By Margaret Loftus
- “There are no rental cars in Bermuda, so have fun exploring by moped. Take it slow, though: It’s easy to spin out on the narrow, winding roads – and remember, we drive on the left!”
– Beverly Samuels, Virtuoso travel advisor, Hamilton, Bermuda
The sun blazed bright and hot as we cut into the Atlantic swells with our paddles, the water’s glinting surface occasionally broken by a sea turtle slurping air. My husband and I had rented a tandem kayak and set off with a gentle breeze at our backs to circumnavigate Somerset Island, one of the main puzzle pieces in the craggy limestone-capped caldera rim that is Bermuda.
We’d come to Bermuda
looking for adventure. For decades, this British territory coasted on its rep – pink sand, intimate coves, illustrious golf courses – to attract visitors, many of them regulars for generations. But these days, a younger crowd is discovering its outdoorsy side, says Virtuoso travel advisor and native Bermudan Beverly Samuels. “There’s cliff diving, cliff climbing, mountain biking, and endless water sports, like shipwreck diving and snorkeling – all just a two-hour plane hop from the East Coast.”
In the ultimate blending of clubby fun and adrenaline, the island landed the 2017 America’s Cup, a coup that’s also an excuse to spruce up, breathing new life into resorts. The famous Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, for instance, will emerge from a $100 million makeover in June.
Finding out the best place to, say, jump off a cliff is as easy as asking your taxi driver. Growing up on a volcanic rock some 650 miles from the nearest landmass means that Bermudans are weaned on the ocean. As we drive past a tiny cove teeming with tots, our driver explains that teachers often take children to the beach for gym class. As kids, he says, “We spent every day in the water, diving for mussels and playing tag as we swam out to buoys about a mile off the coast.” He assures us that the hot spot for “jumping off rocks” is Admiralty House Park at Spanish Point, just a few miles outside Hamilton on the north shore.
We mull the prospect of taking the leap over a couple of Dark ’n Stormies at the airy 1609 Bar & Restaurant, one of three new dining options at the Hamilton Princess. Encased in wall-to-wall louvered windows that open onto Hamilton Harbour, it’ll be a prime perch come the Cup and the races leading up to it.
The next morning, I meet Jono Dill at an abandoned resort west of Hamilton that houses his fleet of bikes. With shaggy blond hair and a “no worries” mantra, he’s straight out of cycling-dude central casting – my orientation consists of him asking me if I know how to ride a bike and tossing me a helmet. “Let’s do this,” he says. We pedal through fields dotted with Bermuda cedar trees toward the railway trail, a repurposed narrow-gauge railroad bed that stretches the length of the island.
The following morning, fortified by a traditional Bermudan Sunday breakfast, my husband and I explore the most popular cave, Crystal. Our guide leads us along a narrow boardwalk above what looks like a shallow pool, which I’m surprised to learn is actually the ocean and 35 feet deep, give or take a six-foot tide. Column-like stalagmites look as if they were carved from foam and slicked with varnish, and the putty-colored walls drip with water, the only sound aside from our guide’s spiel. In 1907, two boys happened upon a narrow entrance to the cave while chasing a ball. The property owner developed it into an attraction for tourists – Mark Twain, among them – who paddled wooden boats through the cave, using kerosene lanterns to guide them.
Where To Stay:
- With a broad swath of pink sand and calm waters at its doorstep, Elbow Beach, Bermuda is home to one of the island’s top snorkeling spots. The gem of the resort’s 98 guest rooms is a private bungalow with unmatched ocean views.
- Perched on a cliff overlooking Castle Harbour, 88-room Rosewood Tucker’s Point is a destination unto itself, with an 18-hole golf course, four hard-clay tennis courts, and spa treatments that use botanicals from the resort’s garden.
- Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa spreads across a private 30-acre peninsula with four beaches, boat rentals, tennis courts, and a European-style wellness center. The property’s 87 accommodations range from garden-view rooms to oceanfront cottages with heated plunge pools.
- The 593-room Fairmont Southampton hotel makes the most of its perch on
the island’s highest point
for unrivaled South Shore views. Its dive center provides PADI training, dive trips, and snorkeling, as well as stand- up paddleboards and kayaks.
- In preparation for its role as official hotel of the America’s Cup, the 400-room Hamilton Princess & Beach Club has completed an extensive renovation and added three restaurants (including one from chef Marcus Samuelsson) and a private beach club on the South Shore.
Originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Virtuoso Traveler
Photo Credit: (Hamilton) wwing/iStockPhoto; (Kayaking) Raul Rosa/iStockPhoto