Bermuda is a self-governing British colony headed by a governor representing the Crown and a premier elected by the majority party, with an appointed Senate and an elected House of Assembly. Per capita, it is the third-richest country in the world and, amazingly, has virtually no unemployment, no income tax and no illiteracy.
When you see Bermuda, it will be love at first sight. The enchantment begins with the climate--balmy temperatures range from the 70s in the summer to the 50s in the winter. And the islanders' relaxed way of life is reinforced in every way--from the 20 mph speed limit on all the roadways to the ferry terminal clock set five minutes slow so latecomers won't miss the boat.
Another thing you'll notice right away about Bermudians is the pride they take in their homeland. This trait is evident in the cleanliness of the islands--you won't see litter or graffiti here. Traveling across the islands, you'll see verdant marshes, sparkling beaches, homes nestled behind oleander and hibiscus shrubs, morning glory plants and narrow, winding roads that reveal an endless array of surprises. Don't be startled by the sound of trumpeting horns as you traverse the islands; it's not an expression of hostility, but rather an exchange of greetings between islanders--Bermudians are noted for their friendliness.
The islands contain nine parishes, each measuring 1,250 acres. Originally there were eight districts, called tribes, with the capital, St. George's, considered common land. Hamilton is now the capital of Bermuda, but the tribe roads still exist, crossing the islands from north to south.
The Colors of Bermuda
With its warm breezes, friendly people and fancifully colorful landscapes, it's no wonder that Bermuda is considered the wonderland of the Atlantic. Indeed, it would not be hard to imagine the pretty archipelago as the place that the fairies of legend would call home. Following are just a few of the things that make this a place like no other.
Those Famous OnionsIn spite of its small size, Bermuda has several distinct types of fertile soil that, along with its mild climate, foster a vast array of plant life. Besides the stately Bermuda cedar, there is a profusion of flora, both native and imported to the islands, such as oleander, passionflower and the Bermuda lily. Among the crops that were once grown to support Bermuda's economy are tobacco, arrowroot and the famous Bermuda onion.
Introduced to the islands around 1616, the onion thrived in Bermuda's climate, resulting in a bulb with an especially sweet and mild taste. By 1830 the Bermuda onion became a major export, with nearly 50 acres of land devoted to its cultivation. Bermudian merchant seamen came to be known as "onions," while the islands themselves were called the "onion patch." The industry continued to thrive until World War I, when difficulties in shipping, combined with high import tariffs and competition from other countries (including a town in Texas named Bermuda) caused a decline in production and the number of onions exported.
Bermuda's varied terrains and plant life also enable it to support a wide array of wildlife, particularly birds. Among the many species that can be found here are the Bermuda petrel, or cahow; the great kiskadee; and the white-tailed tropic bird, or longtail, as it is more commonly known. Widespread throughout the Caribbean, this lovely white bird, with its distinctive long central tail feathers, uses Bermuda as its northernmost breeding station, returning each spring to court, mate and rear its young. The longtails are considered the heralds of spring in Bermuda and are highly regarded by the people--hence their frequent depiction in local arts, crafts and jewelry.
Tea and CricketJust who are the Bermudians? The answer has many levels, much like the layers of the Bermuda onion, each successively adding shape and flavor to the whole. Today the people of Bermuda are a racial and cultural mix, 40% white and 60% black, with a significant Portuguese population. They are the descendants of hardy English and Scottish settlers, North American and West Indian slaves and Portuguese laborers, who began settling here in the early 1600s. While there is a delightful melange of cultures, the society's character is steeped predominantly in the English tradition, as is seen in the people's friendly but formal nature.
The strong English heritage is also manifest in many of Bermuda's customs. English holidays, such as Boxing Day in December and the Queen's Birthday in June, are celebrated throughout the islands. Afternoon tea, so important to the English, is also taken by Bermudians. Cricket is one of the leading sports in the islands; the Anglican Church has a strong following here; and even the islands' governmental and educational systems are patterned somewhat after the English model.
Despite their strong ties to England, Bermudians are proud of -- and strive to maintain -- the customs and traditions that make Bermuda one of a kind. In many aspects of daily life, Bermuda has a style that is truly unlike that of any place else in the world.
Island MummersPerhaps one of the most colorful and spectacular examples of Bermuda's uniqueness is found in the gombey dancers. Seen mostly at festivals and during the holidays, particularly at Christmas, these fantastically costumed and acrobatic dancers give performances based on West Indian tradition, with strong influences from Africa, the American Indians, the "mummers" (British troupes that once entertained with song and mime), the Bible and even the military. The group, known as a "crowd," consists of the Captain, who wears the most elaborate costume and leads the crowd; the Wild Indian and the Trapper, who act out a perpetual chase; the chiefs, who like the Captain and the Trapper carry large tomahawks and shields; and the Warriors, also known as Choppers, who include the children of the participating families. Traditionally, the women in the family are responsible for making and maintaining the costumes. Under the direction of the Captain, the dancers perform a series of solos and duets demonstrating combat; in the past they would have also re-enacted biblical stories such as the tale of David and Goliath. Whatever they perform, you will certainly find the gombeys a delight to watch.
White Roofs and MoongatesAnother aspect of Bermuda worth examining is its interesting architecture. Of particular note is the Bermuda roof, designed to catch rainwater and direct it to underground tanks; this is Bermuda's primary source of fresh water. Covered with limestone tiles referred to as shingles, Bermudian roofs are painted white and kept meticulously clean for this reason.
