Planning Your Time
Ferries are a highly recommended way to travel to the West End, particularly if your vacation is a short one. The fast-ferry fleet of Sea Express revolutionized access to Dockyard and the way people visit the area, not to mention area residents’ commute to work. The service, which zips between Hamilton and Dockyard in a mere 20 minutes, has made it possible for visitors who might have previously skipped the West End to spend a few hours in Sandys. That said, while Dockyard is a true treasure, Sandys has so much more to see and experience (fast ferries, which carry scooters, also run to other points in the parish).
If your schedule permits, I recommend allotting one or two full days for excursions to its various nooks and crannies. For example, if it’s utter relaxation you’re after, you could easily spend an entire day at Cambridge Beaches’ Ocean Spa, or exploring Hog Bay Park, hiking, swimming, and snorkeling at its pristine shoreline, where a little-known beach offers secluded beauty. Or hang out at the 9 Beaches Resort for an afternoon, enjoying a leisurely lunch at its waterside “Surf Shack,” before venturing out in a kayak or Hobie Cat to view turtles and parrotfish frolicking on reefs a mere stone’s throw from shore.
Another more time-consuming but worth-it adventure: Forgo the high-speed (Hamilton–Dockyard direct) ferries and jump on the milk run instead. Ironclad veterans, including Deliverance and Patience, operate during the high season, chugging across the Sound from Hamilton to several stops along the Sandys shore, including Dockyard, and back—a 60–90 minute jaunt. Forgotten treasures, these old vessels will no doubt be retired before too long in favor of more of the air-conditioned hovercraft, but in the meantime, they stretch the enjoyment of a scenic ferry journey (and you can always disembark at Dockyard and take the speedy return to the city if you’ve had enough or are pinched for time).
In terms of must-see value, Dockyard rates at the top of the West End’s offerings, worth a few hours at least. Next would be Somerset Village, with its charming shops, cafés, and backstreets, as well as the picturesque lanes leading off Mangrove Bay. Finally, if you have time to explore farther afield, the rest of the parish leading right up to the Southampton border is full of worthwhile sights and experiences—huge nature reserves (Hog Bay Park, Heydon Trust), one of the island’s most scenic forts (Fort Scaur), ultra-Bermudian eateries (Traditions), and myriad water sports, from waterskiing to scuba dives at the site of some of Bermuda’s most interesting shipwrecks.
Notably, the Sandys Railway Trail is a major highlight—one of the most scenic and peaceful stretches of the old rail bed–turned–walking route, running from George’s Bay Lane, at the parish border with Southampton, all the way to the Somerset Police Station at Somerset Village, Mangrove Bay. Along the way, walkers or cyclists can enjoy bucolic residential neighborhoods, tracts of farmland, soccer pitches, and trails leading down to quiet docks and picnic areas on the Great Sound (the very best stretch is from Somerset Bridge westward).
Dockyard is perfect for a family visit, with enough sights, attractions, and eateries to appeal equally to toddlers or seniors. The Hamilton–Dockyard ferry run allows scooters on board, so it’s easy to explore Dockyard on foot, then drive out to see Somerset Village and the rest of the parish. There are several different transport combos you might choose to get to Sandys, around the parish, and back. You could take a one-way ferry from Hamilton, then ride the bus or drive a scooter back through the parishes.
The bus ride to Hamilton takes about an hour, with numerous stops included; if you’re traveling by scooter, count on a half-hour to 45-minute journey to the city or central parishes. Or, take the bus or drive out via Harbour Road or the South Shore Beaches and ride the ferry back (driving both ways makes for a lot of scootering—unless you really want to). Another option would be to go by ferry, explore, then take a Dockyard bus as far as Somerset Bridge to catch the Green Route Sea Express back to Hamilton.
Middle Road is the main parish artery for vehicles, continuing from Southampton. Its name changes as it passes through Sandys, becoming Somerset Road after Somerset Bridge, Mangrove Bay Road at Mangrove Bay, Malabar Road after Watford Bridge, Cockburn Road until Cockburn’s Cut, and finally one-way Pender Road to the Clock Tower buildings (Freeport Drive is the way out).
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition