A vacation that included an “island time” was long overdue, as it had been more than 25 since my last visit to Bermuda, and my husband had never been to this beautiful little island. Bermuda is one of the most cosmopolitan of all the islands of the Atlantic Caribbean. This small island has a form of British influence, an international banking presence, and a well-established community. Bermuda can be reached by plane in just 3 hours, from New York City, and is easily accessible from much of the East Coast of the United States. With the charm of easy access, a comfortable western outlook, and a reliable tourism industry, the island is a fantastic vacation spot. Given Bermuda’s unique tourist customer base and lack of arable land, the island is expensive.
The restaurant’s food is undoubtedly geared towards a tourist crowd and is priced accordingly. Of course, there are some local spots that include an almost hidden Harry gem that we found one night. Harry’s Restaurant is located in an office complex next to the Hamilton Marina. This restaurant has a nice patio on a quiet cul-de-sac at the end of the marina. It also has an extensive bar menu (food and drink), I would recommend the salt and pepper shrimp and the tuna carpaccio. There is no possibility of leaving this place hungry or thirsty. We also understand that on Friday afternoons this place is buzzing during happy hour.
Aside from the food at Harry’s, we had mixed dining experiences in Bermuda. Coconuts in The Reefs Hotel had received several reviews from a disparate group of people, so it sounded like a must-try place. The restaurant’s location is on the water’s edge, where you can dine on the patio overlooking the waves or at a table on the sandy beach. However, the indicator should have been the $ 75 prix fixe dinner. The food was disappointing and unmistakably created for a crowd of tourists. We recommend going for a cocktail and seeing the view and scenery, but skip your dinner package. They have another fantastic patio overlooking the ocean and the beach, at road level. This would also be a lovely place to have a drink.
Our last night we tried The Waterlog Inn associated with the Southampton Princess. It is a classic steakhouse. Food and service were extremely good. The restaurant was full, possibly with those people also disappointed by Coconuts. My husband would recommend this restaurant based on the wine selection. However, I stay on the fence as the restaurant can be found in any large city in North America. We did not try, although we should have, the dining room at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. The lighthouse is on a hill and the open-air restaurant has the best views on the island. Give it a try and let us know.
The coffee in Bermuda was disappointing. Hamilton has a few places that serve espresso, including the Hamilton Princess coffee shop. The first place we tried was the coffee shop located inside Miles Market. The lattes were prepared by two baristas who were far more interested in talking on the phone than serving their customers. The next day we ventured a little further to Common Ground, which is in an alley, just off Front Street. The Common Ground lattes were an improvement over the day before, albeit a bit milky. We gave their food a decent rating. My husband had his breakfast sandwich a BLT with egg. It was made to order and beautifully presented. The restaurant that gets the highest local ratings is Rock Island on Reid Street. Sunday morning, I ventured out to see if Rock Island was really the place for coffee. However, it was a failed mission, absolutely nothing is open in Hamilton on Sunday mornings. Even the Juice and Java store on Front Street only opens at 2pm. My failed coffee mission led me back to the aforementioned Hamilton Princess coffee shop, which had a line at the door of hotel guests and islanders who had just finished their road bike rides. Literally this is the only coffee shop open in Hamilton on a Sunday and the coffee was terrible.
Despite disappointing dining experiences, Bermuda offers a wide variety of tourist attractions and activities. The island is small and easy to explore. The ferry and bus system works together, with little effort you can reach either end of the island in about 60 minutes, from Hamilton. There are up to 4 bus options each way and several ferry options during the week. Be sure to check the museum and fort opening hours before heading out to explore, as we found that Fort St Catherine is only open on weekdays. We recommend spending at least half a day at the Royal Naval Dockyard and exploring the Bermuda Maritime Museum and the Commissioner’s House. However, keep in mind that the Royal Naval Dockyard is also the port for cruise ships visiting the island, so expect a significant number of tourist shops and associated inflated prices.
St George’s is on the other (east) end of the island. This small town is a step back in time to the 19th century, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This small port still has cobbled streets and alleys. There are some attractive shops and restaurants. Be sure to visit Tobacco Bay and swim or have a drink overlooking the ocean. St George’s can be reached by boat from Monday to Friday or by any of the 4 buses every day of the week.
The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse stands at the highest point on the island, built in 1844 and is the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the world. The hill is 245 feet high and the lighthouse itself is 117 feet. A 1,000-watt light bulb sits inside a lens that spins in a 1,200-pound mercury channel. Ships can see the beam of light from 40 miles away and from a range of 120 miles by a plane flying at 10,000 feet. The views are worth the climb to the top of the hill.
Golfers love Bermuda. There are numerous courses with varied terrain and prices. We were lucky enough to play at the Mid-Ocean Club and Port Royal courses. Mid-Ocean is a classic old course, with a lot of trouble along the way and certainly a challenging hike. At the time of our visit, the Port Royal course was undergoing a massive makeover for the Grand Slam. The Port Royal course has a lot of sand and is not easy for the average golfer. We visited, although we did not play Tuckers Point, which is adjacent to Mid-Ocean. Tuckers Point offers fabulous terrain, tennis, a semi-private beach, and a beautiful golf course with terrain remarkably similar to the Mid-Ocean.
Bermuda’s beaches are all beautiful, possibly even the best feature on the island. The sand is pinkish white. We found that it is not too difficult to get away from the crowds and find a secluded spot to swim. Bermuda is beautiful and worth a visit.