The distinctive “fishhook” of Bermuda  is the island’s charismatic West End, Sandys Parish—an undulating patchwork of geography, in which the rugged South Shore coastline on one side and the mirror-like Great Sound bays on the other sandwich a rural bosom of onion fields, towering cedars, and loquat woods.
The West End is all about peace and quiet; perhaps more than in any other parish, you can actually find loads of both here. Winding country lanes littered in oleander petals invite leisurely strolls past miles of red-earthed farms, avenued estates, and craggy islets where whalers once lived. You can watch old-time dinghies with billowing sails scoot across wide-open ocean or hang out with fishermen as they clean their catch in the afternoon.
The fact that Sandys is so detached from the rest of Bermuda—a 40-minute drive from the bustle of Hamilton —lends serenity to any time spent in then parish. No wonder that a traveler would encounter places called Tranquillity Hill, Pinkhouse Lane, and Daisyfield Drive around here.
The parish name may conjure a delightful image of nonstop beaches—which wouldn’t be deceiving—but Sandys (pronounced “Sands”) actually is derived from Sir Edwin Sandys, one of the colony’s first Virginia Company investors. To keep your bearings, it helps to remember that the parish comprises a string of five islands—plus a chunk of mainland bordering Southampton  at Port Royal Golf Course —which curve around in an arc. That may help explain all those bridges you’re crossing. From the west, the islands are: Ireland Island North, Ireland Island South, Boaz Island, Watford Island, and—the largest—Somerset Island, named for the English county.
Somerset Island connects to the rest of the parish at its western tip via Somerset Bridge , the world’s smallest drawbridge. Quaint Somerset Village  is found on Somerset Island—a point of confusion when Bermudians talk about “Somerset.” Sometimes, they may mean the village itself, but they could be referring to anything in the larger area. In fact, many locals tend to call all addresses farther west than Somerset Bridge, including the other islands and Dockyard , Somerset.
Steeped in both early colonial and British military history, Sandys is historically important, as its stunning fortifications, military cemeteries, and cultural heritage museums will attest. It is also a nature-lover’s destination, with two of Bermuda’s most extensive national parks, plus several smaller ones, dramatic coastal landscapes, and endless shallow reef systems you can spend full days exploring.
Quintessential Bermudiana is everywhere here—in the village verandas, cricket matches, and cottage-fringed lanes, and in the cheerful homespun eateries you may choose to visit. Like the other parishes, it is not without its social troubles—gangs and graffiti are particularly overt on sections of the main road here where idle groups of young men hang out—but visitors are rarely bothered.
The center of attention is the awesome Royal Naval Dockyard —an unbeatable combination of maritime endeavors, arts and crafts, beach fun, and hearty menus. The new Heritage Wharf and cruise ship terminal will bring much more activity to the area. Somerset Village , with its infectious lethargy, is a West End gem.
The surrounding parish —including the old Railway Trail , whose Sandys stretch is one of the island’s most scenic—should not be overlooked, either; with memorable sights, loads to do, accommodations, restaurants, and laid-back whimsy, it will entice you to linger just that little bit longer.