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Published: August 11th 2019
Aha, I got you! You thought I had finally solved the mystery of all those missing ships and aircraft, didn’t you? Well you’re wrong! I’m talking about unlocking the delights of a different triangle, that formed by the three main towns of Bermuda. For the geometrically-inclined, these form an inverted isosceles triangle, with a wide base and short height (or depth?), with the capital Hamilton on the apex and St George to the east and the Royal Naval Dockyard to the west on the base. Mind you, Bermuda has a lot more to offer than just these three towns.
There were six of us on this trip spanning three generations - Joan and myself, Damon and Sarah, and the grandkiddies Elliott and Layla. We had rented a really well located Airbnb for the week at Paget, a fairly central spot on this small island (less than 40 km in length and only a few kms wide at any point) and a short walk to some superb beaches. While our activities were influenced to some degree by the desires of the latter pair, I don’t think any of the oldies felt unsatisfied with their coverage of the island in our short
So what were the immediate first impressions, apart from the incredible beauty of the island? These were the very narrow winding roads throughout the island, often with no footpath on either side, giving just enough room for two buses to pass without scraping their sides on the many high stone fences butting onto the roads although frequently they would be brushed by the overhanging trees or vegetation growing right up to the road’s edge. But even more noticeable were the brightly coloured houses, often in a design similar to British villages, every single one with a white stepped roof made of limestone, with a gutter built in to harvest any rainwater which is then collected in a tank under the house. This is because Bermuda has no fresh-water springs, rivers or lakes, and so is totally dependent on rainwater, which is fortunately quite regular. This means that residents pay no water rates! An added bonus is that these roofs are not easily removed by hurricanes, but this is offset by the need to repaint them from time to time.
Our first visit was to Hamilton, the capital of the island and clearly its commercial heart. Pastel-coloured colonial
buildings line the streets, with the busiest part of the city being the along the harbour front, where cruise ships dock alongside island-hopping ferries and tour boats. Amongst the most impressive buildings were the City Hall and Arts Centre, along with my favourite, the St Andrews Church, surely the only bright pink Presbyterian church in the world! From Hamilton we took the half hour ferry to ....
The old Royal Naval Dockyard on the north-west extremity of the island. This is now generally just called Dockyard to reflect its touristy status, but for well over a hundred years, including during both World Wars, this was a bustling, vibrant port, strategically located between the US and the UK, with floating docks where ships were repaired for combat deployment. While most of these old buildings still remain, including the very impressive Commissioner’s House, surrounded by old cannons on top of the hill, they now host the National Museum, some British-themed pubs (where we dined at Bermuda’s only brewery, the Frog & Onion Pub), craft studios and a shopping mall inside the impressive Clocktower Centre.
Final stop of the big three was to St George, situated on the north-east extremity of
the island. With its cobblestone streets, quaint lanes, historic architecture and colonial landmarks, it has deservedly been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. We visited St Peter’s Church, completed in 1612 (the oldest Anglican Church site in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere), and checked out the headstones in the churchyard, many over 300 years old, including those of slaves. Following that was a tour of Fort St Catherine, high on the hill at the extremity, with its interesting artefacts and great views, before adjourning to the nearby Achilles Beach, right next door to the very popular Tobacco Bay Beach but for some strange reason almost deserted. This is on the north side of the island and its many rock formations give rise to great snorkelling for colourful fish and coral, as well as warm and protected water.
In between these city excursions, we did a number of other beach visits, all of these on the south side of the island. We were fortunate enough to be staying only ten minutes walk from Elbow Beach, which is a mix of private beaches belonging to resorts and the public section for us poor people. It is a long stretch of
beach, so there was plenty of room for everyone. And so I thought would be the case at Horseshoe Bay Beach, recognised as the most popular (and scenic) beach in Bermuda, and some would argue the world. However the morning we went there coincided with two cruise ships in port, where this is clearly one of the offered excursions (and obviously a popular one). By mid-morning, both the beach and the superbly warm surf resembled Bondi on a hot New Years Day, and I’m guessing that someone taking a photo of the beach from a plane would see a much greater area of blue from the Pepsi-sponsored umbrellas and deck chairs than the fabulous white sand on the beach. Actually, the brochures call it ‘pink sand’ due to the red organisms that supposedly get washed up from the surrounding coral reefs, but my eyes couldn’t see that! Crowds aside, there was no taking away from the cliffs fringing the beach and the rock formations at both ends, with the sand blending in with the superb turquoise water.
Just in case you felt we had been a bit lazy on our trip, we also visited Bermuda’s Crystal Caves, where you
venture down into a cavern where you can view a subterranean lake and impressive crystal formations, with thousands of stalactites and crystallised soda straws descending from the cave’s ceiling. We also put in a couple of hours at the National Museum of Bermuda, which is housed within the buildings complex of the Royal Naval Dockyard. This covers a wide range of Bermuda’s naval history, ranging from shipwrecks, battles, whaling, yacht racing and maritime art. A bonus was the number of old cannons, huge anchors and other rusting maritime items for the kids to climb over in the surrounding grounds. Finally, we also took in the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, which focuses heavily on birds, reptiles and mammals from island habitats. Fresh from recent trips to Madagascar and the Caribbean, I particularly enjoyed their showings, while the Australasia exhibit gave me a little ‘home away from home’.
All in all a great visit to a very attractive part of the world, and while the weather was a bit warm for my likings (I don’t think it went below 30 degC, day or night, and was very humid) but on hearing of the current cold snap back home over the
same period, I won’t complain. The remainder of our trip is back in the US with family, so you won’t hear from me again. As for my next trip, who knows ...
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