Bucket List Bermuda: Turquoise waters and natural wonders abound

Jul 19 2022, 5:20 pm

There’s a good reason Bermuda has such a high rate of return visitors.

Once they get there, they never want to leave.

With pink sand beaches, hidden coves perfect for exploring, turquoise waters, natural wonders, fresh seafood and limestone homes painted in picture-perfect pastels, Bermuda is truly a feast for the senses.

Hamilton, Bermuda/Shutterstock

And while you certainly can live out your high-end dreams here with five-star luxury hotels and spas, there’s a surprising amount of budget-conscious options when it comes to dining, entertainment and exploring.

Here’s why the tiny island nation in the North Atlantic sea should be on your travel bucket list.

Hidden caves 

Blue Hole Park Bermuda

Blue Hole Park Bermuda / Darcy Matheson

One of the most stunning natural wonders in Bermuda is the 12-acre Blue Hole Park, which is free to visit.

Fringed by mangroves, the deep pool is a saltwater swimming hole where you can dive into the crystal waters off the surrounding rocks. You can swim right into the secluded saltwater cave grotto and explore stalagmites formed over thousands of years. Underground tunnels connect the pools and you can explore the surrounding area through a series of well-maintained trails.

Crystal Cave Bermuda

Crystal Cave Bermuda

For a more structured adventure, head to Crystal and Fantasy Caves, where you can take guided walking tours 50 feet underground on pathways of floating pontoons through underground caves formed over millions of years.

The crystal clear underground lake is one of the region’s most stunning natural wonders, where you can take in thousands of pristine white stalactites affixed to the top of the cave.

Swimming

From tiny peekaboo grassy coves where it’s just you getting back to nature on an isolated white sand beach, to sandy bar hangouts where the party goes well into the night, there’s a picture-perfect swimming hole for everyone here.

Tobacco Bay, Bermuda

Tobacco Bay, Bermuda

Consistently rated the number-one visitor attraction on the island, Tobacco Bay is a picturesque private cove perfect for secluded snorkelling and catching rays.

Near St George’s on the island’s east end, Tobacco Bay boasts killer sunsets, has a smashingly good beach bar, and often hosts live music and bonfire nights.

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda

The famous pink sand beaches at Horseshoe Bay Beach in Southampton Parish, Bermuda

No trip to Bermuda is complete without swimming at Horseshoe Bay Beach in Southampton Parish, one of the world’s most Instagrammed beaches.

It boasts crystal clear warm waters and the island’s world-famous pink sands, which get their unique hue from crushed seashells, red foraminifera and coral — although you wouldn’t know it because it’s so soft underfoot.

Horseshoe Bay Beach in Southampton Parish, Bermuda

Horseshoe Bay Beach in Southampton Parish, Bermuda

Here, you can enjoy a dip AND a show. At Port Coral Cove at the tip of the beach, rainbow-coloured Parrot fish swim into the shallow shores of the cliff rocks to nibble. These tucked-away coves are perfect for exploring and taking pics. Early risers can climb up the tallest formation to catch the sunrise.

Feast feast feast 

With culinary influences including West African, Caribbean, British and Portuguese, dining your way around the island is truly a memorable and special experience.

Seafood is a must-have, whether it’s a codfish breakfast heaped with boiled or steamed salt cod, to a hearty fish chowder seasoned with black seal rum and Sherry Peppers.

Bermuda Wahoo sandwich

The Wahoo sandwich on raisin bread with tartar sauce / Darcy Matheson

For a cheap and cheerful lunch that’s a hidden gem and mainstay with the local islanders, check out Seaside Grill.

This roadside stand has nabbed the coveted award of having the island’s best sandwich (and its tough competition). Devour a breaded wahoo sandwich on local raisin bread with tartar and hot sauce. The warm breaded fish combined with the tangy house-made sauce is truly a unique sensation.

For elevated and hyper-local fare, check out the to-die-for waterfront patio at Wahoo’s Bistro & Patio in St. George‘s.

Wahoo's Bistro & Patio Bermuda

Wahoo ceviche at Wahoo’s Bistro & Patio / Darcy Matheson

From lightly dusted red hind “nuggets” to wahoo ceviche with lime, the popular bistro serves up freshly caught seafood daily.