Another noteworthy island architectural feature is the buttery, often located away from the main house. With their high floors, steep pointed roofs and slit windows, these structures were designed to keep food cool during the hot summer months.
One of the most interesting aspects of Bermudian architecture is the moongate, a circular gateway traditionally used as an entrance to the garden. No one is sure how this ancient Far East design made its way to Bermuda, but the islanders adapted it and made it truly their own. In fact, it is considered good luck for newlyweds to pass through a moongate, making this tradition very popular among those just married.
While today more modern materials are used to build houses, Bermudians take great pains to preserve the architectural integrity of the island style and design.
It is this interest and pride in its own culture that above all sets Bermuda apart from any place else in the world. Its contrasts, diversity and rich bounty helped to make it an idyllic paradise. But its people, with their resourcefulness, integrity and intense love for their homes, help keep it that way.
A Classic Look: Bermuda ShortsA businessman properly dressed in Bermuda shorts is always a delightful sight for visitors to Bermuda. Even if you've seen these executive types -- complete with knee-high socks, ties and jackets -- before, it takes a while for the eye to adjust to the bare-kneed look so popular among men on these islands.
Proud of what is referred to as a national costume, Bermudian men wear the snappy ensemble just about everywhere on the islands. The look is completely acceptable in the business world, as well as in churches, fine restaurants and other formal establishments. Only in the Chamber of the House are Members of Parliament prohibited from dressing in the half-trouser.
Bermuda shorts are a British creation that can be traced back to the turn of the century, when British troops working in tropical outposts cut off their trousers at the knees for relief from the heat. These baggy cotton khaki shorts soon became accepted military dress because they were both comfortable and functional.
By the 1920s, Bermudians began copying the style. Local tailors further refined the half-trouser design, turning it into fashionable clothing that became quite popular among the English leisure class who came to the islands for holiday. From these affluent vacationers, Bermuda shorts took on the beginnings of a resort-wear image.
However, it was the Bermudian businessmen who gave the shorts a traditional look by adding the proper components--kneesocks, loafers, a tie and a jacket. In the late 1930s, an Americanized version of Bermudas, as the shorts are called, became popular resort wear in the United States, often topped with a sports shirt in a matching color. The style resurfaced again in the 1960s as a favorite among suburban Americans, primarily because of the shorts' comfort and practicality.
Today, Bermudian men wear two different types of the shorts: dressy and sporty. Dress or business shorts are made of finer fabrics, traditionally linen or wool blends, usually in subtle shades such as gray, beige or navy blue. However, you'll also find them in tropical hues, including pink, green and yellow. The smartly tailored trousers hang between two and four inches above the knee. A quality pair has a three-inch hem, preferably hand- sewn, which is essential to making the shorts hang correctly and to preventing ripples.
For those who wish to be sartorially correct, the rule of thumb is this: The blazer and shorts should not be the same color. Kneesocks can match either the blazer or the shorts. White shirts look best, and ties should work with the color scheme. As for accessories, belts are not worn, and the shoe of choice is the black loafer, preferably with tassels. And, of course, you need good-looking knees--well toned from exercise! The dress Bermuda was never embraced by men outside the islands; to this day, it remains strictly a Bermudian tradition.
Sporty Bermudas have a completely different look. They're teamed with T-shirts or sports shirts and worn with anything from sneakers or sandals to golf shoes or boat shoes. You'll see these shorts everywhere too, but you probably won't notice them because of their universal appeal.
As you tour the islands, Bermuda shorts seem to appear in the most unexpected places. The crisp uniforms of school boys include Bermuda shorts and knee-highs. And when the local police force trade in their long trousers for navy blue Bermudas, it heralds the official season for wearing shorts. After your stay in Bermuda, you're sure to take with you appreciation for the islands' very unique contribution to the world of men's fashion!
The Bermuda Maritime MuseumSteeped in the rich history of Bermuda's maritime past, the Bermuda Maritime Museum is a testament to the greatness of the once powerful British Royal Navy. The Museum was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on February 17, 1975 and is housed in the six-acre Keep, Bermuda's largest fort, at the Royal Naval Dockyard. Supported by admissions and privately donated funds, the non-profit museum has never requested or been granted public funds from the Bermuda Government.
The Ordnance BuildingsThe Museum's various exhibits are housed in six buildings with date stones indicating construction between 1837 and 1852. Built by British convicts brought to Bermuda for this purpose, the ordnance buildings are unique in design and construction. They were originally used as shifting houses, providing safe, temporary storage for ordnance supplies--muskets, gunpowder, etc.--removed from ships while they were being repaired or refitted in the outer yard.
Just inside the entrance is the Queen's Exhibition Hall, with exhibits that include information on navigation, whaling, pilots and customs, Cable and Wireless (Bermuda's communications system), the Pan Am Clipper Ship, steam ships and the infamous Bermuda sloops.
Nearby is the 1837 Shifting House, the earliest of the ordnance buildings completed. This three-gabled structure contains exhibits on diving and the Sea Venture, whose wreck in 1609 led to the settlement of Bermuda in 1612. A third section of the building houses a variety of underwater artifacts recovered from local 16th- and 17th-century wrecks.
