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Bermuda offers much more than just golf courses

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

BERMUDA -- Bermuda, only 22 miles along and a couple of miles wide, has 10 golf courses, so you will have no trouble finding them. If you're there for two weeks or more, you will probably have played them all.

Bermuda - ocean view
Elbow Beach stakes out a half-mile of beach for the use of its guests.
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So if you're looking for something else to do, or are saddled with a wife and kids who insist you get off the golf course for a while, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied.

Beaches in Bermuda

You may want to do what most people do who come here to get away from their increasingly frenetic lives: lounge on the beach and do nothing. Besides, you have to even out that golfer's tan, right?

Bermuda is chock-full of beaches. Here are some of the best:

• Elbow Beach is the most popular swimming beach. It's a mile-long strip of beach protected by coral reefs, which make it ideal for lollygaggers, lousy for surfers. Be aware that there are three hotels on the beach, and at least one resort claims a half-mile for the exclusive use of its guests.

• Horseshoe Bay in Southampton is also very popular because of vendors and lifeguards on duty all summer, but my favorite is Astwood Cove, in Warwick parish. Go to the bottom of the steep road that intersects with South Road and you'll find an isolated beach that is rarely crowded.

Afternoon tea

Spaniard Juan de Bermudez discovered Bermuda in 1503, though it wasn't colonized until 1612 when the British arrived. The island has flown the Union Jack for more than 300 years and for some reason they're darn proud of it, while recognizing their upscale lifestyle is financed by their closer neighbor to the west, the U.S.

In any case, you'll probably want to get all British and have afternoon tea in your Bermuda shorts. Most of the resorts have afternoon tea, but try the Lighthouse Tea Room or Mrs. Tea's Victorian Tea Room for the best atmosphere.

Restaurants in Bermuda

As in all things Bermuda, restaurants tend to be expensive, and they add a 15 percent gratuity.

• For good Bermudian food, eat at the Black Horse Tavern on St. David's Island, a favorite with locals in Hamilton, especially the seafood: conch stew, stuffed lobster and Bermuda fish chowder.

• The Seahorse Grill at Elbow Beach has terrific food that I couldn't get over, and Monty's on Pitt's Bay Road has good burgers and meat loaf, as well as curried chicken or smoked salmon with mango sauce.

• Cheap but good: Ms. Softees in Warwick, Cafe Rock, the Lighthouse Tea Room and Hog Penny in Hamilton.

• In such a touristy place, there are bound to be restaurants to avoid. Without making personal judgments, some people have complained about the Pickled Onion, Port of Call, Whaler Inn, Newport Room and Waterlot Inn.

Activities

So now you're well-fed and tanned, and looking for action. Golf and fishing often go hand in hand, and the island has plenty of it: wahoo, tuna, blue marlin offshore. Light-tackle fishing is coveted here, and there is no license required.

Reef fishing is also big here. There are three major reef banks off the island, offering up big-shouldered amberjack, barracuda, little tunny, snapper and other assorted bottom fish.

The locals like to fish with a handline, and you can catch bonefish -- though they aren't as plentiful as they used to be -- pompano, snapper and barracuda standing on shore.

Bermuda is tourist-oriented, so you'll have no trouble finding charter boats or rental equipment.

As for other water sports, if it floats, you can rent it, from small boats, sailboats, kayaks, etc. Windjammer Watersports at the Dockyard has a variety of rentals, and Fantasea Diving and Watersports has sailing charters with free champagne.

As for scuba diving, Bermuda is a treat if you're looking for either wrecks or coral reefs. The Constellation is a 200-foot, four-masted schooner that sank en route to Venezuela in 1943, resting in waters eight miles west of Royal Naval Dockyard. The British ship, North Carolina, sank in 1879 off the western shore in 40 feet of water and the Marie Celeste, its 15-foot paddlewheel jutting toward the surface, sank in 1964. There are several others worth investigation.

Tarpon Hole near Elbow Beach is a lively reef with a variety of coral. There are a number of dive companies on the island.

Sightseeing in Bermuda

The Crystal Caves are named after the crystal-clear water that fill these caves; you can see the cave floor 55 feet deep, in fact.

If you like to just wander old, colonial cities, stroll the back streets of St. George.

The Royal Naval Dockyard is definitely worth a visit, as is the Sessions House, where you can watch the oldest parliament in the British Commonwealth, with the exception of the United Kingdom. Black robes, powdered wigs and all that.

The one museum you should not miss is the Bermuda Aquarium in Smith's parish; go here before you snorkel or scuba so you can identify the fish you see.

There are many historical sites to see, including several forts, the best of which is Fort St. Catherine, the island's biggest. It has interesting historical displays, including a replica of the crown jewels.

Go to Fort Hamilton at noon on Mondays, November through March, to see Scottish pipes and dancer ceremonies. Lighthouse fans won't be disappointed: Gibb's Hill Lighthouse in Southhampton Parish was built in 1846.

Also, Verdmont in Smith's Parish is an English manor built in the 1700s. If you're a church or garden fan, there are plenty of those to see.

Annual events in Bermuda

• The annual all-star soccer match doesn't make many official tourist brochures, but it is by far the biggest event on the island, at least for the locals. It's held over a four-day period in the summer, usually July or August. The match, made up of the island's best soccer players, brings the island to a standstill.

• Bermuda Day is May 24, the second biggest event on Bermuda. Locals camp out in the streets of Hamilton the night before to get good seats for the parade. There is also a highly-popular half-marathon, cycle race and dinghy races in St. George's harbor. The day is part of May's Bermuda Heritage Month.

• The Bermuda Festival is a two-month event held in January and February, and features classical music concerts and jazz jams around the island. The "Festival Fringe," held during the same time period, showcases locals doing the same. There are also avant garde plays and performance art.

• The Bermuda Jazz Festival is held every fall, usually September, at the Royal Naval Dockyard. It has international acts as well as local groups.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


 
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