A Visit to St. George’s, the oldest and most atmospheric village in Bermuda, located on the island’s far eastern tip, is a must for any visitor. Bermuda’s capital until 1815, the Town of St. George was established back in 1612, shortly after the Sea Venture was shipwrecked on nearby reefs with Bermuda’s first settlers on board. In 2000, the town was awarded official status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Most of the colonial cottages and 18th-century merchant houses of St. George’s have been preserved, and a walk along the narrow lanes winding back from the water gives visitors an impression of how life may have looked here many centuries ago.
History buffs will want to make a stop at the World Heritage Centre on St. George’s pretty waterfront, where an informative short film (A Stroll Through St. George’s) is on continuous play and informative exhibits and artefacts bring to life the town’s early days. Then it’s out onto the quaint streets to start your explorations. St. George’s has a few hills but is a very walkable town. Alternatively, the Olde Towne Railway is an open-air, trolley-like train that will take you through town whilst guides point out facts about the most important sights along the way.
King’s Square, on the waterfront, is the heart of town. Colourful re-enactments take place here at the Stocks and Pillory and Ducking Stool, where town gossips met a watery punishment for their loose lips back in the day.
Cross the short bridge from the square to the tiny Ordnance Island for great views looking back at town and Somers’ Wharf. There’s a full-scale replica of the Deliverance ship here, which was built after the wreck of the Sea Venture so the survivors could continue their original mission onward to Jamestown, Virginia.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, hit one of the seafood restaurants along Somers’ Wharf for great food and sparkling sea views. Then make the short walk to St. Peter’s, Their Majesties Chappell, built in 1612 and considered the oldest Anglican church in continual use in the Western hemisphere. The exposed cedar beams in the church’s simple interior were harvested from Bermudian cedar trees, and the surrounding cemetery is particularly fascinating to poke around to read the weather-worn-but-still-legible epitaphs on crumbling headstones. Open to the public, services are held at St. Peter’s on Wednesdays and Sundays. The second-most important religious site in St. George’s is the roofless Unfinished Church, a striking Gothic structure on a hillside just above town that was built in the 1870s to replace St. Peter’s but abandoned just before it was completed.
Heirlooms from some of Bermuda’s oldest families are on display at Tucker House, an 18th-century home that’s been turned into a museum. And the Bermuda National Trust Museum, in a building that dates to circa 1700, is the place to learn about the connection between Bermuda and the American Civil War, when St. George’s played a role as a staging post for confederate shipments to England.
For the many sights to check off your sightseeing list here, one of the most pleasant things to do in St. George’s is to merely wander the side streets and alleys. If you prefer a more structured tour, there are plenty of maps to guide you.
Old Maid’s Lane is lined with traditional cottages built right into the rocky land. (Bermudians like to say you should build your house on stone, not soil.) And a walk down Printer’s Alley will bring you past the home where the island’s first newspaper was printed. Hunt out The Bermuda Perfumery, where unique fragrances have been created for more than 80 years and free tours are offered.
And take a break from all the walking in Somers’ Garden, a pretty green spot to relax. The heart of British Admiral Sir George Somers, who arrived in Bermuda on the Sea Venture, is said to be buried here (his body, according to lore, was taken back to England).
Just outside of St. George’s proper (hire a scooter or wear good shoes to make the walk over the hill), there are some great spots to visit, too. Fort St. Catherine is a 17th-century fort where you can see guns and cannons as well as a military exhibit inside. And you’ll want to bring your bathing suit as there’s a great beach right next to the fort, too, that’s very inviting for a swim with postcard views. Around the corner, at Tobacco Bay Beach, limestone rocks buffer a quiet cove from waves, and beachgoers arrive with snorkels in tow so they can frolic amongst tropical fish in the clear water.
It’s a quick bus ride from St. George’s to the easternmost lighthouse on the island, St. David’s Lighthouse, built in 1879 from Bermuda limestone. Climb to the top for sparkling water views from the highest point on the island’s eastern side.
For more information, visit the Visitor Information Centre located at 7 King’s Square. (441-297-0556)