Beyond the 1837 Shifting House you will find a small building known as the Bermuda Monetary Authority. Here you can see "Ship's Pennies and Years of Change," a fascinating exhibit illustrating Bermuda's history through its currency.
The 1849 Shell House, located on the north side of Keep Pond, is where you can learn about Bermuda in the Age of Discovery through the exhibit called "Isle of Devils." Early explorers first bestowed this appellation on Bermuda because of the treacherous reefs surrounding the islands. The Forster Cooper Building, next to the Shell House, contains two exhibits: "Gibraltar of the West," which tells the story of the Royal Navy, and the Bromby Bottle Collection, consisting of some 2,000 rare and antique bottles found around Bermuda.
The Boatloft is the largest of the ordnance buildings, originally built for offices and workshops. Located at the end of the Parade Ground, it houses exhibits on the Bermuda dinghy, weather forecasting, turtling and watercraft. You will also be able to see the original Store House Clock, which is magnificent to see in action, and "Pillars of the Bridge," an exhibit covering fifty years of U.S. forces in Bermuda.
Commissioner's HouseConstruction began on what is now the Commissioner's House in 1823. Standing on the highest point on the northeast end of Ireland Island, it is believed to be the oldest, and probably the first, stone building in the Dockyard. Its design incorporates many unusual structural features, particularly the exclusive use of cast-iron girders and trusses to support the floors and roof; it is believed that this may well have been the first large building in the world to be so designed. Work is currently being carried out to restore the house so that it can eventually be opened to the public as part of the Museum.
FortsOne of the best ways to trace the maritime history of Bermuda is to visit its forts. Scattered throughout the islands, these structures are well-preserved and open to the public. Several charge admission fees, well worth paying for a detailed glimpse into the past.
Fort St. CatherineThe colony's first governor, Richard Moore, mandated the construction of Fort St. Catherine in 1614. However, it wasn't until the 1820s that the fort was actually built on the designated site. Its huge 18-ton guns were added in the 1870s.
Although not a single shot was ever fired in anger from Fort St. Catherine, it was the base that provided cover for the British fleet that in 1814 gathered here in preparation for the pillage of Washington. This stately structure, located in St. George's, contains an excellent gallery of dioramas depicting Bermuda's history; several rooms decorated to take you back to the early days of the fort; a fine collection of firearms; a replica set of England's crown jewels, guarded by Beefeaters, no less; and much more. Members of the fort's staff are well acquainted with the history of the site and will be happy to answer your questions.
Alexandra BatterySet in a national park on St. George's Island, Alexandra Battery is a two-period fortification. Erected in the 1870s, it had iron-fronted gunports for large 12-ton guns that fired 9-inch calibre projectiles. This type of gunport was an experiment developed in concert with the evolution of ironclad warships. In the late 1890s, the fort was rebuilt to house two 6-inch breech- loading guns with a longer range and more powerful "hit."
Gates FortJust south of Fort St. Catherine is Gates Fort, a small battery of three guns built in 1700 from soft Bermuda limestone. The fort's 24-pounder smooth-bore cannons were used to fire cast- iron balls weighing 24 pounds. Several of the fort's other guns are mounted on replica carriages from the early 19th century. Gates Fort has been the object of heated discussion among historians, who can't agree on its correct name: it was first called Davers Fort and, at the turn of the 19th century, was popularly known as Town Cut Battery. The fort makes an ideal spot for a picnic, but there is no staff on the premises, so you're on your own.
Fort GeorgeLooking over the "olde towne" and harbor of St. George's is the deep-moated Fort George, now home to Bermuda Harbour Radio, which tracks ocean shipping around the island. The fort has two guns from the 1870s, which are still in their original carriages and slides. Located on one of the east end's highest points, the fort commands panoramic views.
Martello TowerDuring the wars with Napoleon, the English became fond of the Martello Tower, one of the first standardized types of British fortifications, a circular masonry fortress with three floors, a drawbridge entrance and a single gun at roof level. Dozens were built in England, but only a few in the Americas; Bermuda's Martello Tower, located at Ferry Reach in St. George's Parish, is one of the finest ever constructed. It was completed in the early 1820s.
St. David's BatterySt. David's Battery, located on top of Bermuda's highest cliffs in a national park on St. David's Island, is a dramatic sight. The fortress has two sets of gun batteries, which were built around 1905. The smaller artillery set, two 6-inch rifles, were the only operational guns available to the military on Bermuda at the beginning of World War II. The other guns, 9-inch rifles, were the largest guns mounted in the islands in this century.
Fort HamiltonOne of three area forts built in the 1870s to protect the Royal Naval Dockyard from bombardment via the heights near Hamilton, this restored Victorian stronghold is situated on the eastern boundary of the city and affords a breathtaking view of the central parishes and the bustling harbor. Its design includes enormous 18-ton guns and seven emplacements for disappearing guns. Through a restoration program, the fort's exterior has been enhanced with an exotic display of Bermudian blooms. From November to March, visitors should make a point of being at the fort around noon on Mondays, when kilted pipers, drummers and dancers perform the Skirling Ceremony. Lunch is available at the tearoom on those days.
