Legendary author Mark Twain was anything but wishy-washy about Bermuda. From 1867 to 1910 he spent long holidays there often referring to it as a tourist paradise and a social Eden. It was clearly his favourite place on earth which he consistently called his second home.

Over the years, millions of others have likewise been smitten by this sub-tropical island where 75 miles of coastline is punctuated by unique pink sand beaches. In addition, its distinct British flavour is the core of its character.

With early European explorers seeking to establish lands in the New World, Bermuda could easily have ended up becoming Spanish or French had it not been for a storm that shipwrecked a boat load of British colonists on its shores. This unplanned landfall in 1608 (the colonists were on their way to an established settlement in Jamestown, Virginia) marked the beginning of island country it became. Covering a mere 21 sq. miles and lying in the Atlantic Ocean 650 miles east of North Carolina, it remains to this day an overseas territory of the UK.

In many ways Bermuda is like a little England. British pubs, uniformed Bobbies directing traffic, shops selling goods direct from the auld sod, together with judges in black robes and powdered wigs are features that create a “forever England” flavour.

The other half of the island’s character is defined by lush Caribbean-type flowers and greenery, pretty pastel-coloured homes, silky sand beaches and men in Bermuda shorts and knee socks.

This charming dual personality plus a pleasant climate, a grand selection of hotels and resorts, and several premier golf courses, have contributed to making the island a perennially popular vacation destination.

Bermuda is divided into nine different parishes and its two main centres are Hamilton, its capital, and the historic town of St. George. It’s entirely possible to travel the island end-to-end in a very short period of time; however, exploring its many layers of things to see and do can take several days.

Getting around

To protect the island from air pollution, rental cars are not available.

Instead, one of the most popular ways to see Bermuda is on a rental scooter, moped or bicycle and just like England, driving here is on the left side of the road. People not comfortable with operating a scooter or moped can take advantage of Bermuda’s highly developed bus system.

The island’s famous pink buses cover almost every square inch of terrain from coast to coast and there’s virtually no place tourists might want to go that isn’t serviced by the system. Visitors can pay per ride or purchase a multi-day Transportation Pass for continuous on/off privileges. Other options include horse-drawn carriage tours and local tour operators.

What to see

One of the most popular tourist attractions is the World Heritage site town of St. George.

Situated on the east coast, it was here the first colonists landed making it the island’s most historic center. Famous for its old town square and replicas of stocks and pillories (devices used by the British to punish criminals) together with an official dunking chair (there are live demonstrations) said to be used by colonials to penalize gossips.

St. George is a wonderful walking community with quaint narrow streets and several of its centuries-old homes have been turned into museums filled with period furniture and antiques. Many of Bermuda’s old forts are still standing and one of the oldest is Fort St. Catherine just outside St. George.

Located on the north shore approximately mid island, Hamilton is Bermuda’s chief center of commerce and certainly the place every tourist wants to spend time. Streets that feed to the harbour are lined with countless shops where you can buy everything from British linen to Bermuda shorts. There is also an abundance of English-style taverns, pubs, restaurants and stores selling Bermudian souvenirs. Best views of the city and harbour can be seen from Fort Hamilton where every Monday at noon, live shows are staged featuring bagpipes and traditional dancers.

Beyond the two main towns, one of the island’s premier attractions is its famous Crystal Caves where visitors can tour a subterranean wonderland of stalactites, stalagmites and a clear underground lake. Like most of Bermuda’s sites of interest, the Caves are on the pink bus route.

In Paget Parish, there’s a 36-acre Botanical Gardens well worth seeing and on an island known for its fragrant flowers, it’s not surprising the Bermuda Perfumery was established where there are free behind the scenes tours.

Indeed, each and every parish has its own special attractions that make up an island so pleasing celebrities such as former U.S. presidential candidate, Ross Perot and English musician, David Bowie are among those who have built vacation homes there.

What to do

On Bermuda, the sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to activities. Golf has always been one of the main attractions and the island climate accommodates year-round play. There’s a fine selection of premier courses designed by some of the top names in golf. The island is equally well known for diving and snorkelling opportunities. Often referred to as the “shipwreck capital of the world,” there is an abundance of dive sites, excellent underwater visibility and 650 species of fish. In terms of water sports there’s everything from sailing to deep sea fishing. On land, there’s tennis, horseback riding, plenty of spas and–last but not least–there’s Bermuda’s famous pink sand beaches

Travel Planner

Information: For more information see www.gotobermuda.com or call 1-800-BERMUDA. Air Canada has scheduled flights to Bermuda. Norwegian Cruise Lines offers a 7 day Boston-to-Bermuda cruise from April to October that stays in Bermuda for 3 1/2 days.

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