Heavenly Bermuda

Samantha Simmonds discovers why Mark Twain was smitten with this North Atlantic island


Awarding Beach- Horseshoe Bay- Famous Pink Sand Beach in Bermuda- Best Beaches in the World- Beach is shaped like an horseshoe. Can be reach- but public transportation/

As my ten-year-old daughter raced across the pink Bermudan sand, splashing her way into the warm turquoise waters, her delighted squeals echoed towards me — “I’ve always dreamed of visiting a beach like this!”

We’d been looking for a family holiday destination with a difference, and with year-round sunshine that wasn’t too far away (a mere seven-hour flight from London) as well as being easy to get around, Bermuda fitted the bill perfectly.

The island is so small — just 24 miles long — that you can see it in its entirety from your plane window as you come in to land.

And if it’s best known for those long pink sand beaches framed by dramatic cliffs, there’s a surprising range of other things to see and do as well. Although do set aside plenty of beach time; our favourite, Horseshoe Bay, often appears on lists of top beaches in the world.

This wide sweep of pink coral dusted sand is well worth a visit early in the morning before anyone else arrives, to catch the sunrise from one of the rock formations at either end of the beach.

The best beach for snorkelling is Tobacco Bay on the northern shore of St George’s Island, where the shallow bay teems with shoals of colourful reef fish and beautiful coral — moments after wading in, around 20 brightly coloured parrot fish swam regally by.

With a sheltered bay it’s also a good spot for paddleboarding although despite my best efforts I didn’t manage to stand up for more than a minute.

If you don’t fancy that, the Unesco World Heritage-listed town of St George’s nearby has some tempting shopping spots as you wander its pretty streets. Dating back to the early 17th century, it’s the island’s former capital and the oldest continuously inhabited town of English origin in the New World.

For more browsing, the capital Hamilton has plenty of stores selling local creations too, perfect if you’re hunting down a pair of traditional Bermuda shorts — well it would be rude not to! You’ll also find a great range of local arts and crafts, including original jewellery as well as artworks for all budgets.

A few minutes away, foodies will love Huckleberry at Rosedon’s hotel. Named in tribute to Mark Twain, himself a regular visitor to Bermuda, the menu is inspired by his Southern background and uses locally sourced fruits, vegetables and honey.

We felt almost as though we had gone back in time, treated to one of the most beautifully presented meals I’ve ever eaten — the tuna carpaccio looked like a mini work of art.

At the opposite end of the island — around an hour’s drive from Tobacco Bay on Bermuda’s eastern point — is the Royal Navy Dockyard, one of Bermuda’s unmissable attractions.

Once Britain’s largest naval base outside the UK, historically it played a vital defensive role. Today, the lovingly restored buildings house shops, restaurants and experiences, so you’ll find art, water sports and more while discovering its 18th century origins

Even if naval history doesn’t normally float your boat, the fabulous free historical walking tour transports you back to the 1800s, led by characters in period costume, really bringing to life how the dockyard operated in its heyday.

Once you’ve explored on land, the Hartley’s Helmet Dive Experience here gives you a chance to peek below the waves as well. The team uses a special helmet diving system with a large glass window, making it a great alternative to scuba diving, especially for kids — you don’t need a licence and don’t even need to be able to swim!

And the local seal life (Diana the Bermuda angelfish, Gollum the squirrelfish and Herb the Hind) are all so used to their frequent visitors they happily perform as you pose for selfies.

Perhaps the island’s biggest attraction is the Crystal Caves, a natural wonder formed over millions of years but only discovered just over a century ago.

Stretching for 500 metres, they’re 62 metres deep with the soaring stalagmites and ‘icicles’ of white limestone dripping from the ceiling, lit by a state-of-the-art system which reveals their majesty and mystique — as well as numerous cell phones and other tourist paraphernalia long lost in the clear azure pools below.

While you’re never too far from anywhere you might want to visit on the island, we chose to stay at two different hotels at either end, in order to get the most out of our trip to Bermuda.

For traditional Bermudan charm — and an equally traditional Bermudan rum swizzle on arrival — Cambridge Beaches is set in a lush tropical estate with dramatic caves along the water’s edge. There’s not one, but four private beaches, outdoor and indoor pool, gym, spa, tennis court and even a mini putting green.

The bedrooms have all had a recent makeover, with bespoke furniture and local artwork adding a real five-star feel. Our two-bedroom suite overlooking the beach also featured a very memorable loo with a sea view.

There are several places to eat, from sushi by the pool to salads by the sea, as well as complimentary afternoon tea in the parlour in the main house for an extra special touch.

Not far away, The Village Pantry in Flatts Village is regularly voted one of the island’s top restaurants, with a specially designed vegan menu. The quinoa and lentil burger with shredded red beets even convinced my die-hard meat-eating son to try it.

Closer to the airport, the Grotto Bay Beach Resort is the only hotel on the island with an all-inclusive option, along with an inflatable assault course in the sea where my kids spent hours jumping around. The on-site watersports centre also lets you take out small boats to explore the nearby reefs.

Not being the most natural of sailors, we carefully made our way out to the open water and were excited to find ourselves by a shipwreck that we could swim around.

One of many in Bermuda’s waters, it’s now covered in coral and provides a reef habitat for more of the marine creatures — happily our own small craft survived our outing intact and returned us safely to the resort.

But the stand-out feature of this hotel is its own crystal caves that you can swim in; a unique if chilly experience. Even more magical, try an unforgettable massage (or couple’s massage) in another of the caves, which is half a million years old.

After spending 12 nights on this beautiful island, which is equally perfect for a romantic getaway or a family adventure, it’s not hard to see why Mark Twain announced, “You can go to heaven if you want to. I’d rather stay in Bermuda.”

Getting There

Direct flights from Heathrow to Hamilton cost from around £700 return with British Airways.

A Waterview room at Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa costs from around £240 per night excluding taxes.

An Oceanfront Deluxe room at Grotto Bay Beach Resort & Spa costs from around £500 per night excluding taxes.

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