Whale Bay BatteryWhale Bay Battery is located near beautiful Whale Bay Beach. The structure, designed for three rifled guns, was built in the 1870s near the site of an old parish fort. At the turn of the century, the battery was rearmed and the gun emplacements rebuilt for breech-loading 4.7-inch rifled guns. The fort's purpose was to defend the entrance of the shallow Hog Fish Channel from the new torpedo boats that posed a threat to the Dockyard. Today, the battery is part of a national park on the edge of Port Royal Golf Course.
Scaur Hill FortScaur Hill Fort, at the southern end of Somerset Island, takes its name from The Scaur, a deep inlet nearby. It was built in the 1870s to defend the Royal Naval Dockyard; its final military role was as a U.S. Army gun site in World War II. Today the fort is part of a national park, complete with trails, picnic areas, a telescope, a historic display and a fantastic view in all directions. The fort remains unaltered since its construction, including two emplacements for 64-pounder rifled muzzle-loaders on Moncrieff disappearing carriages.
Royal Naval DockyardAt the northern end of Sandy's Parish stands the magnificent Royal Naval Dockyard. In 1783, when the American colonies gained their independence, Great Britain lost all its naval bases between Canada and the West Indies. Suspicious of the new nation, the British military found Bermuda -- halfway between Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Jamaica -- to be an ideal position for the Royal Navy's new base. Construction of the Dockyard's stone buildings and extensive fortifications began in 1809; the project was finally completed in 1849. The Dockyard is Bermuda's most visited site.
Bermuda's largest fort is the Keep in the Royal Naval Dockyard, which in 1974 was taken over by a volunteer group who established the Bermuda Maritime Museum. Today it is the largest museum on the island. Its extensive ramparts have been partly restored, and some guns have been remounted. Three periods of armament, from the 1820s to the early 1900s, are represented here. In the lower Ordnance Yard, powder magazines house exhibits on Bermuda's maritime past, including shipwrecks, Bermuda sloops, artifacts from the British and American navies and a local "fitted dinghy." The imposing Commissioner's House, presently being restored to its 1820s glory, rests on the hill above.
BeachesFor those who love the sand and the surf, Bermuda provides some of the most beautiful and memorable beaches in the world -- ideal for walking, snorkeling, jogging and horseback riding. Turquoise water lapping a pink beach, with the azure sky as a backdrop, composes the quintessential Bermuda scene. The famous pastel cast of the beaches comes from minuscule chips of sea shells and coral, mixed with the fine grains of sand. Beaches are scattered throughout the islands. Depending on your location, you may wish to travel by cycle, taxi or ferry to your destination. In addition, buses frequently run to the beaches.
It's a good idea to wear sports clothes over your bathing suit when you set out, as not all beaches offer changing facilities. You may also want to bring your own snorkeling equipment and a light lunch, although the beaches without refreshment facilities are sometimes visited by a lunch wagon.
The following is a guide to Bermuda's public beaches. Keep in mind that some beaches you may discover on the way to recommended ones may be private.
Sandy's ParishLocated on Somerset Island, Somerset Long Bay is also the site of a nature preserve. Because its waters are shallow and tranquil, it is highly suitable for non-swimmers and children; public rest rooms are available. Although it is not among the islands' premier beaches, it does offer sunbathers exposure to very pleasant midday and late-afternoon sun.
Mangrove Bay is another lovely spot for families. A pleasant serenity makes this beach ideal for sunning; smooth water with very little wave action is perfect for wading.
Southampton ParishTwo of Bermuda's first-rate beaches, West Whale Bay and Church Bay, are also among the smallest. These secluded spots in Southampton are known for their pink beauty as well as for the dilapidated forts that still stand guard: one on a hill overlooking West Whale Bay and the other, dating back to 1612, at Church Bay. Public conveniences help make Church Bay recommendable. And a sense of history -- its name a permanent legacy from Bermuda's long-gone whaling days -- renders West Whale Bay especially attractive. In the spring, those gentle mammals, migrating along yearly routes, are often spotted to the south.
Horseshoe Bay has been labeled Bermuda's loveliest beach because of its symmetry and vegetation and the colors of its water and sand. It's also the islands' most frequented shore. Full beach facilities are available, including a snack bar and souvenir shop. You can rent beach and snorkeling gear here, and a lifeguard is on duty during the summer months. You can also walk to Peel Bay, a smaller beach right next to Horseshoe Bay.
Other beaches you might want to visit in this area are Chaplin Bay and Stonehole Bay. These quiet, idyllic strands, framed by towering rocks, are thought to resemble natural caves. Consequently, they offer opportunities for rock climbing as well as for swimming, and the view from above, as you travel along South Road, is unequaled.
Warwick ParishIn Warwick Parish, you'll find Jobson Cove, a tiny rock-encircled bay with highly active surf, and adjacent Warwick Long Bay, one of the islands' longest and straightest beaches. Both are popular for picnics and bodysurfing because they are very well-maintained. In addition, there are some horse trails in back of the swimming area and a public camping area close by. Nearby Astwood Park has a large area of open space for picnics and nature walks, as well as a sandy cove where you can snorkel with ease.
Paget ParishAnother beach noted for its expansiveness is Elbow Beach in Paget Parish. There is a public-access road leading to this stretch of beach, and the posh Elbow Beach Hotel facilities, which include lockers, towels, changing rooms and freshwater showers, are available for use at a nominal charge. Informal lunches and snacks are served at the Surf Club, making this the perfect spot to spend an entire day. During College Weeks, many springtime activities are held on this beach.
