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King's Wharf Overview
King's Wharf, Bermuda's third port -- and the port of choice for bigger ships -- is often referred to as the West End or the Royal Naval Dockyard. Built for the British Navy between 1814 and 1863 as a base to launch a raid on Washington, D.C. by thousands of convicts from prison ships, it was once dubbed "Gibraltar of the West". The Georgian-style fort later served as a North Atlantic base during both World Wars. Finally abandoned in 1951, its reincarnation gives visitors plenty to do and see, what with the Bermuda Maritime Museum, the Arts Centre and the Bermuda Craft Market. The parish's isolation is part of its charm -- and it translates to romance and privacy with significant others.
King's Wharf is rich in naval history with an endless array of activities for all ages, be it culture, water sports, good food, shopping or kicking back at the beach. In addition to galleries, craft markets and museums, you can include world-class golf courses, parasailing, scuba diving and dolphin swims on the short list of things to do. Trek up nearly 200 steps to the top of a historic lighthouse; then follow it up with a charming repast in their tea room or listen to the lovely Gregorian chants of three nuns inside a teensy 1620 chapel at the Heydon Trust. Shop duty-free inside the Clocktower Mall or pick up a scrumptious rum cake at the Bermuda Rum Cake Company, hop a ferry to anywhere, or stroll through the Arts Centre to view the works of Bermuda's premier artists.
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Other Bermuda Cruise Ports:
Hamilton • King's Wharf • St. George's
Bermuda offers its best deals on U.K. imports like cashmere sweaters and Harris tweeds. You're shopping duty-free, so that means prices run at least 20 percent less than in the U.S. You might get closer to a 40 percent range at some places, but prices aren't as good as they once were. Other souvenirs? Pick up some ginger beer (it's an acquired taste) and Gosling's rum to make a Dark 'n' Stormy back home. Don't forget the Bermuda shorts! Shop big-name (but less stocked) outposts such as Trimingham's-Smith's, the Crown Colony Shop and Crisson Jewelers at the Dockyards for your take-home treats.
English is understood and spoken everywhere.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Legal tender is the Bermuda dollar, which is divided into 100 cents. BD$1 = US$1. U.S. currency is normally accepted in shops, restaurants, and hotels, but currency from Britain, Canada and other foreign countries is not. Exchanging money is easy at ATMs and banks. The Bank of Bermuda has a branch at King's Wharf and is open Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. The Bank of Butterfield ATM is located at the Clock Tower Mall. For more currency exchange information, visit www.oanda.com.
Note: Bank of Bermuda's ATM's can only take four digit-PIN's.
Where You're Docked
At King's Wharf. Taxis are plentiful and you can rent scooters.
The sprawling Royal Naval Dockyard six-acre complex gives visitors plenty to do and see -- with every convenience close at hand.
Bermudians drive on the left and no car rentals are allowed, leaving mopeds, bikes, taxis, ferries and the cotton-candy pink bus system. Sure, those scooters are cute and you will be tempted to rent one, but we suggest thinking twice if you're a newbie. The roads are narrow and winding, and you'll find yourself spending a good deal of time getting out of the way of speeding locals who don't care whether they pass on the left or right -- to say nothing of that cumbersome left-side driving detail.
If your heart is set on a scooter, you should still consider a taxi for evening outings and rainy days. You don't need a driver's license, but you do need a helmet and insurance (the rental company includes both in the rental fee). You also must be over the age of 16. Ask about multi-day prices (about $60 for two days, $81 for three) -- otherwise plan on $38 for a one-day rental (built-for-twos will run $55-$65).
Rentals are available from Oleander Cycles near the Clock Tower (www.oleandercycles.bm). Conventional bikes (livery cycles to the locals) are rentable for about $20 a day at just a few shops throughout the island -- but use caution, as Bermuda is known for its steep hills. If you don't want to splurge on renting a bike helmet, bring one from home. Oleander Cycles' location in Southampton is the closest to King's Wharf.
The pink buses travel along all major roadways making stops every 15 minutes except Sundays and holidays when it's every hour or on some routes, not at all. The good news is that buses really aren't a bad way to sightsee. The bad news is that they'll eat into the time you have on the island. A bus to Hamilton takes an hour -- though an express bus from King's Wharf will cut the time to 40 minutes. You'll need exact change in coins (or tokens) for the fare box. To downtown Hamilton, the fare is $4.50 and to Southampton, $3. For ages 5 - 16, all fares are $2 (under five, free). Transportation Passes for one or three days are also available for unlimited use for all zones for $12 and $28, respectively. For more information, visit www.bermudabuses.com. The Bermuda Train Company does 20-minute loops from the Royal Naval Dockyard to the cruise terminal from 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., allowing for five hop-offs at various locations for $10.
