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Sandy's Parish ~ Royal Naval Dockyard
For those arriving by ship, docking at King's Wharf or Heritage Wharf, you'll be happy to know that there are many advantages to this port: proximity to at least two forms of island transportation; proximity of attractions, museums and historical points of interest; proximity to shopping and restaurants; proximity to watersports, sport vehicles, etc.
After debarking your ship, you will be steps aways from a kiosk where you can purchase tickets for "Sea Express" ferries or "Bermuda Breeze" bus passage around Bermuda -- a great convenience. We tried both forms of transportation and found both to be good and much less expensive than taxis. Don't forget to get information on schedules because this is extremely important to ensure that you don't miss connections to arrive back at your ship on time.
Also, within easy walking distance is the National Museum of Bermuda (encapsulating the highly regarded Bermuda Maritime Museum) including the Commissioner's House; Dolphin Quest; the Snorkel Park, Beach & Watersports Centre; several restaurants, the Frog & Onion Pub; some great shopping!
If you're looking for a place to buy stamps, stop at the giftshop in the 1st round building under the palm trees and just near the ferry stops -- the nice ladies at this gift shop will be glad to furnish you with stamps & postcards as well as souvenirs; I believe they may also sell ferry/bus passes.
If all you care to do is stroll around and enjoy views of the marina, the historic buildings, the Atlantic Ocean or the small hints that Bermuda is forever linked to Britain, the Royal Naval Dockyard is an excellent place to do it.
The History of the Royal Naval Dockyard began over 200 years ago when it was built by convicts and slave labor under the direction of Royal Naval engineers. The fortress area's purpose was to protect the interests of Britain and its new colony by way of its Navy. Fort walls, wharves, barracks, ammunitions storehouses, general storehouses and even the Commissioner's House are still preserved though most serving different purposes today.
Even if I had not arrived here by ship, I would certainly have made it a point to visit the Royal Naval Dockyard anyway.
Royal Naval Dockyard ~ Snorkel Park Beach
Bermuda is blessed with beautiful beaches both large and small. The pocket-sized Snorkel Park Beach is a small jewel, and is really quite stunning in its own right even when compared to the gorgeous Horseshoe Bay Bridge with its sweeping breadth. Snorkel Park Beach is a sheltered little cove framed by a rock jetty on one side and the scenic, high stone walls of the National Museum of Bermuda on the other.
Having just finished our visit to National Museum of Bermuda and the Frog and Onion Pub, we walked the short distance over to Snorkel Park Beach in the late afternoon. The gates were open and no admission was being charged which we appreciated since we had just come to look around. The sun was still warm and small groups of people were clustered under colorful sun umbrellas or lounging on the beach. A few had rented water craft and were manuvering about much further out from the shoreline. Many had already retreated to Hammerheads Bar and Grill enjoying the views and relaxing for a late lunch or drinks while music drifted on the air.
Located inside the Royal Naval Dockyard, Snorkel Park Beach is within walking distance of cruise ship wharfs, ferry docks, and bus stops has become very popular with families and couples. The beach has fine, white sand though is a little rocky along the water's edge and bottom (aqua shoes may be needed). Snorkel Park Beach, though good-sized, is not as large as others you will find on the island. Still, with its gorgeous views, waterside facilties, many watersport offerings including snuba tours, kayaking and great snorkel opportunities, plus the addition of the adjacent FunGolf minature golf course, there is something here for everyone during the day as well as night. You could easily spend a full day here.
Admission to the beach onlly is $5 weekdays, and $10 on weekends per person. Not such a bad deal when you realize that these fees not only help maintain the facilities here but part of the proceeds go to local marine conservation.
At night, people come for the Club Aqua but more especially for the "Beach BBQ and Island Beach Party." Doors open at 6:45 for the BBQ buffet and early entertainment followed later with the evening show featuring lots of local entertainment including the Bermuda Gombeys dance group to the fire limbo suitable for the whole family.