Devonshire ParishEast of Elbow Beach, Devonshire Bay is ideal for families with children -- barely a breeze disturbs the peacefulness of this tiny, sheltered beach, let alone the water. This is also a popular spot for local fishermen. In fact, during the week you can sometimes even buy their catch, nicely cleaned, of course. Facilities are available to the public.
Pembroke ParishOn the other side of the city of Hamilton, on the North Shore, is Spanish Point Park, an out-of-the-ordinary stretch of beach offering views of the Royal Naval Dockyard and the North Shore. Public conveniences are available. The North Shore has fewer beaches because of the rugged and jagged character of the shoreline, and the number of public beaches decreases as you move farther to the northeast.
Hamilton ParishShelly Bay Beach, named not for the shells but for an early colonist, Henry Shelly, is located in Hamilton Parish on the western side of Harrington Sound. About 200 yards long, it is the North Shore's largest beach with facilities open to the public.
This shore is especially appealing to youngsters and non-swimmers -- you can wade in water that abounds with tropical fish for quite a distance before the sea floor drops. The Shelly Bay Nature Reserve is right next door, and there's also a new playground nearby. Try to catch the sunset from here -- it's breathtaking!
Smith's ParishOn the eastern side of Harrington Sound is the glorious John Smith's Bay. Named after Captain John Smith, famous in the United States for his encounter with Pocahontas, this is one of the islands' most photographed beaches; its pink sand makes for a matchless picture. There are limited public facilities here, though a lunch wagon visits and a lifeguard stands duty in the summer. If you can, bring your own snorkeling equipment and swim with the colorful parrot fish living among the rocks and reefs.
St. George's Parish
In Tucker's Town you'll find the Natural Arches. Affording a wonderful vista of unusual rock formations and incredibly clear water, they are also the islands' oldest attractions and were favorites for picnics long before the area became fashionable. The rock formations were formed by the surf pounding for centuries against caves along the shore.
Other beaches of note in this parish are Achilles Bay and Tobacco Bay. Tobacco Bay, especially, is a snorkeler's paradise. Coral reef formations that are usually found in deeper waters, requiring scuba gear, exist just off the shore; you can practically wade out to them. Snorkeling equipment is available for rent, as are flotation devices. You will also find snack food, rest rooms and changing facilities.
Land SportsMan has made the most of nature's bounty in Bermuda, transforming it into an unparalleled sporting paradise with first-rate facilities. Its location in the warm Gulf Stream accounts for the weather that makes outdoor land sports a pleasure no matter what the season.
Both participant sports and spectator sports are popular here. Depending on the season, there are regularly scheduled matches for various team sports; overseas touring teams add to the competition.
BadmintonFor badminton buffs, the BAA Gymnasium in Hamilton is the place to be. Games are played year-round on Tuesday and Thursday, and visitors are always welcome for a nominal charge. The fee includes racquets and shuttles.
Cycling Around BermudaThis vacation you can add a new dimension to your holiday: cruise around Bermuda on a cycle. This popular means of transportation is one of the most stimulating ways to sightsee -- and at the same time immerse yourself in nature. As you zip along on a scooter, breathe in the fresh Bermudian air and smell the fragrance of the countryside. Let the sea breezes refresh your spirit and the island roads lead you to the "perfect" beach.
Riding a cycle is an adventure in itself. Since visitors can't rent cars on Bermuda -- this is the government's way of eliminating traffic jams -- hiring a cycle is also the only means of personal transportation. Shiny red, blue and white models are available from several liveries on the island. They can be rented by the day, week or month. Should you require roadside assistance while renting a cycle, a radio-controlled vehicle will be dispatched.
You can choose from single- and double-seated cycles. You must be at least 16 years old to operate a motorbike. For your own safety, helmets are mandatory and are provided with your rental. Baskets are also available and make transporting beach gear and purchases much easier. Some of the liveries have off- road practice areas where cyclists can familiarize themselves with the motorbike before venturing out on the road.
Safety TipsRemember to drive on the left-hand side of the road. This may take some time to get used to if you've never done it before. If you see the locals maneuvering their cycles through traffic, keep in mind that their skills come with plenty of practice and that they know the roads well. As a vacationer, there's no need to rush; it's best to relax and go with the traffic flow. Always avoid the morning and afternoon rush hours -- you don't want to spend precious vacation time stuck in traffic when you could linger over breakfast or spend another hour sightseeing instead.
At some point, you'll find yourself in a roundabout. The rule is to give way to the traffic on your right, and when the path is clear, procede with caution. You'll discover that Bermuda's roads tend to be narrow and require keen judgment, especially when taking the curves. It's not unusual for vacationers to want to catch some rays as they cruise around on their cycles; however, it's against the law to drive without a shirt.
Being a safe and alert driver will make your motorbike journey through Bermuda a rewarding experience.
CricketThis is one of the two national sports on the island (soccer is the second). Cricket season runs from the end of April to mid-September; you can take in a game every weekend. Cup Match, in early August, is the highlight of the cricket calendar. This event pits teams from Somerset and the west end of the island against those from St. George's and the east end. The festival atmosphere, along with the infamous Bermuda Stock Exchange, better known as "Crown and Anchor," are sure to leave lasting memories.
