I have to admit: visiting Bermuda is something that has never appealed to me. Everything I know about the island has been based around cruise ships and all-inclusive deals. As a traveler who prides herself on getting to know locals and finding the best experiences through their recommendations, Bermuda was just never the right fit.
But an hour and a half flight from JFK and shockingly low deals on airfare were enough to convince me to give Bermuda a chance, and within mere hours of arriving on the island, I was more than smitten. And after my four-day trip, I found myself leaving the island scheming ways that I could, perhaps, come back for as many weekends as possible.
So if you’re a locals-know-best sort of traveler like me and craving a more-than-pleasantly-surprising island getaway, look no further than Bermuda.
– Swizzle Inn: Covered from top to bottom in Sharpie-made graffiti, patrons’ business cards and other random memorabilia, the Swizzle Inn is a top-notch dive-bar in the cleanest way imaginable. The Swizzle Inn is infamous for it’s signature Swizzle rum drink (a concoction I am not entirely clear on, with the exception that the recipe definitelyprobably includes several types of rum), I was told that the wise drink just one glass, but after you’ve had one, you’ll be ready for another (oh it’s true).
– CV Cafe: I’m a self-admitted coffee snob, and so when I find a coffee shop I like abroad, I stick with it. Conscious Vibes Cafe has fair trade organic coffee that stands up to my New Yorker standards, and also has several intimate seating areas (both indoor and outdoor). The coffee shop has local art adorning the walls, wifi and an adorable London phone booth outside that’s been transformed into a little library.
– Horseshoe Bay: Perhaps my single favorite moment on the trip was when I found myself alone on top of a rock formation and sitting beside a cliff, looking out over the white-sand beaches and crystal clear water with just the wind on my side to keep me company. There is a certain peacefulness that I found in Bermuda, and Horseshoe Bay offered the perfection companionship to take it all in.
(As an aside, Horseshoe Bay is by no means an off-the-beaten path adventure; it’s actually one of the more popular beaches on the island. I visited in Bermuda’s off-season, which means that at any given time, I could count all of the beach-goers on two hands, but I know that the beach is mobbed during the summer months. Read my blog post on the AllTheRoom’s blog for reasons why you should visit Bermuda during the off-season).
– The off-the-beaten-path beaches: One thing that I never understand about popular beaches is that most people don’t mind that they’re so popular. Never one to be laying out in the sun in the middle of a crowd, I always find myself taking a little extra time to venture away. Cooper’s Nature Island Reserve offered the perfect escape, and my hosts told me that even in high season, the beaches farthest out still remain relatively untouched by tourists.
– St. George’s: If you look at a map of Hamilton, you’ll see that the island’s largest city was created based on a grid system, making it relatively easy to navigate. The much older St. George, on the other hand was created with, lets say, less intention. Its streets wind and curve into various diagonals, intersecting through and between alleys and streets, and that is exactly what makes it so appealing.
Start in the town center for local restaurants (as well as the western hemisphere’s oldest Anglican church) and make your way east for some gorgeous views overlooking the town. There, you’ll find an eerily enchanting stone cathedral, left unfinished due to lack of funds and interest. Make your way across the stretch of the island and toward the beaches, where you’ll find an old fort, dock and eventually some smaller, more secluded beaches on your way east.
Spend an afternoon getting lost in St. George; you’ll find the quaint town is the perfect escape to meet friendly locals and stumble upon your fair share of Instagram-worthy views.
– Hikes: There are several easy-to-do hikes (easy walks) around the island, one of which is made on an old train track and is particularly perfect to watch the sunset. Give yourself about an hour to make the walk comfortably.
– Heslemere Bed & Breakfast: From the moment you arrive, you’ll feel like you’ve found your long-lost British/Bermudian family. Greeted with hugs at the airport, you’ll quickly discover that Ray and Kay are a wealth of knowledge for not only the best places to go on the island, but also regarding the island’s rich colonial history.
The couple, originally from England, has been on the island for more than 50 years — a decision Kay explained to me was never their full intention. The pair originally moved to Bermuda as teachers for a three year service term, fell in love with the island, and decided to renew another three years. Those six years suddenly became nearly ten, and when their daughter was born on the island, they decided to apply for (and were granted) Bermudian citizenship.
Ray and Kay live in a historic house, which is more than 100 years old, and as Kay explained, actually one of the “newer” houses on the island… But the real pleasure of the stay is the couple’s company. I found myself not wanting to leave the breakfast room every morning, fascinated by their history lessons on the area, as well as their personal recollections and stories from their trips to Kenya, Australia, Ecuador and more.
– Airport: Visitors can fly into the Bermuda airport (BDA), which takes about an hour and a half from JFK. A welcomed perk is that on your way out, you’ll go through customs at BDA — so you can skip the lines when you get home.
– Buses: The buses are very straight-forward to use and run regularly throughout the day. For the budget-minded traveler, busses are your best bet. Purchase a bulk-pack of tickets in advance to save some cash.
– Scooters: I did some research before arriving on the island and there’s a bunch of recommendations for travelers to rent scooters for easy transportation. There isn’t an option to rent a car on the island, so if you want your own ride, you’ll have to opt for a scooter. Definitely for the adventure-seekers (I’ve found that Bermudian drivers tend to whip around corners a little too closely for my comfort), scooters are something I’d opt for on a return trip, rather than a first-time experience.
REASONS TO GO BACK
– Crystal Caves: On the bus from St. George’s to Hamilton, you drive past an entrance to the Crystal Caves. Kay told me that one of her previous guests were a group of cave enthusiasts (is that a thing?) and that they had said the Crystal Caves were one of the smaller caves they had seen, but also some of the best. Intrigued? I am.
– Snorkeling: From atop of the cliffs in Horseshoe Bay, if you look down into the water, it’s easy to spot fish that are at least two feet long, with scales reflecting the most gorgeous shades of lime green and neon blue. In the warmer months, I’d happily return to the island to explore more of the beaches, as well as spend some time snorkeling or scuba diving to see some of the underwater wildlife.