Popular Hamilton Shore Excursions
The Bermuda Aquarium, Natural History Museum & Zoo (North Shore Road, daily from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. North Shore Rd.) features the requisite large collection of tropical marine fish, turtles, harbor seals and other forms of sea life. Exhibits range from the geological development of Bermuda and deep-sea exploration to humpback whales. There's a huge seven-foot moray eel whose head is bigger than a human's. Check out the North Rock Exhibit -- a 140,000-gallon tank filled with a Nemo look-alikes. The first living coral exhibit on this scale in the world is here, too.
The Bermuda Arts Centre (Freeport Road, daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.). Opened by the late Princess Margaret in the early 1980s, 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.
The Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (Crow Lane, daily 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.) is the world's first scientific institute to focus entirely on deep-water exploration and research. The 3,000-plus shell collection is bar none, the world's best. Wait'll you see the shrunken human heads showing gruesome effects of deep-water pressure -- and leave time to hop aboard the world's first simulated "deepwater submersible" down to the 12,500-ft. base of the Bermuda Sea Mount. Try to have lunch here at La Coquille.
Fort Hamilton (Happy Valley Road, Monday - Friday, 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.) is one of those places that really does take you back in time. The sights are music to the eyes from this 19th-century fort that stretches practically forever. Show up at noon on Mondays to be regaled by bagpipers and dancers at a Skirling Ceremony. Ask the on-site Victorian Tea Room to set up a picnic lunch for you. The basket includes a blanket and umbrella.
Afternoon tea is a must -- and top choice is the stylish silver service inside Heritage Court at the Fairmont Hamilton (daily from 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.). Oh, the clotted cream with the warm maple walnut scones! The extensive (and tad pricey) tea menu options even include one for kids replete with homemade peanut butter. A fine second choice (and cheaper) option is the Botanic Tea Room inside Trimingham's (cash only).
Bermuda is a major destination for duffers - the island boasts the most golf courses per square mile of any other place on earth. Hint: Golf balls are astronomically expensive. Bring your own. Among those near Hamilton:
Port Royal Golf Course: Excellent 18-hole par 71 Robert Trent Jones-designed course. You can book tee times up to seven days in advance. Green fees $139. 441-234-4653, 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. Green fees $145. 441-238-1060, Warwick.
Fairmont Southampton: An 18-hole par 54 Ted Robinson-designed course. Carts are mandatory and included in the green fees. You can book up to seven days in advance. Green fees $70, cart included. 441-238-0446, Southampton.
Beyond Hamilton 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, Wednesday, Fridays. You can book tee times up to 24 hours in advance. Greens fees $210. 441-293 0330, St. George's.
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. $5 - $6 for a bucket of 40 balls; $10 for mini-golf (adults) $8 for children under 12.
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. Green fees $90. 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. Green fees $93. 441-295-2093. Devonshire.
Tucker's Point Golf Club: Challenging 18-hole, par 70 Roger Rulewich newly-designed course. Incredible views. Private, but allows visitors. You can book up to 48 hours in advance. Greens fees $195. 441-298-6959, St. George's. Spittal Pond Nature Reserve (South Shore Road, open daily from dawn to dusk) is Bermuda's largest wildlife sanctuary -- it attracts about 25 species of waterfowl from November to May. Absolutely consider the very scenic mile-long walk past an amazing variety of flowers and trees. Don't miss Jeffrey's Hole, a cave named for an escaped slave who supposedly hid out here.
A private home until 1951, the circa-1710 Vermont Museum (Verdmont Lane in Smith's, Tuesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.), offers a glimpse at residential life on Bermuda from the 18th century. The house pretty much remains as it was in 1710. Much of the furnishings are made from cedar (the rich fragrance is lovely). Take a look at the china coffee service said to be a gift from Napoleon to President Madison (he never received it since the ship carrying it was seized by a Bermudian privateer). There are eight fireplaces, indoor shutters and a grand stairwell leading to the attic. Walk along the brick path through the formal gardens for excellent ocean views.
The beaches are small when compared to most found in the U.S. -- ranging from as little as 15 yards to about 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 Hamilton:
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:
Mangrove Bay: Once a smuggler's cove, there are two beaches, but only one is public. The calm waters for are perfect for kids and non-swimmers. A favored spot for landscape artists. No changing rooms or restrooms. Near Somerset Village on the North Shore.Somerset Long Bay: Quiet, low-key, shallow and dotted with plenty of coral bluffs. Restrooms. Sandys Parish.
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 chair, lounges, towels and rafts. Changing rooms, showers and restrooms. Cooper's Island, off St. David's Island.
Church Bay: Off the beaten path-and superb for snorkeling. Rent what you need elsewhere. No changing rooms or restrooms. Southampton.