Bermuda Attractions & Things To Do
Where else will you get best of all the worlds in one place? And that too in a small beautiful island? World’s most beautiful pink sandy beaches, colorful corals & marine life, wonderful scenery & architecture, warm weather, exciting recreational activities & tours, great food, shopping, nightlife... those fascinating attractions made us think and plan our first family vacation in Bermuda years back. The lingering memories have kept drawing us back to this island time and again.
So what can you do in Bermuda? Swim and snorkel at the fabulous pink beaches. Or take a cruise to amazing water area for offshore snorkeling and watch colorful corals, marine life and even amazing shipwrecks.
Rent a small motorboat and go offshore to discover tiny islands, have a little family picnic on a secluded island beach, swim, and enjoy the sheer serenity. Bermuda is not a single island. It has a string of some 180 small islands around the main one. The total area is under 21 square miles. So you can imagine how tiny many of these islands are. Only 20 of these are inhabited and just seven are joined by bridges and causeways to the main island.
Numerous operators offer all sorts of motorized and non motorized water sports, guided island tours, boating & sailing, nature walks, adventure tours etc. And the island is full of great places to visit like museums showcasing island's history & heritage, caves, historic forts, aquarium, lighthouses, churches, parks & gardens, harbors, nature reserves, and lovely villages. The pastel color houses with slanted white limestone roofs look picture perfect on the lush island landscapes.
Hamilton City is the capital of Bermuda, the main commercial center with numerous shops & restaurants, and offers modern yet charming vibe. St. George is the former capital where the first human settlement took place in early 1600s and retains its old historic aura. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site with many historical buildings and places to visit. Royal Naval Dockyard is the main cruise port which was once operated by the British Royal Navy. This port area itself has developed into a complex with numerous tourist attractions and activities.
What are the best things to do?
So many attractions and so much to do in the island, which ones do you choose? Most tourists visit the island for a short vacation and go back wondering if they actually made the most out of their time. If you don't want to be in that state of mind when you leave the island, there are two things you can do:
1) If you do not have much time to research and want to know straight away which are the best attractions and things to do in the island, then go down to the section: The Best Things to Do in Bermuda
2) But if you like to do some good research, compare the attractions and satisfy yourself that you did not leave any stone unturned, then read on, go through the sections below and associated links, you won't need to look any further.
(1) The Lovely Beaches: Almost everybody keeps the beaches in their list of must visits. But which beaches? There are 34 of them and all are so beautiful and unique!! Some of the south shore beaches have unbelievable pink sands. While some are vast stretches of sands, some are tiny secluded coves. Here you will know about the best beaches of Bermuda that have remained as our all-time top favorites.
(2) Top Sightseeing Places: Bermuda is not just about beaches. There are many wonderful tourists places that capture the flavor of the island, its history, culture, tourism offerings, and life in general. Such sites include forts, caves, parks & gardens, aquarium, museums, historical buildings, lighthouses, churches, harbors and more.
(3) Great Tours & Excursions: One of the best ways to experience & explore Bermuda is by taking guided or self-guided tours. You can take such tours by bus, boat, taxi, van or just walk. On several sunny mornings, we went out on glass bottom boats watching the spectacular underwater coral reefs, fish & marine life, or just take a sunset cocktail cruise and relax on the deck watching the wonderful views all around. And sometimes, we hire a taxi by the hour and keep exploring the island from one end to the other uncovering the best kept secrets while listening to the friendly knowledgeable driver about the history, life, flora and fauna of the island and the ocean surrounding it.
(4) Activities & Entertainment: You can remain immersed in numerous recreational & sporting activities in Bermuda and your time will literally fly. Swimming & snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, birding, golfing, fishing, whale watching, diving, riding ... the list is endless. One of our favorite things to do in Bermuda is to walk along the beautiful scenic trails and the village paths through lush landscapes, and meet with the locals along the way. We have fallen in love with the people and the culture of Bermuda. The caring Bermudians with ever-smiling face, the traditional Bermuda music, Gombey's dance with rhythmic drumming, the very scent of Bermuda's oceanic breeze, have all been great rewards in our lives.
(5) Great Dining: We have dined in many restaurants of different types in Bermuda. American, Continental, Italian, French, Indian ... there is no end to culinary skills in the island. Bermudian cuisine itself has so much to offer. Bermuda fish chowder, wahoo steaks, pawpaw casserole, Hoppin' John peas & rice are some of our long time favorites. And when in mood to indulge, Bermuda's own cocktails like Rum Swizzle and Dark n' Stormy have no parallels.
