With winter weather turning skies gray, a Caribbean vacation has never looked more tempting. Why not head to Bermuda? Here are some great vacation tips to help you enjoy this small but stunning sub-tropical island located just 650 miles off the Southeastern U.S. coast.
Get on the Greens
With seven play-able golf courses and one golf academy spread across 21 square miles, Bermuda is proud to have more golf courses per capita than any other place in the world. The newest course on the island is the resort course Belmont Hills. St. George’s on the eastern coast is currently closed, but will reopen as a Nick Faldo course some time in 2012, bringing the total number to eight. Port Royal Golf Course on the west side of the island is reopening for play early this summer, after a complete redesign. Port Royal is a government-owned course, as is Ocean’s View on the north shore of the island. Tee times can be reserved at (441) 295-9092. All the other courses on the island are semi-private resort courses.
Bermuda is famous among Caribbean vacation destinations for its pink sand beaches. Ninety-five percent of the island’s beaches — including most of the pink sand ones — are freely accessible to the public. The most famous is probably Horseshoe Bay in Southampton. Blue water laps up on rosy sand and swirls around the impressive chunks of limestone that create a natural border. Families, retirees and honeymooners relax on chaise lounges and snorkel the crystalline cove. Beach facilities include a sundries shop, snorkel gear rental, and a lifeguard in the summer months. Other beautiful public beaches include Shelly Bay (great for kids) and Elbow Beach (popular with windsurfers and sunbathers alike). If you want something a bit more engaging than a lazy beach day, check out Snorkel Park in the Royal Naval Dockyard. Bermuda’s newest big beachfront attraction, it features snorkeling, sailboats, kayaks, a giant water slide and all kinds of other aquatic entertainment. The onsite restaurant throws beach parties during the summer.
Bermuda is the oldest existing British colony in the West. Thanks to this heritage, the island retains many British influences and traditions, from mid-afternoon tea & crumpets to the formal/conservative dinner dress code still enforced at finer restaurants on the island. Both of the Fairmont hotels on the island do traditional afternoon tea service. The Fairmont Hamilton Pricess is more of an occasion — it’s been lauded as one of the ten best high teas in the world, in fact. This dressed-up mid-afternoon event features fresh-baked pastries, housemade sorbet, and a special Princess Bermuda Blend Tea.
Go Luxe on the South Shore
If it’s a luxury Caribbean vacation you’re after, the stunning hotels on Bermuda’s south shore offer all the barefoot bliss and Colonial-inspired elegance you could desire. Tucker’s Point is the latest entry into the luxe market — and it is a stunner, with a 14,000 square foot spa, an 18-hole golf course (opened in 2002), a lounge dedicated to high tea service, and ensuite wet bars and fireplaces. However, established resorts continue to improve their offerings — just look at 2008’s multi-million-dollar makeover of the kitchens and restaurants at The Reefs, or the new oceanfront spa at Elbow Beach Bermuda by Mandarin Oriental.
Or Relax on the East
Modern hustle and bustle has not yet encroached too much on Bermuda’s quiet Eastern shore — and hotels like Aunt Nea’s Inn in historic Olde Towne seem a throwback to yester-century. Snorkel Tobacco Bay, or visit the quaint Bermuda Perfumery in its new location at Stewart Hall.
Consider a Cruise
Bermuda cruises have always been popular, due to the island's temperate weather and proximity to major northeastern cities. Cruising also tends to be a good value proposition, since even luxury liners have a packaged price that’s much less than airfare plus multi-night hotel stays and meals at a four-star property. Since Bermuda is a single destination with multiple cruise ship ports, it lends itself to multi-night stopovers. This allows passengers to explore at a more relaxed pace — have a restaurant dinner, or play a full day of golf followed by drinks at the clubhouse. In 2009, Holland America introduces a new seven-day itinerary departing out of New York and staying for multiple nights in Hamilton and St. Georges. Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas does a five-night trip from Boston that includes two nights at King’s Wharf. April 2009 saw a second cruise pier named Heritage Wharf open adjacent to the original King’s Wharf pier at Royal Naval Dockyard on the West End.
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Lena Katz lives on the Left Coast and writes about tropical islands, beach clubs and food, but her heart belongs to NYC.