WHY WE LOVE IT
Flying there takes less than two hours from most East Coast cities. You do need a passport, though.
Shaped like a fishhook, the island has drop-dead harbor or ocean views from just about everywhere.
Some of the most extraordinary beaches—and stunning water—you'll ever see. (It's not your imagination, the sand does have a pinkish hue, due to the coral.)
The island has a fascinating history, and its British heritage means that the people take their hospitality very seriously.
Locals really do wear Bermuda shorts—with knee socks and neckties!
The famous local cocktail, the delicious Dark and Stormy, made with Gosling's Black Seal rum.
WHEN TO GO
Bermuda is at the same latitude as North Carolina, with similar weather—in other words, while summer is low season in the Caribbean, it's high season in Bermuda, with balmy weather. Fall brings great deals because there is a slight chance of hurricanes, and winter is when the cultural side of the island heats up. Golf is a year-round activity.
GETTING MARRIED IN BERMUDA
First, you must complete a Notice of Intended Marriage form. Note: It must be printed on white legal-size (8.5" x 14") paper. Mail it to the Registrar General (address here) along with a cashier's check or bank draft payable to the Accountant General, Hamilton, Bermuda, in the amount of BM$243. If applicable, include copies of final divorce decrees or death certificates. Your wedding license, valid for three months, may be picked up at the Registrar office. Bermuda requires that two people over 18 witness the ceremony. If you opt for a civil ceremony in the Registry's marriage room (call 441-297-7709 for info), the Registrar will provide witnesses on weekdays.
A directory of Bermuda wedding consultants can be found in the weddings section of the Bermuda Department of Tourism website.
WHERE TO STAY
Elbow Beach, Bermuda 60 South Shore Rd. Paget Parish Tel: 441-239-9364 The Elbow Beach, Bermuda, a Mandarin Oriental-managed property, isn't just right on one of Bermuda's most gorgeous beaches, it claims a half mile of the beach for guests' private use. The recently renovated 98 luxury cottages and suites sit just uphill; acres of gardens and blue-and-white-striped umbrellas lend the resort a faint French Riviera vibe. The rooms are elegantly decorated, and there are five dining options, a nightclub/lounge that houses one of five bars on the property, and a full-service spa.
Fairmont Southampton 101 South Shore Rd. Southampton Parish Tel: 866-540-4497 or 441-238-8000 A sprawling pink palace straddling a hill between the harbor and the ocean, the Fairmont Southampton is truly a grand hotel: The property is on 100 acres, and there are 593 rooms and suites. What's more, the hotel claims that it has the island's largest guest rooms, at 450 square feet (each with a private balcony and ocean views). While you can certainly relax at the resort's beach club, a quick shuttle ride away, you might prefer to actively enjoy the six tennis courts, golf course, and the indoor and outdoor pools.
Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa 30 Kings Point Rd. Sandys Parish Tel: 800-468-7300 Cambridge Beaches is popular with honeymooners because it's secluded—the 94 pink Bermuda cottages are on a private peninsula at Bermuda s western end—and because children under 16 are only allowed during a handful of weeks each year. The island's first "cottage colony," Cambridge Beaches has four beaches (one of which is a half-mile long), a marina run by Windjammer Watersports, and even a croquet pitch and putting green. It's the kind of place that guests return to year after year, and then their kids make it a tradition as well.
9 Beaches(closed until May 2011) 4 Daniels Head Lane Sandys Parish Tel: 866-841-9009 or 441-239-2999 For some folks, the laid-back 9 Beaches is exactly the right breath of fresh air—as the hotel likes to say, jackets aren't required, but flip-flops are. It's a colony of self-contained cabanas on stilts set on 18 acres, but in this case the cabanas have walls made from a sailcloth-like material (the roofs are the same material, making a rainstorm an acoustical event.) Some cabanas are on the hill, others are on the shoreline, and still others are literally above the water, connected to the land by boardwalks, but all have ocean views. The over-water ones have Plexiglass panels in the floors so you can watch the fish swimming around. Room decor is on the simple side, but most guests are too busy kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, learning to scuba dive, playing tennis and volleyball, or hanging out at the two bars—Dark & Stormy's and Um-Um's—to give a hoot.
The Reefs 56 South Shore Rd. Southampton Parish Tel: 441-238-0222 While the front desk will arrange anything you might want to do off-property, this circa 1947 hotel doesn t try to do everything itself, instead focusing on delivering the ideal beach resort experience on an intimate scale. There are just 83 rooms and suites, all of which have ocean views, above a private beach dotted with pink-and-white umbrellas. Thanks to a recent refresh, the decor is more contemporary than at most Bermuda resorts. The Reefs is relaxing and romantic, sometimes both at once—at alfresco Coconuts restaurant during sunset, for example, or even better, when you're dining by candlelight right on the beach.