GolfGolf has long been a favorite here in Bermuda; these islands may have the highest concentration of golf courses in the world -- eight of them in just 21 square miles. Players of any skill level will find challenges here. Though each course has a different character, all have some things in common -- they are built along the ocean; the views are terrific; and rarely, except on tournament days, are any of them crowded.
Don't assume, however, that the courses' beauty makes them any less of a challenge. Those breathtaking beaches are also sand traps, and the caressing tides are likely to engulf your ball as easily as they do the shoreline. Ocean breezes may be stimulating, but they can also change the speed and direction of an airborne ball, rendering your choice of club completely erroneous. Short holes and misleading, narrow fairways may combine to make your game unexpectedly uneven.
You can choose from St. George's Golf Club; Marriott's Castle Harbour Golf Club; Mid Ocean Golf Club; Ocean View Golf Course; Belmont Hotel, Golf and Country Club; Riddell's Bay Golf and Country Club; Princess Golf Club; and Port Royal Golf Course. Proper golf attire is required by all clubs; shirts must have collars and sleeves, and shorts should be Bermuda length.
Bermuda Golf AcademyIn a rural setting overlooking the island's south shore, you'll find a new driving force on Bermuda's golfing scene: a recently opened golf academy for visiting and resident golf enthusiasts of all ages. Conveniently located off Middle Road between the Southampton Princess and the Port Royal golf courses, the Bermuda Golf Academy offers a full range of golfing services and facilities. It's a great place to polish up driving skills, warm up before playing your favorite 18 holes or correct and perfect your stance and swing.
There's a 320-yard driving range, which is lighted until 10:30 p.m., with 8 target greens to challenge your driving skills and 40 driving bays, 25 of them covered. Golf pros are on hand daily to provide first-class standards of tuition in all aspects of the game. They'll even videotape your play if you wish, so you can watch yourself in action and get professional analysis. If required, they'll teach you how to improve your game or correct bad golfing habits. And if you need some out-of-bunker practice, that's available too! All practice bays and the rooftop 18-hole putting green are finished with state-of-the-art surfaces designed to duplicate ball response on real greens and tees.
There's a fitting and repair shop on site, and the latest equipment, demo clubs and top-name clubs are available for rent. For relaxation, the Academy has a comfortable clubhouse with food and bar service and a big-screen cable TV tuned to...The Golf Channel, of course!
Horseback RidingEquestrians will find knowledgeable guides and instructors ready to escort them around Bermuda. At the many stables, you can arrange sunrise or sunset rides that will take you along shorelines with spectacular dunes. You can also choose to travel the historic Railway Trail, which dates back to 1931. As you ride alongside abandoned tracks, you'll enjoy the scenery and learn about Bermuda's history at the same time. Long pants and hard- heeled shoes or boots are best for riding. Bring your camera, as the vistas are gorgeous.
SoccerSharing national dominance with cricket, soccer -- known here as football -- claims the largest number of participants in Bermuda. The season, with games each weekend, runs from early October to late April, culminating in the FA Challenge Cup finals. The National Program strives for success competing in FIFA's prestigious World Cup and Olympic competitions.
TennisBermuda was the first place in the Western Hemisphere that tennis was played. The sport began here in 1873 and has remained popular ever since. One year later, Miss Mary Outerbridge introduced the game to the United States.
Tennis is a year-round sport in Bermuda, and there are many tournaments for top local and international players. Most hotels have at least two tennis courts, but what is surprising is how many different surfaces there are to play on. Each establishment has its own rules about who can play and when, so it's best to telephone the club you wish to visit before you show up to play.
Water SportsThis vacation, answer the beckoning of the sea: leave the sandy shore behind and indulge in the pleasures of Bermuda's tantalizing waters. Rent a pleasure craft and travel with the waves and wind. Feel the thrill of reeling in a prize game fish. Retreat into the depths of the sea and come face-to-face with exotic fish. This is your playground, where you can windsurf, parasail, water ski and much more. A whole new world is waiting for you in Bermuda's waters.
BoatingSome of the most beautiful waters in the world surround Bermuda, making this activity a must. Several options are available from the many charter companies here, who offer day, evening or dinner cruises ranging from three to eight hours. If you prefer to engage the waves on your own, you can rent a sailboat or motorboat without a skipper. Those who like to stay closer to shore can rent Sunfish, Hobie Cats, mini-glass-bottom boats and rowboats.
You should arrange a boating excursion early in your stay. Boating is highly dependant upon weather conditions, and it is much easier to reschedule at the beginning of your visit than at the end. Nearly all operators require reservations. It is also a good idea to shop around for discounts; don't be afraid to ask about any specials that might be offered. Some hotels and guest houses have a free boating hotline you can call for information.
Boating is a spectator sport in Bermuda as well, and among the most interesting competitions are the fitted dinghy races. Unique to Bermuda, the fitted dinghy boasts the largest sail area per square foot of any boat in the world. Races are held on alternate weekends from mid-May to mid-September. As many as 500 spectators are often on hand to watch this colorful spectacle. The start of each race is always an interesting sight, since the contestants are required to commence in reverse rank order, lending a whole new perspective to the "handicap" concept!
Diving & SnorkelingTo quote writer Peter Benchley, "the entire history of Bermuda can be documented by the hundreds of shipwrecks that lie in the coral reefs that ring the islands." For those who want to discover Bermuda's underwater pleasures, several companies can arrange snorkeling trips or single- or double-tank dives. Diving at night adds yet more excitement to the thrills awaiting below. For non-swimmers, helmet diving may be just the ticket.
