Sitting on a wooden jetty with my legs dangling in the bluest water I've ever seen and an ice-cold rum cocktail in my hand, I really think I might be in heaven. I've had the most sublime few days in Bermuda, where I’ve enjoyed glorious sandy beaches, adventures on the water, cultural history and delicious food and this charming island has won me over.
Before coming here Bermuda had never really been on my radar – in fact, I wasn't even sure where it was, guessing it was somewhere around the Caribbean. In fact this British Overseas Territory, which is self-governed but has the Queen as its head of state, sits in the South Atlantic 650 miles east of North Carolina, about 1,000 miles north of the Caribbean – safely away from the path of last year's devastating hurricanes - and a 90-minute flight from New York. While this makes it a perfect destination for a two-centre holiday, British Airways' direct flights from London Gatwick to Hamilton makes Bermuda a great spot for a long weekend, as I found out when I headed there for a short break.
Bermuda makes a great spot for a long weekend
An archipelago made up of seven islands connected by bridges, its name was derived from Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez, who discovered it in 1505 before British settlers arrived in the 17th century having been blown off course by a hurricane and shipwrecked - a story that inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest. Surrounded by coral reefs, it made made easy pickings for pirates, who would lure ships to shore and pilfer the wrecks, many of which still lie on the seabed today. While Bermuda - famed for its Bermuda shorts - has long been popular with wealthy British expats and, in particular, the older generation, it has plenty to attract younger visitors these days, including an array of water sports and vibrant nightlife.
The vibe on the island is friendly and relaxed and there is a chilled-out feeling of luxury without the 'bling', which is an obvious attraction for Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, who have long had a family home here, as well as stars like Lewis Hamilton and Solange Knowles.
While there is plenty to see and do here, if you simply want to relax on the beach you can have your pick of beautiful stretches of white sand, like the stunning Horseshoe Bay, Elbow Beach, Jobson’s Cove and Tobacco Bay, where we enjoyed lunch at the wooden beach bar and discovered another quirky attraction - a pool table in the sea.
Tobacco Bay is one of the many beautiful beaches in Bermuda
For the more energetic there are fantastic water activities, such as the mangrove paddle board tour we did with Bermuda Adventures (@BermudAdventure), which took us through waterways created by a labyrinth of twisted tree roots. We also jumped aboard the Happy Cat catamaran with SeaSplash Bermuda (seasplashbermuda.com) and headed out to the reefs, where we snorkeled and sipped rum cocktails on the deck.
We also enjoyed an exhilarating whizz around the island’s beautiful bays on jet skis, with KS Watersports (kswatersports.com) - something I had never tried before but would highly recommend. Our ride took us to the tip of the so-called 'Bermuda Triangle' - and area stretching to Florida and Puerto Rico, where ships and planes are said to have mysteriously disappeared over the years, although cynics put this down to a mixture of inaccurate reports, busy shipping route and deep waters.
Paddleboarding is one of the many water activities on offer
Car hire was recently introduced to Bermuda and Current Vehicles (currentvehicles.com) , based in the capital Hamilton, has a fleet of electric Renault Twizys - a great way to explore the 24-mile long island. We had so much fun zipping around in the cute, eco-friendly two-seater cars, with our favourite tunes blaring out of the Bluetooth speakers as we took in the beautiful scenery.
Travelling around the island in an electric Renault Twizy
Bermuda is steeped in history and a visit to the island’s first English settlement and original capital St George, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a must. At the town’s heart is King’s Square, with its grand, Colonial buildings and 18th century Town Hall, while the historic town is scattered with wooden churches, museums and pretty, candy-coloured buildings in Bermuda’s signature pastel shades, which also feature white roofs with a unique step design to carry rainwater into underground tanks. There was time to relax, too, with a massage in the fabulous subterranean spa in Prospero’s Cave at the Grotto Bay Beach Resort, a magical underground oasis dripping with stalagmites and stalactites, where we also enjoyed a refreshing dip.
The historic town square in St George
The island has a varied array of accommodation available, from the upmarket Reefs Resort and Club, The Rosewood and The Loren, to the family-friendly Fairmont Southampton and the more moderately priced Coco Reef to private homes rented out on sites like Airbnb.
Our base for our four-day stay was the Rosedon (rosedon.com) , a charming boutique hotel a few minutes walk to the centre of the capital Hamilton. Originally built as a private residence in 1906 it has a lovely, homely feel as well as modern touches like a private swimming pool and ensuite rooms with stripped wooden floors.
A worker at The Rosedon Hotel in Bermuda shorts
On the wooden front porch we enjoyed delicious local breakfasts like lobster benedict and home-made granola, while the Huckleberry restaurant offers delicious food and famous Bermudan rum cocktails, including the Swizzle and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy. In fact rum is a recurring theme during our stay - not surprising, since the island is home to Bacardi’s headquarters, as well as its own brand of rum, Goslings.
There is no shortage of delicious food and drink in Bermuda and there’s also an ample supply of places to enjoy them, including Mickey’s Beach Bistro, a fabulous restaurant, bar and nightclub rolled into one on the magnificent Elbow Beach (elbowbeachbermuda.com) . Here, we tucked into delicious dishes by the water, including local fish like mahi-mahi and diver scallops, before heading inside to dance to live music. There are more casual options too, like Woody’s roadside cafe and takeaway Art Mel’s, which serve huge fried fish sandwiches and cans of ginger beer.
Mickey's Bistro is a restaurant, bar and nightclub on Elbow Beach
After cramming so much into our long weekend it was time to head back to the airport. On the way, we stopped for a final rum cocktail at the Swizzle Inn, Bermuda’s oldest and most famous pub, and raised a glass to this lovely island, hoping to come back again.
For more information about Bermuda visit Bermuda Tourism at GoToBermuda.com and @bermuda