Bermuda cruises lead sightseers to old haunts and new discoveries.
The infamous Bermuda Triangle, where ships and planes have vanished in previous centuries, points squarely at Royal Naval Dockyard, where modern luxury cruises to Bermuda now land. Christopher Columbus reported mysterious lights and compass tricks on his first voyage through the region. The most spectacular case was the 1945 disappearance of five bombers out of Fort Lauderdale—plus the search plane that went after them. Numerous theories have been proposed and discarded, including electromagnetically induced fog. But as a matter of mundane fact, the area does get plenty of interesting weather, and modern navigational systems do keep vessels out of trouble. So, visit Dockyard, tour the National Museum, shop in the Clocktower Mall, and don’t worry about disappearing in any silly Bermuda Tri…
Demons kicked up their cloven hooves here in 17th-century, as witchcraft mania washed across Bermuda. In the town of St. George, you can visit the Old State House, where Gov. Josiah Foster condemned Jeane Gardiner for practicing black arts. She was drowned—after three attempts—and other witches were burned at the stake. Nearby, the Old Rectory houses a spirit rumored to play an invisible harpsichord.
Within the Bermuda Botanical Gardens of Paget Parish, Camden House serves as official residence of the colony's premier. Here, witnesses have claimed to spot the ethereal former wife of a government official as she strolls the grounds on moonless nights.
Almost any old house in Bermuda can harbor a ghost. Some have a literary bent. Noel Coward is alleged to have written the play Blithe Spirit based on his encounters with a beautiful French ghost here. Playwright Eugene O’Neill also reported “unusual events” while living in Spithead, a lovely old house built by 18th-century privateer Hezekiah Frith, on Harbour Road in Warwick Parish.
In the local style, form really does follow function. Bermudan architecture makes superb use of local materials and classic British designs to create a characteristic look and feel that works.
Houses are low and boxy with shallow eaves to withstand high winds. The gleaming white roofs and pastel-colored walls reflect the intense sun. High ceilings and large windows invite cooling breezes.
Fine examples of Bermuda's architecture are found in St. George’s, including the Old State House from around 1620 and the Old Rectory and the Globe Hotel from 1699. In Hamilton, Front Street is lined with 18th- and 19th-century façades—prime spots for pictures.
In Devonshire Parish, look for Old Devonshire Church. Its current foundation was laid in 1716, but its first incarnation dates to 1624. An explosion in 1970 fairly destroyed the tiny building, which was rebuilt.
Sessions House, a Georgian edifice in Hamilton, is where the House of Assembly and Supreme Court meet, and the judges still wear their blond wigs and red robes, a tradition dating from the 17th century.
The cast-iron Gibbs Hill Lighthouse—which was designed in London, opened in 1846, and refurbished a few years ago—still towers over Southampton Parish. At 117 feet tall and 362 feet above sea level, with a modern 1,000-watt lamp, the lighthouse can be seen by ships 40 miles out and by planes 10,000 feet up. The 185 steps are grueling, but views from the top are panoramic and well worth the effort.
Galleries and Museums
On Queen Street in Hamilton, visit the Bermuda Historical Society Museum to see artifacts from the life of Adm. Sir George Somers, who led the original settlers. The museum houses an impressive collection of antique silver, historic coins, and cedar furniture.
Next door, learn about art, architecture, and culture at Bermuda National Library, and visit the Perot Post Office to see the work of 19th-century Postmaster William B. Perot, who produced the first Bermudan stamps.
Nearby in Paget Parish, Waterville is the headquarters of Bermuda National Trust. It dates to 1725—full of antiques, china, and art. Gracing the well-tended grounds is a lovely Victorian rose garden.
Amid the Bermuda Botanical Gardens in Paget, the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art has collected 1,500 works of painting, photography, and sculpture. Drawing inspiration from the beauty of Bermuda, where the sunlight is unmatched, the collection covers art from the 1700s to the present, including pieces by Winslow Homer and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Built in Smith's Parish around 1710, the Verdmont museum remains a fine example of Georgian architecture and furniture, much of it constructed of local cedar. Virtually no structural changes have ever been made. The house contains wonderful antiques, including pint-size period toys that fill its upstairs nursery. A coffee service on display was supposed to be a gift from French Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte to U.S. President James Madison, but it was liberated by a privateer.
In Hamilton Parish, train buffs can find the Bermuda Railway Museum in an old train station. Its collection of maps, photos, and other memorabilia preserves a brief period (1931 to 1948) when trains rumbled through the woodlands and past the beaches. What’s left is now the Bermuda Railway Trail, a wonderful walking, biking, and bridle path, in seven sections that span the islands. The trail treats users to native flora, panoramic views, and golden sunshine.
Early Bermudans erected forts to defend themselves against Spanish attacks. Eventually, 90 forts would be built. All were constructed of stone, except for one built of timber, which burned promptly in 1620 when a gunner neglected his match.
After the American Revolution, Royal Naval Dockyard, at the western end of the islands, became the headquarters of the British Navy in this part of the Atlantic. It now houses shops, cafés, attractions, activities, and the National Museum of Bermuda, which displays the territory’s most extensive collection of maritime artifacts.
Nearby, Scaur Hill Fort and Park gives visitors majestic views of Great Sound and Ely’s Harbour. The British Army built this fort in the late 19th century to protect against feared American attacks.
In Hamilton, visit Fort Hamilton, a 19th-century stronghold offering great views of the town and harbor. In St. George's, visit Fort St. Catherine, overlooking Gates Bay, where Bermuda's first residents washed ashore.
To see how Bermuda’s shipwrecked founders finally escaped these remote islands, tour a life-size replica of Deliverance, on Ordnance Island in St. George’s Harbour. In 1609, Sea Venture and eight other vessels departed England bearing fresh supplies and new residents for the moribund English settlement of Jamestown, Virginia.
But Sea Venture never made it, smashing onto the rocks near today’s town of St. George. Her rigging and planks were recycled into two smaller ships, Patience and Deliverance. Today, Deliverance II, a replica built in 1967 and restored recently, is operated by the St. George’s Foundation.