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They're not afraid of color. Their buildings resemble an assortment of Easter eggs, waiting to be plucked from dark green hills. If you're visiting the vibrant main island of Bermuda with your kids, there are many fun ways to explore the pastel possibilities. From the powder blue ocean to the pink sand beaches, the residents of the 138 British islands that make up the country of Bermuda have dipped their brushes into Mother Nature's paintbox and colored their lives to match their surroundings. But, if your kids are like mine, it'll take more than that to keep them off each other's backs and off screens. It's best to have a plan so you're prepared when your son asks, "What are we doing today?" before he turns around and throws a rock at his brother's head. Here are a few ideas out of a thousand possibilities you can do in Bermuda on a family trip.
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Video: What to Do with Families in Bermuda
Take A Dive! Snorkeling and SCUBA diving in Bermuda
There are countless possibilities. An island that is created by the explosion of volcanos has ground that is too porous to have freshwater springs, rivers or lakes, meaning, it also has no mud to cloud up your pretty view of underwater ecosystems, and the sea life that lives within it. The water surrounding Bermuda is crystal clear. Looking from above, you can see dark blue patches, showing the spread of coral reefs, and the lighter hues marking sandbars.
If your kids are a little older or you're a more adventurous type family, there are two dive boat companies that can take you to explore one of the estimated 300 ships that met their fate on those rocky, shallow reefs, whether by snorkel or SCUBA. One is Dive Bermuda and the other is Blue Water Divers and Watersports.
A popular spot for both divers and snorkelers is The Western Blue Cut, about an hour's boat ride from the Royal Naval Dockyard. The Western Blue Cut is a break in the 200 square miles of reef surrounding the island and within swimming distance of several shipwrecks. The two favorites are the Constellation, a cargo ship that sank carrying medical and construction supplies, whose unlucky day happened in 1944, and the Montana who sank on its maiden voyage in 1863 attempting to assist Southern troops by clearing a blockade by Northern naval forces. The shallow reef spots are about 20 feet from perfect views of the two submerged vessels.
If that sounds crazy to your family but you still want to see some pretty sea creatures, try Daniel's Head Park, it's nine beaches on 17 coastal acres, two of which are public, on the Western tip of the island. This may be the best-kept secret for prime snorkeling. The waters are extremely calm and shallow, making it the perfect spot to explore with young kids. During WWII, the Canadians used the area as an army base so barracks could still be spotted by young pioneers. During the summer, vendors provide chairs and beach gear to rent but otherwise, bring your own.
If you're still shaking your head and claiming you have tiny kids and your parents are with you. You'd like to dip your head under the water but your family needs a bit more support, try Snorkel Park Beach, part of the Royal Navy Dockyard complex on the West End. Full gear is available to rent for this beach entry snorkel area, plus, when you're done, you can listen to live music and grab a bite to eat.
Ready for more adventure? Try Cave Kayaking with Kids!
Your family could really spend the entire day - or week at the Royal Naval Dockyard! After your adventure at Snorkel Park Beach, learn about Bermuda history through Segway Tours of Bermuda. Although the British Navy pulled out of the dockyard in the 1950s, historical battles are reenacted around the remaining garrisons and fortifications. While you're there, visit Keep Fort, once a symbol of British naval might, part of a ring of fortifications guarding the Dockyard against attack by land and sea. Within it is the Commissioner's House and the National Museum of Bermuda, a peek into the past of the island that no one wanted until someone did. "Although nations kept discovering Bermuda when their ships sank around it, no one claimed it until some British colonists sank their ship sailing to America and decided to stay," said charming British transplant, Tim Rogers, who, along with his native wife Maryann, guides visitors on epic walking tours called Bermuda Lectures and Tours. We learned this later, during stops we took to meet him on our bike tour of the Railway Trail (below). After the British finally claimed it, he told us, suddenly everyone wanted a piece of Bermuda so that's when they built their armed forces and forts.
After your war-games, stop for craft beers or dinner and dessert in one of the specialty restaurants, some set within the fortifying wall. Watch a colorful rendition of native dances or shop for diamonds rivaling those found on the midnight ocean. You can watch artists creating their masterpieces or even make your own glass-blown souvenir. Shoppers can satisfy their retail urges by indulging their inner Gucci at one of the many high-end shops.
Read about more adventures possible through Family Extreme Sports Activities at Woodward!
Tour the Railway Trail
Bermudans used to get from one end of the island, which spans only about 22 miles, by walking or on horse. The locals decided to spurn cars right around the time they started to gain popularity, the early 20th century. They wanted to preserve the serene nature of the land. Then, they realized, visitors needed a convenient way to see attractions on both sides of the island, so, in 1931 they built a railroad for a train to transport visitors to do just that. The locals fondly nicknamed the train "Old Rattle and Shake," Tim Rogers told us as he guided us through an academic deep dive through the Railway Trail. We followed along on bikes from Social Cycles along the scenic path that traces the original railway through nine boroughs that passed verdant woodlands, secret beaches and stone staircases.
