“You die and go to heaven; I’ll stay here in Bermuda.” – Mark Twain
The bright lights of Manhattan receded into the darkness as our cruise ship sailed past the Statue of Liberty on its way to the subtropical paradise of Bermuda.
A lush archipelago surrounded by beautiful coral and turquoise seas, “Bermy” is truly one of the great jewels of the Atlantic. Discovered 500 years ago by Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez, the island is famous for its verdant hills, pink-hued sand beaches, and whispering breezes.
While the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda is sometimes thought of as a Caribbean island, it is actually a string of islands located in the North Atlantic some 1,000 km off the coast of North Carolina. This makes the territory’s climate warm, sunny and virtually perfect for touring from April to October.
After a full day at sea, we finally arrived the next morning at Bermuda’s charming Royal Naval Dockyard at King’s Wharf, which is where the largest cruise ships dock. It’s one of three major tourist stops on the island, which include Hamilton and St. George.
The historic Royal Naval Dockyard is located at the North West end of the archipelago and now serves as a tourist attraction. Several warehouses have been turned into shops and artists’ galleries, a pedestrian mall has opened in the clock tower, and the keep area is now the site of the Bermuda Maritime Museum.
After a brief walk-about, Gail and I took a ferry across the sound to visit the island’s capital city. Founded in 1793, Hamilton is a collection of pastel-coloured houses, quaint shops and English Bobbies founded in 1793. One of those Bobbies stands in what may be Bermuda’s most photographed landmark – the famous traffic cop’s “birdcage” at Queen and Front streets.
Since we wanted to get off the beaten path, we rented a pair of mopeds and left Hamilton to go touring across the island’s beautiful countryside (if you try this, remember they drive on the other side of the road!).
Just down the coast from Hamilton we found the historic town of St. George, where Bermuda’s first settlers came ashore in 1609 after striking a reef. A small, quaint town of narrow streets, St. George boasts the oldest Anglican church in the Western Hemisphere, a replica of the Deliverance (the rescue ship built by settlers in 1610), and the stocks and pillory in King’s Square.
While in Bermuda, our friends had told us we to pick up a bottle of Outerbridge’s Sherry Peppers Sauce, which is the territory’s unique seasoning for everything from soup to cocktails. They had also recommended trying some the island’s native cocktails, including a Dark ‘N’ Stormy and the infamous Rum Swizzle.
So we got back on our mopeds and drove to the Swizzle Inn at Bailey’s Bay, which is home to the Rum Swizzle, made with the locally distilled Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, pineapple juice, grenadine and Angostura bitters. After finishing just one, we understood why the Inn’s motto is: “Swizzle Inn, Swagger Out!”
While at the bar, we were told about the island’s annual World Rugby Classic Championship, which is held each November. We actually did return for the tournament a year later, and vaguely recall watching a few minutes of rugby in between Rum Swizzles! This year’s event will be held from November 5 to 12, and will feature teams from Argentina, British Isles, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.
There are a couple of ways to reach Bermuda, but one of the most economical is by cruise ship. A number of cruise lines offer regular voyages on this route, including Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean. There ships depart ports along the east coast of America, includingNew York, New Jersey, Baltimore, and Boston. This year (2016), cruises to Bermuda are selling for as little as US$530 per person (without taxes or airfare) – which represents a great value when compared to the cost of hotels, meals and transportation ashore.
But however you get there, don’t miss the chance to experience Mark Twain’s favourite island paradise, which he visited eight times for a total of 187 days between 1867 and 1910. Of Bermuda, he once said, “There is just enough whispering breeze, fragrance of flowers and sense of repose to raise one’s thoughts heavenward.”
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