Bermuda — a little slice of Britain on this side of the Atlantic

Hamilton Marina Lounge.
Hamilton Marina Lounge.

This small island — only 21 square miles in area and 650 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina — gave the world shorts (still used as part of the island uniform), onions (still used in island cuisine), and grass (still used on the island’s ubiquitous golf courses).

Bermuda has earned literary cred as well. William Shakespeare used it as the shipwreck setting for his play The Tempest, making it the only spot in the New World that the Bard ever cited by name.

Prospero, Miranda, Caliban and Ariel had their share of difficulties, but today, Bermuda’s gentle beauty and easygoing lifestyle lure those who wouldn’t mind being shipwrecked on its shores.

It’s no wonder: Luminous turquoise waters lap shell-pink sand beaches; frangipani perfumes the air, and pastel-colored houses snuggle behind winding hedgerow-bordered roads with names like Happy Talk Lane and Pie Crust Place.

It boasts the world’s smallest drawbridge — opening a mere 32 inches — and a signature drink, the Dark and Stormy, a heady concoction of ginger beer and rum. It has no rental cars (mopeds being the preferred mode of transportation), no skyscrapers and no sense that life should be lived at anything other than a leisurely and enjoyable pace.

How could you fail to love a place like this?

The answer is you can’t, as demonstrated by one statistic: Of all the world’s resort islands, Bermuda allegedly enjoys the highest rate of return visitors.

Little Britain

For those who suffer from Anglophilia, it’s comforting to know that you don’t have to travel across the Atlantic to get your Britain fix. Bermuda is arguably the most British of all the Commonwealth nations.

When Admiral George Somers arrived here in 1609, it was by mistake: He was headed for the Virginia Colony when he was shipwrecked. Not one to miss an opportunity, he did what the Brits always did upon discovering a new place: He claimed it for the Crown.

St. Peter’s Church in St. George Parish the oldest Anglican Church in continuous use outside the British Isles, possesses a set of communion silver that was a gift from King William III.

A top island attraction is the Dockyards, former headquarters of the British Navy, now a collection of fashionable restaurants, pubs, and shops stocked with British imports You can get cashmere, tweeds and Wedgewood china, although don’t expect bargain prices.

Another visitor favorite is Fort Hamilton, overlooking its namesake harbor. Built by the British to protect the harbor from a possible American invasion, it has the usual features: guns on the ramparts and underground passages, plus a couple of unusual (and veddy British) features — lovely gardens and concerts by the Bermuda Isles Pipe Band.

If you think you have to go to Scotland for the world’s best golf, consider this: Bermuda has more golf courses per square mile than anywhere else in the world, and not a single one has anything to do with Donald Trump.

Your hotel can probably provide an introduction to these state-of-the-art courses, including Riddle’s Bay, the oldest and most picturesque, and the ultra-chic Ocean Club, considered the finest, especially its legendary fifth hole.

Finally, don’t even think about skipping high tea, observed as fanatically here as anywhere in the British Isles. Two of the most unusual tea spots are Homer’s Café in the 36-acre Botanical Gardens (Sundays) and Sweet P’s at the Bermuda Perfumery (Wednesdays and Saturdays).

Bermuda’s pink beaches are as noteworthy as Kentucky’s bluegrass, Utah’s red rocks or Vermont’s green mountains. Gorgeous stretches of sand such as at Horseshoe Bay really do shimmer pinkly under the sun. They might inspire poetry, but science offers an explanation for all the pinkness.

Just off the island’s south shore are an abundance of coral reefs that are home to a tiny red marine shellfish. When it dies, the organism discards its pink shell, which then mixes with the white sand to create the distinctive color.

Regal rebirth

Also seashell pink, the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club anchors a prominent spot near Front Street. Its back side overlooks the yacht-crammed town harbor. Officially dubbed the “Pink Palace,” the Princess reopened this summer after a two-year, $100 million refurbishment, and it will be the official host hotel for the 35th annual America’s Cup yacht races to be held on the island in June 2017.

Among the additions to the property are the island’s first celebrity chef restaurant and a public art program that rivals that of a major museum.

Marcus’ Restaurant showcases the culinary artistry of Marcus Samuelsson, a native Ethiopian and adopted Swede, who hit the big time in Manhattan with his Red Rooster Harlem.

Guests can experience his cuisine at the restaurant and bar at the Princess Beach Club, a private club for hotel guests on one of the south coast’s loveliest sheltered coves.

The quality of the hotel art is best appreciated on a twice daily (11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.) curated art walk throughout the public areas of the hotel and grounds. Yes, that is Her Majesty the Queen staring down from behind the registration desk (courtesy of Andy Warhol’s silk screening) and Damien Hurst’s signature polka dots just off the main lobby. If you have a trained eye, you can spot pieces by Roy Lichtenstein and British BoHo artist Banksy.

Pink sand and blue water, Bermuda shorts and the British flag, sailboats and sunsets — visitors to this beautiful island are spoiled for choice.

Patti Nickell:

If you go


Where to stay: Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club, Pitts Bay Road. The setting is picturesque, overlooking the marina and harbor, and is an easy walk from the colorful cafés and shops on Front Street. Its landscaped grounds are lovely, the Exhale Spa and arcade of shops are upscale in the extreme, and Marcus Samuelsson brings his cooking mojo as Bermuda’s first celebrity chef. The one complaint I had was that at a self-proclaimed five-star property, the service was often spotty.