Tucker's Point Hotel & Spa 60 Tucker s Point Dr. Hamilton Parish Tel: 441-298-4000 When it opened in April 2009, Tucker s Point Hotel & Spa became Bermuda's first new luxury resort in almost four decades. And yet, much about the place feels like it's been there for at least a century. This is old-fashioned glamour, with the Manor House main building and the Palm Court pool area (at times, you might feel as if you're playing Clue). There are 88 guestrooms and suites, a championship golf course, and the island's most sumptuous spa, home to a $100,000 SilverTAG shower with 18 showerheads. Part of the Tucker's Point Club 200-acre development, Tucker's Point Hotel & Spa is Bermuda's only member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.
Pink Beach Club 116 South Shore Rd. Tucker's Town Tel: 800-355-6161 A cottage colony in the exclusive Tucker's Town area, Pink Beach is a grown-up resort that has a charming, old-fashioned feel (indeed, some members of the staff have been there for more than 40 years). The cottages are classic Bermuda—low-slung, painted pink, with arched doorways. Every one of the 94 suites and junior suites has an ocean-view balcony (some are ocean front), ideal for in-room breakfast; the hotel also offers in-room spa services.
WHAT TO DO
Oleander Cycles Many locations Tel: 441-234-0629 Riding a motorscooter—or as Bermudans call it, a "bike"—isn't for everyone, but if you want to get around the island on your own, you have no other choice (there are no car rentals). While there are risks, such as road rash or worse, the reward is being able to explore parts of the island visitors don't usually see. Most big resorts have on-site rental desks, and if yours doesn't, scooter-rental companies tend to be willing to bring a scooter to your hotel. And remember: Bermudans drive on the left!
Dolphin Quest Bermuda The Bermuda Maritime Museum Royal Naval Dockyard Tel: 441-234-4464 Get nose-to-nose with bottlenose dolphins at the historic Royal Naval Dockyard.
Spicelands Riding Centre 50 Middle Rd. Warwick Tel: 441-238-8212 There's no more beautiful way to start the day than by riding a horse along Bermuda's astounding South Shore beaches (if you're not interested in getting up early, you can take a trail ride later in the day instead). Private trail rides are also available.
Bermuda Botanical Gardens and Arboretum 169 South Rd. Paget Parish Tel: 441-236-5902 Bermuda is a lush island, nowhere more so than at the 36-acre Botanical Gardens, home to an aromatic garden designed specifically for the blind, a garden devoted to hibiscus plants, greenhouses with orchids and cacti, and several banyan trees. (John Lennon named his Double Fantasy album after a flower he encountered here.)
Blue Waters Divers & Watersports Two locations: Somerset Bridge, Elbow Beach Tel: 441-234-1034, 441-232-2909 The treacherous reefs around Bermuda that have made for hundreds of shipwrecks also make for amazing diving and snorkeling. You can go out on a boat or from shore, or take a guided kayak tour out to a shipwreck off Elbow Beach.
Bermuda Golf Course Handy Guide The island is a golfer's paradise as it offers more courses per square mile than anywhere else in the world. The Bermuda Department of Tourism has created a guide with all of the available courses, or of course you can inquire at your hotel.
Bermuda Railway Trail From 1931 to 1948, a train made its way across a good part of the island, and in 1980s the government officially created what s now known as the Bermuda Railway Trail. Following the path of the old line makes for a fascinating walk (or bike ride) through the interior, with the occasional dramatic view.
Windjammer Watersports Snorkel Park Royal Naval Dockyard Tel: 441-234-6989 At Snorkel Park, an aquatic playpen popular with cruise-ship daytrippers, especially families, Windjammer Watersports leads Jet-Ski tours that will get your heart racing. The company also has an outpost at Cambridge Marina where you can rent motorboats, sailboats, and fishing gear.
Bermuda Waterski Centre Somerset Bridge at Robinson's Marina Sandys Parish Tel: 441-335-1012 Bermuda s harbor makes for excellent waterskiing, whether you're an expert or new to the sport (available May through the end of October).
MORE TOURIST INFO
Visit the Bermuda Department of Tourism's online home for info about which airlines fly to the island, accommodations, restaurants, nightlife, activities, events, special offers, and more.