Bermuda is such an easy island country to explore with its excellent transportation system that we never even booking an excursion until our most recent visit in April, 2013. During this visit, via the Splendor's shore excursion desk, we booked a daytime, glassbottom boat tour aboard the Reef Explorer.
The Reef Explorer is a worthy vessel 75 ft. in length, a 20 ft. beam, and a very shallow draft of only 3 ft. Normally operating out of Hamilton, Captain Michael Gladwin brought the Reef Explorer to King's Wharf to board us for the 2-hour excursion which would take us out of Grassy Bay, under the Watford Bridge and into Mangrove Bay and onto Turtle Cove where we would spend most of our time.
The trip couldn't have been more perfect! The glorious sun, clear aquamarine water and a chance to experience the "Sea Garden Safari" in Bermuda was made even more memorable by the excellent narration by Captain Michael and his crew. Captain Michael is passionate about preserving the blessings of Bermuda's underwater world and sea life. While in Turtle Cove we were had numerous sightings of turtles coming to the surface for air, if only for a moment. The Captain shared his bountiful knowledge about them turtles, other sea life, the coral, other sights on land, Bermuda's "national bird" the Longtail, and the wreck of the H.M.S. Vixen and more than I can mention here. I felt that we had only scraped the surface of his knowledge about all things Bermuda. No coral grows north of Bermuda and although all fish may not be as colorful as you will find in the southerly Caribbean waters, they are still interesting. I did see a large and colorful Parrot fish, but could get a good photo of him.
We spent at least half an hour or so on the lower glassbottom deck viewing area as we skimmed over the sea bottom spotting all sorts of fish, sea puddings, sea fans, many types of coral, the wreck of the H.M.S. Vixen, etc. Back on the top deck we complete our tour as we sailed past Boaz Island and North and South Ireland Island, past the Commissioner's House and back to King's Wharf. The time went by so quickly, although my husband managed to find time to have a "Dark and Stormy" from the downstairs bar! We enjoyed every minute of this tour.
If you book on your own, the rates are $35 per adult; $15 per child (6 - 12 yrs); children under 6 - Free!
Also offered are Glass Bottom Swim & Snorkel Adventure at $55 per adult; $25 per child (6- 12yrs); children under 6 - Free. These rates include snorkel equipment, flotation devices and kayaks!!
Next time on the island I plan to book the "Pirate Adventure" -- a night time cruise with Captain Mike sharing stories of Bermuda privateering, plunder and treasure. Crew members don pirate garb --- you might want to also, LOL!! Sub-sea lights will be illuminated for a one-of-a-kind adventure! Rates are $45 per adult; $20 children 6 - 12 yrs. old; Children under 6 - Free! A complementary rum swizzle if offered for adults 18 and older aboard this cruise!
The Bermuda Anglican Cathedral, over on (of course) Church Street, is one of Hamilton's most impressive buildings. The original cathedral on the site was built in 1844, but was apparently burned down by an arsonist. (THERE's someone who wants to take the express train to hell, eh?) The cathedral was reconstructed in 1894, in an imposing neo-Gothic style reminiscent of those in the "mother country". The Cathedral is contructed of native Bermuda limestone, and has an impressive array of stained glass windows.
There are, as in most cathedrals, various altars and remembrance areas of interest. I personally found the section honoring the various military regiments from Bermuda that served in the two World Wars moving. Bermuda clearly has a long and proud history in the British Empire and Commonwealth.
As are most churches in Bermuda, the cathedral is open to the public at most times. We visited, at least for a bit. It turns out that you need a bit of stamina for an extended visit, as there is no air-conditioning...or even fan cooling...within the cathedral. And considering Bermuda's subtropical and highly humid climate, being INSIDE is not for the faint of heart. It literally blows my mind to imagine sitting through an extended service wearing dress clothes. But, our hosts at the B&B in Hamilton insist that the place is packed every Sunday.
The city of Hamilton does their thing in entertaining the cruise visitors on Wednesday night DURING THE SUMMER, via a party called "Harbour Nights". Basically, Front Street is closed throughout the harborfront area. Flea market vendors, selling artwork, island music, food and all sorts of other goodies, take over the downtown area. Later, there will be a visit from the local Gombay Dancers, who are doing a frenzied style of dancing unique to Bermuda. (See my separate Gombay Dancers tip). And, there's often an appearance by the Bermuda Regiment Band, resplendant in their bright red jacket and white pith helmets.
