Hit the Links in Bermuda

1. Where to Stay

The 9 Beaches resortPhoto: Courtesy of 9 Beaches

A colorful colony of summer-camp cottages (if your summer camp once moonlighted as a luxury hotel), Horizons & Cottages’ thirteen individual bungalows (from $315) are terraced into a lush green hillside overlooking the sea. Each comes with a maid who cooks full English breakfasts in your private kitchen; there are also nine rooms in the main house, all designed with a distinctly Bermudian palette (think lots of pink). Get the kinks out of your swing on the nine-hole pitch-and-putt.

If you must have a full-size course within walking distance of your room, the Fairmont Southampton (from $219) maintains a par-3 eighteen holes. Occupying a former 100-acre estate overlooking an outrageous pink-sand beach, the nearly 600-room hotel also has all the restaurants, shops, and beach-club goodies you’d expect from a big-box resort.

After an extensive—and expensive—overhaul a few years back, Elbow Beach (from $249) was acquired by Mandarin Oriental, which among other renovations reopened the Deep Lounge & Club, one of the few after-hours places that still exists on the early-to-bed island. Splurge on one of the stylish, sea-level cottages, with private doors that open right on the sand.

The 9 Beaches resort (from $185; $305 over water) imports a South Pacific flair to the mid-Atlantic in the form of over-water cabanas on stilts—a Bermuda first. These soft-sided cabins resemble safari-lodge tents—albeit with air-conditioning, wi-fi, and nautical-themed interiors.

2. Where to Eat

The Veranda Bar at Elbow BeachPhoto: Courtesy of Elbow Beach

Given that Bermuda is still a small chunk of the British Empire, it makes sense that much of the cuisine is similar to that found in London—that is, before the city’s culinary revolution. You won’t find a ton of indigenous fare, but the island’s many pubs often serve seafood specialties, including conch salad, turtle steaks, shark fillets, mussel pie, and cod six ways to Sunday (boiled with eggs; sautéed with peppers, onion, and garlic; and chilled in a cold casserole). For many visitors, the highlight of local gastronomy is the Dark and Stormy, a cocktail made from Bermudan dark rum and ginger beer.

The truest local color will be found at the Spot (6 Burnaby St.; 441-292-6293), a breakfast-and-lunch-only diner near the bus terminal in Hamilton, where the traditional workingman’s breakfast, cod and potatoes, is served until eleven each day. For lunch there are the requisite burgers and sandwiches—all tasty in a greasy-spoon way.

At Dennis’s Hideaway (Cashew City Rd., St. David’s Island; 441-297-0444), an ultracasual hole-in-the-wall outfitted with rustic “recycled” furniture, local character Dennis Lamb focuses on seafood like shark hash and conch chowder. Call first to see whether Lamb is in the mood to open for the night.

For an upscale night out, try Fourways Inn (1 Middle Rd.; 441-236-6517), which has been filling island stomachs for a whopping 250 years. Its French cuisine is updated seasonally with local shellfish and herbs and vegetables from the on-site gardens.

For a nightcap and some live jazz, visit the Veranda Bar at Elbow Beach, where Bermuda’s only rum bar—with more than 50 varieties of the spirit, including the island’s own Gosling’s Dark—adds some Caribbean color to a classic cigar den.

3. What to Do

Riddell's BayPhoto: Courtesy of Riddell's Bay

Tiny Bermuda has the most golf courses per square mile of any nation on earth, and the crown jewel of this collection is the Mid-Ocean Club (441-293-0330). Ranked as one of the top-100 courses in the world by Golf Magazine, the club packs in surprising elevation changes, dramatic coastal exposures, dense inland vegetation, and patience-testing ponds.

Next door is Bermuda’s newest layout, the 6,361-yard Tucker’s Point Club, rebuilt on the site of the much inferior Castle Point course. Tucker’s calling card is its drop-dead gorgeous views—it sits on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by brilliant turquoise reefs. Be forewarned: As short as the course appears on paper, it’s super-dangerous (for golf balls, anyway). A whopping six holes play along the rugged, windswept coast.

Finally, there’s Riddell’s Bay, placed on a narrow peninsula with five holes dropping directly down to the sea and several more running along the coast. While Tucker’s and Mid-Ocean sit side by side on the northeast coast, Riddell’s is at the opposite western end of Bermuda, just south of Hamilton.

All three of these courses are technically private, but that status rarely affects vacationers. Most concierges can easily arrange tee times, and the island’s top hotels even own memberships for their guests to use. To be safe, ask about booking tee times when making your hotel reservations.

4. Insider’s Tip

When considering one of the island’s ubiquitous hotel-golf packages, be on the lookout for ones sending you to the Belmont Hills Golf Club. At just 5,759 yards, it offers the least of Bermuda’s full-size courses in both quality and quantity. Likewise, avoid the public Port Royal, owned and operated by the Bermudan government and aimed squarely at gullible tourists. It has no par-5s and a bunch of miserly par-3s en route to a one-of-a-kind par-62, a rarity in the worst possible sense.

5. An Oddball Day

Photo: Courtesy of Eric Prescott

So what if winter’s not ideal diving season? You can make like Jacques Cousteau (or, in this case, James Bond) with a guided DPV (Diver Propulsion Vehicle) dive. The high-speed underwater sleds tow scuba-certified divers right from the sands of the Elbow Beach Hotel through a hole in the off-shore barrier reef and then out to the wreck of the Pollackshields, a large freighter that ventured too close to the reef in 1915. Trips are offered by Blue Water Divers at the hotel.

If you don’t dive, don’t fret. As the namesake of the Bermuda Triangle, the island holds plenty of mysteries, many of them explained at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute in Hamilton. There are museum-quality displays about wrecks, diving equipment, and aquatic flora and fauna, but the highlight is the theme-park-style ride, the Deep, in which an elevator-like descender takes “divers” on a ten-minute simulated plunge 12,000 feet below the surface. The late Peter Benchley of Jaws fame narrates a furious faux shark attack.

6. Related Links

If you’re expecting Caribbean-style humidity in the winter, think again; check Bermuda’s official weather service for the weekend forecast.

The island’s paper, the Bermuda Sun publishes local news and excellent cricket coverage twice weekly.

For rampant conspiracy theories, UFO sightings, and an eerily comprehensive log of disappearing boats and planes, check out the Bermuda Triangle site.

Experience Bermuda offers a good overview of island cuisine and typical holiday foods, along with restaurant info.

Hit the Links in Bermuda