Bermuda's numerous wrecks, shallow-water reefs and labyrinthian caverns make this a perfect place for scuba divers. And although the islands' dive sites are world-renowned, Bermudian waters have not been invaded by masses of scuba aficionados donning fins and tanks: the destination remains a discriminating divers' choice.
Despite its relatively northern location, Bermuda has almost all the same rich undersea flora and fauna found in the Caribbean, a busy diving hub. However, Bermuda's proximity to Europe and the northeastern United States makes it an easy getaway. Bermuda's diving season runs from mid-March through November. The crystalline waters offer exceptional visibility, particularly during the summer months: 100 feet in the northern and western waters, and 80 feet in the waters off the southern and eastern shores, where the reef line is much closer.
Bermuda boasts a healthy and extensive reef system. Among the more prolific sea life are stunning blue angelfish, large schools of Bermuda chub and a variety of soft corals. If you're adventurous enough to engage in night diving, you'll be rewarded with great sights, including elusive moray eels displaying their jagged teeth, bright-eyed shrimps and coral crabs peering out from the reef, sleeping parrot fish in web-like cocoons and fuzzy-looking hard corals with extended polyps.
A number of underwater caverns, which are part of the reef system, entice the adventurous explorer. Among the crags and overhangs of the arches, canyons and tunnels that comprise the maze-like formations, you can view large schools of jacks and fry, along with grouper, tarpons and spiny lobsters. If you join a diving excursion, guides will lead you through the winding paths. Among the cave sites to choose from are The Southwest Breaker, Tarpon Hole, Cathedral Cavern, NASA Point and Hole in the Wall.
Bermuda's reputation as a wreck diver's destination is due to the large number of sunken ships found in its waters. Early navigators who failed to avoid Bermuda's barrier reef often witnessed -- if they were lucky -- the demise of their vessels. One of the most historically significant shipwrecks was that of Sir George Somer's flagship, Sea Venture, which ran aground during a hurricane in 1609 and marked the discovery of Bermuda.
Today, divers can spend hours exploring wreck sites. Some are strewn with ancient cannons; others are resting places for fully intact modern-day freighters. One of the more famous wrecks is that of the Constellation, which served as inspiration for Peter Benchley's novel The Deep. The 200-foot, four-masted American schooner went down on the western reefs in 1943. Not far from the Constellation is the Montana, an English-built paddle- wheel steamer. This ship's mission was to penetrate the Union blockade during the American Civil War; however, it sank in 1863.
Since most ships went aground in shallow waters, the maximum depth of Bermuda's most frequented wrecks is 80 feet. (Wreck sites at other destinations often require a descent of 100 feet or more.) For divers in Bermuda, the advantage of a shorter descent is more time on the bottom to explore.
As this underwater sport gains popularity here, Bermudians are implementing a mooring system to mark and protect the islands' many dive sites.
FishingThe waters around Bermuda are rich with game fish, especially during the prime fishing season, from May through November. The islands hold world records in a wide cross-section of test-line categories encompassing a dozen different species of game fish, from blue marlin to blackfin tuna. The Bermuda Department of Tourism sponsors an annual game-fishing tournament; no entry fee or license is required.
Approximately 20 charter fishing boats operate out of Bermuda. Many records have been set from their decks, attesting to the skill and experience of the guides that own and operate this modern fleet. All charter boats provide tackle and bait and are equipped with fighting chairs and outriggers. The tourism department's Bermuda Sports Guide gives a list of area charters.
Other Water SportsFeeling adventurous? Experience the thrill of parasailing, an experience you won't soon forget. Other aquatic options include windsurfing, kayaking or canoeing, which can be enjoyed in one of the many tranquil inlets or bays around the islands.
ShoppingNo matter where you shop in Bermuda, you'll discover a treasure trove of quality goods at reasonable prices in any one of the islands' shops. Shopping here can be effortless and fun, and you're sure to find the merchants friendly and knowledgeable- -a boon if you have a long gift list or a very special wedding present to buy, for example. Give yourself a treat, unwind and stroll in comfort while you inspect the vast selection of fine merchandise available.
Bermuda's stores have another important edge--tradition. Bermudians' long-standing relationship with the British has instilled in local shopkeepers the importance of quality, timeless styles and personal service. Their commitment to excellence and pride in carrying top-notch merchandise are reflected anywhere you shop in Bermuda.
As a rule of thumb, keep your eyes open for items you cannot find in the United States or, indeed, anywhere but in Bermuda. Many area merchants have, over the years, cultivated special arrangements with British and European wholesalers and manufacturers who provide the merchants with unique goods that otherwise might never have been exported.
As you explore Bermuda's shops, the selection of goods, the prices and the civilized attitude toward shopping will delight you. Take the time to fully investigate all the opportunities for bargains in Hamilton, St. George's and other sections of the islands. And be sure to explore the Royal Naval Dockyard's shopping facilities.
Most stores are open Monday through Saturday, closing at 5 p.m. American dollars are good here, as the Bermudian dollar is an even trade for Stateside currency.