Time-saving ferries crisscross the Great Sound between the City of Hamilton and King's Wharf for $4 (kids pay $1), but cash is no longer accepted. Take moped and bikes onboard most routes for an additional $4. Schedules are posted at the landing. For more information, visit www.seaexpress.bm.
Taxis are plentiful but pricy (first drop is $4.50). If you want to use one for sightseeing, we suggest taking ones that have blue flags on the hoods. That means the driver is government-qualified. Fares increase by 25 percent between midnight and 6 a.m., Sundays and holidays. Taxi stands are located next to the Craft Market near the Maritime Museum, in front of the Clocktower Mall and at the Cruise Ship Terminal.
Notes: The Visitors Service Bureau near the Ferry Landing (Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.) is where to get tokens, Transportation Passes for buses, maps and other information before setting out. Also available here is the Heritage Pass for $25 (per person) that gives you access to six cultural attractions within a seven-day period: the Bermuda National Gallery, Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo, Bermuda Maritime Museum, Bermuda National Trust, Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute and all forts.
Bermuda Arts Centre: Formerly opened by the late Princess Margaret in the early 80s, you'll find works by a gaggle of local artists. In-residence artists include a cedar sculptor, a wood carver and a jewelry designer. Of course, most everything is for sale. Daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Freeport Rd.
Bermuda Maritime Museum: Filled to the brim with recovered treasures from the island's shipwrecks. Also check out the Commissioner's House. Built in the early 1800s, you'll enjoy this brilliantly restored home that offers great views from the verandas. Exhibits include antique maps and coins as well as an excellent one on slavery. Daily 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Royal Naval Dockyard.
Bermuda Train Company: Take a 90-minute tour of Dockyard and nearby Somerset Village while friendly guides spin tales of local lore and historical facts. You can buy a ticket onboard, but we suggest advance reservations. Monday - Friday 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Old Cooperage: A former barrel-making factory built in 1831, it is home to the Bermuda Craft Market. You can stroll through numerous stands displaying the works of local craftspeople, including wood carvings and miniatures. Daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Royal Naval Dockyard.
Dockyard Glassworks: Visit here to see beautiful gift items made from glass while you wait, in their 2,000-degree furnace. Daily 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Royal Naval Dockyard.
Fort Scaur: Built in the 1870s to protect the Royal Naval Dockyard because the British feared an attack from the U.S. Commanding views of Ely's Harbour and Great Sound if you stand on the ramparts. Nice place to stroll. The fort closes at 4:30 p.m., but the grounds stay open until sunset. Scaur Rd, Sandys.
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse: Oldest cast-iron lighthouse in the world. Although there's a 185-step climb to the top, the panoramic view of Bermuda and its shoreline from the balcony makes the exertion worthwhile. Reward yourself with an afternoon respite in their tearoom. Daily: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Lighthouse Rd, Southampton.
Heydon Trust: Named for the unpopular 17th-century Governor Jeremy Heydon. A staunch Puritan, he was charged with treason at the age of 80. Acquitted a few years later, he established the trust, and all the land remains intact today on 40-odd acres of magnificent, undeveloped countryside offering splendid water views. In addition to being a bird sanctuary, the grounds include fruit groves, gardens and a tiny 1620 chapel, which is overseen by three nuns who sing Gregorian chants in Latin at services (Monday - Tuesday & Thursday - Friday 7:30 a.m. & 3 p.m., Wednesday & Saturday 3 p.m.). Daily dawn - dusk. Somerset Rd, Sandys.
Sea Gardens: Take the Bottom Peeper -- a glass-bottom boat that allows you to see shipwrecks as well as plenty of coral reefs, brain coral and parrot fish. Ask about making it four hours to include snorkeling (the gear's onboard). Daily. Departs from Point Pleasant in Hamilton.
Somerset Bridge: A 17th-century bridge to Somerset Island -- it's the world's narrowest drawbridge with barely a 19-inch mast clearance. The bridge will also give you a bird's eye view of Cathedral Rocks, aptly named for the natural rock formation that evokes images of a medieval cathedral.