Other house specialties include a wahoo taco (they’re so big you really only need one), conch fritters, curried fish cakes with plantains and a Portuguese-inspired octopus stew.

Wahoo's Bistro & Patio

Fish ribs rice at Wahoo’s Bistro & Patio / Darcy Matheson

The meaty rockfish “ribs” with rice, peas and chutney are a must-try after a day out on the water.

For an elevated and truly “treat yourself” experience, the Island Brasserie is the place to camp yourself for an evening. Housed above the picturesque pools at the Rosewood Bermuda, executive chef Gerry Adams has been pairing local produce and seafood with world flavours for more than a decade.

Island Brasserie at Rosewood Bermuda

Goat cheese brûlée at the Island Brasserie at Rosewood Bermuda

At the resort’s wildly popular bistro, you have to try Gerry’s goat cheese crème brûlée, elevated with pickled beets, asparagus tempura and toasted focaccia crisps. The blue point oysters here are a standout, with serrano chili mignonette, Bermuda onion and ginger jam and charred limes to get a citrus burst before you slurp.

A surprise knockout on the menu is the Bermuda onion soup, creamy and rich with caramelized soubise, accompanied by crispy onions, gruyère crisps and charred shallot.

If you fancy a nightcap slide over to Tucker’s Bar next door, which serves up rum-inspired classic cocktails and Bermuda favourites. They also do weekly rum tastings.

Stay hydrated! 

There is no shortage of scenic places to get hydrated and get your drink on.

The Pickled Onion bermuda

Libations at The Pickled Onion on Front Street

For a good night out with killer views and excellent martinis, enjoy libations overlooking the harbour in Hamilton at The Pickled Onion. With one of the largest patios on the island, with raucously fun live music and a fiesty atmosphere, they’ve been serving up signature sippers for more than 20 years. Wet your whistle with a signature “pickled” cocktail, including Pink Panties.

You can also get delicious brews from their sister microbrewery, Dockyard Brewing Co. The only microbrewery on the island, the small batches are brewed with a cask-style kegging method in its 250-year-old stone warehouse. Stay and sip on a sampler of all six signature beers, including the Bermuda Triangle Stout.

Rosewood Bermuda Conservatory Bar

Rosewood Bermuda Conservatory Bar / Rosewood Hotel

If you feel like treating yourself, the place to be is the Conservatory Gin Bar. With 21 gins behind the bar in a stunning Colonial space that recently underwent extensive renovations, sip on a signature G+T while taking in the sunset over Castle Harbour.

Wahoo's Bistro & Patio

The signature Rum Swizzle at Wahoo’s Bistro & Patio

To get a true island flavour and the authentic island experience, no trip to Bermuda would be complete without a Rum Swizzle — the nation’s signature drink. While the recipe changes depending on who is pouring, expect a healthy dose of rum with a twist of tangy citrus and a hint of bitters.

For the record, the Swizzle Inn in Hamilton lays claim to the invention of the favoured libation and has an excellent take on the classic.

Stay 

Accommodations in Bermuda range from more budget-conscious short-term rentals, mainly in private homes and apartments, to more luxurious offerings. As in, the sky is the limit luxury.

For travellers looking for thriftier yet comfortable options, there are plenty of options that may not be on the beach, but are still very central to the action and boast comfortable resort-style amenities.

The Palms Bermuda boutique hotel

The Palms Bermuda boutique hotel

At the boutique hotel Royal Palms, a 10-minute walk from Hamilton Harbour, guests are truly treated like they are a part of the family. The fully restored 19th-century coral-hued manor houses are framed by brick pathways, palm trees wrapped with twinkle lights and Renaissance-style statues.

There’s a free happy hour every evening with snacks and you can choose to sip your bevvy on the covered verandahs or in the ample seating in the formal English courtyard.

One of the most iconic hotels in Bermuda is the pretty pink Hamilton Princess, a Fairmont property just steps away from the hustle, bustle and excellent boutique shopping downtown.