Clothing: Some of the best buys can be found in British and Irish textiles. Many local merchants have dealt with the same manufacturers for generations, and the British custom of combining sturdy fabrics and careful tailoring with understated elegance has been adopted by Bermudians as their own. The discounts over Stateside prices that you'll receive in Bermuda are perhaps greatest on wearing apparel, yarns and yarn goods. Prices will be at least 20% lower, with savings more likely to average in the 40-to-50% range. British and Irish fabrics are priced at less than half their Stateside cost. For a semitropical paradise, Bermuda has a great deal of winter wear. Fine Icelandic woolens, warm and practically weightless, are also excellent buys; pick up sweaters, hats, scarves and mittens. Irish wool sweaters are here in abundance, with a selection unimaginable in the United States, not to mention savings--more than 50% discount. Indulge your yen for cashmere. Madras cottons and silks are also worth investigating.
Don't overlook locally crafted resort wear. It makes a wonderful remembrance. Several local brands capture the essence of the "Bermuda look"--colorful, vibrant and casual. Another plus is that locally crafted resort wear does not count toward your duty-free exemption.
Crafts: Local craftspeople are adept at fashioning mementos of your Bermuda vacation that you will cherish as much as your memories. Pottery is a good buy, and many shops stock tiny pottery souvenirs. Several stores specialize in pottery decorated with depictions of native wildlife or nautical themes.
Fragrances: Many shops offer a full line of European and American perfumes, all at discounts of 25 to 30% below Stateside cost. Investigate the fragrances concocted on the islands of essences extracted from locally grown flowers, such as Easter lilies, oleander, jasmine and sweet peas; other scents include a Bermuda-cedar shaving lotion and passionflower perfume. A local firm also markets musk, royal-lime and bay-rum colognes at a 70% discount over Stateside prices. Bermudian fragrances do not count toward your duty-free exemption, either.
Jewelry: Gold and gemstones are fine buys for the knowledgeable shopper. Aside from the wide selection of imported jewelry, many shops have their own jewelers who can create one-of-a-kind pieces. No matter what your budget, you'll be able to find something that will capture your fancy.
Liquor: Bermuda has a large number of liquor stores that stock an inclusive assortment of popular brands at prices 40% less than you would pay in the United States. When choosing your liquor purchase, remember that the best savings will be realized when you buy the more expensive brands.
Porcelain and Crystal: You'll discover that the prices here are very attractive for any of the famous names in porcelain and crystal, such as Royal Worcester, Royal Doulton, Wedgwood, Lladr¢, Aynsley, Goebel-Hummel, Coalport and Waterford. Danish flatware is also a good buy, as are Wedgwood figurines, tableware and ovenware. The shops carry a vast selection of popular patterns and designs, including many lines not represented in the United States. Porcelain and crystal hold a special status among goods sold on the islands--you'd have to travel to Europe to find the equal of the varied assortment offered by the shops in Bermuda.
T-Shirts: Local artists and designers have elevated the sometimes-mundane T-shirt into a fantastic silk-screened creation. Perhaps Bermuda's scenery inspires them to use such bright colors, but whatever the reason, the end result is distinctive.
Watches: The prices of Swiss watches and clocks are particularly low here.
TransportationNo matter what form of transportation you choose, the islands have plenty of reliable services to comply with your specific needs.
BicyclesBicycle riding is an enjoyable and healthy way to see the islands. Rates are reasonable, ranging from about $15 a day to $50 a week for a three-speed cycle.
BusesAnother economical way to see the islands is on a government-operated bus. Generally, bus stops will be indicated by pink- and blue-striped poles that are adjacent to the roadside. Blue on top of the pole means the route operates away from Hamilton; pink on top means it operates toward the city. If paying the fare in cash, bus passengers are required to have the correct change in coins when boarding the bus. Books of 15 tickets are available, reducing the fare depending on the distance traveled. There are also multi-day passes.
Change, tokens, tickets, multi-day passes and bus schedules are available at the Central Bus Terminal near City Hall. Tokens may also be purchased at any post office.
CarriagesEnjoy seeing the islands in a charming horse-drawn carriage; these vehicles were used by Bermudians in place of automobiles until 1946. Carriage rides cost about $25 per half-hour and may be hired on Front Street, adjacent to the No. 1 Passenger Terminal in Hamilton. Few are available after 4:30 p.m. unless advance arrangements have been made.
FerriesFerries provide a reliable and delightful way for visitors and Bermudians alike to commute from the Hamilton Terminal and view the scenic coastline of the western parishes. Ferries depart regularly; trips around the harbor last 30 minutes, while the round-trip to Somerset takes about one hour. Prices are quite low and you can even bring a bicycle on board.
Mopeds/Motor ScootersMotor-assisted cycles have become a popular way of touring the islands in recent years. Rentals are available by the hour, day or week. (See "Cycling" under Land Sports above.)
TaxisSince you cannot rent a car in Bermuda, taxis are one of the most convenient modes of transportation. Each taxi is outfitted with a meter, and a rate card must be posted. The fare is about $4 for the first mile and $1.60 for each subsequent mile. The base fare is for one to four passengers; the rate for five or six passengers is 25% higher. From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and on Sundays and public holidays, there is also a surcharge of approximately 25%.
Bermuda's taxi drivers are helpful and friendly. Those displaying Tour Guide flags are qualified tour guides; the rate is $20 per hour for one to four passengers and $30 for five or six passengers, with a three-hour minimum. Most taxi drivers are pleased with a 10 to 15% tip, but this is not mandatory.
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