Imagine an island, a little home-from-home, with pink sandy beaches, where the sea matches the colour of the sky, where you can skim the waves under sail on a catamaran and sip potent fruity cocktails as you watch the sunset…and where there’s even a Marks & Spencer in the high street. Sophie McLean discovers a small corner of the Atlantic that is forever England…
“You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to shoot the works. A whole week in New York. A whole week in Bermuda” so says George Bailey to his new wife, delivered through classic shades of black and white in the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Perhaps if George Bailey were to have visited Bermuda today, he would have stayed at the Coral Beach Club, a beautiful, historic, private members’ and tennis club, set on the southern fringes of one of Bermuda’s nine parishes; Paget.
The hotel and accompanying beach-view cottages here ooze a yesteryear Hollywood romance – one with which the island of Bermuda is so often readily associated. From candy-coloured white and yellow striped awnings that match the sturdy paper straws in their cocktails, to the grand piano in the cedar-paneled foyer and pretty ornate birdcage that houses local celebrity Alonso (the parrot), this place is steeped in a glamorous, timeless history. Nik Bhola, General Manager, greets guests in his gold-buttoned navy blazer, knee-skimming socks and matching rose-pink Bermuda shorts – ones that mirror the shade of sand on Bermuda’s fabled Horseshoe Bay beach, a little further down the road.
Bermuda is nestled 1,000km north of the Caribbean, deep amidst the waves of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is thus less susceptible to hurricanes than her more tropical “neighbours”. Home-away for many Brits and Americans alike, it is not difficult to see how this collection of 181 islands continues to work their, seemingly eternal charm. Indeed, upon first discovery, it is widely rumoured that Bermuda was deliberately marked in the wrong location so as to prevent any one else from finding this sea-horse shaped secret.
As a British Overseas Territory, there is certainly a native familiarity interwoven into its soul; obvious mostly through the array of could-be-Cornish dry stone walls, Anglican church spires, and ongoing anglo-themed connections – not least with the pretty, historic town of St.George’s, and well-documented visits from Her Majesty The Queen (you could easily count the M&S just off Front Street in Bermuda’s capital, Hamilton amongst these too). In all this golden familiarity, a sleepy high-life here could easily be de rigueur, but outside of this darling slow serenity, Bermuda also offers a more adventurous side.
Leading the charge on one of the more upbeat activities here is the chance to hire a Renault Twizy. Newly launched on the island late last year, these four-wheeled, electric, two-seater buggies are simply the most fun way to get around Bermuda for on-your-own-time impromptu island explorations. Regular car hire here is banned, so the only other options for self travel are on one of the beautifully retro blossom-pink public buses, in a taxi, or on the back of a scooter – that is, until now. With these battery-powered beauties, you hop in, press play, and take to the road (Bermuda is also a home-from home left hand drive, so life really couldn’t be easier). Darting through the winding lanes with handsome houses, both grandiose and more beach-shack quaint all around, and tropical flora beaming from every angle too – it’s an exciting way to cruise the island from top to very toe. Charging points are handily located island wide, and in-vehicle blue-tooth sound keeps the mellow vibes going.
For something a little more energetic, live music fans can get their kicks on a Friday night at Elbow Resort’s ‘Sea Breezes’ bar, at a night called The Big Chill – the place-to-be for cocktails (the classic Bermudan Swizzle is a must-clutch before a dance here come the end of the week). This is also home to top-notch dining at Mickey’s Beach Bistro. Outside tables that line the ocean shore are popular even on stormier nights (Bermuda, being only “sub”-tropical, happily experiences all the seasons), so when the winds do blow, star-lit skies add a little more magic yet to landscapes on which the island’s other signature cocktail, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, must have been based.
Any hint of jet-lag or nights spent dancing into the early hours at The Big Chill, in Hamilton town, or at the bar at the Hamilton Princess can be quickly remedied with a life-invigorating session of stand-up paddleboarding the next day (taking instruction from Ian Bridges of Bermuda Adventures, whose gentle local lilt can unwind any tension within you in seconds). Gliding through the mangroves is a brilliant way of exploring another side of this charming destination. Jet-skiing, and more-straightforward sailing are other exhilarating options, with opportunities to visit one of the 300+ shipwrecks so well-written about here.
Cornering the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ while jumping off the back of a catamaran into crystal clear, coral-studded waters is something on which Bermudan dreams were made. Check out the Happy Cat Catamaran by SeaSplash Bermuda and KS Watersports for the jet skis, departing this time, a short stroll from the cutesy blue and white Rosedon Hotel.
Daytime physical efforts can be sated with a classic Bermudan fish sandwich – deep-fried fish with mayo served between two thick slabs of raisin bread. Try Art Mels for some of the very best, or the Devils Eye Café for something a little more holistic. And for more traditional fare yet, The Flame restaurant does a cracking Bermudan Sunday breakfast.
If all this adventure is taking its toll then visitors can sink into a massage beneath and above stalactites and stalagmites in the cave-like surroundings of Grotto Bay Resort’s underground spa and swimming holes. Folk of an artier disposition can wander the halls of the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art – owned by the eccentric Tom Butterfield, a man who hosts regular charity functions at venues like the swish newly-opened Loren hotel. On one such evening, I noticed him pouring guests a Burgundian white wine – when I asked about this he said it was specifically created by his nephew to celebrate the Americas Cup when it was hosted here last year.
Remnants of the set-up from the Cup are still in evidence, along with the slightly more touristy side to Bermuda’s pink-etched isles. The Royal Naval Dockyard at the tip of the sea horse’s tail is a haven for cruise liner shoppers hoping to find something authentic to take back home with them. For me, memories of sitting on the deck at Tobacco Bay, cocktail in hand and BBQ chicken in mouth, feet in the azure water and in the company of some brilliant people is all I personally need as a souvenir from here. A great spot, even for an exotic long weekend, and with everything on offer to its visitors here, as George Bailey suggests, you really can achieve “the works”.
For more information about Bermuda, including details of the island’s areas and its culture, suggested itineraries, events calendar and how to plan your trip, visit www.gotobermuda.co.uk.