Been There, Done That
Dolphin Quest: A 30-minute swim with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Ages 8 and up. Monday & Thursday - Friday: 10:15 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:45 p.m.; Tuesday 10:45 a.m., 1 p.m.; Wednesday 1 p.m., 4:15 p.m.; Saturday - Sunday 10:15 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:45 p.m., 4:15 p.m. Royal Naval Dockyard.
Gladys Morrell Nature Reserve: Perfect for nomadic strolls above Mangrove Bay, this small gem of a nature reserve serves up nice views, lovely foliage and nesting areas for endangered Bermuda bluebirds. First-rate setting for a romantic picnic. Daily dawn - dusk. East Shore Rd, Somerset Island.
Skyrider Parasailing: It's easy to take off for a chair parasail ride built for two from the rear of a Para-Nautique powerboat. So easy, it's even safe enough for kids. Tuesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. 441-234-3019. Watersports Centre, Royal Naval Dockyards.
Somerset Village: A postcard-pretty village that might look familiar. It was featured in the 1962 film, "A Touch of Mink," with Cary Grant and Doris Day. Enjoy the short walk to Mangrove Bay from here. If you missed shopping at King's Wharf, there are a few Front Street outposts here.
Snorkel Park: The best attraction is the Seascooter Safari. For all ages and swimming abilities, it's an electric scooter ride on the water. You can also rent gear and snorkel the well marked trails. Royal Naval Dockyard.
Spithead House: Built by Hezekiah Frith, who's best remembered for his hidden bounty from two stolen ships and the kidnapping of a French woman he hid from his wife. Local lure says they haunt the house. The house was once the home of Eugene O'Neill (his daughter Oona was born in it), Sir Noel Coward and Charlie Chaplin (after marrying Oona). Not open to visitors, but fun to pass by. Harbor Rd, Warwick.
The beaches are small when compared to most found in the U.S., ranging from as narrow as 15 yards to as wide as half a mile. Set your mind on idle and let the sun go to your head on pink-tinged sands that seem to melt into the sea.
Note: Bermuda's Guide to Beaches and Transportation is free at all visitor centers and most hotels.
Closest to King's Wharf:
Church Bay: Off the beaten path, and superb for snorkeling. Rent what you need elsewhere. No changing rooms or restrooms. Southampton.
Mangrove Bay: Once a smuggler's cove, there are two beaches, but only one is public. The calm waters are perfect for kids and non-swimmers. A favored spot for landscape artists. No changing rooms or restrooms. Near Somerset Village.
Somerset Long Bay: Quiet, low-key, shallow and dotted with plenty of coral bluffs. Restrooms. Sandys.
Shelly Bay: Shallow and shaded (a rarity). Great place for kids. Umbrella rentals, changing room, snacks. Hamilton.
Elbow Beach: Swimming and body surfing are the draws here, but the crowds, not so much. Restrooms, snacks. Paget.
Horseshoe Bay Beach: What can we say? Clear water, pink sand and a really hot social spot. Watch the kids -- the undertow can be strong. Umbrella rentals, changing room, snacks. Southampton.
Other great island beaches:
Tobacco Bay: Great snorkeling. You can see families of squid and even octopus. Gear rentals, umbrella rentals, changing room, snacks. St. George's.
Achilles Bay: Small beach that's great snorkeling and windsurfing. Not as crowded as Tobacco Bay. Gear rentals, changing room, snacks. St. George's.
Clearwater Beach and Park: A 36-acre great-for-kids site that includes nature trails. Reid Clearwater Cafe is a good bet for snacks and light meals. Gear rentals for snorkeling, as well as chairs, lounges, towels and rafts. Changing rooms, showers and restrooms. Cooper's Island, off St. David's Island.
Bermuda is a major destination for duffers, boasting the most golf courses per square mile of any other place on earth.
Hint: Golf balls are astronomically expensive. Bring your own.
Closest to King's Wharf:
Bermuda Golf Academy: The only mini-course on the island, it has a 320-yard driving range. Daily 9 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. 441-238-8800, Southampton.
Port Royal Golf Course: Excellent 18-hole par 71 course designed by Robert Trent Jones. You can book tee times up to seven days in advance. Greens fees $72-82. 441-234-4653, Southampton.
Southampton Princess: An 18-hole par 54 course designed by Ted Robinson. Carts are mandatory and included in the greens fees. You can book up to seven days in advance. Greens fees $66. 441-238-0446, Southampton.
