The Ultimate Vacation Guide to Bermuda
Bermuda has laid-back luxury, deep culture, and lots to do in a little package.
Bermuda is an outpost of Caribbean culture in the Atlantic, blended with British charm. The island’s proximity to the East Coast of the U.S. has made it a popular destination for cruise ships and honeymooners for more than half a century. Just 20 square miles in size, Bermuda can be easily explored end-to-end even on a weekend getaway, though the island’s many high-end hotels and resorts tempt you to slow down and stay put, Dark & Stormy cocktail in hand.
The Best Beaches in Bermuda
Bermuda is famous for pink sand beaches like the one at Horseshoe Bay, which also happens to be the most family-friendly beach on the island, with calm waters and lifeguards on duty all summer.
Related: 5 Secret Beaches in Bermuda
Other coral-colored Bermuda beaches include Tobacco Bay, which has good snorkeling, and resort-lined, reef protected Elbow Beach.
Warwick Long Bay has Bermuda’s longest beach, and its size, many coves, and relative seclusion make it easy to find some privacy with your toes in the sand.
The Best Things to Do in Bermuda
Hike or bike the Bermuda Railway Trail: The 18-mile-long former railroad right-of-way is the best way to get some activity into your itinerary. The trail runs nearly the entire length of the island, winding behind homes and through neighborhoods and passing by old train stations, nature preserves, spice forests, and beaches.
Visit the Royal Navy Dockyard: Much of the island’s nearly two centuries of history is captured at the National Museum of Bermuda, located in the Keep Fort of a massive Navy base once known as the “Gibraltar of the West.” Other historic buildings on this West End compound house the Bermuda Craft Market, and the Clocktower Mall—think local specialty shops, not Macy’s or Kohls—easily spied by the twin clock towers dating to 1856. Kids can slither through the innards of a giant green moray eel at the National Museum’s playground, touch hand to flipper at Dolphin Quest Bermuda, or trade strokes with mom and dad at Bermuda Fun Golf, a cross between mini-golf and a pitch-and-putt course.
Stick your pinky toes in some pink sand. Pink is everywhere in Bermuda, from the shorts traditionally worn by men at afternoon tea to the walls of the landmark Fairmont Southampton hotel and the sand that lines the island’s south shore. Horseshoe Bay is the most popular and famous of Bermuda’s pink sand beaches (walk west toward the coves and caves if the crowds become unbearable), but you’ll also find cheerfully hued strands at secluded Stonehole Bay and Astwood Cove, and the snorkler’s heaven of Church Bay.
Friday night Uber Vida Cruise: The 150-passenger yacht Uber Vida is usually reserved for private charters, but on Friday nights you can come aboard for one of three 1.5 to 2 hour cruises around Hamilton Harbour. If you really want to rock the boat, sign up for the 10 p.m. cruise, which trades the sunset views for an Ibiza-style dance party.
Best Restaurants and Bars
The Swizzle Inn in Bailey’s Bay is the birthplace of the potent Rum Swizzle and also houses the oldest bar on Bermuda (a second location on the south shore mimics the ambience but lacks the history). Opened in 1942, the former roadhouse has been expanded and evolved into one of Bermuda’s better places to watch a game, right down to the nachos, wings, pizza, and burgers on the menu.
The Frog and Onion is a bustling English pub built into the former Cooperage at the Royal Navy Dockyard that brews a half dozen of its own beers on site, including traditional bitters and porters. The menu
The Hog Penny Pub in Hamilton is a more intimate alternative with a similarly convivial atmosphere: the furnishings here were imported from various pubs all around the U.K., the draft Boddington’s is generously drawn in Imperial pints, and the welcoming vibe is the flip side of the dark days when a dividing line down the middle of the pub separated black and white patrons.
The Waterlot Inn is on the grounds of the Fairmont Southampton but was here long before the hotel: the former family home dates to 1670, and the restaurant’s reputation for hospitality—first as a tavern, and later for fine dining—dates back to the 1930s. Today the Waterlot reigns as Bermuda’s best steakhouse (even the tasting menus revolve around fine cuts of meat), but salads and fresh seafood will also satisfy any non-carnivores in your group.
Where the Waterlot skews traditional, Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s kitchen in his eponymous Marcus’ restaurant at the Hamilton Princess hotel lets it all hang out, with creative interpretations of classics like paella, steak frites, and jerk chicken with a Bermudian twist.
Every good island needs a great rum and a great sandwich: on Bermuda, it’s Goslings for the quaff and Art Mel’s Spicy Dicy for the quick bite. Locals and savvy tourists make the pilgrimage to St. Monica’s Road in residential North Shore Village to attack the mounds of local fried fish residing between slices of raisin bread in the Spicy Dicy’s famous fish sandwich—authentic, inexpensive, sharable, and possibly the most satisfying meal you’ll eat in Bermuda.
The Best Places to Shop in Bermuda
Front Street in the capital city of Hamilton is Bermuda’s prime shopping district, known for small shops selling high quality (if not necessarily inexpensive) goods from England and Ireland. The English Sports Shop is the place to pick out some authentic Bermuda shorts to go along with your blazer and tie (yes, that’s a thing in Bermuda), along with resort wear for men, women, and children. Iconic British department store Marks & Spencer proffers all of the above plus swimsuits, English tea, imported snacks, and a nice selection of imported wine. Boutique CC carries high-end women’s fashion and accessories from designers such as CAARA, Sanctuary, Sam Edelman, Fendi, Pucci, and Luisa Spagnoli. A.S. Cooper & Sons, a Front Street landmark since 1897, sells jewelry by local artists, prints from Bermudian photographer Roland Skinner, and clothing from Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Vineyard Vines, and other designers—all tax-free.
The Royal Navy Dockyard doubles as Bermuda’s cruise port, so of course you’ll find lots of retail options here, notably at the Clock Tower Mall. It’s not the tacky t-shirt experience you might expect: the shops sell a nice selection of craft goods, including hanging Bermuda lanterns from the Grand Bazaar, collectables carved from local cedar at the Littlest Drawbridge Shop, and hand-thrown pottery at Bermuda Clayworks (now known as the Jon Faulkner Gallery).
The Bermuda Rum Cake Company, also at the Dockyard, has an intoxicating variety of baked goods to sample, from the classic lemon and vanilla flavored rum cake to banana, chocolate, coconut, and ginger varieties. Sample them all, pick your favorite, or pack a six-pack to take home.
Finally, Lili Bermuda’s Perfumery in St. George sells dozens of locally made fragrances for men and women, each hand-blended by resident perfumer Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone.
Hotels and Resorts in Bermuda
The Fairmont Southampton is the grand dame of Bermuda hotels, resplendent in pink among 100 acres of lush landscaping and golf links, with a private beach club and spa. The Hamilton Princess used to be a little sheepish about its urban location; a $100 million makeover completed in 2016 makes it an asset with the addition of a spa, art collection, and—critically—a new private beach club, all an easy walk from the shops and restaurants on Front Street in downtown Hamilton.
Just minutes away from the buzz in Hamilton, Rosedon Hotel has just emerged from a tip-to-toe renovation and is donning a brand new Relais & Châteaux status, 40 gloriously reimagined guest rooms, and a sustainable culinary and wine program.
A newcomer by Bermuda standards, the Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort & Spa has just 45 suites and studios and an infinity pool that overlooks Hamilton Harbor. The Elbow Beach Resort is small enough (98 rooms) to feel intimate but has the amenities of a big resort—pool, spa, tennis, multiple restaurants, and a private beach.