The particulars vary according to which package you choose. From snorkelparkbeach.com, the facts are as follows:
"Open for admission: Monday and Thursday, beginning April 30th to November 1st.
Saturdays from April 21st-August 25th.
Additional Mondays on April 9th and April 16th
Beach BBQ and Island Beach party, doors open at 6:45
Beach BBQ and light entertainment 7-8pm ($58.00) (2013 prices)
Island Beach Party 8-10pm ($20)(2013 prices)
(Includes entertainment only, small rum swizzle, entry to Cub SPB our open air night club, seating can not be guaranteed.)
Full package includes reserved seating, delicious buffet, one large complimentary Bermuda Rum Swizzle, Lots of Fun entertainment entry to Club SPB our open air nightclub open from 10pm-3pm"
- Water Sports
Royal Naval Dockyard ~ Dolphin Quest
Swimming with dolphins has been a dream of mine but the reality of it has yet to take place. However, the next best thing to it was watching a small group of young ladies as there own dreams came true!
Bermuda has its own Dolphin Quest located within the walls of the National Museum of Bermuda (formerly the Bermuda Maritime Museum) which is itself within the Royal Naval Dockyard. Making a sharp right after entering the Museum area and following the walkways brought us to the pools and dolphins. Sitting poolside and wearing wet suits and life preservers, the group of young ladies beamed as dolphins swam up to them, extended flippers, and even posed for photos "kissing" each girl. We stood watching for quite a while and I don't know that I could say that each participant actually "swam with the dolphins," but it was quite apparent they were enjoying every minute.
Dolphin Quest offers several types of packages for dolphin encounters ranging from about 20 minutes ($160) to the ultimate "Trainer for a Week" package ($3,250) which is a 5 1/2 hrs. encounter per day for 5 consecutive days for those aged 12 and older. For most packages, guests must be at least 5 yrs. old and up. Should any child be so lucky, one of the best packages is the Dolphin Quest Birthday Party for the Birthday boy or girl, his or her parents, and 12 of their closest friends --- nearly everything is provided and each child gets a dolphin "touch." With any type of package, free admission to the National Museum of Bermuda is part of the deal.
I would be the first person to scream if I thought an animal was being harmed or overly exploited in any way, but I did see this as the case with Dolphin Quest. In fact, the dolphins were well looked after by their trainers and the children were very respectful. Also the trainers seemed eager to educate the children about the dolphins -- the dolphins meanwhile clicked and whistled for their part.
A nice gift shop just nearby carried a variety of nice items especially for children from plush toys, to T-shirts and water gear, books, etc., and professional photos taken during the encounters were also available here.
Being an animal lover, I could have happily sat on the provided, pool-side benches and watched for hours, but we had to move on to the remaining sights of the Nation Museum of Bermuda inside these lovely stone walls.
Royal Naval Dockyard ~ National Museum of Bermuda
On our first visit to Bermuda, I made the mistake of missing one of the best museums in Bermuda. During our latest visit in April, 2013, we spent several hours enjoying this very worthwhile museum.
The vintage, metal script over the stone entrance arch still says Bermuda Maritime Museum, but today the museum is titled, the "National Museum of Bermuda." Although guided tours are available by appointment, seeing the museum is largely a self-guided exercise.
The Museum is essentially an old fortress with many featured buildings and areas such as "The Keep" which is a large portion of the six-acre "fortress" enclosed within thick, stone walls. Many of the buildings also house "museums" focused on a particular part of Bermuda's history from its founding through World War II and beyond. There are stone markers, half a dozen bastions, ramparts and casemates, cannons and gun emplacements you can view from winding paths and walkways. These many features are all part and parcel of the National Museum of Bermunda (Maritime Museum). It is difficult to encapsulate the museum as nearly each and every building serves as a mini-museum either based on its past function as part of the fort and/or as a venue for other exhibits.
The "Commissioner's House", perched high on a hill overlooking the sea, is the most prominent and recognizable building and is full of exhibits on both floors including an exhibit on "The Slave Trade and Slavery in Bermuda," Bermuda coin and note collections, and rare book collections, significant sections on Bermuda's role in WWII, and other collections or exhibits featuring Bermuda's history and culture.
