Bermuda is an island of surprises. It often gets lumped together with Caribbean destinations, even though its mid-Atlantic location is closer to the Carolinas than the Caribbean. And travelers who have yet to visit may be surprised to find that the easy rhythms of island life are uniquely paired with a decidedly British flair here.
Want to learn more? Here are five facts about Bermuda that might surprise you and then get to know the island firsthand by booking one of the itineraries to Bermuda created by AFAR’s Travel Advisory Council which can be found at AFAR Journeys.
The British Settled Here Before the Pilgrims Came to America
Many people think the pilgrims were the first people to settle in America, but by the time the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, the British colony on Bermuda had already been established for eight years. In fact, the British sailors who built St. George’s—originally called New London—were actually en route to the British settlement of Jamestown, in Virginia, which had been settled a few years earlier. Jamestown didn’t last, but St. George’s did. Today it’s the oldest continuously inhabited British settlement in the New World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historic buildings, like the State House and Their Majesties Chappell, St. Peter’s Church.
Its Waters Hold More Than 300 Shipwrecks
As the northern tip of the infamous Bermuda Triangle, the waters around Bermuda have been the site of hundreds of shipwrecks since the Sea Venture ran aground, leading to the first British settlement and also providing the inspiration for Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Today, Bermuda is one of the most popular spots in the world for wreck dives, with an estimated 300 sites around the island. While some historic wrecks are principally archeological sites, 20th-century wrecks like the Hermes and Cristobol Colon remain largely intact, offering thrilling underwater adventures.
Cars Were Banned Until 1946
When automobiles first came on the scene in the early 1900s, Bermuda’s House of Assembly worried that they would disturb the peace and quiet of the island and banned them from Bermuda. Over the next couple decades it became clear that islanders needed reliable cross-island transport, and the Bermuda Railway was the solution. The 22-mile track had a line from the capital of Hamilton to St. George’s, and another from Hamilton to Somerset, but it only operated for 17 years. Vestiges of the ban on cars remain, as even today visitors are discouraged from using them—there are no car rentals available in Bermuda. Visitors can explore the island on motor scooters, bicycles and you can still traverse the island along the railroad’s path, which has been converted to a scenic trail for hikers and bikers.
Bermuda Shorts are Considered Formal Wear
As a British colony, Bermuda retains much of its English sense of decorum, despite the laid-back island setting. And one of the most notable adaptations, allowing residents to maintain formal dress traditions without overheating in the warm climate, is the eponymous Bermuda shorts. Bermudian men have them expertly tailored, as one would a pair of slacks. For formal events, the “Bermuda rig” is de rigueur, consisting of pastel-colored Bermuda shorts with a dark blazer, tie and black knee-high socks with dress shoes.
Bermuda Has the World’s Highest Density of Golf Courses
Perhaps not surprising for a British colony that prides itself on its genteel atmosphere, Bermuda is a haven for golfers, boasting the most courses per square mile of any place in the world. Many of Bermuda’s most renowned courses have been recently revitalized, starting in 2002 when the ultra-exclusive Tucker’s Point Golf Club received a makeover. More recently, the Port Royal Golf Course was revamped in 2009, just in time for that year’s PGA Grand Slam of Golf.