Easy Escapes: Bermuda

Safe and sunny with terrific beaches, Bermuda easily hits the holiday spot

Safe and sunny with terrific beaches, Bermuda easily hits the holiday spot

Why go? There’s much more to Bermuda than shorts and shipwrecks. This tiny, 21 square mile, fish hook-shaped island lies 570 miles east of the United States and offers pristine pink sand beaches, luxury hotels, heavenly spas and an intriguing history (you can’t ignore that notorious Triangle). The fertile landscape is sprinkled with historic forts, candy-coloured houses and quirks such as circular “moon” gates, red telephone boxes and the smallest drawbridge in the world. The friendly locals don’t bat an eyelid at its many celebrity visitors and it’s also a British Overseas Territory, so despite most travellers coming from North America occasional nods to the mother country make you feel right at home.

When? Bermuda has a mild climate but is warmest from April until October, when temperatures can reach a balmy 29°C. You can swim in the sea from May to September. Hurricane season is from June to November, but don’t let that put you off – most storms by-pass the island.

Hot pink: you can take it very easy on the beaches of Bermuda © imagepalace.co.uk

You really must… Hit the beach. With a long, sweeping crescent of pillow-soft pink sand, Horseshoe Bay on the South Shore is a little piece of paradise, which makes it the most popular beach. If you don’t like to share, escape the cruise-ship crowds by taking an easy stroll along the water’s edge to Warwick Long Beach for more secluded stretches of sand. Other good beaches include Elbow Beach, Jobson’s Cove and Tobacco Bay near St George’s.

Bermuda is so small visitors can’t rent a car, but you can hire a scooter (£24 a day, no licence required) or bicycle (£18) from outlets such as Elbow Beach Cycles (elbowbeachcycles.com). You can also explore using local buses, ferries and taxis. Cycling and walking the Bermuda Railway Trail (bermudarailway.net), an 18-mile route along a redundant railway line, is a novel way to see the interior. If you’ve got a head for heights, ascend Gibbs Lighthouse (bermudalighthouse.com), the oldest cast-iron lighthouse in the world, and you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic 360-degree view after climbing its 185 steps.

Unsurprisingly, Bermuda is teeming with underwater shipwrecks, as well as fish, making it a great spot for scuba diving and snorkelling. There are over 300 shipwreck dive locations – expect to pay from £84 for a single two-and-a-half-hour tank dive, including equipment. Church Bay is the place to snorkel with calm waters, a reef near the beach and colourful marine life. You can rent equipment but with some booths charging £8 for two hours’ use it makes sense to bring your own mask.

Back on dry land, explore Bermuda’s erstwhile capital St George’s. The first British settlers set up camp here in 1612 after being shipwrecked off the island, and it’s earned UNESCO World Heritage status. This is the oldest English town in the New World and a tour will take you past stocks, red post-boxes and tearooms – there’s even a town crier and a ducking stool that gets used at noon for a light-hearted ducking re-enactment. You can touch, taste and smell the herbs, spices and exotic fruits that grow in abundance here while you walk down narrow streets with quaint names like Featherbed Alley and Aunt Peggy’s Lane. Take time to visit the town hall and St Peter’s Church – the oldest Anglican church outside the UK – with its Bermuda cedar-beamed ceiling.

On the other side of the island, the Royal Naval Dockyard dates back to 1814 and is home to the National Museum of Bermuda (bmm.bm) as well as a glassworks, art centre and rum-cake factory. It’s also a temporary residence to the 6,000-passenger super-cruisers that dock here during the summer season.

Anglican angles: St Peter’s Church in St George’s © imagepalace.co.uk

Stay at: Set in 100 lush acres, The Fairmont Southampton (doubles in June from £339, fairmont.com) is perched majestically on top of Bermuda’s highest point. It has 593 luxurious rooms, including 38 suites, with private balconies overlooking gardens dotted with swaying palms and bougainvillea and beyond to the Atlantic. It’s a family-friendly resort complete with shops, eight restaurants, a nightclub, dive centre, golf course, indoor and outdoor pools and award-winning spa. Here you can bliss out with soothing island-inspired treatments or simply pull up a lounger on the sundeck and soak up the views. Courtesy buses whisk guests to a private beach, and there’s a complimentary ferry service to its sister hotel, The Fairmont Hamilton Princess, where you can stop off for afternoon tea or explore Bermuda’s small but vibrant capital.

If you prefer to be right by the sea, Elbow Beach Bermuda (from £502, elbowbeachbermuda.com) was built in 1908 and is a chic, modern beach resort in landscaped gardens with four restaurants and 98 immaculate rooms and suites with sunken baths and private patios that are perfect for stargazing. At the money-no-object top end there’s a super-luxe cottage with vaulted ceiling a stone’s throw from the sea, where you can drift off to the gentle sound of waves breaking on the shore. If that’s not relaxing enough, the on-site ESPA spa offers the ultimate escape with heavenly treatments, including a three-hour Rum Swizzle Ritual (£260).

Bath with a view: bliss out in the spa at the Elbow Beach Bermuda resort

Dine at: Want to feel the sand between your toes? You won’t be disappointed at Mickey’s Beach Bistro (lido.bm) directly on Elbow Beach, a magnificent mile-long stretch of pink sand and turquoise waters. For a light, laid-back lunch try the pink swordfish carpaccio or chicken and mango salad with fresh fruit, or for a romantic dinner à deux beneath the stars, share a grilled seafood platter.

For terrific views over the ocean, book an outside table at Blu Bar & Grill (blu.bm) in Belmont Hills – the ambience is upmarket with a diverse list of dishes from sushi to steak. Alternatively, crazy headgear is on the menu at Hamilton’s quirky Mad Hatters (madhatters.bm), as well as sensational specials like scallops with chorizo and stuffed “guinea chicks” (six-inch spiny lobsters). Or for something smart, head to the elegant dining room at Ascots (ascots.bm) in the Royal Palms hotel in Hamilton. Relax in the lounge with a pre-dinner cocktail – go native with a Dark ‘N Stormy (local rum mixed with ginger beer) – then order some Bermuda fish chowder (a national dish with a unique hot pepper sauce and rum accompaniment) followed by pan-seared wahoo or oven-baked North Atlantic cod.

Bring home… Gosling’s Black or Gold Seal rum (goslingsrum.com), Bermuda shorts, rum cake and Lili Bermuda perfume from Bermuda Perfumery (bermuda-perfumery.com).

Book now: British Airways (ba.com) has flights from London Gatwick, from £665 return in June. Packages are often good value – Bermuda specialist Prestige Holidays (01425 480400; prestigeholidays.co.uk) offers seven nights at The Fairmont Southampton from £2,079 per person including return flight and transfers, or £2,639 per person at Elbow Beach Bermuda.

Info: Fodor’s Bermuda (£14.99) is a detailed guide, and see gotobermuda.co.uk.

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