The Best Things to Do in Bermuda
It’s only 22 miles long, but Bermuda fits a lot into one small island with attractions from underground caverns to its famous pink-sand beaches. The island has some of the best golf courses in the world, and world-class sport-fishing—or delve into Bermuda’s history with a visit to one of its old churches.
60 South Shore Road, Paget PG 04, Bermuda
As is true of many stretches of sand on the island, Elbow Beach is named for its shape. The half-mile expanse sits in front of one of Bermuda’s most iconic hotels, the tony Elbow Beach Resort. Thanks to an offshore reef, the crystalline waters are calm and perfect for snorkeling. There’s also a shipwreck about 100 yards out that teems with colorful sea life. Amenities include a dive center offering kayak and paddleboard rentals. A lunch wagon (the local name for a food truck) often sets up here to cater to hungry swimmers and sunbathers, and you can also often find an umbrella-and-lounger-rental outpost. For the ultimate indulgence, book a treatment at the hotel’s oceanfront spa.
From the outside, with its whitewashed facade and louvered windows, this Anglican house of worship in the center of St. George’s is a postcard British-colonial church. Its founding dates back to the earliest months of English settlement on the island (the town of St. George’s was established by the Virginia Company in 1612), though the oldest surviving portions of the structure are from 1620. It also claims the distinction of being the oldest continuously active Protestant church in the Western Hemisphere. Inside the ancient cedar doors is an homage to Bermuda’s maritime roots: The ceiling, also carved of cedar, echoes the ribs of a ship’s hull. A portion of the cemetery designated for the burial of slaves prior to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833 is part of the island’s African Diaspora Heritage Trail.
16 Point Finger Road
Bermuda’s Botanical Gardens, established in 1898, sit on 36 acres in Paget Parish and are home to hundreds of flora species. There’s an impressive collection of orchids, along with hibiscus, fruit trees, and a palm garden. Site highlights include the sensory garden, the mighty Bermuda cedar trees, and the freesia flowers that (perhaps) inspired the title of John Lennon’s album Double Fantasy. Three times a week, 90-minute guided tours are offered, while entry is free every day. Located on the grounds is Camden House, an early-18th-century Georgian home that is the official residence of Bermuda’s premier (though it is currently used only for official functions).
8 Crystal Caves Road, Hamilton Parish CR 04, Bermuda
Along with pink sands and green golf courses, these subterranean grottoes are among Bermuda‘s iconic sites. First discovered in 1907 by the same family who still owns them, the caverns have spectacular crystal formations, crystalline pools, and underground waterways. Guided tours of the Crystal Cave, which measures more than 1,600 feet long and more than 200 feet deep, explain the differences between stalagmites and stalactites as well as the science behind the impressive underwater formations. A visit to the adjacent Fantasy Cave, which is deeper still, is included in the ticket price.
3 Burnaby St, Hamilton, Bermuda
For yogis, practicing while on vacation is a must-do. On Bermuda, a pretty sea view can be a bonus with every eagle, warrior, and downward-dog pose. On the west side of Hamilton, practitioners can take their poses on the water with SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboard) Yoga at Lucky Elephant Wellness. The hour-long session includes pranayama (breath work) and postures performed on wide, slip-resistant boards. It’s all bookended with a paddle to and from the practice point. The only requirement is competence in swimming; for those new to stand-up paddleboarding—or yoga—the boards can be tethered for more stability. Private paddleboard lessons are also available here if you want to get more comfortable on the sea.
Until 1948, a train traveled the length of Bermuda from east to west, some 22 miles. Just over 15 years later the process of converting the rail lines into a paved path for bikers and walkers began, and now 18 miles are open to the public. It is most often explored in stages, whether on bike, horse, or foot, as it winds past thick vegetation, over centuries-old bridges, and through tunnels—even hugging the coastline in some sections. A particularly pretty stretch is the two-mile route between Somerset Village and Somerset Bridge, often considered the smallest drawbridge in the world.
29 Church St, Hamilton, Bermuda
With soaring arches, stained-glass windows, and details carved from stone imported from France, Bermuda’s Anglican cathedral is a bit of Gothic grandeur in the heart of Hamilton. Scottish architect William Hay was responsible for the design and construction of the grand building. After two fires—one of them a case of arson—the edifice was officially consecrated in 1911. Climb the bell tower’s 155 stairs for panoramic views that stretch from the city to the Royal Naval Dockyard and the north shore.
West Whale Bay, Bermuda
Beaches in Bermuda range from popular, people-watching spots to secluded and serene strands. When it’s time to get away from it all, consider heading to one of these small and secluded, yet incredibly scenic, strips of sand. West Whale Bay Beach, in Southampton Parish, gets its name from, interestingly enough, actual whales. In March and April migrating whales can be seen from its shores. The water is pretty shallow at low tide, and you can float far out into the sapphire sea and enjoy the coral reefs. Whale Bay is one of those off-the-beaten-path Bermuda beaches – you must trek across a field and navigate a rather large rock formation - but once you see the view, you’ll be happy you took the extra effort to find it. For the ultimate in seclusion and romance, go at sunset. Two adjoining beaches on the South Shore, Chaplin Bay and Stonehole Bay, are so small they often disappear at high tide. East of Horseshoe Bay, they back up to the grassy green of South Shore Park. Limestone rock formations stretch across the pink beach, and the shoreline can be quite rocky. Check out the sunset scene and don’t forget your water shoes.
Moongates are of Chinese origin and thought to bring good luck to those who pass through them. You’ll see moongates tucked all over the island of Bermuda, but a personal favorite is located in Somers Garden in St. George’s. This particular moongate is set among towering palms and a nice assortment of tropical plants and flowers. It’s a relaxing place to visit, hidden away from the bright sun and tourist crowds that can overwhelm the island in the busy tourist season. The garden is open daily and there is no fee to enter.
The best way to orient yourself after landing in Bermuda is to head straight to the shoreline and board the Coral Sea, a dual deck glass-bottom boat. Sunny, Ed, and Mikey from Captain Kirk’s Coral Reef Adventures steer the ship through the Great Sound and under the island’s largest/longest bridge, past the sunken wreck, the H.M.S. Vixen, and out into the Bermuda Triangle. After explaining a bit about the history, geography and culture of the island, you’re free to wander the ship. Sip a rum swizzle while you peer into the turquoise blue waters and watch hundreds of neon color fish swim below.