Bermuda is a natural beauty, clean, easy to get around, and only an hour and a half flight from New York City, making it a perfect long-weekend escape…if you have the dough. Pretty much everything, from the food, to the gasoline to the building material is imported, and the average cost of a home is a milli, so budget travelers beware.
To make it affordable take the bus, bring your own snacks from home, go to the grocery store, and get into nature–it’s free and makes you feel free! Splurge on drinks, locally produced perfume, and at least one fancy dinner; you are on vacation, no?!
You’ll likely have better success navigating the island than the 150 English people on a fleet of ships who ran aground the coral reefs in 1609 expecting to settle in Jamestown, Virginia.
The island is relatively small, only 22 miles long by 1 mile wide. Despite its tiny stature, taxis are sooooo expensive–and I say this as a New Yorker. I’m talking a $5.15 initial fee, and $2.75/mile; after-hours rates increase by 25%. The bus comes every 15-20 minutes, and you can get a transportation schedule. I took the bus during the day, and taxis when I’d return in the evening (no uber, or lyft here).
I was wary during the taxi rides for a few reasons: the drivers were all male, there was no vetting system like when I use a ride-share app, and the roads to my place led out of town and into more remote sections that weren’t as heavily trafficked or well-lit. Come to think of it, I never buckle my seat belt in taxis, thinking I may have to get out quickly. I also make sure I know where the door handle is, that the door is always unlocked and that my purse strap is across my body. I tell a friend I’m leaving, how long it should take me to get home, and that I will text when I arrive. It sucks having to be wary of people this way, but unfortunately I’ve had friends experience violent drivers (in the U.S), so it’s necessary to remain vigilant.
Still, I arrived home safely every time, and the most insightful conversations I had in my four days were with taxis drivers. We talked politics, racism, materialism, and about their personal and professional lives. All of them had second jobs (one was a DJ, one a NBC correspondent, one a retired corrections officer), many of them had lived abroad for a period of time (London, Atlanta, San Francisco), most of them encountered racism on a daily basis, and one of them has had three wives, a Bermudian, a Brit, and currently an Italian-American whom he was still deeply in love with after 23 years because “we balance each other.”
Your other options are to rent a moped (about $50/day), or walk shorter distances, though sidewalks often end abruptly and it can be terrifying looking at an oncoming car and pondering the possibility of it smashing you against the limestone wall. I’d rather not end up like this guy: <—————
With streets named Taylor’s Alley and Printer’s Way, St. George in the eastern most part of the island is quaint and historically rich. A replica of the town’s stocks and whipping post sit in the town square where tourists drop their shopping bags and put their head and wrists in the stocks to smile for the camera. Three hundred years ago passersby were publicly humiliating the bound “criminals” by throwing rotten food or dead rats at them while they suffered the wind, rain and sun for days on end, some even dying of exposure to the elements. Say CHEESE!
On a lighter note, I really came to St. George’s to visit The Bermuda Perfumery on Queen Street. Being quite sensitive to fragrances makes summer in New York City rough, but vacation in Bermuda sweet! The Cape Dutch style building dates back to the 1700’s and the cedar floor, staircase and ceiling beams are original. If you ask, they’ll likely take you on a quick tour of the perfume making process that happens right there on-site!
I had a couple of good meals, but nothing incredible. The best locale was the Fairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel. It overlooked the water, and the service was spectacular. The White Horse Tavern in St. George overlooked the water as well, but it was, well, a tavern. I heard Mickey’s Restaurant in the South Shore is good, but I didn’t get a chance to try it. Despite mediocre food, the drinks were consistently the perfect balance of tasty and twisted.
Swizzle Inn, Swagger out
Swizzles are ubiquitous in bars and restaurants across the island, but the best one is at the Swizzle Inn. It’s a hyped up tourist spot, but the hype is real. I should know–I had about 5 Swizzles from 5 different places in 3 days. There are two locations, one on the East side, one on the South Shore. They also have some bangin’ nachos. When you’ve left this island paradise, here’s a recipe to make your own.
Dark and Stormy
Ginger beer and Gosling Black Rum. I’m not a fan of either individually, but when combined, a miracle of chemistry occurs and deliciousness ensues. Ten times more palatable than a rum and Coke! The best one I had was at the men’s bar–um, yes, and it even has a separate entrance–at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Second best, Bermuda Bistro, and the glasses they’re served in are cute, shaped like beer brewing barrels.
Virtually nonexistent. I went to The Pickled Onion in Hamilton one night with two friends I had just made, and I woke the next morning with a crick in my neck from all the rubbernecking I was doing in “the club.” A live band sung syrupy pop songs my 10-year-old niece would love, while 18-year-olds took shots like it was their rumspringa; woo girls and bachelorette parties dominated the dance floor…and eventually the raised stage. No bueno for anyone over 23. Just go to bed!
(Unless the whistling frogs that emerge every dusk are keeping you up. It’s like they’re in their own Pickled Onion, creating their own overwhelming cacophony, hopping around on the dance floor, hoping their antics will attract a baby mama.)
The most diverse place I saw on the island, locals and tourists alike indulged in Tobacco Bay. Little kids played along the shore while trendy locals dressed like Lower East Siders drank and ate at the beach bar. A DJ spun dancehall while I vegetated on a rented beach chair ($10) under an umbrella (free for the lady, exactly the type of patriarchy I’ll accept). Tobacco Bay is listed as one of the best places to snorkel, and though my underwater videography doesn’t portend that fact, I did see a gigantic parrot fish and a surreal turquoise fish and coral swaying in the ocean current and lil fishies errywhere. It’s also safe to leave your stuff on shore as you snorkel or swim, a huge bonus for a solo-traveler.
Horseshoe Bay sucks. Nuff said. Avoid the crowds (why else did you come to a small remote island?) and take a walk eastwards and you’ll be met by mystical coves formed by outcroppings of black volcanic rock. Careful when you’re climbing, or you could slice your feet.
My favorite little spot was just after the border of Warwick parish, where the land forms a lobster claw on the map, by Jobson’s Bay. It’s accessible from a trail just off the South Shore Road. There’s no amenities, nothing but salt, sea and sand.
I’m not usually about this plush travel life; I prefer remote, rugged places. In a way, because of how expensive it is, Bermuda is remote, difficult for many people to access. For the sake of travelers and local people alike, I hope the beaches remain undeveloped, pristine and free. Nature like this really does soothe the soul.
Up next, how I got to this lonely Atlantic Island.