Horseshoe Bay (Photo: Adobe Stock)
Horseshoe Bay (Photo: Adobe Stock)

There's More to Bermuda Than You Might Think

You’ll likely come for the weather, beaches, golf courses, and shopping, but be sure to make time for the abundant museums and historical sites.

The view is remarkable from atop Bermuda’s 117-foot Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. Constructed in 1846, it is the world’s oldest cast-iron lighthouse and one of only two still in existence. (The other is Whiteford Point Lighthouse in Wales.)

Gibbs Hill overlooks South Shore and Little Sound, offering views of Bermuda’s capital, Hamilton, as well as the Royal Naval Dockyard. Looking down from the lighthouse, you see sapphire and teal water framing emerald green hills dotted with pastel-painted houses with bright white roofs. 

 Bermuda’s 117-foot Gibbs Hill Lighthouse (Photo: Adobe Stock)
Bermuda’s 117-foot Gibbs Hill Lighthouse (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Though you could keep well occupied visiting Gibbs Hill and the many other historic sites in this self-governing British territory, most visitors come to Bermuda primarily to relax and play, which is understandable. About 650 miles off the North Carolina coast, it offers abundant golf courses, great shopping, and exciting museums, plus a mild year-round climate. There are plenty of options for swimming, snorkeling, hiking, fine dining, and sunbathing in Bermuda, which boasts pink-sand beaches and 64 miles of coastline.

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Natural limestone cliffs and extensive reefs border the expansive Horseshoe Bay, which is named for its shape and is the territory’s most photographed beach.

Admiralty House Park, which fills 16 acres, offers fantastic ocean views, shaded paths, and trails through wooded areas to popular cliffs. The now-derelict Admiralty House, which dates from the early 1800s, was home to British admirals who dug out the tunnels and caves that visitors can still explore. Bus route No. 4 from Hamilton includes a stop outside the entrance. A winding path leads down to sheltered Clarence Cove.

Daniel's Head Beach Park covers 17 acres of the coastal area and has several beaches and a park. Somerset Long Bay is excellent for picnics, swimming, and snorkeling. The water is relatively shallow and can be calm, making this a perfect spot for families. The Bermuda Audubon Society and Bermuda National Trust established the adjoining nature reserves, providing a good place for bird watchers.

Warwick Long Bay features soft, pink-hued sand and clear water with an added ruggedness. On a calm day, the snorkeling is excellent, with schools of bright blue parrotfish drawn to coral reefs just 200 feet from the shoreline. But when the westerly wind kicks up, even strong swimmers should use caution. 

Thanks to its crystal-clear, shallow waters, Tobacco Bay is one of Bermuda's best beaches for snorkeling. In addition, the bay's unusual rock formations make it an excellent haven for marine life, including colorful parrotfish, grouper, angelfish, and sergeant majors. It's also a beach with a fascinating history: Bermudians sympathetic to the cause of the American Continental Congress stole more than 100 barrels of gunpowder from the royal arsenal in St. George's Town, rolled them across the island to Tobacco Bay, and shipped them to Philadelphia on Aug. 14, 1775.

Fishing is a popular pastime. Charter boats provide quick access to some of the best deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic. Shore fishing is also popular and requires no license. Although usually catching smaller fish, lucky anglers sometimes reel in barracuda, marlin, tuna, and wahoo.

Not a scuba diver, snorkeler, or fisher? You can still enjoy the deep by visiting the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo, a trio of attractions in Flatts Village. The aquarium features marine life tanks, including the 140,000-gallon North Rock tank, which mimics a local reef system and houses sharks, tuna, and barracuda. The zoo showcases animals found in island ecosystems worldwide. The natural history museum explores Bermuda's beginnings and how early settlers changed the landscape through the impacts of invasive species and resource use.

Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute is another excellent museum. Three floors of exhibits, many interactive, include a beautiful collection of doubloons, other artifacts, and priceless treasures from the sea floor. The facility also features one of the world’s most extensive privately owned shell collections. 

The territory is home to other excellent museums as well. The Bermuda National Gallery in Hamilton, for example, features works dating back to the 1600s and the African Collection with masks, figurines, and sculptures. Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art is the permanent home for a collection of island-inspired artwork from 19th-century masters such as Winslow Homer and Georgia O'Keeffe. 

Approximately 90 forts are scattered across Bermuda. Some are easy to find. To locate others, you may need a guide. While history lovers will appreciate the forts for their importance, everyone will enjoy the gorgeous views they offer.         

There are also numerous centuries-old homes and government buildings to explore.

Crystal and Fantasy Caves are Bermuda's top visitor attractions. Here you’ll see deep, clear underground pools of water and incredible formations of every size and shape, including chandelier clusters and delicate crystallized soda straws. Each cave offers a unique tour. They’re among many must-see attractions in this island paradise in the North Atlantic.

Editor’s note: Viking Ocean Cruises provided transportation and accommodations for the author. 


What It Is: Bermuda is an internally self-governing British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is about 650 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The territory, covering 20 square miles, consists of 181 islands, the largest of which is Main Island. Bridges connect eight other populated islands. Bermuda’s population is around 70,000, and its most significant industries are offshore insurance, reinsurance, and tourism. The territory had one of the world's highest GDPs per capita for most of the 20th century. 

Climate: Bermuda has a tropical rainforest climate warmed by the nearby Gulf Stream and low latitude. From January through March, typically the coldest months, the average high temperature is 69 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average low is 60. In July and August, the warmest months, the average high is 86 while the average low is 77. The average rainfall is highest in August and October, at more than six inches, and lowest in April and November at less than four inches.

Getting There: Private jets can land at Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport. In addition, several airlines offer direct flights to the territory from major U.S. cities and London.

