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Bermuda boasts pink beaches, pastel houses

By Jo Williams
Jo Williams
The pastel-colored houses of Bermuda are seen from the water.
Jo Williams Sailboats dot the waters of Bermuda's harbors and inlets.
Jo Williams Bermuda has the honor of having the world's smallest drawbridge.
Jo Williams Boat tours are offered to view the houses owned by the rich and sometimes the famous residents of Bermuda.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In mid-April, we drove to the Baltimore port and experienced effortless boarding -- dropped off our luggage, parked the car and boarded the Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas -- for a five-day cruise to Bermuda in the Atlanta Ocean islands of Bermuda.

Bermuda is a British territory. Its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, N.C., about 640 miles to the west by northwest. Large numbers of leading international insurance companies are based in Bermuda, making the territory one of the world's largest reinsurance centers. Tourism is Bermuda's second-largest industry, with the island attracting more than 500,000 visitors annually.

When planning to visit Bermuda, remember that it is on the same latitude as Savannah, Ga., so the temperatures are not as warm as Caribbean islands.

Visitors are not allowed by the Bermuda government to rent cars or to bring their own motorized two-wheel vehicles, not even for the handicapped or disabled, because roads are narrow with sharp twists. Bermuda is less than 21 square miles in total land area. So the ways to get around are by taxi, bus, ferry and moped or scooter.

I booked a private tour with a guide recommended on CruiseCritic.com message boards. He met us on the dock and provided a five-hour tour of the island in his taxi.

The sights included Somerset Bridge, a lighthouse and private houses.

Somerset Bridge, connecting Somerset Island with the mainland, is the world's smallest drawbridge. Only sailboats pass through it. The narrow strip of water is used mainly for boat tours these days. Somerset Bridge was constructed in 1620. In those days, whenever a small ship needed to pass through, the bridge was raised with a manual crank.

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is the oldest cast-iron lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere.

Bermuda beaches have pink sand because of the red tiny organisms that grow under coral reefs and die on the ocean floor. These, along with bits of corals and shells, mix with the sand and create a pink hue.

Bermuda houses are constructed entirely of limestone, and most are painted in various pastel colors with white roofs. The only source of fresh water in Bermuda is rainfall. Along the lower edges of the roofs are long concrete troughs, directing rainwater to pipes that filter it and funnel it into buried cisterns alongside the houses.

To keep rainwater as clean as possible on its way to the cistern, the roofs are painted with special nontoxic paint, which must be reapplied every two to three years.

Our ship was docked at King's Wharf for about 26 hours. Following the five-hour island tour, a barbecue was scheduled on the beach tour through the ship, but the temperatures dropped from the 70s in the afternoon to being cool and windy, so it was canceled.

Before the ship departed the next day at 1 p.m., we took a "famous homes" boat tour conducted by Ronnie O'Connor, who provided a wealth of historical information. The average home in Bermuda costs $1.2 million. Waterfront homes sell for around $20 million.

Houses pointed out to us along the tour included those owned by Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Douglas' mother was born in Bermuda), New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, James Martin, pioneer of Texas Instruments; and the Gorham family (of the DIY store fame); and the houses where Mark Twain stayed and John Lennon stayed in the summer of 1980 to write his last album, "Double Fantasy." The homes of the late playwright Eugene O'Neill, whose daughter was married to Charlie Chaplin, and illustrator William Denslow, famous for his work on "The Wizard of Oz," were also seen on the tour.

The cruise to Bermuda took about a day and a half each way. We left Baltimore at 4 p.m. April 14 and returned by 7 a.m. April 19.

Jo Williams, of Lansing, may be emailed at jovince@gmail.com.


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