Riddell's Bay Golf & Country Club: First 18-hole par 70 course in Bermuda. Designed by Deveraux Emmett (Washington, D.C. area's Congressional Club). Private, but allows visitors. You can book tee times up to 24 hours in advance. Greens fees $135. 441-238-1060, Warwick.
Beyond King's Wharf are other top-notch courses, including:
Mid-Ocean Club: The best you'll come across. Rated one of the best in the world. C.B. Macdonald-designed 18-hole par 71. Private, but allows visitors Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You can book tee times up to 24 hours in advance. Greens fees $190. 441-293 0330, St. George's.
St. George's Golf Club: Wonderful sight lines on an 18-hole par 62 Robert Trent-designed course. This was one of the last designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior prior to his retirement. You can book tee times up to seven days in advance. Greens fees $50-$55. 441-297-1836, St. George's.
Ocean View Golf Club: Views that can drive you to distraction. A 9-hole par 35 course. You can book tee times up to 14 days in advance. Greens fees $50. 441-295-2093. Devonshire.
Tucker's Point Golf Club: Challenging 18-hole, par 70 course newly designed by Roger Rulewich. Incredible views. Private, but allows visitors. You can book up to 48 hours in advance. Greens fees $185. 441-298-6959, St. George's.
You'll find plenty of traditional dishes like fish chowder laced with black rum and hot peppers, or hashed shark. And definitely order anything made with their fabulous Bermuda onions.
Food for thought: Norwegian Majesty's Bermuda Freestyle Dining Ashore Program gives cruisers the opportunity to try any one of dozens of what really are first-rate restaurants. Consider the Frog & Onion Pub at the Royal Naval Dockyard for gloriously golden conch fritters that'll have you licking your fingers. Pay $5 and get a lunch voucher worth $25 or $10 for a $50 dinner voucher.
Beethoven's: Specializes in fondue. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $25. Daily 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. Royal Naval Dockyard.
Frog & Onion: Bangers and mash and plenty of Guinness. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $22. Monday - Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday noon - 4 p.m. Royal Naval Dockyard.
Freeport Gardens: Copious amounts of locally caught fish. Try the excellent fish and chips. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $25. Daily 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Royal Naval Dockyard.
Lighthouse Tea Room: Inside the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, don't pass on the English pork pie or the Merry Berry for dessert -- ice cream topped off with fresh berries then showered with a blackberry sauce, an ample dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of chocolate. Dinner is served on weekends. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $25. Daily 11:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Lighthouse Rd, Southampton.
Henry VIII: The roast duck will have you purring. Their pub rocks after 9 p.m. with live entertainment. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $25. Daily noon - 2:30 p.m. South Shore Rd, Southampton.
Pirate's Landing: Burgers, designer pizzas and the usual local dishes indoors or waterside from costumed servers. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $20. Daily 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. Royal Naval Dockyard.
Somerset Country Squire Tavern: One of the best in Bermuda for seafood. Curried mussel pie is the winner here. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $25. Daily 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. Mangrove Bay.
Newport Room: Formal and fabulous. Hope that the duck breast with a cinnamon and fig sauce is on the menu the day you show up. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $55. Daily 6:30 p.m. - 10 p.m. Jacket required. Southampton Princess, Shore Rd, Southampton.
Waterlot Inn: More than three centuries old. The gravlox dressed up with a pineapple-ginger salsa kills. Per-person cost for three courses including wine will run about $55. Jackets required. Daily 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. Fairmont Southampton Princess, Southampton.
Staying in Touch
Freeport Gardens, 1 Freeport Rd, Royal Naval Dockyard
Here are our choices for the best ship-sponsored shore excursions.
Best Choice for Nature Lovers: West End Sea Trek Eco-Historical Tour. Duration: 1 3/4 hours. Price: $60. Offered by Norwegian Cruise Line.
Best Choice for Sportspersons: Dolphin Encounter & Swim Duration: 1 1/2 hours. Price: $150. Offered by Celebrity Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International.
Best Choice for Culture Vultures: Admiral's Tour with historian Brian Darby plus a private tour with the Maritime Museum's Conservator. Duration: 4 hours. Price: $54. Offered by Regent Seven Seas.
For More Information
Call the Bermuda Department of Tourism at 800-237-6832.
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Bermuda
The Independent Traveler Message Boards: Bermuda
Image of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse appears courtesy of the Bermuda Shorts Design Gallery. Image of Royal Naval Dockyard appears courtesy of www.bermudashorts.bm.