These islands have roughly 64 miles (103 kilometres) of coastline, and most of it is public access. You’re likely familiar with the fact that on many beaches in Bermuda the sand is a delicate pink. This is thanks to the island’s geographic makeup as a volcanic archipelago and its location in the Atlantic Ocean.
The pink colour results from the abundance of microorganisms — called foraminifera — that live in the coral reefs and the sea floor. Once these insect-like creatures die, they leave behind their small pink shells, which are then broken up by the currents and washed on the shores, collectively giving the sand its distinctive rose tone.
The inherent romance of blushing sands makes a visit to these beaches — most of them on the South Shore — particularly tempting to love-struck couples and newlyweds. In fact, Bermuda is one of the most popular destinations for beach weddings, thanks in large part to this natural phenomenon.
Of course, not everything is pink in Bermuda. Many beaches have sugary, white sand, and some even have thicker, yellow sand. No two beaches on the island are the same, but all are well worth exploring. Here are some of the best options, organised by location.
Black Bay, Sandys Parish. Just a few minutes from The Royal Naval Dockyard, you’ll find this small beach across from the Royal Naval Cemetery. There are shady picnic spots overlooking the quiet coves which provide the perfect sunset view.
Daniel’s Head, Sandys Parish. A well-kept local secret, this tranquil spot near Somerset offers calm waters and great snorkelling. Part of this beach is privately owned, but a portion has remained public and offers picnic areas, bathrooms and showers. Best reached by scooter or taxi, it’s a long walk from the main road. Off the beach is Daniel’s Island and the wreck of the Vixen, both of which can be explored by snorkelling.
Snorkel Park Beach, Sandys Parish. The Royal Naval Dockyard’s Snorkel Park Beach (SPB) may be the most fun beach in Bermuda. The park boasts all the exciting watersports and activities you want in one fantastic beachfront location. Rent a Jet Ski for a guided island tour. Kayak, paddleboard, pedal boat, raft or snorkel over stunning coral reefs, a shipwreck and sunken cannons, just feet from the protected beach. Or build a sandcastle, get in on a game of volleyball or have a family competition of Giant Jenga. Relax and enjoy spectacular views, majestic sunsets, local food and refreshing drinks at Hammerheads Bar & Grill. Tropical fun awaits the whole family at their Sunset Markets, Tiki Parties and Bonfires on the Beach. (234-3100; snorkelparkbeach.com)
Somerset Long Bay, Sandys Parish. Part of a nature reserve co-owned by the Bermuda National Trust and the Bermuda Audubon Society, this locals’ beach has a large stretch of white sand — as the name implies — and many small reefs offshore. Though popular for picnicking, the beach remains largely undeveloped. It is ideal for bird-watching, thanks to the freshwater pond in the reserve, which attracts many migratory species and waterfowl. A nature trail through the reserve is the area’s main draw, and there is also a small playground, as well as other on-site facilities.
Astwood Cove, Warwick Parish. It requires some hiking down a cliff trail to get to this hidden beach. It is almost completely surrounded by bluffs, making it somewhat deserted and very tranquil, so it is a great day-trip destination. Make sure to bring everything you need on the way down, including towels, food and refreshments. The adjoining park has picnic tables and toilets.
Chaplin Bay, Southampton Parish. This beach follows a long stretch of sand that includes the more popular Horseshoe Bay and Warwick Long Bay. However, it is much less frequented, offering the same stunning views of the majestic cliffs but with much smaller crowds. Bathrooms are accessible nearby, and a trail through the dunes leads to the concessions and other facilities at Horseshoe Bay.
Church Bay, Southampton Parish. More impressive under the water than above, this is a favourite snorkelling spot for locals, thanks to its nearby reefs. The beach itself is small and rocky but not uninviting. The bathrooms can be found above the beach by the road. Summer rentals include umbrellas and snorkel equipment.
Elbow Beach, Paget Parish. One of Bermuda’s iconic pink beaches, part of this beach serves the private resorts on it. It is accessible to non-hotel guests only from Tribe Road No. 4. However, its location, with favourable winds and water currents, makes it popular for watersport activities such as kitesurfing, kayaking and snorkelling. The wreck of the Pollockshields lies just about 100 feet offshore.
