‘You can go to heaven if you want to, I’d rather stay in Bermuda.’ So goes the famous quote by American author Mark Twain. And it doesn’t take long upon arrival to understand why. Just 21 miles long and 1.75 miles at its widest, with year-round sunshine, stunning North Atlantic turquoise waters and dozens of world-famous pink sand beaches — I could soon imagine never wanting to leave.
Britain’s oldest overseas territory is just a seven-hour flight from London, and while traditionally it’s thought of as honeymoon territory, with plenty of water sports, historic sights and shopping on offer, it’s also ideal for families. We visited with our three kids aged 10 to 15, and they were blown away by its fairytale-like tropical beauty and incredible snorkelling.
Beaches & snorkelling
Bermuda is famous for its long beaches framed by dramatic limestone cliffs. Horseshoe Bay is arguably one of the most perfect examples. Visit in the early morning before anyone else arrives to catch the sunrise from one of the rock formations at either end of its stretch of pink sand.
Bermuda is surrounded by a vast reef system, and while there are plenty of options for snorkelling close to shore, Tobacco Bay is stand-out. Located on the northern shore of St George’s Island, and accessible on foot or bus from the main town, it is teeming with varied shoals of colourful reef fish and beautiful coral. Moments after wading into the shallows we were stunned as around twenty brightly coloured parrot fish swimming regally by.
Due to being sheltered, it’s also a good spot for paddleboarding, plus there are some sweet local shopping spots nearby in the Unesco World Heritage-listed town of St George’s.
Helmet dive experience
Get up close and personal with tropical fish and even eels during Hartley’s Dive experience (hartleybermuda.com). It allows you to walk on the ocean floor using a unique helmet diving system with a large glass window. It’s a great alternative to scuba diving, which you can do without a license or even without being able to swim, so it’s ideal for kids. You’ll leave with some great selfies with everything from angelfish to squirrelfish and hinds.
Formed over millions of years, this natural wonder is one of the island’s biggest attractions. The soaring stalagmites and icicles of white limestone of Crystal Caves (caves.bm) drip from the ceiling and are lit by a state-of-the-art system which reveals their majesty and mystique, as well as the numerous cell phones and other tourist paraphernalia long lost in the azure pools below.
Shopping and exploring
Bermuda’s capital, Hamilton, is ideal for a shopping excursion with plenty of local stores. It’s perfect if you’re hunting down a pair of traditional Bermuda shorts or want to take home a unique piece from the thriving traditional Bermudan art scene.
The Bermuda Botanical Gardens is lovely for a relaxing picnic before heading to the Ocean Discovery Centre (buei.bm) where we found out the truth behind the Bermuda Triangle and all those missing planes and boats.
The Royal Navy Dockyard (dockyard.bm) offers some fascinating naval and maritime history and shopping all on the same site. The Dockyard was used as a strategic base during the First and Second World Wars, and there are plenty of historic buildings and artefacts. It’s well worth spending a day as there to eat, shop and hire a Segway or tick off the aqua assault course. Lose yourself in the Bermuda Crafts Market, which has dozens of local craftspeople selling handmade jewellery and ornaments.
Sitting on a lush tropical estate, with dramatic caves along the water’s edge, Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa (rooms from £250 per night, cambridgebeaches.com) has just celebrated its 100-year anniversary with a top-to-toe renovation. With panoramic views over the Atlantic Ocean, it’s one of the island’s most luxurious exclusive retreats.
The vast list of facilities includes an indoor and outdoor pool, spa, gym, tennis courts and water sports centre. It also boasts four private beaches and three fabulous restaurants. Go to Breezes for the beachside view while you snack on wraps and salads — you might even be close enough to the sea to splash your feet in the surf.
The Sunkem Harbour Club overlooking the bay has a great range of cocktails inspired by its stateside Brooklyn sister bar, and delicious seafood choices, including a traditional Bermuda shark hash. Pastels, right next to the pool, is great for lunch with sushi and salads as a lighter alternative.
The complimentary afternoon tea in the parlour in the main house where my kids learnt to make ‘proper’ tea was an extra special touch.
The hotel’s update has seen the rooms made over with vibrant colours, bespoke furniture and local artwork by Bermudians. Every room has a stunning sea view and its own outdoor seating area. You may need some serious persuading to actually venture out and explore the island.
Eat and drink
Fast food chains are banned on the island to preserve the country’s Old World vibe, which means there’s a huge range of diverse local restaurants to choose from. Bermudan food influences include Portuguese to British, Caribbean and West African. Be sure to familiarise yourself with local fish delicacies such as grilled grouper and spiney lobster.
The Village Pantry (villagepantry.bm) nestled in the beautiful Flatt’s village is regularly voted one of the island’s top restaurants and is perfect for a casual brunch or elegant dinner. On offer are a mouthwatering selection of innovative seafood dishes, generous cuts of grass-fed meats and a specifically designed vegan menu. The quinoa and lentil burger with shredded red beets was definitely the real deal, and even convinced my die-hard red meat-eating son to give the vegan option a go.
Huckleberry at Rosedon’s hotel (huckleberrybda.com) offers some Old World charm with an experience in tribute to the aformementioned Mark Twain. Sitting on the grand front porch which overlooks the garden terrace below, enjoy a menu which draws inspiration from the author’s Southern roots, while staying true to Bermudian flavours. Delights including wagyu beef carpaccio and fresh baked brioche pull-loaf made for one of the most beautifully presented meals I’ve ever eaten.
Bermuda’s oldest pub the The Swizzle Inn (swizzleinn.com) is home to national drink, the Rum Swizzle. Its rustic charm and graffitied walls with dollar bills stuffed into every crevice are fun and loud, and the drinks are as delicious as you would expect.
BA (britishairways.com) flies direct on most from days from London Heathrow, starting at £700 each way.