Bermuda is not Caribbean; in fact, it's closer to Nova Scotia than it is to any Caribbean island. Bermuda is not British, even if the crown takes care of matters regarding security, defense, and diplomacy. What is it, then?The best of both, with the beaches of those islands to the south and the order and harmony of the Brits. So pull up your kneesocks and order a rum swizzle. You're in a whole other world.
Where to Stay
Two of the best resorts on the island were recently renovated, and have come out looking as fresh as daisies. When you drive up to Elbow Beach (60 S. Shore Rd.,) ;the beach is pure Bermuda, a swath of pinkish sand dotted with chaises and more umbrellas, washed by turquoise water. Service is excellent, down to the card with the weather forecast slipped under your door at night.
Ariel Sands (34 S. Shore Rd., Devonshire; 800/468-6610 or 441/236-1010, fax 441/236-0087; doubles from $395) has interesting interiors, with terra-cotta floors, sisal rugs, contemporary rattan furniture, little Lucite shelves holding seashells, and plastic throw pillows on the bed. The beach isn't as extravagant as Elbow's, even if last year's Hurricane Gert added some sand.
Bermuda does have a wildly eccentric streak, and no hotel exemplifies it better than Newstead (27 Harbour Rd.), a hotel across the harbor, were once owned by the same family. The father gave one property to each of his daughters, and while classy Waterloo has kept itself up admirably, Newstead has gone gloriously to seed. "There are families who've been coming here for more than fifty years," says the bartender, and you can see why they like it. It's a big, winding manor with a cast of characters that wouldn't be out of place in an island episode of Fawlty Towers.
The fun, friendly Pompano Beach Club (36 Pompano Beach Rd., Southampton; 800/343-4155 or 441/234-0222, fax 441/234-1694; doubles from $385) is great for children. The beach has a long shallow-water section, and the aquatic-sports center next door rents all sorts of toys, including motorized floating lounge chairs. There are a lot of steps on the property, but you can always rest on your patio, guaranteed to have a terrific ocean view.
The island's most full-service resort is the Fairmont Southampton Princess (101 S. Shore Rd.; 800/441-1414 or 441/238-8000, fax 441/238-8968; doubles from $179). It has everything you need: seven restaurants, a golf course, 11 tennis courts, a health club, eight shops, a nightclub, daily activities ranging from power walks to kitchen tours, special events such as the Bermuda bazaar (when the hotel brings in craft vendors), even bingo on Sundays.
A good budget option is Salt Kettle House (10 Salt Kettle Rd., , no credit cards), a harborside guest house run by kooky Hazel Lowe. Be sure to reserve way in advance, even up to a year. It's that popular.
Where to Eat
Coconuts at The Reefs, 56 S. Shore Rd., Southampton; 441/238-0222; lunch for two $55. The Reefs' casual restaurant plays it smart: plastic chairs and tables on a wooden terrace over the beach, under a slatted roof. It's light, airy, and possibly the most pleasant place to eat lunch on Bermuda. The menu has local influences-rockfish chowder and a terrific grilled-scallop and avocado salad. What is it about a place like this that makes everything taste so good?
Lighthouse Tea Room Gibb's Hill Lighthouse; 441/238-8679; lunch for two $20. Right next to the lighthouse, this British tearoom serves crumpets and eggs for breakfast, salads and sandwiches for lunch. But for the real experience, come to afternoon tea (served from 2:30 to 5). If you've climbed the 185 steps to the top of the lighthouse, you've earned the pot of tea, the large scone with clotted cream and jam, and the finger sandwiches filled with cucumber, cream cheese, and smoked salmon.
Wellington Room Waterloo House, 100 Pitts Bay Rd., Pembroke; 441/295-4480; lunch for two $50. The interior is somewhat prissy, but the harborside patio is paradise. It's what all restaurants in Bermuda should be: yellow-and-white-striped umbrellas against a blue sky, shaded by a poinciana tree. The sophisticated menu might include chilled melon soup or a salad of cherry tomatoes, greens, goat cheese, and grilled mango.
La Coquille Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, 40 Crow Lane, Pembroke; 441/292-6122; lunch for two $60. A restaurant that offers much more than your garden-variety museum canteen. No fish sticks here: La Coquille serves real French food and has a modern feel, with chrome-and-rattan chairs, tile floors, white tablecloths, and blue-and-white china.
Dennis's Hideaway Cassia City Rd., St. David's Island; 441/297-0044; dinner for two $65, no credit cards. You'll get lost looking for Dennis's—a run-down pink building with mcdennie's spray-painted on the wall—that's for sure. But this is real Bermudan food. Ask for the works—a feast of conch (or "conk," as it says on the menu) fritters and fish-and-chips.