COVID Restrictions: Visitors must apply for and complete a Bermuda COVID-19 Travel Authorization form one to three days before arriving in the territory and must have a negative COVID-19 test taken within four days before arrival. They must also test on days four and 10 while in Bermuda. These rules don’t apply to children under age two.

Unimmunized travelers must quarantine for 14 days at an accommodation of their choice and must specify whether they will do so alone or share a household. If sharing a house, travelers must list all its members' names and contact information. In addition, all adult household members must sign a waiver agreeing to quarantine with the travelers, wear a red wristband during the quarantine, and get tested when it ends. Unimmunized children traveling with immunized parents or guardians must test upon arrival and on days four, 10, and 14 of their visit.


Accommodations: Rosewood Bermuda (A), on the Main Island’s northeastern edge, features views of Castle Harbor, Harrington Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean. Awarded Fodor's Choice, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Awards 2020, and AAA/CAA Four Diamond Awards 2020, the resort features modern guest rooms, four restaurants, and the 18-hole Tucker's Point Golf Club…Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa (A), an adults-only property, caters to guests seeking outdoor activities, including sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. Other options include nearby golf courses, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, and sailing. Cottages, rooms, and suites feature a private terrace or patio…Hamilton Princess & Beach Club (A) is steps from downtown Hamilton and near shopping boutiques, restaurants, and nightlife. A 30-minute shuttle ride from the resort takes you to the private Princess Beach Club on South Shore.

Cuisine: Barracuda Grill (A), one of Bermuda's best contemporary restaurants, is known for its outstanding seafood and chops. James Beard House awardee Derek Myers oversees a team of chefs creating delicious dishes with inventive cooking techniques, tastes, and ingredients. Reservations are recommended…Lost in the Triangle (B+) is a casual, family-oriented dining treasure whose offerings include Shark Hash, lobster, scallops, and sirloin. No trip to Bermuda would be complete without a stop at the Swizzle Inn (B) in Baileys Bay, which opened in 1932. Here, bartenders created Bermuda's national drink: the rum swizzle, made with Gosling's rum and a mix of fruit juices. The restaurant specializes in barbecue, including beef brisket, Portuguese piri piri chicken, and ribs.


Many of Bermuda's golf courses are award-winning, and the islands have hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf twice. Among your options:

Belmont Hills. This 18-hole, 6,017-yard-long par-70 course is private but will accept off-the-street golfers by appointment. Facilities include a pro shop, a snack bar, and a restaurant. 

Fairmont Southampton Hotel. The golf course here is part of the Southampton Princess Hotel complex. The 18-hole, 2,684-yard, par-54 course features excellent marine and landscape views. Here you’ll find a pro shop, tennis courts, a bar, and a restaurant. 

Mid Ocean Club. Charles Blair MacDonald originally designed this course to fit into the natural terrain. It offers a par-71 layout and has more than 600 acres of rolling countryside, 6,519 yards from the back tees. A private club, it will accept some off-the-street golfers by appointment if they are referred by a member.

Ocean View Golf Course. This par-35, 2,819-yard, government-owned public course has nine holes. 

Port Royal. Port Royal, which is also government-owned, is considered one of the world’s best and most expensive public courses. More rounds are played here than on any other Bermuda course. Site of the October PGA Grand Slam, it hosts many tournaments and has been the home of the Bermuda Open. 

Tuckers Point Gold Club. This par-70 course is between St. George's and Castle Harbor and offers incredible views. It is a private club but will accept off-the-street golfers by appointment.


Although discovered in 1503 by Juan Bermúdez, the islands of Bermuda weren't occupied until 1609 when 151 English travelers in route to Jamestown, Virginia, were blown off course during a hurricane and shipwrecked here. Although the survivors built two smaller ships and sailed to Jamestown, the English claimed the land and settled here in 1612. New London, later named St. George's Town, was designated as the colony's first capital. It is the oldest continually inhabited English town in the New World and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

King's Square, constructed in 1782 and named after King George III, is a popular local gathering place surrounded by colonial-era buildings, including the Town Hall. In addition, the Bermuda National Trust Museum, housed in one of Bermuda's oldest stone buildings, was built around 1700.

Nearby is St. James Church. Established in 1612, it is the oldest Anglican church outside the British Isles and the oldest Protestant church in continuous use in the New World. Its cemetery dates back centuries.

St James Church  Photo: Adobe Stock
St James Church Photo: Adobe Stock

The National Museum of Bermuda occupies the territory’s largest fort, the Keep, at the Royal Naval Dockyard on the island's western end. The Keep's ramparts and bastions enclose eight buildings, among them the hilltop Commissioner's House.

The Royal Engineers designed the buildings to defend the channels and approaches to the Dockyard. 

A fascinating and famous exhibit is "Shipwreck Island: Sunken Clues to Bermuda's Past," which features 16th- and 17th-century shipwreck artifacts recovered from local waters. Among the more than 1,500 items are weapons, pottery, coins, and navigation equipment. 

Hamilton, Bermuda's capital, is between St. George's Town to the east and Royal Naval Dockyard to the west. Sir Henry Hamilton, the city’s founder and namesake, served as governor of Bermuda from 1788 to 1794 and was instrumental in supporting the settlement of a town in the central parishes.

Although St. George's Town residents strongly objected to creating the new town, Hamilton felt it made sense to have a city in the central area, relatively close to people from all over the islands. Thus, it became Bermuda’s capital in 1815. 

The best way to see many of the sites is to take a tour from St. George's Town, Hamilton, or the Royal Naval Dockyard. The tours include everything from forts, churches, lighthouses, museums, and beaches to homes of the rich and famous.