We spent at least two hours wandering around the separate museums, walking the ramparts, visiting the Commissioner's House and the ground-level museum, but we could have easily spent far more time there being the history lovers that we are. It may be more difficult to keep children amused, but there is plenty of space to run around the grounds, and even cannons to climb on. Families will want to know that the Dolphin Quest is also accessed within the Museum's Keep and which will be covered in another tip.
Admission: (2013 prices) Adults (13 and up) $10 ;
Seniors over 60 - $8; Under 13 FREE
All children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult at all times
Spring and Summer Schedule:
Every day 9:30am–5pm (last admission 3pm)
Closed December 25
FREE ADMISSION for Bermuda residents every December and January
Following this visit we were thirsty and ready for a light snack. Just across from the entrance/departure gate is my husband's favorite Bermuda pub, The Frog and Onion, which was our next stop.
Royal Naval Dockyard and Maritime Museum
In 1995, I figured that a museum would be a good place to go if it was rainy. I didn't realize that all the buildings weren't connected in one big Museum building. We still had fun, dashing from building to building in the rain or emulating the ducks. I enjoyed seeing the features of the building where they stored the munitions.
The Royal Naval Dockyard was once the largest naval base in the Western Atlantic. The breakwaters, wharves, boat slips, barracks and keep were constructed just before the 1812 war. The Keep was built with walls 20 feet wide, and visitors can enter after crossing a concrete drawbridge over the surrounding moat.
Of course this was off limits when we were here in 1963.
In 2004, we mainly concentrated on the Commissioner's House was not open when we were here in 1995. All the pictures except the one of the entrance were taken in 2004
MUSEUM BUILDINGS OF THE KEEP YARD
1. Queen?s Exhibition Hall
2. The Shifting House
3. Bermuda Monetary Authority
4. Shell House
5. Forster Cooper Building
6. The Boatloft & Children's Room
BUILDINGS ON THE UPPER GROUNDS
8. The Dainty Exhibit
9. Artifact Conservation Laboratory
10. Jack Davis student residence
11. The Commissioner?s House
12. High Cave and magazine
. THE BOATLOFT
This large building at the end of the Parade Ground houses a number of attractions:
Open daily 9:30 am to 5 pm, with last admission at 4:30 pm. I think the admissions are for both the dockyard and the museum
Adults US$7.50; Bermuda seniors and students $6. Family rates.
For more information see my page on Sandy's Parish
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Technically, this entity is called "The Dockyard Glassworks and Bermuda Rum Cake Company". But, we didn't spend a lot of time checking out the rum cakes. I love rum, and I seldom muddy the waters by adding cake. :) Just being funny, I like it all.
Being a former chemist, I've always been amazed by glassblowers. Back in my college chemistry days, we counted on departmental glassblowers to produce unique apparati for our various experiments. Their talent knew no bounds. So, when I have a chance to observe the artistry of glassworkers, I don't miss the chance.
The Dockyard Glassworks did not disappoint. We spent about 30 minutes watching two of the glassblowers team up to make an ornamental and downright beautiful glass plate. The funny thing was that we didn't REALIZE it would be a plate until the very end...for a long period of time, it appeared that they were making a pitcher or jug.
Watching the gentle grace and artistry of the workers, and especially seeing the chemistry of adding color via different sands and minerals is just mesmerizing. This is an incredibly labor-intensive craft, and after spending some time watching the process, you'll not quibble over pricing in the gift shop. I would never make it working at a place like the Dockyard glassworks. Not only am I artistically-challenged, it's just so darned HOT in the workplace. Bermuda's already a warm climate, and here are these folks working around these incredibly hot glass furnaces on all sides.