(6) Shopping: I have seldom seen anybody returning from the island empty handed. At the minimum you will plan to buy a small gift or souvenir item. In this article I have discussed which are the best buys in Bermuda including the unique local products like art & craft items, glass ware, jewelry, gifts & souvenirs, perfumes & cosmetics, clothes and lot more.
(7) Nightlife - Bars Pubs Nightclubs: Who says Bermuda is sedate when it comes to nightlife? There are so many bars, pubs and nightclubs in the island that you will need to spend good amount of time making a selection for yourself. In fact one of the oldest pubs in Hamilton city was the inspiration for 'Cheers Pub' of Boston and another one invented a unique island drink which has almost become synonymous as Bermuda's national drink. And most bars and pubs offer great live music & entertainment in the evenings during the high season.
Exploring Bermuda by Location
If you rather like to take one area at a time and explore deep into its attractions, activities, maps, dining, accommodations etc, the following links can offer you all the treasures that we have uncovered in each parish. A parish in Bermuda is like a district or a county.
Other than the parishes, there are three places in Bermuda that are of great tourist significance: 1) Hamilton City which is the capital of Bermuda and the main hub of commercial activities, 2) St. George's Town which is a UNESCO world Heritage site and steeped with history, and 3) Kings Wharf Port or the Royal Naval Dockyard which is the largest port area in the island and also a complex with many historical buildings, craft centers and other tourist attractions.
Hamilton City: Being the capital of Bermuda, Hamilton city is really the heart of the island. Starting from many glittering shops and great restaurants, to some of the finest hotels and sightseeing, are all here.
St George's Town: A town steeped with history and located in a parish with the same name. St. George's was once the former capital of Bermuda and is now a designated world heritage site.
Kings Wharf & Royal Naval Dockyard: Kings Wharf is the original cruise berth in Royal Naval Dockyard where the large cruise ships dock. The dockyard is a place with great historical significance and also a large complex with many tourist attractions including National Museum, Dolphin Center, Art & Craft centers, Shopping, Pubs & Restaurants etc.
Parishes of Bermuda from west to east:
Sandys Parish: This is the western most parish in Bermuda where the dockyard is located. The parish comprises of several islands that are joined by bridges and offers wonderful landscapes and scenic beauties.
Southampton Parish: Southampton has a perfect mix of everything - pink sandy beaches, best of hotels and restaurants, and great sightseeing places.
Warwick Parish: Warwick Bermuda is a great place to stay with some of the greatest hotels, sightseeing attractions and above all some of the best beaches of Bermuda.
Paget Parish: Paget is a centrally located parish with many great hotels and attractions.
Pembroke Parish: A central parish where Hamilton City, the capital of Bermuda is located.
Devonshire Parish: Devonshire has flourished mainly based on farming. It has beautiful landscapes and other attractions.
Smith's Parish: For a tourist, the parish offers delightful country rides and charm. It has its boundaries on north shore, south shore as well as on the southern part of Harrington Sound.
Hamilton Parish: This is the second most eastern Parish of Bermuda connected to St. George by a causeway.
St George Parish: St George parish is located at the eastern end of Bermuda and comprises of two large islands - St George's Island and St. David's Island. The historic town of St. George is located in this parish.
The Best things to do in Bermuda
Here is a list of top attractions that I have short-listed based on tourist popularity. Pick up the ones you like. If you need help setting up a good itinerary, then look into this itinerary forum page as well.
Visit Horseshoe Bay Beach: This is the most picturesque beach in Bermuda with pink sands. The beach has a cafe and beach rentals. It's located in Southampton and accessible by bus, taxi and scooter. While the beach has been consistently ranked by several travel magazines as one of the best beaches in the world, it is also the most crowded beach. So go early if you are looking for some space on the sand, otherwise walk along the shore (there is a trail) and reach several other beautiful beaches like the Jobson's Cove, Stonehole Bay and Warwick Long Bay which are relatively less crowded.
St. Catherine's Fort: If there is one historic fort you like to visit in Bermuda, then this should be the one. It is the largest of all and located at the eastern end of St. George overlooking the ocean in a beautiful setting. It is also a museum that captures military history of St. George and the island. At an easy walk from the fort is Tobacco Bay Beach, which is one of the top five beaches in the island with many water based activities and a beach bar.
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse: This is the oldest cast iron built lighthouse located in Southampton and overlooking the Great Sound water area. It was once used for navigating the ships passing by. Climb the stairway up to the top balcony and soak in the wonderful view. You can walk to the lighthouse from Horseshoe beach. Also accessible by bus and taxi.
