Having sailed some 641 nautical miles from Norfolk on Silversea's Silver Shadow, we reached the delicate water-colored islands of Bermuda that are among the most beloved islands in the world. Under a "pink cloud of oleanders, the idyllic islands of Bermuda are framed by a shimmering turquoise ocean. Homes painted in pastel colors, and topped with white lime-washed roofs, line the flawless spun-sugar beaches of these breathtakingly beautiful islands.
A TURQUOISE OCEAN AND A FLAWLESS SPUN-SUGAR BEACH
The picture-postcard, lime-washed rooftops serve as purification plants for the Bermudian's water supply. The fact that there are no rivers or streams on the island makes Bermuda dependent on rainfall for water. If Bermudians run out of water, they simply have to buy it.
Bermuda's islands may be small, but they are very diverse in landscape. Every bend in the road reveals new vistas. Composed of lava, coral and sandy limestone, the Bermuda islands are built on the summit of an extinct volcano. The soft limestone, which is used for building, hardens when exposed to air and becomes more durable each year. The eight miles of sweeping pink beaches are a result of countless centuries of surf crushing and grinding the pink shells and coral.
THE BERMUDA ISLANDS ARE DIVERSE IN LANDSCAPE
Contrary to common errors, Bermuda is a secluded paradise in the Atlantic Ocean (not the Caribbean), some 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Actually, this 21-square mile area, which we collectively call the island of Bermuda, is a chain of approximately 138 small islands, connected by causeways and bridges.
And, contrary to another misconception, the Bermuda islands are quite different from the Caribbean islands. They are less tropical, cleaner, more formal and more expensive. If it's reggae and beach barbecues you crave, head for the Caribbean. But if you desire superb golfing, fine shopping, gourmet dining, pristine pink beaches, and upscale hotels on a manicured island, Bermuda is for you.
The Fairmont Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, a palatial "Pink Palace" and the reigning Grande Dame of Bermuda hotels, is Bermuda's oldest hotel (1885). It was named in honor of Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, who is credited with putting Bermuda on the map as a tourist destination. For more than a century, the Hamilton Princess has been the hotel of choice for discriminating guests including Mark Twain, Sir Winston Churchill, and Prince Charles. The Hamilton Princess, Bermuda's first waterfront hotel personifies what Bermuda is all about…courtesy, quality, and hospitality.
THE HAMILTON PRINCESS…BERMUDA'S "PINK PALACE"
The 1609 Bar & Restaurant, the hotel's dramatic harbourside dining experience, serves up one of the most spectacular views in Bermuda along with a memorable ginger and black rum drink called "Dark and Stormy". Following an extensive and exciting renovation at the hotel, Afternoon Tea at Crown & Anchor will continue the tradition that incorporates old English charm with the tropical setting of the island paradise of Bermuda.
A different kind of Tee Time is also available at the Hamilton Princess's sister hotel the Fairmont Southampton Princess. Reigning from atop Bermuda's highest point, and located on a majestic 100-acre estate, The Fairmont Southampton Princess has been one of the island's premier luxury resorts since it opened in 1972.
For golfers wanting to whack the little white ball around, yet have time left for sun and sand, the answer is found on the 18-hole, par-3 course, at the Fairmont Southampton Princess. The 2,684-yard links, ranked one of the top five par 3 courses in the world by Golf Magazine, are challenging enough for most recreational golfers. Atlantic breezes, rolling fairways, deceptive distances, more than 60 strategically place traps, sizeable water hazards, and lofty elevated tees, combine to give a challenging round.
SOUTHHAMPTON PRINCESS GOLF COURSE
Nature gave Bermuda the climate and terrain for challenging golf courses long before the game was ever invented. Bermuda golf is an unhurried, unmitigated pleasure, calculated to test your mettle. Some of the water hazards just happen to be the Atlantic Ocean. With distracting wide-sky and blue-sea scenery, it is difficult to keep your eye on the ball.
Surrounded by a turquoise blue sea, little wonder that water sports make up a good deal of the daytime activities in Bermuda. On, or in, the water you can make a splash with swimming, diving, snorkeling, whale watching, or boating. If you don't have your own boat to take you in and out of Bermuda's hidden coves, there are several other modes of transportation by which you can explore all the parishes on the island.
The government operates an efficient, inexpensive ferryboat service that is very relaxing. The laid-back, non-hustling Bermudians have an easy-going attitude about time. They keep the clock at the ferry terminal in Hamilton five minutes slow…so you won't miss the boat.
The taxi is the most convenient, but by far the most costly means of getting around the island. Courteous and knowledgeable drivers are proud to show you their jewel of an island. If you want to view the island from 362-feet above sea level, hop out of the taxi and climb the 185 stairs to the top of the Gibbs' Hill Lighthouse.
GIBBS' HILL LIGHTHOUSE
The most popular, yet most dangerous, means of transportation is the motor-assisted bicycle or the motor scooter. They hum along the left ("wrong") side of the road, often detouring for a magnificent view or ducking out for a secluded swim. The idea is great, but so is the accident rate.
The most romantic mode of transportation is a horse-drawn surrey with fringe on the top. They clip-clop along at a leisurely pace as jets whisper into the island's International Airport. With its myriad of moongates, under which you must steal a kiss, Bermuda is truly a romantic island.
AN UNUSUAL MOONGATE AT THE GIBBONS ESTATE
The friendliest way of seeing the island is on the funky pink buses. For a moderately priced transportation pass, you can visit the 17th century town of St. George's, quaint rural Somerset, or points of interest such as Gibb's Hill Lighthouse, the Maritime Museum, the Botanical Gardens and the world's smallest drawbridge.
VISIT THE 17TH CENTURY TOWN OF ST. GEORGE'S
The Somerset/Southampton Drawbridge, that connects Somerset and Southampton, has a 22-inch " raw" section that opens just enough to let the tall masts of ships pass through. This distinctive feature had made the Somerset/Southampton drawbridge the smallest drawbridge in the world.
THE SMALLEST DRAWBRIDGE IN THE WORLD
Whatever way you chose to tour the island, don't forget to greet Johnny Barnes, a living legend in Bermuda. Johnny is at the Crow Lane roundabout every weekday from 6 AM to 10 AM showering passerbys with waves, blown kisses, and a smile that could melt the heart of even the most jaded traveller. The islanders have erected a bronze statue honoring their beloved folk hero.
IN PERSON, OR IN BRONZE, JOHNNY BARNES MEETS AND GREETS ALL
You're sure to leave Bermuda with a bit of Johnny Barnes in your soul…smiling and greeting all you meet. As Johnny says, "it's the Bermuda way"!
JANET STEINBERG is an International Travel Consultant, Travel Writer, and the winner of 40 National Travel Writer Awards.