While the train was popular with locals and visitors, Rogers told us, it was too expensive to maintain, so in 1945 Bermuda finally relented and allowed residents to own one four-wheeled car per household.
Today, the Bermuda Parks Department maintains the old Railway Trail as a fun way to walk, jog or bike through history and the gorgeous land. Rogers showed us one of the original grey, drab homes built by British settlers along the trail. Rogers described the labor entailed for building the home from the island's porous volcanic rock. This involved taking whole slabs from the earth, drying for months, and then curing. This process sounded so complicated and taxing, it explained why it took so long for people to make a commitment to the island.
We also explored Fort Scaur which used to protect the Bermuda Naval Dockyard from pirates and marauders with their hidden canons. We even got to fire a cannon. No. Not really. I was just seeing if you were still paying attention. But we did get to go inside some defensive ditches, laugh at ancient weather "gauges" and have a picnic at its edge overlooking layers of aquamarine wonder and the boats bobbing within. You can bring your own food or have it catered like we did by Utopia and Novel Tea.
Play In the Water
There is no shortage of aquatic activities around the islands of Bermuda. Another great way to explore the country is through a boat tour with Island Tour Centre. There's plenty of choices, including taking a speedboat out on your own. Jet skis, stand-up paddleboards and whale watching are just some of the options.
Put Your Toes Into the Best Pink Sand Beaches
On the South Shore, the sand is pink from crushed seashells mixing with the skeletons of invertebrate sea life such as clams, urchin and foraminifera, the dark red organisms that grow abundantly on the bottom of Bermuda's coral reefs. Shells and skeletons get churned up by waves to the fine, pink sand for which Bermuda is famous. As it folds into the baby blue ocean, where jagged limestone rocks cut into the matching sky, the effect tugs at your breath. Horseshoe Bay is one of Bermuda's finest example of a pink sand beach, all of which are located in the parish of Southampton. Horseshoe Bay is the most popular beach in Bermuda so expect crowds during the summer season but because of that it also has plenty of facilities to make visitors enjoy a comfortable beach day. There is Rum Bum Beach Bar, serving infamous rum-based island concoctions like the "Dark and Stormy" and "Swizzles" and they also serve food. If you want a sit-down meal, Gulfstream offers Italian food you can enjoy close to your beach towel. There are bathrooms, beach gear rentals and lifeguards in the summers.
Walk east from Horseshoe Bay along South Shore Park, a 1.25-mile sandy trail that connects to Warwick Long Beach. Along the way, discover secluded coves and other pink beaches like Peel Rock Cove, Butts Beach, Middle Beach, Wafer Rocks Beach, Angle Beach and others. Don't miss the twin coves of Chaplin Bay and the Stonehole Bay. Both are stunning spots for photographs and swimming. Stop by Jobson's Cove, set between cliffs that rise out of the ocean, with a gentle swimming hole in between.
Go Wild With the Animals at Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo
Only animals that they've had to rescue live in the zoo, with 3.5 miles of rock and 140 thousand tons of water, said Principal Curator, Dr. Ian Walker as he walked us along our tour. He maintains the zoo as close to the animal's natural habitat as possible, informing us that we were now in their home. Dr. Walker shared this when he came back from administering first aid to an injured duck.
Although some animals are born inside the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, or are transferred from other zoos, they are released back into the wild if they recover. Our guided tour filled us with fun facts to share at future cocktail parties like, only flamingos will remain outdoors during a hurricane. They will stand, single file, beside a tree from largest to smallest and rotate with the wind as it shifts direction. We also got to meet Galapagos Tortoises, Crooked Nose and Sally, who are 100 and 50 years old. You'll be able to tell your friends you got to meet Crooked Nose, the tortoise that Shirley Temple rode when she was 10. We discovered that at 50 years of age, Sally is finally old enough to get busy with her man.
Right before we took a short ferry ride through Harrington Sound, from the zoo to the private island that BAMZ owns, called Trunk Island, Dr. Walker showed us a 6-8 month loggerhead turtle who was washed up on shore and exposed to prey. The vet checked the turtle for plastic that may have lodged itself in the turtle's intestinal tract before releasing it back into the ocean.
BAMZ zoologists use the island to raise money for its humanitarian work. They hold summer camps for visiting children and locals. These can be attended by the day or week. There is a house there also available to rent for conferences. I couldn't imagine a prettier place for either.
Our tour filled us with fun facts to share at cocktail parties like, only flamingos will remain outdoors during a hurricane. They will stand, single file, beside a tree from largest to smallest and rotate with the wind as it shifts direction. Learn other not to miss activities for your family trip to Bermuda.
