Sightseeing in Bermuda
An Explorer’s Dream
With its spectacular beaches, preserved colonial architecture and rich British and maritime heritage, Bermuda packs an impressive array of sights into its 21 square miles. And deciding how to tackle all there is to see here is likely to be your only vacation stressor. But thanks to the island’s diminutive size and convenient public transport, scooter rental and taxi services, it’s easy to buzz around Bermuda and hit many of the best-loved attractions during even a short stay.
Go back in history with a walk along the cobbled streets of St. George’s, explore the walls and towers of Bermuda’s more than 90 historic forts, snorkel amongst colourful parrot fish in a quiet cove or just go for a sunset stroll along a pink-sand beach. Whether your itinerary is chock-full of activities or more relaxed and mellow, it’s all about making the most of your time in a destination that’s delightfully far from ordinary.
Whilst there are no booming metropolises in Bermuda, the island does have three main “urban” areas worthy of a visit. Start by diving into the island’s fascinating history with a sightseeing tour of St. George’s, located on the far eastern tip of Bermuda, where a townscape of traditional merchant homes with lime-washed roofs make for postcard scenery in UNESCO-protected surrounds. St. George’s traces its roots back to 1609, when the Sea Venture wrecked just offshore, bringing the first settlers to Bermuda.
St. Peter’s, Their Majesties Chappell, right near downtown’s main square, is the most important historical site in St. George’s. The church dates to 1612 (rebuilt in 1713 after the original structure was destroyed in a hurricane) and is considered the oldest Anglican church in continual use in the Western Hemisphere. Be sure to walk through the surrounding cemetery to read interesting epitaphs on crumbling tombstones that pay homage to early settlers, then make the short walk uphill to see the Unfinished Church, a magnificent Gothic structure that was built (but never finished) in the 1870s to replace St. Peter’s Church.
Just 10 miles away, Hamilton — Bermuda’s capital since 1815 and the island’s financial centre — is the place to go for shopping or café hopping with the island’s international populace along Front Street and Reid Street. The Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute in Hamilton offers a (dry!) look under the seas, with activities and exhibits for all ages and the chance to see some fascinating artefacts recovered from Bermuda’s many shipwrecks. And you can catch a ferry from Hamilton to reach Bermuda’s far West End and Royal Naval Dockyard (aka Dockyard), where you can visit the National Museum of Bermuda, head out on a Jet Ski tour from Snorkel Park Beach or the Dockyard Watersports Centre, or indulge in some tax-free shopping at The Bermuda Craft Market, Dockyard Glassworks and Clocktower Mall.
Before it was a vacationer’s paradise, Bermuda was a military stronghold for the British, with a coveted strategic position in the mid-Atlantic. And the island’s maritime and naval history runs deep, as evidenced by the more than 90 historic forts that dot the island. The largest fort in Bermuda is Fort St. Catherine, which dates to 1614 and is located just over the hill from St. George’s along a beautiful stretch of beach. The Sea Venture ran aground just offshore from here, and the crew first came ashore where the fort now stands. An impressive dry moat surrounds Fort St. Catherine, and the exhibits inside are well worth a peek.
Also near St. George’s is Martello Tower in Ferry Point. With its unique cylindrical form, the fort dates to 1823 and is accessed by a drawbridge across a small moat. The walls, nine to 11 feet thick, are resistant to cannon fire. And on Somerset’s highest hill on Bermuda’s West End is Scaur Hill Fort and Park, built in the 19th century as a last-ditch defence for Royal Naval Dockyard. Here, you’ll get fine views of Dockyard and Great Sound in addition to the impressive limestone ramparts at Royal Naval Dockyard itself and Fort Hamilton in a pretty park setting.
Remarkable pink-sand beaches and pristine coral reefs are the highlights of Bermuda, so pack your swimsuit and dive into the waters off the roughly 64 miles of coastline. For some excellent snorkelling, kick things off at Tobacco Bay Beach in St. George’s, where a calm cove is frequented by enormous rainbow-patterned parrot fish. Somerset Long Bay in Sandys Parish, with its fine white sands, is popular with picnickers and has a nice playground for kids. And also popular with families is Elbow Beach in Paget Parish, where the calm waters are sheltered by coral reefs.
Bermuda’s most photographed beach and arguably the island’s most scenic one is Horseshoe Bay in Southampton Parish, which has good changing facilities and beautiful rock formations rising from sand the colour of rose Champagne. Joggers love Warwick Long Bay, a beautiful stretch of sand just east of Horseshoe Bay that sees fewer crowds. And if you’re out in Dockyard, there’s Snorkel Park Beach, a man-made crescent of sand, which even has a snorkelling path marked out in the water if you want to dive in and mingle with the fish. Alternatively, you can stay dry with a visit to the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo (BAMZ) in Flatts Village to see more than 200 species of native fish in a 140,000-gallon tank that gives you a snapshot of a typical Bermudian coral reef, plus view over 300 birds, reptiles and mammals from oceanic islands in lush, naturalistic exhibits.