Horseshoe Bay, Southampton Parish. This is Bermuda’s most photographed and most popular beach. Almost every cruise ship that arrives at Dockyard offers a day trip here, and many hotel guests also venture to this expansive strand. Aside from the beautiful light pink sands, this beach is also known for its interesting rock formations and small tidal pools. Though it seems like it would feel crowded, it’s large enough to accommodate a good number of people without ever feeling overwhelming. Many facilities are available here, including rentals, a café, lifeguards in the summer, toilets and showers.
Jobson’s Cove, Warwick Parish. Another extension of Warwick Long Bay, this beach offers the impressive scenery of limestone cliffs with small tidal pools between them, making it a favourite amongst locals. It is also excellent for snorkelling. There are no facilities here, but a trail leads back to the ones at Warwick Long Bay.
Stonehole Bay, Warwick Parish. Next to Jobson’s Cove, this is also part of Warwick Long Bay yet remains secluded and private. It is a small beach with nearby cliff formations that make for wonderful photos. Note that the beach itself can disappear at high tide, and the currents right offshore make it less than ideal for snorkelling.
Warwick Long Bay, Warwick Parish. Though favoured by both vacationers and locals, it is not nearly as frequented as other beaches and has the pinkest sand of all the South Shore beaches. There is often a lunch wagon there, and snorkel gear is available for rent in the summer months. It is also a great place to go jogging.
West Whale Bay, Southampton Parish. Off the beaten path, this spot takes its name from the migratory humpback whales that pass just offshore from March through April. Popular with locals, this vantage point also offers a stunning view of the sunsets. Public on-site facilities.
Achilles Bay, St. George’s Parish. Adjacent to Fort St. Catherine, this strip of sand lies directly beneath a cliff and is best visited during low tide. Part of the beach is private for guests of The St. George’s Club, which offers beach chair and snorkelling equipment rentals. Above the beach, on top of the cliff, is The Beach House, an upscale restaurant with high-quality food that is also one of the best places to view the sunset in Bermuda. Legend has it that Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard) docked his ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, just offshore to hide from Governor Charles Eden of the North Carolina Colony in 1718.
Clearwater Beach, St. George’s Parish. Located near St. David’s Island on the site of the former U.S. Naval Air Station, this beach features playgrounds for families, a beach bar, lifeguards in the summer, picnic tables with barbeque areas and public bathrooms. Nearby Turtle Cove is another Bermuda favourite. Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve is open to the public and provides sheltered bays and long stretches of pristine sand that have become quite popular with locals. The area is a nature reserve, but swimming, picnicking and snorkelling are popular. Bring everything you need. Toilets are available nearby.
Gates Bay, St. George’s Parish. Also near Fort St. Catherine and sheltered from prevailing southwest winds during the summer, it is very popular with locals. Whilst there are no toilets, pop-up snack huts are sometimes available in the summer. The bay is also near The Beach House.
John Smith’s Bay, Smith’s Parish. Though not well-known, this beach is just off the road and offers a large stretch of sand. It is a local favourite because of its reefs — which lie in close proximity to the shore — and its protected shallow waters. There are on-site bathroom facilities, as well as a lunch wagon that sells food and beverages. It is also wheelchair accessible, and there are lifeguards in the summer months.
Shelly Bay, Hamilton Parish. On the north shore of the island, Shelly Bay is another local favourite. The sand is white and the waters are calm and extremely shallow, making it perfect for young children; there is a playground near the beach, too. Beach rentals are available in the summer months.
Tobacco Bay, St. George’s Parish. Colourful coral reefs and Tobacco Bay’s proximity to shore make this popular snorkelling location an exciting and safe choice for exploring underwater life. With crystal-clear waters, clean facilities, umbrella and chair rentals, and fun watersports for all the family, Tobacco Bay National Park has so much to offer. The scenic coves and nature trails complete this picturesque and sheltered bay, the setting for the infamous “Gunpowder Plot” of 1775 that spearheaded the fight for America’s independence. With a vibrant beach bar, café and barbeque serving up tropical flavour and island vibes, you can easily while away the hours from daylight through sunset.