Bermuda’s 180 coral islands and islets sit 1,050 km (650 mi) off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, in the middle of the Atlantic. Effectively, they form a single island unified by the causeways, bridges, and other developments of 350 years of continuously stable history and government. First ‘discovered’ by the Spaniard Juan de Bermudez in 1511, it was settled by English colonists shipwrecked on their way to Virginia in 1609 – and it remains a British Dependent Territory by local choice.
British customs and culture govern everything, though Bermuda’s jacket-and-tie formality and decorum is a version of British gentility that the motherland never actually experienced outside literature and the colonies. Most visitors find afternoon tea, ‘bobbies’, and the manners of a bygone age quaint. They mask a steely form of rule that protects the wealth and privacy of the business institutions and many world-famous people who call tax-friendly Bermuda home.
Play the game – as you must – and you’ll find one of the world’s most enchanting, beautiful and historically captivating places. Bermuda’s beaches are white or coral pink, a series of 30 coves and strands backed by rocky cliffs or groves of olivewood, casuarina and Bermuda cedars as well as palms. Its towns and hamlets set their white colonial and pastel neatness against the manicured green of gardens and golf courses, and huge sprays of hibiscus, oleander and morning glory mark the course of roads.
The cobbled lanes of St George, the capital until 1815, wind through a dozen military and naval fortifications preserved, like all the houses and shops, as they were built from 1615 to the mid-19th century. The authenticity of the entire area has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. Bermuda is an island of living history, modem pleasures, and balmy climatic perfection.
Population: 66,163 (2007)
When to go: April to October is busier and best for watersports, people and entertainment; from November to March many boat and diving services are suspended, but it’s comfortably warm, more tranquil, and 40 per cent cheaper.
How to get there: By air on scheduled flights; or by private yacht or cruise liner to Hamilton or St George.
Highlights: The Keep on Ireland Island North, one of Bermuda’s biggest forts, and home to the Maritime Museum at the Royal Naval Dockyard.
The heavenly scent of the 14.5- hectare (36-acre) Botanical Gardens in Paget Parish, where the Double Fantasy Flower inspired John Lennon. The sprawling underground system and tidal pools of the Crystal Caves, Hamilton Parish.
The 17th and 18th century forts around the cedar woods, the perfect cove, and rocky cliffs of Achilles Bay. The 18th century Ducking Stool on Ordnance Island, next to the replica of the 1610 wooden sailing ship Deliverance.
The Confederate Museum, describes Bermuda’s role in smuggling European arms and supplies in exchange for cotton from the southern States during the American Civil War.
You should know: Shakespeare wrote The Tempest after reading the original colonists’ account of their 1609 shipwreck. In the play, he refers to ‘the still-vex’d Bermoothes’, but relocates them to Italy.