“You can go to heaven if you want to — I’d rather stay in Bermuda,” wrote Mark Twain at the end of his life. And luckily, the Bermuda that enchanted the famed wordsmith is much the same today: pale pink sandy beaches, aqua-colored oceans, lush fauna, shockingly colorful houses, a melting pot culture and laid-back, friendly islanders.
A British colony since the 17th century, Bermuda is a tiny land mass, roughly 22 miles long and a mile wide, located far off the coast of North Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean. With its balmy year-round weather, it’s a popular escape for East Coasters, especially those on honey or babymoons (it’s one of the only Zika-free islands in the world). Fishing, sailing, scuba diving — Bermuda is home to more than 300 shipwrecks — and golfing are popular on the island.
A luxury hotel boom is also underway. Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Rosewood Bermuda just completed a multimillion-dollar refresh; the island’s first boutique hotel, The Loren at Pink Beach opened in 2017; and a new Ritz-Carlton (to open in summer 2019) and a St. Regis (to debut in 2020) will soon welcome guests.
Whether you come to Bermuda for quiet time by the pool with a cocktail in hand or for a full-on adventure, the fishhook-shaped island serves up both in spades.
Here are some of our favorite things to see, do and eat in Bermuda.
Enjoy A Beach Day
From the famous Bermudian reggae singer Collie Buddz to humble fishermen, ask anyone on the island what the must-see attraction is and they’ll all agree on one: Horseshoe Bay in Southampton Parish. The most-visited beach on the island, the bay boasts a spectacular setting (pink sands, turquoise waters, windswept rock formations) and all the necessary amenities, including lifeguards, snorkel rentals and a nearby bar and food stand.
Go Art Hopping
On par with any of the world’s most prestigious modern art museums, the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club hotel’s collection, privately owned by a Bermudian family, is immense and accessible — just check out the lobby bathrooms to see some impressive pieces.
Covering nearly every wall in the hotel, from the main foyer to the restaurants and gym, modern art can be seen from greats like Banksy, Andy Warhol and Yayoi Kusama. Walking tours of the collection are available every Saturday at 10 a.m.
For a Bermudian connection, visit the nearby Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, where you’ll discover how the island inspired creativity in legendary artists, such as Winslow Homer and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Bite Into A Unique Fish Sandwich
No one knows exactly when locals started eating fish between slices of raisin bread, but the practice started at Art Mel’s Spicy Dicy, a humble fish shack in a residential neighborhood. If you love trying local delicacies, be sure to get your hands on this Bermudian sandwich — even celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson can’t get enough of Art Mel’s classic iteration.
Though every eatery puts its own spin on the island’s menu staple, the recipe remains more or less the same: white fish, sometimes cod or locally caught wahoo, is fried and then slathered with your choice of toppings (usually tartar sauce, hot sauce, coleslaw, cheese or bacon) and placed between two slices of raisin bread for the ultimate sweet-savory combination.
For another take on Bermuda’s favorite bite, try Woody’s or Seaside Grill. Or, opt for a walking tasting tour to sample more local cuisine, like fish chowder and a Dark n’ Stormy cocktail, with Bermuda Food Tours.
Rent A Twizy
Rental cars are not available in Bermuda, but these tiny electric carts are. Thanks to two local entrepreneurial brothers, you can zip around — up to 21 mph, as per local law, and the speed limit drops to 15 mph in some places, like St. Georges — on your own time in a Twizy.
Safe and easy to handle, these two-passenger vehicles are so much fun to drive. Rentals are available from two hotels (Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Fairmont Southampton and Hamilton Princess & Beach Club) and there are charging stations throughout the island, so you’ll never be stranded. But be careful: roads in Bermuda are narrow and winding, and you have to drive on the left side.
Get Amazing Vistas
For some of the best views of the colorful Bermudian townscapes and shorelines, climb the 185 stairs to the top of the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. Built in 1846, it’s one of the oldest cast-iron lighthouses in the world.
Explore On A Jet Ski Safari
Available on either side of the island, a Bermudian jet ski tour is a thrill with a side of history and marine biology via your knowledgeable guide. Depending on which area of the island you’re zipping around in, sights you encounter might include Bermuda’s barrier reef, sea gardens, shipwrecks or schools of rays.
Keep in mind that the only way to use a jet ski in Bermuda is on a tour — it’s illegal to rent one and go off on your own.
Indulge In An Underground Spa Treatment
Bermuda is home to stunning underground caves with turquoise-colored water and dramatic white stalactites. Skip the crowds at Crystal Caves and opt for a one-of-kind experience: a subterranean massage.
Private and above the water, the massage bed is set on an enclosed, floating cabana, softly lit for a pleasantly serene experience. Book a treatment in one of the world’s most unusual places to have a rubdown at Grotto Bay Beach Resort’s Natura Spa.
Go To The Moon
Moon gates (circular stone archways) are found throughout the island. If you pay attention, you’ll start seeing them everywhere. Originally a Chinese tradition imported by the British colonists, moon gates are believed to bring good luck to any newlywed couple who walks under them.
One of the most Instagram-worthy moon gates can be found at Palm Grove Gardens, a private 18-acre estate that’s open to the public Monday through Thursday. After you’ve posed for the camera under the arch, keep driving into the park, past a slew of boisterous cockatoos in bird cages, until you reach the gorgeous grassy clearing in the center of the estate. Make sure to go “island hopping” on the lily pond — it’s landscaped to look like the map of Bermuda.
Learn The Art of Perfume
Established in 1928, The Bermuda Perfumery is a luxury legend on the island, crafting dozens of ready-made scents for gifts and classes on the art of blending your own fragrance with the master perfumer.
Somewhat of a hidden culinary gem is the elegant high tea service offered behind the perfume shop. Served in the beautiful gardens of St. George’s historic Stewart Hall, this afternoon ritual includes housemade pastries, jams, finger sandwiches and artisanal teas Wednesday and Saturday between 1 and 4 p.m.
Visit The Island’s Oldest-Surviving Settlement
Founded in 1612, St. George was the island’s first settlement and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Much of the former capital’s original cobblestone streets and white-washed buildings are still preserved today.
Take a peek inside St. Peter’s Church in the center of town to get a glimpse of history — a set of communion silver gifted by English monarchs William and Mary in 1697.