Take A Walk With the Dead On the Haunted History Tour
You can imagine remote islands would be filled with creepy stories abounding with pagan myths. Somewhere in between the island above and the island below is a middle world inhabited by those who cannot rest. As the sun steals that world's light, hear stories in the port town of St. George of wives falsely accused of witchcraft and ladies still waiting for the return of their lost sailors. With rays of street lamp stabbing through drifting fog, visit church steps and graveyards with the team at Haunted History Tour and watch as actors lament their fate. Then, try not to scream as you accidentally bump into some of those restless spirits.
Read about another fun hike through history on the island of Oahu through Disney's Aulani!
Carve Through Stalagtites at Crystal and Fantasy Caves
Somewhere in middle-Earth Bermuda is a three-mile system of caverns called the Crystal and Fantasy Caves. These formed about two million years ago. As ocean levels rose, much of the enclosures and surrounding stalagmites and stalactites became submerged. A couple of local boys found it when they lost their ball-playing cricket. You can imagine their bravery as you descend into the caves, once devoid of any light. Today lanterns light your way as you take stone stairs onto a pontoon bridge that rises and falls with the tide and share some dramatic Instagram selfies.
When You Go
Bermuda is located in the Atlantic Ocean. East Coasters have it easy. Bermuda is a mere two-hour flight from many airports including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Charlotte. It's only three hours from Toronto or Atlanta and Londoners can visit the Queen's island in only seven hours. Six airlines fly to Bermuda from the U.S., including Delta, American, and JetBlue. British Airways flies to Bermuda from the U.K. Several cruise lines dock in the Royal Naval Dockyard between April and November. Visitors can get a jump start on this itinerary if this is the route with which they arrive. Travelers could also arrive to Bermuda in a private yacht. Any private vessel entering Bermuda will need to go through customs when berthing.
West Coasters have a bit more of a commitment. You first have to fly to one of the East Coast cities and take another flight into Bermuda. Though, you could break up the trip and enjoy two places on your vacation!
Once on the island, you'll find land and water taxis, public buses and ferries to get you around. Remember, only residents can drive a four-wheeled vehicle in Bermuda, so it's not possible to rent a car but visitors can hire electric two-seat Twizy vehicles, mopeds and bicycles. Have fun trying to remember to drive on the left side of the road, always wear a helmet and keep in mind that the speed limit is only 20 mph (35km/h), so leave plenty of time to get to where you're going and take the scenic route. You won't find a shortage of those.
Passports and Visas
Bermuda requires all travelers to have a valid passport when entering the country. It's also necessary to have a round-trip ticket – whether via plane or boat – and to present proof of a return itinerary to Bermuda immigration authorities. Visas are not required for tourist and business travelers.
Where To Stay
The lovely South Shore with an oceanfront beach club and shady chaise lounges (around plenty of pink sand) is a short walk, or complimentary shuttle ride, from Fairmont Southampton, Just a short walk along the South Shore Trail, you'll come upon Horseshoe Bay Beach to marvel at more pink sand. All rooms at the Fairmont Southampton face the turquoise ocean and have private balconies. There are 10 on-site restaurants, cafes and lounges. Moms and dads will enjoy the award-winning, 18-hole Championship Par-3 golf course at Turtle Hill Golf Club, take a kid break at the 31, 000 square foot, adults-only Willow Stream Spa and Fitness Centre and enjoy resort hot tubs, pools and tennis courts. Kids can make new friends at the Explorers Camp, which has specific programs for children ages 6 – 13. There is also a Toddler Room and Games Room located on the lower level of the resort, adjacent to the Explorer's Camp. Watersports, including jet skis and private boat rentals, are located at their dock at The Waterlot Inn, and for adventures off property rent a Twizy, a bike or a scooter. Check their website for special offers.
If you'd prefer to stay in Hamilton, check out the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club. Rooms face either a line of yachts, bobbing in Hamilton Harbour, or the city of Hamilton. Families can lounge at the private Princess Beach Club and order drinks and food while enjoying the protected waters. There are three, not to miss specialty restaurants; a fitness center and spa that offers yoga and pilates classes; a variety of pools including an infinity pool gazing over yachts as they meander in and out of the harbour. Don't forget to walk around the hotel to appreciate original works of art by iconic artists like Andy Warhol.
The Hamilton Princess and Beach Club is just a three-minute walk from Queen Elizabeth Park, where on Saturdays, between June and October, you can see Gombey dancers display their iconic, lively performances in colorful costumes set to rhythmic drum beats. There are several Gombey dance programs around Hamilton throughout the year that attempt to capture and recreate this important part of this bright island's heritage.
I want to thank Go Bermuda for setting up many of these activities during and after the Family Travel Association conference which was held in Bermuda in October 2018. Because we only had so much time, I learned about the others through research. Enjoy!
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