When you are looking for a vacation spot and do not wish to travel far, you only need look on the western edge of the Sargasso Sea, a short distance off the coast of South Carolina and you will see the pink sandy beaches of Bermuda. Settled in 1612, the island is the oldest and most populous remaining British overseas territory.
The capital of Hamilton is a quaint, yet cosmopolitan city, with many hotels, shops and very flavoursome restaurants. The most famous lodging is the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, a giant, pink, concrete structure built in 1885 and named for one of Queen Victoria’s daughters. The 410 rooms are filled with luxury and the views are splendid.
If, however, you are more inclined to get away from the hustle and bustle of people traffic you may wish to try one of dozens of smaller, bed and breakfast inns conveniently located throughout Hamilton. I do not normally recommend accommodation, as everyone’s tastes are different, but I must mention the Rosedon Hotel.
The quaint white with blue shuttered plantation house dates back to the turn of the last century and has only 44 rooms. I found pure relaxation enjoying afternoon tea on the spacious front verandah overlooking the gardens and for a short while it felt as if I had been transported back in time to an era when Britain ruled the seven seas and pirates walked the streets.
Bermuda’s climate is somewhat deceiving. I travelled there in March and was surprised how cool it was. Temperatures hovered in the very low teens; however a light jacket sufficed, accompanied by a pair of ‘Bermuda Shorts’.
Everywhere in the Hamilton area is walking distance and the modern harbour is home to luxurious private yachts and hosts many cruise ships, as their passengers visit the colonial city. Front Street, the main shopping street of Hamilton, is now a bustle of bicycles, mopeds and small automobiles, but prior to 1946 cars were not allowed on the island. Private homes are well maintained and painted in a variety of colours.
Most of the island towns can be seen on foot, which are connected with dependable and regular short bus rides. Areas not to be missed include Fort Hamilton on the eastern outskirts of the city. Dating back to 1870 the fort was outdated before it was finished and never fired a single shot. It does however; offer panoramic views of Hamilton harbour and the city.
King’s Square, in the centre of the town of St. George, on the eastern side of the island, is the site of the first landing by settlers when their ship the Sea Venture collided with the rocks along the shore. Today you can enjoy a refreshing drink in the Whitehorse tavern while enjoying pictorial views and local history.
The rooftops of most of the buildings in Bermuda are made from Bermudian slate adding to the picturesque countryside. An area not to be missed is the Crystal caves, discovered in 1907 by two boys playing ball. The caves with their strange formations are 40 metres underground. In 2001 the Fantasy cave, a virtual jewel box filled from top to bottom with formations, was reopened as the showpiece of the attraction.
At the other end of the island lies the Royal Navy dockyard, a former navy barrack, which is now a shopping complex. Here you will have an opportunity to swim with dolphins or simply stroll through the ancient stronghold. 68 Cannons protected the fort and each was capable of firing 15 kg. balls a distance of 2 kilometres.
Probably the most photographed sight in Bermuda is the Natural Arches. A series of strange, craggy rock formations are shaped from limestone and coral and attract most visitors. Towns such as picturesque Somerset and scenic Flatt’s dot the shoreline and feature wonderful cuisine and charming vistas. The south shore of the island is a golfer’s paradise. Bermuda’s tax laws attract many financial corporations and golf is usually a major part of the itinerary.
Bermuda is an example of Britain’s pomp and circumstance. It is clean, charismatic and quaint and offers all the modern amenities one could hope for. Bring your wallet, as luxury has its price, but if you are looking for a great destination only three hours from home (four from Port Perry) Bermuda is calling you.
Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit photosNtravel.com