Wednesday, 02 September 2015 16:36

Bermuda Bonanza

Written by  Melanie Reffes
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Steeped in British tradition and tinged with Caribbean charm, Bermuda is a fish-hook shaped string of 181 islands, islets and rocks; most of them uninhabited and some so small there is only room for the birds to build their nests in the trees. Anchored in the Atlantic Ocean 650 miles east of North Carolina, temperatures rarely reach the nineties and high season is from April to November.

Salt-in-the-air and sand-in-the-hair beaches are pink and there are more golf courses per square mile than anywhere else in the world, including Port Royal; the longest with 18 holes over 6,842 manicured yards. You won’t find a neon sign or billboard, rental cars are prohibited and fast food joints are banned - except KFC which set up shop before the government decreed that all businesses have to be locally-owned. Infamous for the Bermuda Triangle and the shipwrecks that lie on the ocean floor, the island is famous for Bermuda shorts, Bermuda onions and homes painted in pastel colors. Finding inspiration on the island, novelist Mark Twain said it right when he noted, “You can go to heaven if you want. I’d rather stay in Bermuda.”

Regal On The Reefs
There are about 2,000 hotel rooms on the island. Sixty-two of the prettiest are perched on a cliff above a pink sand beach in the pinky peach Reefs Resort. Owned by the Dodwell family for more than three decades, you can count on a warm welcome. Upscale but not stuffy, rooms and suites are all with ocean views, patios and breakfast. A freshwater infinity pool, gratis water sports and tennis courts keep guests busy and for the ultimate relaxation; try a snooze in the hammock or the La Serena Spa with its own moon gate and stash of the exclusive Elemis of London products.
For a nibble and a nosh, afternoon tea is poured (yes, crust-less sandwiches are served). Tuesday evening is for wine tastings, and a ‘Coconut Colada’ with a honey and toasted coconut rim is on the menu at the open-air Coconuts.

Long And Shorts Of It
Tourists might find the sight of a businessman in pink shorts, blazer and tie amusing, but as the national dress of the island, Bermuda shorts are not only worn in the boardroom but also by police officers, in the House of Assembly and by just about everybody else. The classic shorts are cuffed one to three inches above the knee  and worn with dark knee socks, dressy shoes, short-sleeved shirt and dark blazer. Considered appropriate business attire for men, the iconic shorts originated with the British Army who designed them for their officers stationed in the tropics. During the Second World War when there was a clothing shortage on the island, two banks in Bermuda asked a local tailor to make the same shorts for their male employees. Originally stitched from itchy grey flannel, each bank employee was given two pairs of heavy grey woolen socks to complete the outfit. To make them more comfortable in the heat, the shorts were eventually made of lighter materials and today come in the colors of the rainbow. Etiquette dictates the shorts should be a different color from the blazer and worn only between April and November. A straw hat is optional. Biggest selection is at the English Sports Shop and A.S. Cooper & Sons on Front Street in Hamilton.

Pretty In Pink
If pink sandy beaches are what you’re looking for, head to the south coast where most of them are. The sand is pinkish courtesy of crushed coral that when mixed with tiny seashells results in a pinky hue. Favorite slivers include Astwood Cove that is remote enough to keep the crowds at bay and fabulous enough for weddings, and John Smith’s Bay that is carpeted with that pretty pink sand. Family-friendly with lifeguards, water sports and a snack hut, the beach at Horseshoe Bay is a gentle crescent between craggy rock outcrops. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Bermuda Sand Sculpture Competition, held this year on September 5th.
Check out the one-mile trail that connects Horseshoe Bay to Warwick Long Bay; a quieter no-frills stretch with a jagged offshore coral island that looks like it’s floating above the water. On the east coast, Tobacco Bay earned its name when survivors of the seventeenth-century English sailing ship Sea Venture discovered tobacco plants growing near the beach. The most popular strip in St. George’s, the limestone formations are eye-catchers and below the waves, parrotfish and sergeant majors are the main attractions. Blue and white sun loungers rent for $15.00 per day and a dip is like a soak in a bathtub.

