The United flight out of Newark departed at 11:38am, and after just two hours and nine minutes of “butt in seat” time, we landed in Bermuda. Until this past year, I can’t say that I had ever paid this island much attention. I knew about its beautiful beaches, its British heritage, and its temperate climate. I even admired locals who had the “courage” to wear Bermuda shorts and knee high socks. But beyond this, my knowledge of Bermuda was blatantly shallow. So I had traveled to the island for the beginning of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, a series of races that determines each team's starting score at the America's Cup Qualifiers for 2017.
I arrived Friday afternoon, a day before the races were schedueld to start, and spent the afternoon with friends on their 40-foot boat. With rum swizzles and Dark n’ Stormies in hand, we cruised through the tranquil waters on the western side of the island. We passed Bermuda's outer islands, where locals spend their weekend camping out, and stopped at a platform built on a raised rock, where some of my more daring companions leapt into the water. And we paused to watch a lone sea turtle swimming amongst the reeds in the shallows.
As the sun sank below the horizon, we docked in front of the newly renovated Hamilton Princess hotel in downtown Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital. The city was abuzz with pre-race excitement. Front Street, Hamilton’s waterfront drag, was closed to traffic, and it seemed like the entire island was there milling about, shopping, drinking, and socializing. After drinks and passed appetizers at Club AC (as in America’s Cup), we went back to the Hamilton Princess for a final final. Marcus Samuelsson's eponymous restaurant, which opened in the hotel over the summer, was filled with a hip and energetic crowd, and everyone, including the energetic staff, was having fun.
The next morning, before the races started, I headed to Southampton to tour The Reefs, an AFAR Collection hotel. I had never visited this “proud, 4-star hotel,” and loved the welcoming staff and its location right on the water. The rooms are island basic but include lovely touches like comfy beds and newly renovated bathrooms. As I looked around, I noticed that many of the guests on property seemed extra friendly, always greeting me when I passed. When I asked David Dodwell, whose father bought the property in the 80’s, why everyone said hello, he told me that it was because they feel like The Reefs is their home. In fact, many of the guests are repeat visitors. “People love coming back,” David told me. One couple had even visited the hotel more than 150 times.
After my tour, I headed back to Hamilton for the races. I had been invited by Emirates Airline to spend the day on the Chaos, a yacht chartered by the Emirates Team New Zealand to host their crew and their sponsors. With the winds consistently under six knots (too calm for racing), the races were postponed, and we ended up getting to spend the day with the crew. The Chaos had a satellite feed of the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals against France, and the guys loved watching the All Blacks put a record-breaking hurt on the French team. (If there is one thing the Kiwis love more than sailing, it is "footie," as they call it.)
Race or no race, it seemed like most of Bermuda was out on the water having a ball. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for races the next day (I had already scheduled my flight home), but looking out over the water, I knew I'd return to Bermuda soon.
Quick Tips for Visiting Bermuda
Currency: You don’t need to change your American dollars to visit Bermuda. The Bermudan dollar is pegged 1-1 to the American dollar, and nearly everyone will accept either currency.
Orientation: Think about what part of the island you want to stay in. It is not a big island, and you can get most anywhere within an hour’s cab ride at the most, but there are three distinct areas you might want to focus on as a home base: Hamilton, the island's capital, is also it's bustling heart and is home to lots of shops, restaurants, and museums; Southampton, an area famous for its beaches, is ideal for outdoor activities from swimming to golf; and St. George, the island's former capital on St. George's Island, is smaller than Hamilton but offers plenty of opportunity for eating, drinkingand exploring historic sites (not to mention water sports).
Stay: Accomodations range from large resorts, like the Fairmont Southampton and Fairmont Princess (in Hamilton), to smaller boutique hotels, such as The Reefs, Rosewood Tucker’s Point, and Elbow Beach Resort, to private homes available through VRBO. If you go, make sure to book in advance, particularly around race dates.
Activities: The beaches in Bermuda are gorgeous, and in most places the water stays shallow far from shore. In addition to boating, you can go swimming, jet skiing, snorkeling, and fishing. And if you want to stay dry, you can go golfing, see historic sites, or shop and eat in the islands pictureque towns. AFAR has put together some itineraries, from romantic trips, to culinary adventures, girlfriends’ outings, and guys' weekends, as well as insider’s tips to help make your trip memorable. To check out our itineraries (and the travel agents who can book them for you) visit Afar Journeys.
Weather: Bermuda has a humid subtropical climate, but does get cooler than its Caribbean counterparts. Temperatures in January, February, and March average around 63F. Mid-August temperatures (during the summer high season) rarely exceed 86F, but there's plenty of humidity.