I am noticing a strange trend in my travels over the past year. I end up in places turning 400.
Are a lot of places celebrating 400 years? Probably not. Nor do I seek out the big birthday celebrations. And yet last summer I found myself in Quebec City for its 400th anniversary. This winter, escaping from work and the rain, I headed to Bermuda as they kicked off their year of 400th anniversary celebrations.
Bermuda has a reputation for being expensive. I can see how that could be, if you take taxis everywhere (there’s no rental cars on the island), stay in a ritzy resort and book into all the top restaurants you could run yourself quite a bill. But I also argue that you can easily spend four or five days in Bermuda, have a great time, and not break the bank.
Bermuda Travel Tip #1: Look for hotel and airfare deals
JetBlue and Delta are celebrating Bermuda’s birthday with $99 fares. I booked the Fairmont hotel in Hamilton (fancy pants!) for just a little over $100 per night on a deal that gave you the 4th night free (in honor of 400). The not so great economy had Bermuda worried, and they are discounting like mad. If you can’t find a deal on at least the hotel, if not the airfare too, you’re not trying. Start at Bermuda’s very helpful tourism site, they list tons of offers.
Also think hard about your hotel. Fairmont has two hotels on Bermuda and runs a free ferry between them, guests can use amenities at either hotel. So for one hotel rate we got very pleasant half hour cruises, several pool choices, a great beach area, free bottles of water and a convenient location in Hamilton all in one. Some hotels are fairly isolated, if you plan to be a beach bum that’s fine, but if you want to get about, that’s going to be pricey.
Bermuda Travel Tip #2: Take the bus
Taxis are not cheap in Bermuda and you can’t rent a car. You can rent bikes, motorized or pedal, but even a moped will set you back a bit. Bermuda is not that big, we rented bikes for one day and covered about a third of the island biking the lovely railway trail system. Yes, Bermuda had a train, alas no longer, but walking or biking the parts of the extensive trail is a great excursion. Most hotels will give you a helpful map.
To Bermuda’s credit, it has an excellent and inexpensive bus system. We took the bus from Hamilton to St George, Bermuda’s UNESCO Heritage Site. Rambling about we took in St George, the unfinished gothic church, and headed uphill from town to several forts and batteries (most of which are free). Once we’d had enough of St George, back on the bus to the Bermuda Aquarium in Flatts.
The other popular option is the ferry. Bermuda runs several ferries, more expensive than the bus, but more scenic. I recommend the ferry ride to the Royal Naval Dockyard from Hamilton. The Commissioner’s house and the grounds of the fort at the dockyard are well preserved and provide an interesting commentary on Bermuda’s history (Boer War POWs there? Who knew?). Bermuda artisans also set up shop in the dockyard, so you can pick up postcards and mementos of your trip. And I highly recommend a pint at the Frog and Onion Pub, a Bermuda brewing institution with great food.
I am really glad we had a hotel near Hamilton, we could walk a couple blocks into town for dinner or to catch a bus or ferry to anywhere on the island. If you are on a resort not near Hamilton, you’re going to have to plan your transportation more carefully than we did.
Bermuda Travel Tip #3: The best things in Bermuda, as in life, are free
Horseshoe Bay, Jobson’s Cove, Warwick Long Bay are just three of the deservedly famous pink sand beaches of Bermuda, and like most beaches in Bermuda, totally free and a short bus ride from Hamilton. Sunbathe, read a book, take a walk, climb on the rocks, swim and snorkel until you are as pink as the sand.
Take advantage of the free tours. Bermuda offers free city tours of Hamilton and St George on a set schedule each week (check the Bermuda tourism site for the schedule). The twelve nature preserves in Bermuda offer free tours Wednesdays at 10, though you can visit free any day without a tour. I highly recommend the botanical garden, a short bike ride or bit of a hike from Hamilton.
Bermuda is lousy with forts, most of which are free. My favorite, just up the hill from the city is Fort Hamilton. Climb down the steps through the base to visit the secluded tropical garden that encircles the fort. Walk around the top to take in views of the city and the rest of the island, or stick your head in a cannon, whatever.
Bermuda Travel Tip #4: Drink rum
I admit, this does not save you money. But Bermuda is turning 400, you must toast a Dark and Stormy (local ginger beer + dark rum) in its honor. Bermuda makes excellent rum and you deserve a drink after all the walking, biking, bus riding and excellent travel planning that made the trip so affordable and fun.
Know of anywhere else turning 400 this year? Kelly needs to plan her next trip…