Discover the Intriguing Charm of Bermuda

View from the water of Hamilton Parish's white-washed buildings standing bright between verdant clusters of trees.

Hamilton Parish. Photo © slgc, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Bermuda is a tricky place to get to know, even after umpteen visits. There is an ephemeral, cotton candy element to the 21-square-mile island with its confectionery-pink veneer, which is ubiquitous on hibiscus blooms, limestone cottages, buses, taxis — and those legendary linen shorts. Yet somehow, ambiguities are all part of the allure. Take Hamilton’s corporate makeover by international business over the past decade — the buzz, brokers, and bling could not be more of a contrast to Bermuda’s physical self, a laid-back Xanadu whose gardens, beaches, and plein air prettiness have changed little since wintering tourists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Woodrow Wilson found inspiration in the pedaled paths and peaceful pace a century ago.

“You go to heaven if you want to,” Mark Twain told a friend while on the island in March 1910, just a month before his death. “I’d rather stay here.”

Bermuda’s intriguing qualities are best unraveled slowly, like the layers of its namesake onion. There are few actual exports these days, aside from rum cakes and duty-free six-packs of dark ’n’ stormies. Rather, the island trades on intangible attributes — the ridiculous turquoise of its reef line, the infectious rhythm of a gombey drummer, its tax-neutral status.

To the first-timer, a few myths need to be dispelled. Subtropical Bermuda is not part of the Caribbean — that island group lies more than 1,000 miles to the south. As a British Overseas Territory, it is also neither very British nor wholly North American, but a complex combo of the two — with a large dose of island cool thrown in. Bermudians may fly the Union Jack on public buildings and sing “God Save the Queen” at official functions, but they hardly break their workday for scones and clotted cream. And while islanders tune in to HBO hits, run NFL office pools, and frequently visit family and friends in the United States, they remain entirely resistant to a wholesale Yankee cultural invasion.

But from the moment you arrive, skimming its silky aquamarine shallows, Bermuda will seduce you as the brochures promise. While most visitors come for beaches — plus a shopping excursion — more now flock to the island for spa weekends, forts and museums, golf getaways, ecotours, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, or music and film festivals. There’s plenty to see and do year-round — or, if you prefer, it’s also a great place to do nothing at all.

Indeed, Bermuda can’t help but charm newcomers and repeat visitors alike. It is a pocket-sized, blindingly beautiful gem of a destination — so close to the Real World, yet in mindset, so perfectly far away. “You go to heaven if you want to,” Mark Twain told a friend while on the island in March 1910, just a month before his death. “I’d rather stay here.”

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Bermuda.

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