Hamilton's "Harbour Nights" celebration runs from 730 pm until 11 pm. And although Harbour Nights is cleared geared to welcome (and profit from) cruise ship passengers, the Hamilton celebration seems to get its share of locals who visit the markets...somewhat different, I'm told, than is the case out on the Dockyard Destination celebration on Tuesdays.
There are several nice little parks and greenspaces in downtown Hamilton. Some of them are actually private property, owned by the various insurance companies and banks populating the larger buildings in the city. (FWIW, you're generally welcome to walk through on the paths, and can also enjoy a few moments peace and quiet on a bench.)
Barrs Park is another peaceful spot to spend a few moments in Hamilton. A tidy little public park, Barrs is located right on the harbor, just west of the Royal Yacht Club. And, it's a great place for relaxing a bit ahead of evening drinks and dinner. My wife, daughter and I spent about 45 minutes relaxing on a bench beneath blessed (it was still sunny and hot) foliage in Barrs Park.
If you love fine art and also could use a respite from Hamilton's heat and humidity, you might want to duck into the Bermuda National Gallery. It's on the second floor of City Hall, which is located on Church Street.
It's not a huge collection, but you'll find paintings by Rembrandt, sculpture by Rodin and several other 15th-16th century European masterpieces in the opening room, "The Hereward T. Watlington Room". There is a great painting of the American patriot Thomas Paine by George Romney (isn't one of his kin running for president these days?) on display as well.
In the Ondaatje Wing, there are paintings OF Bermuda done by artists from the time of settlement up through the modern era.
There is a separate "Bermuda Society of Arts Gallery" that is also worth a look-see. It's on the 2nd floor of the City Hall as well. They display and sell works by island artists. If you'd like to take home a nice painting of Bermuda, this is a good place to get something of good quality.
ADMISSION IS FREE on Sunday, and is $3 (I think) for adults on other days.
Hours are 10 am- 4 pm.
Hamilton is pretty much the center of life for Bermuda. It's the seat of government, the nerve center for transportation, and the epicenter of the island's huge international business ventures. There are shops, a top-notch harbor, restaurants and just about anything else that a tourist visitor would enjoy... EXCEPT hotels. That's right, there are no hotels or b&bs within the limits of Hamilton. However, there are plenty within the surrounding Pembroke Parish areas, especially out Pitts Bay Road.
There are certainly other areas of Bermuda that you'll want to visit. But, unless you've holed up at a resort hotel, or are hanging close to your cruise ship, you'll spend plenty of time in Hamilton.
One other little note that you might find a little confusing. Bermuda has a Hamilton PARISH, but the CITY of Hamilton is not IN Hamilton PARISH. The city of Hamilton is in Pembroke Parish.
You can actually experience what it feels like to submerge without leaving land in a simulated dive that feels like and sounds like you are really underwater. See exhibits on shipwrecks and what life is like beneath the ocean. There are also some great videos and collections worth viewing such as SHELLS.
This facility is open year round with the exception of Christmas day. There is a restaurant (La Coquille)and gift shops. A great place for kids!! Prices were $9.75 for adults and $5.00 for children 7-16.
Hamilton is such a beautiful city . All pink and white and waterfront blue .One of our greatist pleasures was just to sit on a balcony on Front St and enjoy the sites below.
There are often cruise ships in harbour so there can be quite a bit of bustle at times , but it only adds to the cities festive spirit.
There are lots of old type Pubs to visit like The Hog Penny ,a wide range of restaurants and some nice shopping .
Victoria is a public park that is opened daily to the public during day light hours. It is widely used as an entertainment venue for free concerts and the like. It features a sunken garden, ornamental shrubbery, and a Victorian bandstand. The 4 acre park was laid out in honor of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. Outdoor concerts are held here in summer. It has several species of endemic plants and another great place to people watch used by the folks working nearby to escape to.
If you want to just watch the Bermudian people the faces, smiles and wonderful range of colors. Hamilton is a good spot to see people. Although it only has a permanent population of approximately 1,000 Hamilton is the only incorporated city in Bermuda. Hamilton is the center for many government functions banking and reinsurance so lots of folks pass thought Hamilton City and give you a great chance to be an observer.
Hamilton history began in 1790 when the Bermuda Government set aside 145 acres the seat of Bermuda government and incorporated in 1793 by an Act of Parliament.