by Candyce H. Stapen
Bermuda has glorious pink sand beaches, British panache and more golf courses per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Here are some of our favorite Bermuda adventures.
Stroll the beaches: Bermuda’s sands—long, pink hued, and sugar soft—are spectacular. Top spots are the south shore’s Warwick Long Bay and Horseshoe Bay. A day at Horseshoe Bay comes with all the amenities, including a snack shop, umbrella rentals, lifeguards, and lockers. As a result, more tourists tan here, but the shore is never blanket-to-blanket bodies. Elbow Beach, fronted by Elbow Beach Hotel, is another spectacular wide stretch of sand edged by turquoise seas.
Dive and Snorkel: Bermuda’s more than 350 shipwrecks and the water’s visibility from 70 to 100 feet dazzle both SCUBA enthusiasts and snorkelers. Some plunges to dive for include L'Hermanie, a French frigate sunk in 1838 that has canons and a host of sea critters and the Marie Celeste, a paddle wheeler downed in 1964, that features coral twisted around the 15-foot paddle wheel.
We’re avid snorkelers. Floating along reefs, pointing out purple fan, yellow brain coral, teal parrot fish, blue tang and scores of spotted and striped beauties is a way we share our love of the ocean. And, I have to admit—because snorkeling is easy—it’s the only sport in which I can keep up with my athletic children. The reefs start close-in at Church Bay, making access possible from the shore, but be careful of the sometimes rough water. Tobacco Bay and Horseshoe Bay are also good snorkel spots. Avoid Royal Naval Dockyard’s Snorkel Park. On cruise ship days passengers pack the place so you’re as likely to get a fin in your face as see a fish.
Discover More Underwater Wonders: At Royal Naval Dockyard’s Dolphin Quest, you can get close to bottlenose dolphins. The encounter delivered some of our best island memories. We stood waist deep in water to pet the friendly beauties, listen to their clicks, command them to jump and to dive and receive a rubbery nose kiss.
For young kids and those who don’t want to get wet but do want to see underwater wonders, visit the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo and the Bermuda Underwater Institute. At the aquarium, the 145,000 gallon North Rock coral reef tank holds hundreds of brightly hued fish. Watching the Bermuda Underwater Institute’s simulated “dive,” a video with sound effects, you see submerging whales, schools of toothy sharks, and clusters of floating jelly fish.
Explore the Forts: Royal Naval Dockyard, completed in the 1820's, was utilized by the British until 1951. Part of the complex now house shops, restaurants and galleries catering to the cruise ships berthed here. In the 6-acre Keep, an inner fortress, the Bermuda Maritime Museum exhibits artifacts ranging from 1878 sounding machines to harpoons and whale vertebrae.
Fort St. Catherine, begun in 1614 and enlarged over the centuries, isn’t part of a bustling harbor marketplace. Walking here my daughter Alissa and I found it easy to imagine an era of sentinels searching the sea for enemy vessels. We also liked the fort’s maze of interior passageways and the views from the ramparts. My husband David and son Matthew complained that this fort was a big waste of precious golf time.
The Fairmont Southampton, a hilltop hotel, runs a shuttle bus to its wide arc of a beach across the street. Hotel beaches are rare in Bermuda where the best sands don’t front resorts. The luxury hotel also has a spa, several restaurants including Waterlot, a romantic steakhouse that dates to 1670.