As you may have seen if you are following my Instagram feed, I have just recently returned from a cruise from Boston to Bermuda on the Norwegian Dawn. While cruises can get a lot of flak from the travel “elite” (read: snobs), one of my favorite things about cruising is that it gives a perfect opportunity to city hop, all while having the comfort of a home-base where you get to unpack once (which is a godsend if you are a fashion-minded overpacker like me). In our experience cruising, we have had a chance to perfect some of our “one-day” itinerary planning skills. As I have a friend that is currently traveling on the same ship that I just returned from, I feel a bit more fire under my over-worked ass to actually put down some of our advice for the beautiful town of Hamilton, Bermuda. Jess, this one is for you (which she actually knows, since I didn’t get this posted in time for her to read online, and had to send her off with an advance copy)!
Many of the cruise ships dock at the Royal Navy Dockyard, which in itself is a fun place to be with quite a bit to do, but if you are looking for a beautiful seaside locale with ample to keep you busy, Hamilton should be at the top of your “Bermuda Must-See” list. Although Bermuda is not really that large, spanning only 22 miles from end to end, there are only a handful of major roads between the key towns and the cabs are obscenely expensive. Since a cab-ride from Royal Navy Dockyard to Hamilton will easily set you back $60+, the recommended way to get from point to point is via one of the available ferries. The ferry schedules differ depending on the time of the year, but in all cases they are a bit limited, so it is really important to find out the schedule in advance and book yourself enough time to get your ferry tickets (or tokens, for one-way rides).
In our case, we opted for a 9:45am ferry, which arrived in Hamilton around 10:15 – just in time for a lovely brunch at a wonderful restaurant!
With a little advance research, I found Bouchee Brasserie, which specializes in French brunch fare. Their menu is quite extensive and they feature a number of delicious Benedict options. If you aren’t an Eggs Benedict fan, never fear! There was something for everyone in our party on their menu, from smoothies, to French Toast to a quiche that I am still jealous of my mother-in-law over. Bouchee is an easy walk form the Ferry terminal, and proved to be a great way to start our day.
After filling ourselves with coffee, mimosas and delicious dishes, we continued on to our first cultural stop: The Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. This museum is such a wonderful gem! I tend to walk through museums pretty quickly, finding many of the exhibits a bit redundant or just not engaging enough, but this museum was beautifully maintained and contained several rooms with different themes, with an intersection point being their level of interest and engagement. It is honestly hard to find an activity that is equally suited retirees, parents, a teenager and a toddler, but this place really fit the bill!
At the midpoint of the museum experience, they have a deep sea mission simulation set up, which is basically an activity point to get you from the first floor to the second floor of exhibits in a large elevator that serves as your mission vessel. You feel quite surprised when the simulation movie ends and the doors open to a whole new room of exhibits.
The 2nd floor is quite dedicated to the Bermuda Triangle, with the various theories displayed with some tongue-in-cheek cleverness. I think our favorite theories were the less believable “Aliens” theory and the more plausible “Human Error” theory.
Lastly, the museum contains an impressive collection of recovered sunken treasure, which reminds of the many centuries of shipwrecks along Bermuda’s coasts.
After our visit to the museum (which lasted longer than we had originally planned, based simply on the impressive amount of interesting exhibits), we walked back along Front Street to the shopping district. There were a number of great shops, from high-end fashion stores to souvenir shops to quaint boutiques.
My favorite shop by far was this adorable jewelry shop, 1609 Design, which is situated on the lovely side street, Old Cellar Lane, right next to Meltdown Ice Cream. Note to Husbands: If your wife sends you ahead while she does some souvenir shopping and you happen to end up at an ice cream shop with a name like “Meltdown” – try leading your text with something other than “Meltdown…” As a mother of a toddler and a teen with transition difficulties, one can imagine how my mind might have jumped to the worst case scenario.
After shopping and ice cream, we loaded the retirees and the teenager onto the 3pm ferry and continued on toward The Hamilton Princess Hotel (which was recommended by my mother and, though no longer together, was the hotel that she and my father stayed at on their honeymoon).
En route to The Princess, we came upon an absolutely lovely park, Queen Elizabeth Park. In addition to having manicured lawns, a Koi pond, beautiful statues and flowers galore, it also has one of Bermuda’s famous moon gates. The moon gates are lovely arches that are said to bestow good luck on newlyweds (or on really anyone) that walks through them. Many of them are located on private hotel grounds, but there are several, such as this one, that can be found in public gardens and spaces.
Our final planned stop of the day, The Princess Hotel also has its own moon gate, so had we not found the one in the park, we would still have been able to check this off our list! But, as we had already spent some time with the loveliest of moon gates, we spent our time at The Princess enjoying a few Rum Swizzles. My daughter was especially impressed with the decidedly-not-Mickey statue in their courtyard, that she was convinced was a giant Mickey Mouse. The hotel has a lovely location on the water, and the drinks are quite strong, so it was a perfect way to cap our day in Hamilton.
After our Rum Swizzles, we headed back to the ferry terminal, and took the opportunity to stroll through another of Hamilton’s beautiful parks. Barr’s Bay Park, situated right on the water is most notable, in my opinion for the sculpture “We Arrive”, which celebrates an amazing story in Bermuda’s history. In February 1835, a slave ship bound for America was forced by bad weather into Hamilton’s waters. Britain abolished slavery in its Caribbean colonies in 1834, and advised that any slavers found in Bermudian or Bahamian waters would be subject to seizure. True to its word, the Enterprise was detained and the 78 men, women and children that were on board as human cargo were interviewed and given the option to stay in Bermuda. All but six of the enslaved chose to remain in Bermuda and be free of the life that they had otherwise been condemned to.
The sculpture by local artist Chesley Trott was erected in 2010, 175 years after 72 lives were saved from an unspeakable fate.
While we were on a schedule that required us to catch the last ferry of the day back to our ship, if you are reading this with plans of staying in Hamilton for the evening, never fear, as I have a wonderful restaurant recommendation for you!
My husband and I actually braved the astronomical cab fares on evening to enjoy a dinner in Hamilton. We originally had our sights set on Mad Hatters, but as fate would have it, they are closed on Sundays (our fault for not calling ahead!) and we ended up going with our cab driver’s recommendation of The Lobster Pot. We had a lot of great food during our week-long trip, but the meal at The Lobster Pot definitely trumps it all. There were so many great dishes on the menu, that we decided to just splurge and order more than we could eat, just to get a taste of as many of them as we could! They serve the freshest of seafood so you really cannot go wrong with anything in their menu – and I have to give a special nod to their coconut shrimp, which were by far the best coconut shrimp I have ever had (and I have had A LOT of coconut shrimp!).
While these are some highlights that can easily be fit into a single day in Hamilton, I have to implore that there is still much more to see and do in this wonderful port city. I already have a travel alert set on Kayak to let me know of any great rates back to Bermuda, and when we do go back, Hamilton will again be at the top of our destination list.