Hamilton Princess & Beach Club

Hamilton Princess & Beach Club

Beyond its extensive food and beverage program and well-appointed rooms, the “Pink Palace” of Bermuda has an outstanding art collection that rivals major galleries. Nestled amid the palatial pink traditional architecture is a renovated contemporary space with artworks from some of the great names of modern art: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and René Magritte. The hotel also offers free art tours for guests every weekend.

For unparalleled luxury, a must-stay for any bucket lister is the Rosewood Bermuda, a breathtaking five-star property overlooking the stunning coastline of Castle Harbour.

From the moment you enter the property you are swept away by the coastal architecture and elevated beach vibes, and that continues to the guest suites. Overlooking the cerulean waters, the generous guest rooms have full baths with deep soaking tubs and a refined seaside style.

Guest room Bermuda Rosewood

Guest room Bermuda Rosewood

The resort itself has something for everyone. There is a full golf course, which hosts weekly clinics and guests have the use of a complimentary range. Outdoor lovers have the use of sea kayaks and paddleboards at the well-appointed Water Sports Centre, to get the most out of the crystal blue waters in the harbour.

The property boasts access to Bermuda’s largest private beach, as well as two private heated pools. The Palm Court Pool boasts impressive views of the lush Coffee Chine Grotto below, while completely well-appointed with sumptuous loungers for full relaxation.

Hotel Rosewood Bermuda

Palm Court Pool / Hotel Rosewood Bermuda

During the warmer months, there are also stunning beachfront pools open to enjoy at the Bermuda Beach Club, including the infinity edge Horizon, which is for adults only. No trip to the resort is complete without a day of relaxation and pampering at Sense, the on-site spa that houses a serene reflecting pool.

Walking (or riding) through history

Bermuda’s first capital, St. George’s, is surrounded by the most northern coral reef in the world. At the heart is King’s Square at the adjacent harbour front, home to winding cobblestone lanes and boutiques framing narrow streets.

St George's Bermuda

A narrow street and colourful shops are typical of St. George’s

The well-preserved small seaside town was designated a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2000. It dates back to the early 1600s, when it was settled by the Virginia Company.

Blogger, book shop owner and award-winning former talk show host Kristin White hosts can’t miss walking and e-bike tours around the town showing exactly how the slave trade is connected to Bermuda, and shaped its future.

St George's walking history tour / Courtesy Kirstin White

St George’s walking history tour / Courtesy Kirstin White

Her tour includes a walk past the Old State House, built in 1620. It is the country’s oldest surviving building and was built by hand by “accidental negroes” who were enslaved on a Spanish ship and loaned out to fulfill the task. The builders, likely from the coast of Africa, were gifted to the island as a thanks for giving the ship safe passage.

The State House in St. George's, home of Bermuda's parliament from 1620-1815. It is the oldest surviving Bermudian building.

The State House in St. George’s, home of Bermuda’s parliament from 1620 to 1815. It is the oldest surviving Bermudian building.

The insightful and highly entertaining tour will also take you past the Unfinished Church, picturesque ruins of a gothic church damaged in a hurricane, a perfumery housed in a 19th-century building (that also has an excellent afternoon high tea) as well as swimming spots off the beaten path.

A visit to her charming boutique, Long Story Short, is a must to pick up carefully curated gifts from artisans and entrepreneurs, as well as supporting social enterprises.

Long Story Short store in Bermuda / Kristin White

Long Story Short store in Bermuda / Kristin White

For $2, you can tour St. Peter’s Church. The oldest Anglican Church outside the British Isles, it serves as a burial ground for both slaves and free Black citizens.

The “Jemmy” Darrell Pathway leads to the adjacent Black graveyard. Jemmy, a former boat pilot, was the first free Black man to purchase land in Bermuda and had to petition the government to allow him to have ownership.

St Peter's Church in St. George's, Bermuda

St Peter’s Church in St. George’s, Bermuda

Get here 

Air Canada flights direct from Toronto — only a two-hour and 40-minute journey — resumed this spring. Air Canada Rouge flights currently operate five times a week.

Disclosure: The author of this piece was hosted by the Bermuda Tourism Authority

Darcy MathesonDarcy Matheson

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