Among the misconceptions that many Americans have about Bermuda is that it’s a tropical island; some think it’s part of the Caribbean. Actually, the island grouping known as Bermuda is due east of North Carolina—much north of the Caribbean—and is officially classified as subtropical. Because of the Gulf Stream, however, temperatures usually stay in a moderate range between the high 60s and the mid-80s.
I went in November with family members on a cruise that was to include a three-day stay in Bermuda. Hurricane Sean forced us to cut the visit short so that we were docked in Bermuda—which is in a hurricane-prone region—a little less than 24 hours. To make the most of our time there we took a taxi tour.
Car rental companies, we were told, don’t rent to Americans, who often have accidents when they forget that in Bermuda one drives on the left side of the road. The taxi tour turned out to be a good way to go. Our driver was a native Bermudian and because my family made up a group he customized the tour to suit our interests.
Whether one is interested in history or natural beauty—we enjoy both—there’s plenty to see in Bermuda, where European, American and African influences come together in a unique and fascinating way. First discovered by the Spanish, Bermuda has been in British hands since the early 17th century. It’s the oldest and most populous remaining British overseas territory. Although it’s not a Caribbean island, West Indies immigration throughout the 20th century has left its mark on the culture of Bermuda.
Even when one’s time is limited, as ours was, it’s possible to have a full day of exciting sights. Here are some of our highlights:
The older sections that reflect life from Bermuda’s early days. Our tour guide took us to a tiny more-than-200-year-old church (15 people would have crowded the sanctuary) that still holds regular services. A rustic cross overlooks the coastline below.
The modern cities. We drove through Hamilton, the capital, for a look at the sleek modern structures that reflect Bermuda’s place as a thriving off-shore finance center. Because it was November, most locals wore long pants, but our guide assured us that in summer everyone from attorneys to postal workers could be seen in the famous Bermuda shorts.
The old forts. For an island grouping its size, Bermuda has a large number of old forts—nearly 100—many now preserved in park-like settings. Fort Hamilton, near the city of Hamilton, where we visited is a perfect example. Old cannons and other armaments recall Bermuda’s role in military events that include the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the American Civil War.
The beaches. Famous for its pink-sand beaches, Bermuda picks up the theme color everywhere with pink buses, pink buildings, pink walls. It’s not just the unusual sand color—caused by coral mixed with white sand—that make Bermuda’s beaches beautiful. The sparkling topaz water’s proximity to rolling flower-covered hills make the beaches special as well.
Royal Naval Dockyard on Ireland Island. Those who come by cruise ship are unlikely to miss this historic naval dockyard complex as that’s where the large cruise ships come in. But it’s worth a visit no matter how one arrives in Bermuda.
The winding mountain roads. Views from nearly anywhere in Bermuda’s hills are stunning, whether one is looking down on the coastline, the unusual architecture or the seemingly endless variety of plant life.
If you’re lucky enough to spend more time in Bermuda, a half-day tour like the one we took is a good way to get a quick overview so you can decide where you’d like to go back and spend more time. I’m betting the gorgeous beaches will be on your list.
If you go, visit Bermuda.com for a listing of hotels, restaurants, attractions, special events and more.