We asked the artisans how often they burn themselves. Personally, I'd suspect they get a burn or two every single day. One of the smiled and said "I never burn myself". I suspect that his honesty was as fragile as his finished product. :)
The Bermuda Maritime Museum (BMM)
The Bermuda Maritime Museum is the "flagship" of the Royal Naval Dockyards, a massive stone fort and bastions set on six acres at the tip of Sandys Parish. Constructed in the 19th century, it's virtually unchanged from its nautical glory days as Royal Navy Hdqtrs in Bermuda. You'll notice that it's a special adventure when you start off by crossing the moat footbridge.
Admission to the BMM is $10 adult/$5 child. Admission is FREE if you're also doing a dolphin encounter at DolphinQuest. (Free is a relative term, I guess, since the dolphin encounters are over $200 a person)
Among the attractions at the BMM are:
Queen's Exhibition Hall, featuring exhibits on whaling and nautical themes.
The Boatloft, which features tribute to the island's naval heritage. The collection of handmade Bermuda dinghies, all constructed of native Bermuda cedar, is impressive...even for a guy like me who's nobody's sailor. ;)
Do visit the Commissioner's House (see separate tip) for all sorts of historical exhibits, as well as a great view of the whole area. Be sure to enjoy the resident sheep, who are doing a darn good job of keeping the grass mowed.
DolphinQuest (see separate tip) is also now housed at the Bermuda Maritime Museum.
The Shifting House used to be the place where munitions and cargo was held between ship transfers. Now, it's a great collection of historical and nautical artifacts, many recovered from the many sunken ships around the island. If you dig 16th century treasure and coins, THIS is your stop at the BMM.
The Commissioner's House at the BMM
A centerpiece of the impressive Bermuda Maritime Museum is the stately "Commissioner's House". Perched on high ground at the very tip of Sandys Parish, the house was built of limestone and wrought iron in 1823 by convicts. Originally consructed to house the dockyards commissioner, today it's an impressive and interesting museum of Bermuda's historical and naval past.
The house itself has been beautifully maintained, with a lovely grand staircase and gorgeous stained wood floors. The views from the second floor wrap-around porch are spectacular, and are THE place for some great photos. I'd suggest posing with the flagstaff behind you...hopefully you'll have a stiff wind stretching the Union Jack, the Bermuda flag, Old Glory and the Canadian Maple Leaf out.
Among the better heritage exhibits in the house (each room has a different theme) are the Bermuda transportation room, the government room, the historic map room and the slave trade exhibits. HINT FOR A HOT DAY... try the map room, it's climate controlled and kept nice and cool. The rest of the house is "breeze cooled", which is a euphemism for "kind of hot".
ON THE PETE FEELS OLD FRONT.... I lived in Bermuda in from 1956-60. When we returned to the US for good, we came home on the Cunard Lines' OCEAN MONARCH. In the Bermuda Transportation room, there was a special section honoring the OCEAN MONARCH and its sister ship, THE QUEEN OF BERMUDA. I was kind of proud to learn that they were often called "The Millionaires Ships" by the public. As for our trip home, I think we had accommodations on the "Leonardo DiCaprio deck", for those of you who saw Titanic.
I think that my daughter was impressed to see a part of her dad's childhood experience under glass and being called history.
DolphinQuest at the Dockyards
DolphinQuest is an organization fairly well known among travellers. They offer the unique opportunity to enter the water and to swim with dolphins. There are two DolphinQuest "swim with the dolphins" facilities in the world. There's one in Hawaii, and there's one in Bermuda, out at the Royal Naval Dockyards/Bermuda Maritime Museum.
There are three basic "encounters" available. I've forgotten the names for these choices, but you can certainly find them on the website (below). Basically, they consist of
> a basic encounter that includes about 25 minutes of actual swimming time ($200 or so)
> a more extended encouter that includes almost 40 minutes of swimming time ($235)
> an ultimate adventure that lasts 40 minutes and includes the option to use some little underwater "scooter devices" that will allow you to zip along at dolphin-like speeds. ($285)
My wife and daughter did option two. Other than the scooter device, the adventures are similar to one another. They limit the groups to 5-6 people. The dolphins are in an enclosed area that is approximately 30 m x 60 m. There is an area in which you can "sit" while in the water, and they also allow you to swim out into the enclosure to interact with the dolphins.
