar (US$1=BD$1). US currency is accepted almosteverywhere and other major currencies can be exchanged at banks andbureaux de change. Banking hours vary, though most are openweekdays from 9am to 4.30pm. Visa, MasterCard and American Expressare widely accepted and ATMs are easily available. Visitors areadvised to exchange all their Bermudan Dollars before leaving, asit is impossible to exchange once outside the country.
English is the official language.
Electrical current is 110 volts, 60Hz. US flat,two-pin plugs are used. Power outages and surges are common, as aresult visitors should bring surge protectors for the safety oftheir devices.
United States passport holders must have a valid passport. Novisa is required.
UK nationals require a valid passport. A visa is not requiredfor stays of up to six months - period of stay will be decided byimmigration officials upon arrival.
Canadian nationals require a valid passport. A visa is notrequired for stays of up to six months - period of stay will bedecided by immigration officials upon arrival.
A valid passport is required for Australian nationals, but avisa is not required for stays of up to six months - period of staywill be decided by immigration officials upon arrival.
South African nationals require both a visa and a valid passportfor entry to Bermuda. Passports should be valid for at least 45days beyond intended period of stay.
Irish nationals must have a valid passport. A visa is notrequired for stays of up to six months - period of stay will bedecided by immigration officials upon arrival.
United States passport holders must have a valid passport. Novisa is required.
New Zealanders require a valid passport, but a visa is notnecessary for stays of up to six months - period of stay will bedecided by immigration officials upon arrival.
All visitors must hold a return or onward ticket and anydocuments required for further travel, as well as a valid passport.We recommend that passports be valid for six months after arrivalat destination. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative(WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States andCanada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required topresent a passport or other valid travel document to enter orre-enter the United States. If departing from the USA, a validpassport will be required by immigration authorities. Visarequirements vary according to country.
There are no specific health risks for visitors to Bermuda andmedical care is of a high standard. Health insurance isrecommended, as medical treatment is expensive. Food and water areconsidered safe for consumption.
If not included in the bill, a 15 percent tip is generallyexpected at restaurants and hotels. Taxi drivers are usually tipped10 percent, and all Bermuda hotels add a hotel tax of 10 percent tothe bill at check-out.
Bermuda is relatively crime-free but visitors should exercisethe necessary precautions to safeguard personal possessions. Careshould be taken after dark, avoiding quieter, poorly lit streets inparticular. Hurricane season normally runs from June toNovember.
As a general rule, dress conservatively. Bathing suits areacceptable only on the beach, and it is considered an offence toappear in public without a shirt. Casual sportswear can be worn inrestaurants during the day, but in the evening men should dressmore formally with slacks and a shirt. Good manners are expected,and asking a question without first offering a proper greeting isconsidered extremely rude. Nude or semi-nude bathing is notpermitted in Bermuda.
Bermuda's economy is dominated by tourism and internationalfinancial services. Business etiquette is conservative, andbusinessmen and women should stick to formal dress or lightweightsuits. For meetings, punctuality is important, people are greetedwith handshakes, and business cards are exchanged. Business hoursare generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
The international access code for Bermuda is +1, in common withthe US, Canada and most of the Caribbean, followed by 441. Theoutgoing code is 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g.01144 for the United Kingdom); no outgoing code is needed to callthe US. Mobile phones operate on a GSM 1900 network. Free wifi iswidely available in restaurants, pubs and other tourist areas.
Travellers to Bermuda over 18 years do not have to pay duty on200 cigarettes, 50 cigars and 500g tobacco; and 1 litre liquor and1 litre wine. However, duties may have to be paid on perfume andcertain gifts. Spearguns are prohibited.
Bermuda Department of Tourism, Hamilton: +1 441 292 0023 orwww.gotobermuda.com.
Embassy of the United Kingdom, Washington DC, United States(also responsible for Bermuda): +1 202 588 6500.
British High Commission, Ottawa, Canada (also responsible forBermuda): +1 613 237 1530.
British High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa (alsoresponsible for Bermuda): +27 12 421 7500.
British High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsiblefor Bermuda): +61 2 6270 6666.
British Embassy, Dublin, Ireland (also responsible for Bermuda):+353 1 205 3700.
British High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (alsoresponsible for Bermuda): +64 4 924 2888.
United States Consulate, Hamilton: +1 441 295 1342.
Canadian Consulate General, New York City, United States (alsoresponsible for Bermuda): +1 212 596 1628.
Honorary Consul for Ireland, Hamilton: +1 441 295 6574.
Bermuda's best-loved tourist attraction, the HartleyDiving Helmet, allows anyone - even those who can't swim - a chanceto spend some time on the sea floor, with ten feet of turquoisewater above them, and a perfect view of tropical parrotfish andbeautiful white angelfish browsing among the coral. The Helmet, issuitable for adventurers of all ages, sizes and abilities and thecharismatic Greg Hartley does everything in his power to ensure theexperience is unforgettable. Although there are many imitatorsoffering undersea walks in Bermuda, Hartley's is the original andremains the favourite among travellers to the region.