A vacation involving some “island time” was long overdue, as it had been over 25 since my last visit to Bermuda, and my husband had never been to this beautiful little island. Bermuda is one of the most cosmopolitan of all the Atlantic Caribbean islands. This tiny island has a former British influence, an international banking presence and a well established community. Bermuda can be reached by plane in just 3 hours, from New York City, and is easily accessible from the much of the Eastern US seaboard. With the allure of easy access, a comfortable western perspective and reliable tourist-based industry, the island is a fantastic vacation spot. Given Bermuda’s exclusive tourist client-base, and the lack of arable land, the island is expensive.
The restaurant food is undeniably geared to a tourist crowd and priced accordingly. There are of course some local spots including, an almost hidden gem Harry’s that we found one evening. Harry’s restaurant can be found in an office complex by the Hamilton marina. This restaurant has a pleasant patio on a quiet cul-de-sac at the end of the marina. It also has an extensive bar menu (food and drink), I would recommend the salt and pepper shrimp and the tuna carpaccio. There is no possibility of leaving hungry or thirsty from this place. We also understand that Friday afternoons this place is buzzing during happy hour.
Other than the meal at Harry’s, we had mixed dining experiences in Bermuda. Coconuts in The Reefs Hotel had received several reviews from a disparate group of people so it sounded like a place we must try. The restaurant location is at the water’s edge, where you can dine on the patio overlooking the surf or at a table on the sandy beach. However, the indicator should have been the $75 prix-fix dinner. The food was disappointing and unequivocally created for a tourist crowd. We would recommend going for a cocktail and check out the view and the scenery but skip their package dinner. They do have another fantastic patio overlooking the ocean and the beach, at road level. This too would be a delightful spot for a drink.
On the last night, we tried The Waterlog Inn associated with the Southampton Princess. It is a classic steakhouse. The food and service were both extremely good. The restaurant was full, possibly with those people were also disappointed by Coconuts. My husband would recommend this restaurant based on the wine selection. However, I remain on the fence as the restaurant could be found in any large North American city. We did not try, although should have, the Dining Room at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. The lighthouse is on a hill, and the outdoor restaurant has the best views on the island. Please try it and let us know.
Coffee in Bermuda was disappointing. Hamilton has a few places that serve espresso including the Hamilton Princess coffee shop. The first place that we tried, was the coffee bar located inside Miles Market. The lattes were prepared by two baristas who were much more interested in talking on the phone than serving their customers. The next day we ventured a little further to the Common Ground, which can be found in an alleyway, just off Front Street. The Common Ground lattes were an improvement from the day before although a bit milky. We gave their food a decent rating. My husband had their breakfast sandwich a BLT with egg. It was made-to-order and nicely presented. The restaurant that gets the highest local ratings is Rock Island on Reid Street. On the Sunday morning, I ventured out to see if Rock Island was really the coffee spot. However, it was a failed mission absolutely nothing is open in Hamilton on Sunday mornings. Even the Juice and Java shop on Front Street only opens at 2pm. My unsuccessful coffee mission led me back to the aforementioned Hamilton Princess coffee shop, which had a line-up out the door of hotel guests and islanders who had just finished their road bike rides. Literally, this is the only coffee shop open in Hamilton on a Sunday and the coffee was terrible.
Despite disappointing food experiences, Bermuda offers a broad variety in tourist attractions and activities. The island is small and easily explored. The ferry and bus system work in tandem, with little effort one can reach either end of the island in about 60 minutes, from Hamilton. There are up to 4 bus options each way and several ferry options on weekdays. Do make a point of checking the museum and fort opening schedules before heading out to explore, as we discovered Fort St Catherine is only open on weekdays. We would recommend spending at least half a day at the Royal Naval Dockyard and exploring the Bermuda Maritime Museum and the Commissioner’s House. However, be aware that the Royal Naval Dockyard is also the port for the cruise ships visiting the island so expect a significant number of tourist shops and associated inflated prices.
St George’s located at the other end (east) of the island. This little town is a step back in time to the 19th century, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This tiny port still has cobbled streets and alleyways. There are a few attractive shops and restaurants. Make sure to visit Tobacco Bay and have a swim or a drink overlooking the ocean. One can reach St George’s by boat on weekdays, or via any one of 4 buses every day of the week.
The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse can be found on the highest point on the island, constructed in 1844 and it is the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the world. The hill stands at 245 feet high and the lighthouse itself measures 117 feet. A 1,000-watt bulb sits inside a lens revolving in a trough of 1,200 pounds of mercury. Ships can see the light beam 40 miles away and from a range of 120 miles by a plane flying at 10,000 feet. The views are worth the walk up to the top of the hill.
Golfers love Bermuda. There are numerous courses with varied terrain and price points. We were fortunate to play the Mid-Ocean Club and Port Royal courses. Mid-Ocean is a classic old course, with plenty of trouble along the way and certainly a challenging walk. At the time, of our visit the Port Royal course was undergoing a massive renovation for the Grand Slam. The Port Royal course does have a lot of sand, and it is not easy for the average golfer. We did visit, although did not play Tuckers Point, which is adjacent to Mid-Ocean. Tuckers Point offers fabulous grounds, tennis, semi-private beach and a beautiful golf course with remarkably similar terrain to Mid-Ocean.
The beaches in Bermuda are all beautiful, possibly even the island’s best feature. The sand is a pink-white colour. We found that it is not too difficult to get away from the crowds and find a secluded place to swim. Bermuda is beautiful and worth a visit.