Walk In The Park
On the southeast tip of the island, Cooper’s Island has an intriguing past. The nature reserve with shallow water beaches, sand dunes, pine and palm trees and rocky shorelines was used in 1941 by the US Army to store ammo bunkers and underground tanks. Years later, the Air Force set up shop as did the Navy, leaving behind an anchor that can still be seen near one of the beaches. NASA arrived in 1960 to gather tracking data from its spacecraft. Interestingly, there was a McDonalds on the base; the one and only ever in Bermuda. A restricted area until 1995 when the base (and McDonalds) closed, the US gave the land back to the Bermudian government in 2001 and today Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve is open to the public who come to swim, picnic, bird watch, snorkel and do pleasantly nothing on a sunny day. Remnants of the old bunkers and buildings remain and exploring is fun even for non-history buffs. Accessible only on foot, there is no admission price, no cars or pets allowed, and barely any people.
Quiet beaches like Clearwater Beach Park are ideal for families and for turtle spotting; Fort Hill Bay Beach, Well Bay Beach and Turtle Bay Beach are the only beaches where the Loggerhead turtle has successfully hatched eggs in Bermuda in the 20th century. To get there, hire a taxi to the perimeter, book a boat excursion or hop bus #6 from St. George’s, walk west along Ruth’s Bay Road to Orange Hole Road and you’ll see Cooper’s Island Road.

Moon Gate Magic
Anyone with a little romance in her (or his) soul will be fascinated by the many moon gates that dot the island. As the story goes, a Bermudian sea captain built the first moon gate in 1860 after seeing one in China. Often decorated with colorful blooms, locals believe a bright future follows couples who are photographed in front of one of the horseshoe-shaped limestone passageways, or newlyweds who step through them. More local legend has it that a kiss under a moon gate brings good luck. One of the most photographed, the moon gate at Palm Grove Gardens is owned by the wealthy Gibbons family, and open to the public weekdays from Monday to Thursday and for weddings by request.

Menu Magic
The newest kid on the culinary block, celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson of New York’s Red Rooster Harlem fame has done it again in his namesake restaurant in the former ballroom at the Hamilton Princess. The fusion mash-up menu of British, Caribbean and Portuguese flavors start with an addictive bowl of spicy nuts, fried olives and dried cherries that pair nicely with a Kir Kir champagne and watermelon cocktail or a Colada Colada with rum, mango, lime and mint. Move on up to Steak Frites with parmesan fries, green beans and a creamy bearnaise sauce, a bowl of Bermuda onions, blackened fish with grits and pepper jam and to share; ceviche made with a local white fish called Amber Jack. Skip dessert tomorrow and go for the fresh berries and sorbet. Light and airy with an open kitchen presided over by New Jersey native Chef Leo Marino, the way-too-cool hot spot hovers over the Atlantic Ocean with seating on the wraparound terrace.

Swizzle and Swagger
The oldest pub in the island, Swizzle Inn on Bailey’s Bay near the Crystal Caves, opened in 1932 in a 17th century roadside house. Family-owned for generations and with a guest book that dates back to 1942, the Inn also lays claim to inventing Bermuda’s national drink. Aptly christened ‘The Rum Swizzle’ a generous mix of powerhouse rums like Goslings Black Seal, orange, lemon and pineapple juices is poured into a pitcher, strained into cocktail glasses and priced at $7.50 for a glass and $23.75 for a jug. Chefs here also make a mean fish sandwich like the ‘Back O’ Town’ with spicy slaw. Rustic and charming, the walls and ceiling are decorated with thousands of business cards and scribbled signatures from happy sippers. A second Swizzle is open at 87 South Road in Warwick Parish.

Part hippie and part farmer, Tom Wadson opened his farm in 1976 with a five thousand dollar loan and a sense of humor. “I used the money to buy tools and a few bottles of rum,“ he quips as he shows tourists the greenhouse where he grows ten kinds of hydroponic lettuce. Fifty vegetable, herb and fruit crops also grow on the farm which includes a small market.Pigs, chickens and sheep live on the farm as do geese and ducks at Christmas and other special times of the year. Tours are offered for $6.00 per person with reservations needed (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). New on the farm, ‘Wadson’s Farm-to-Table’ starts with a tour and wraps up with a sumptuous dinner prepared by The Reefs Resort Chef Doug Sisk. The tour and dinner is offered Tuesday nights at The Reefs for $150.00, per person. or

To The Beach, Please
Measuring twenty-one square miles, it’s easy to get from one end of the island to the other on a pink and blue Bermuda Breeze bus (a day pass goes for $19.00), rented scooter (remember to scoot on the left side of the road), ferry from Hamilton, St. George and the Dockyard or you can hire a taxi driver who is also a tour guide. Larry Rogers is one of those Blue Flag guides and for $50 an hour, he’ll take up to four people on a tour pointing out the moon gates, pink beaches, hip happy hours and if you ask nicely, he’ll show you where actor Michael Douglas and his family lives (in one of the Arial Sands Villas) and where former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg plays golf. (Mid Ocean Club). This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

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