Lunchtime at Cambridge Beaches, one of Bermuda’s poshest old-line resorts: an easy May breeze creases the aqua shallows out on Long Bay. At a table on the terrace of the beachfront café, a young couple, he with the fresh haircut and she with the gleaming French manicure that mark them as probable newlyweds, lunch on crab-claw and caper-berry salad. Four sun-flushed men in pastel trousers, apparently just back from the links, are being seated. On the other side of the patio, a large extended family—including several young children who have bounded up from the beach—is ordering, and the waiter is acknowledging the kids’ requests with all the gravity and polish one would expect from this venerable establishment. “Hot dog, no roll; nachos, no cheese...”
Say hello to the new Bermuda, where children—even the sandy, boisterous, and finicky variety—are welcome at the most grown-up resorts. It’s just one sign of change on an island that is bouncing back as a vacation destination. Despite all that Bermuda has going for it—proximity to the East Coast (just two hours by plane from New York), a winning semitropical climate (the temperature tops out in the low 80s from June to October and rarely dips below 65 degrees in winter and spring), incomparable pink beaches, and genuinely hospitable locals—visitor numbers had been on a decline since the 1980’s. The staid 21-square-mile British dependency 650 miles off the North Carolina coast paled, it seemed, next to splashy and often less expensive isles in the Caribbean. Several of Bermuda’s mainstay resorts closed in the 1990’s. Then, in 2003, the island was further battered by Hurricane Fabian, one of the worst storms in recent memory. In the past two years, however, arrivals have climbed steadily, thanks to newly affordable air service (JetBlue’s appearance in 2006 spurred other carriers to cut rates), attractive package deals, and a record number of cruise ships. Many grand but dated hotels and cottage colonies have been renovated, and several lavish new resorts are in the works. And in the historic city of Hamilton, which dealt with the wane in tourism by reinventing itself as a booming offshore reinsurance capital and tax haven, old-time purveyors of Shetland sweaters and linen doilies now have new neighbors selling Jimmy Choos and board shorts.
Which is not to say that Bermuda is entirely turning its back on tradition. To be sure, afternoon tea is served promptly at 4 p.m.; businessmen go to work in jacket, necktie, shorts, and kneesocks; and the island takes a two-day holiday in early August for the biggest cricket match of the year. Still, families will find a new sense of ease here—proof that good times and good breeding can go hand in hand.
Lay of the Land
Formed by a volcano, Bermuda is actually made up of 180 islands and islets. The main inhabited isles, linked by causeways and bridges, are divided into nine parishes, among them:
The hilly, lush farming and residential community on the west coast, whose outermost tip is occupied by the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Southampton, Warwick, and Paget
A swath of famed pink beaches that run along the south shore, where many resorts and cottage colonies have staked their claim. Reef-protected Paget is the parish with the calmest waters.
Dominated by Bermuda’s sherbet-colored harborside capital, Hamilton (not to be confused with Hamilton Parish, four miles up the coast).