Advance reservations are necessary, and the encounters go rain or shine, unless DolphinQuest finds it necessary to cancel, in which case you only get your money back...no guaranteed rebooking. DolphinQuest booking includes FREE admission to the Bermuda Maritime Museum, which is where the DQ encouter is located. You'll need to arrive AT DolphinQuest 30 minutes ahead of your scheduled swim. They supply masks, life vests, etc. Participants must be comfortable swimming in deep water, and be at least 8 years old. (it's 11 or 12 for the ultimate encounter) Book via phone or the 'net.
There are pro photographers getting shots of the participants. These are available for purchase after the encounter. (one photo FREE with the ultimate encounter)
PLEASE SEE MY ADDITIONAL DOLPHINQUEST TRAVELOGUE!
Destination Dockyards Party on Tuesday
The various cruise ship docking facilities throughout Bermuda have all made special accomodations for the thousands of boat people visitors to the island. Out at the Dockyards on the West End, the weekly blowout is called "Destination Dockyards", and it occurs from 8 pm until 11 pm on Tuesday nights. There are craft sales, pub parties and most of the stores stay open later for shopping.
We, of course, did NOT get anywhere NEAR Dockyards on Destination Dockyards night, preferring not to share the area with a zillion cruisers. I'm told that the best place to enjoy Destination Dockyards is at the venerable Frog and Onion Pub. Having spent an evening at the Frog, I can understand that line of thinking.
Maritime Museum-Royal Dockyard
We arrived at the Royal Dockyard by ferry which we caught on Front Street. The maritime museum was quite a complex. There are eight buildings in which there are exhibits. We saw the magazine where gunpower was once stored. There was also a display of coins used throughout the years in Bermuda. A restored racing yacht was located here that was 100 years old. Items recovered from ship wrecks, too. An area called the boat loft had interesting things for children to see. Also on hand were cannons from the 19th century and various weaponry. This fort was built by convicts in the early 1800's and was used for almost 150 years.
I've included a photo of the commissioner's house which was almost finished when we toured the maritime museum. It was designed by the chief architect of the Royal Navy, Edward Holl in 1822. This was used as a private residence, ceremonial residence and as administrative offices from 1827-1837. It was turned over to the Army in 1862 and formally commissioned as a ship (which was tradition) in 1919 as the HMS Malabar.
- Museum Visits
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
Hamilton's Royal Dockyard
We took a ferry to the Royal Dockyard to see the The Maritime Museum, a fort built by convicts in the 1820's. A 3-day ferry pass was $23 for adults and $1 each way for a child.
Dockyard Glassworks is one of the shops here. I purchased a small multi-colored fluted dish. The "glassworks" isn't fancy and it was stifling from the heat, but we still had fun going through the shop.
There was also a dolphin education site at the dockyards. For more information on this, call 441-234-4464 or see www.dolphinquest.org.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Bermuda Maritime Museum
From their web site, listed below: "Bermuda Maritime Museum is the island’s largest and most-visited attraction and custodian of Bermuda’s fascinating maritime traditions. Set in six acres at the Royal Naval Dockyard, it includes eight historic exhibit buildings, the award-winning Commissioner’s House and the popular Dolphin Quest facility."
This is where you can learn about Bermuda's history (not just maritime), see historic local watercraft, and have a good walk around the fort ramparts and grounds. The fort itself looks just the same as any other British fort in the British Isles, Channel Islands, Canada, Malaysia, or any ex-colony, but the views are spectacular. Located at the extreme "west end" of the island (although not the western-most point, as the island is a horizontal 'S'-shape), you can see across the Great Sound to Spanish Point.
There are restaurants and shops around the Royal Naval Dockyard where the museum is located.
It is an excellent way to spend at least half a day, if not a full day, by yourself or with the family. It should be considered a "must-see" when in Bermuda.
- Family Travel
- Sailing and Boating
- Museum Visits
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