Visit the Caves: Crystal and Fantasy caves are co-located in the same complex in Hamilton parish. It's difficult to take your eyes off the amazing limestone formations. And they look doubly attractive due to the cave lighting and the beautiful lake as you walk over a wooden bridge. Buses are available from Hamilton City and St. George.
Aquarium, Museum & Zoo: While all three are located in the same complex in different sections, the main attraction here is the Aquarium. Here you can see amazing marine life and fish of the north Atlantic. It's located in Hamilton parish. Buses operate from Hamilton and St. George.
National Museum of Bermuda: It's located at the Royal Naval Dockyard and therefore very convenient for the cruise ship passengers who can just walk down in minutes. It preserves the rich history and heritage of Bermuda through numerous exhibits and artifacts, and is housed in a fortress. You will know about life in Bermuda over the past centuries including how the first settlement took place in the island, its slavery period, maritime past, why & how Royal Naval Dockyard was built, how the fortress was built to safeguard the dockyard, collections from Royal Navy, and lot more.
Take a boating or sailing tour: Several water-based tours are offered in motor operated boats, yachts and catamarans. The most popular are the glass-bottom tours showing you marine life like corals & fish, and the sunset cruise on a sailing yacht. These tours operate on per person rate and some on private charters. You can also rent a boat, explore many tiny islands on western or eastern water areas, find a secluded island beach, snorkel and enjoy an exclusive picnic.
Take a snorkel boat tour: You need to go to offshore areas to get the best experience of snorkeling in Bermuda. This is where you can see reef fish, wonderful corals and even shipwrecks. There are operators who take you to multiple swim and snorkel locations in such a cruise. They operate in groups or private charters.
Walking tour of St. George: Take a self guided tour of St. George, a town which was the former capital of Bermuda and where the first settlement took place in early 1600s. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and steeped with history. You can visit so many historical buildings & homes, museums that capture the past of St. George, historic forts built by the British in 1600s, the oldest Anglican church in western hemisphere, several lovely beaches & parks etc. St. George is well connected with Hamilton by bus service. There is also a ferry connection with Dockyard.
Exploring Hamilton City: You can't miss out on the Capital of the island. This is the main hub of all commercial activities. Front Street runs along the harbor and is lined by retail outlets, restaurants & bars. The cabinet and assembly houses are located in Hamilton, and so are several lovely parks, gardens, art gallery, national library, Cathedral of Most Holy Trinity, Hamilton Fort etc. Most public bus routes and all ferry routes operate from Hamilton.
Island Tours by Taxi: Hire a taxi by the hour and tour around the island, enjoy the landmarks, lovely scenery, the beaches and visit places of your interest. There are taxi drivers who are also certified tour guides and can plan out a nice island tour for you based on your time and interest. They have good knowledge of the island, its culture and history.
Island tours by minibus: Several operators offer set island tours (half or full day) by minibus taking you across the island and showing you many of the top tourist sites. They usually operate on a per person rate.
Tom Moore's Jungle: This is the only proper forest in Bermuda where you can explore many plantations, mangroves, a pond and many caves & grottos (where you can even swim). Its located in Hamilton Parish and accessible by bus.
Spittal Pond Nature Reserve: If you are a nature and bird lover, this is the place to go. It has a large pond, many plantations including Bermuda's endemic species, strange rock formations on the shore that looks like checkerboard, and lovely views of the water. It's also a bird sanctuary. Located in Smith's parish. Visit by bus or taxi.
Dolphin Quest: This is a dolphin activity and training center located within the National Museum complex. Other than watching the dolphins perform, you can actually have an interactive session with dolphins feeding and playing with them.
Reef and Wreck Diving: Bermuda has all the ingredients for unparalleled scuba diving, and even for beginners. Other than numerous reefs offering views of colorful and wide range of fish & corals, there are large number of shipwrecks in the waters here, and some of them like Constellation, Cristobal Colon etc are historic & famous which the divers can explore. Several dive operators offer PADI 5-star facilities.
Nature walks: Explore some of the nature trails and experience Bermuda's lovely landscapes, shoreline, reserves, parks and gardens. The 18-mile Railway Trail passing across almost the entire length of the island along the north shore is a lovely trail to explore (you can do only one or two sections of the trail if you don't have time). The South Shore Park trail covers some of the prettiest pink beaches of the island.
Play a round of golf: If you are an avid golfer, then Bermuda must be the place for you. Leave aside courses designed by world renowned golfers & architects and unparalleled views, the Port Royal Golf Course is a dream for all golfers around the world as it is a prime venue for PGA Grand Slam.
By Raj Bhattacharya
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