Hamilton, Bermuda (CNN)The 35th America’s Cup sailing competition begins on May 26 and runs through June 27, and it’s Bermuda’s moment in the sun, though Bermuda is almost always sunny. One step on this island, and it’s impossible not to be moved by its beauty, history, simplicity and charm.
Several weeks into the crossing, a storm felled one of the ships, Sea Venture, separating it from the rest of the fleet. The ship ran aground on one of the reefs near Bermuda’s eastern coast.
All 150 passengers survived and made it to land, and thus Bermuda became inhabited. (Fun note: this shipwreck is believed to be the inspiration for William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest,” and there’s even a cave at Grotto Bay named for Prospero.)
The best way to experience Bermuda is on or near the water. Whether you sunbathe and swim, there’s a beach for everyone — from the famous pink sand beach at Horseshoe Bay to the tiny snorkeler’s haven, Tobacco Bay.
If you wish to avoid crowds, there are so many options, sometimes only found on foot or by asking a local. Or seek out Jobson’s Cove or any of the beaches around the border between Southampton and Warwick Parish.
Bermudians love cliff diving from Admiralty House Park (you can access via Deep Bay Beach), and wandering through the manmade tunnels and caves in the cove. It’s also a favorite for rock climbing.
There’s no better way to cap off a day of sun and surf than sipping a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, Bermuda’s unofficial drink made with Gosling’s Black Seal rum, ginger beer and lime.
As Bermuda was a British military stronghold for centuries, there are several forts to explore on the island that offer historic context, as well as breathtaking views.
Fort St. Catherine, located in St. George (itself a UNESCO World Heritage site worth a deep wander), has a proper exhibit, offers tours and displays artifacts such as crown jewels and artillery, but you can easily wander around yourself.
Other forts worth visiting are Fort Scaur in Sandy’s Parish with its disappearing cannon, Gunpoint and Fort Hamilton.
The Bermuda Railway was only in use for a few years (1931-1948), but is now one of the best ways to see hidden parts of the island. The railway trail covers about 22 miles, from St. George in the east, all the way to Somerset in the west.
Whether you are a walker, hiker or cyclist, any section of the trail provides adventures, scenic vistas and occasionally, total solitude.
If you like to do the classic sightseeing stuff (which we do), make sure to stop by the Unfinished Church as well as St. Peter’s, which at over 400 years old is the oldest Anglican church outside the British Isles.
Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone purchased the perfumery in 2004 and moved the operation to one of the parish’s historic 18th-century homes, Stewart House, and she is both custodian and creator.
Ramsay-Brackstone describes her perfumes as “the beautiful sensory experience of Bermuda.” All the fragrances sold at Lili Bermuda are made on the island and only available on the island (or via their website). Visitors can also arrange to attend a perfumery workshop or enjoy afternoon tea in the garden.
The signature dish of Bermuda is the fish sandwich, and if you want to start an argument, then declare one better than the other.
The recipe varies from place to place, but it is fairly straightforward: fried fish (sometimes fresh, sometimes not — if you care, just ask) served on raisin bread with coleslaw, tartar sauce and sometimes cheese.
After a very scientific survey (we just kept asking any Bermudian we met), Art Mel’s was the one mentioned most often — perhaps because it’s one of the most substantial (OK, it’s huge).
Woody’s in Somerset, while not quite as picturesque, serves up an incredibly yummy albeit smaller fish sandwich, made yummier with Grace hot sauce and Barritt’s Ginger Beer.
Finally, Tribe Road Kitchen has another knock-out sammy, served with sweet potato fries, and perhaps a quick visit with Bocuse, the French bulldog who was tromping around the restaurant’s backyard.
Trite, but true, there is something for everyone as far as Bermuda accommodations are concerned.
A half-hourly shuttle takes guests to their beach club, about 20 minutes from the property.
Sometimes the passport control line at BDA can be long, so do a little recon before you choose your flight. Also, there are no rental cars on the island, just taxis, and it’s wise to prearrange your airport pickup, because who likes to wait?
You’ll see a lot of tourists riding around on rental scooters along Bermuda’s winding and steep roads — and as a British territory they drive on the left side of the road. And while they (and likely you) look fabulous whizzing around in bare legs sans helmet, Bermudians are wont to refer to these mopeds as “organ donors.” So take care and safety first!
Bermuda doesn’t get cold, but it is not hot year-round, so if you want fun in the sun, go from May through October. Note that Bermudians don’t jump in the water until late May, but it can warm up earlier than that.
Finally, Bermudian dollars are basically equivalent to American dollars, and most folks accept both, as well as most credit cards.