Long before minimalism and modernism defined tropical luxury across the Caribbean, Bermuda was making major waves across the Atlantic. By the late nineteenth century, the aquamarine shorelines of this petite British colony had been deemed fit for a queen—well, a princess at least—as Queen Victoria’s daughter Louise spread global word of Bermuda’s astounding natural beauty.
The Princess Hotel (now the Fairmont Hamilton Princess) opened in 1885, and tourism was thriving by the early twentieth century with newfound global elite arriving from the United States, Canada and Britain, first by boat and later by plane, to see what the fuss was all about.
Flash forward to present-day Bermuda—pristine, manicured and fabled—showcasing disparate manifestations of luxury through the ages. Lofty Bermudian design spans centuries, from the iconic salmon-tinted Fairmont Hamilton Princess and pastel stacked homes dotting the hillsides to the sophisticated lounges within the capital of Hamilton and chic infinity pool and interiors of the Newstead Belmont Hills Resort. While British influence abounds (high tea, posh accents and traffic on the left), the archipelago also has an American swagger, thanks to its proximity to the States (a short flight from most major East Coast cities, including Miami). As a cultural melting pot, it has also developed a singular style through the years, boldly evidenced by on-island business attire—yes, the famous Bermuda shorts hoisted high with knee-length socks and a dress shirt, plus possibly a tie and/or blazer.
|The Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda.|
The wealth of photo-worthy and historic attractions notwithstanding, the pink-hued sands, crystalline waters, world-class golf courses and signature Dark and Stormy cocktails (ginger beer and rum) remain the principal draws for repeat visitors. In fact, by day most find it hard to break away from the pampering resorts sprinkled along Elbow Beach, Hamilton Harbor and the southern shores of Southampton, all specializing in this type of Bermudian bliss.
Those longing for a taste of classic Bermuda gravitate to the upgraded Fairmont Gold Floor at the Fairmont Southampton, a grand stalwart cast over 100 acres rich with the 31,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa; an 18-hole, par-three championship golf course; multiple swimming pools; a splendid beach club; and eight eclectic restaurants. Book early for dinner at Waterlot Inn, the resort’s 350-year-old waterfront steak house serving up huge portions of old-school glamour with dishes like Caesar salad and bananas Foster made tableside.
On Fridays, take the resort ferry from the Fairmont Southampton to its sister hotel, the grand dame Fairmont Hamilton Princess, host of the island’s largest weekly social gathering. Embark on a tropical-kissed weekend on the Princess’ sprawling lawns joined by hundreds of Bermudians for this apex of the summer social calendar. The party soon spills into myriad stylish resto-lounges in adjacent downtown Hamilton, such as the rooftop sky bar at Muse, which also offers excellent French bistro cuisine.
|Mandarin Oriental Elbow Beach's suite and spa suite.|
Brand lovers hunker down at the picture-perfect cottages of the Mandarin Oriental’s Elbow Beach, Bermuda. While the majority of the property’s common spaces reside within its century-old hotel tower, accommodations are tiered along adjacent beach dunes as a vibrantly colored cottage colony. The resort boasts the island’s sole restaurant right on the sand, the seafood-centric Mickey’s Beach Bistro & Bar, and houses the exclusive Spa at Elbow Beach, which consists of six private ocean-view mega-suites, each with its own daybed, balcony, relaxation area, colossal rain shower and freestanding granite bathtub.
As much as Bermuda pays homage to the past, newer developments are starting to look to the future. In recent years, the boutique hotel movement arrived with the opening of the mod Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort & Spa. The intimate hotel carries a lengthy moniker as guests are privy to the amenities of residential Belmont Hills, including the Algie M. Pulley Jr.-designed 18-hole championship golf course and award-winning Blu at Belmont Hills, the superlative spot for any type of sushi or brick-oven pizza fix. Nestled alongside Hamilton Harbor, all rooms and suites overlook Bermuda’s placid blues, although the panorama is most striking from the circular infinity pools suspended over a rocky promontory. Newstead’s residential-like suites include sprawling living rooms, fully appointed kitchens and bedrooms adorned with espresso-tinted furnishings enveloped by walls of sky blue and snow white, and dark hardwood floors. Don’t expect in-your-face South Beach glamour or St. Barths elegant living. Like any newcomer to Bermuda, Newstead brings a modern take on Old World style and charm—the most logical “in” for planting roots on this history-steeped island legend.
|St. Peter's Church in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of St. George.|
Island first-timers—and return visitors—are enthralled by the many must-see places spread throughout Bermuda’s diverse 20.6 square miles. Be sure to:
- Amble through the colorful streets surrounding The Royal Naval Dockyard, which has been reinvented as a series of shopping arcades and public spaces, including the Bermuda Maritime Museum, a nineteenth-century fortress that houses artifacts and chronicles the island’s naval history.
- Experience the past in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of St. George, the earliest English settlement in the New World. The circa 1612 town encompasses landmarks frozen in time, such as St. Peter’s Church and Fort St. Catherine.
- Strike a pose in front of the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, built in 1846, the world’s oldest cast-iron lighthouse. Climb its nearly 200 stairs for sweeping views of the coastline.
|Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Bermuda.|
- Venture underground at Crystal and Fantasy Caves into a grand subterranean world of stalagmites and stalactites.
- Discover the growing local art movement at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, housed in a former arrowroot-processing plant.
- Soak in the natural beauty of the lush, 35-acre Botanical Gardens.