The America’s Cup is giving Bermuda a second wind, writes Jo Cooke
If an island could have a mid-life crisis, I’d say Bermuda was in the middle of one.
It remembers fondly its heyday from the mid-50s to mid-80s, when the US East Coast’s affluent hipsters flocked here instead of to the Hamptons, and it was the ultimate destination for fashionable Brits.
But then Bermuda became increasingly focused on its business and banking industries and its glamorous jet-setting image became a more conservative and fusty one.
Perhaps it was these two sides of Bermuda’s personality that explain why the island was chosen to host the 2017 America’s Cup.
The world’s most prestigious sailing race is bound to draw the rich, famous and chic to Bermuda’s shores once more, and it seems the island is determined to shape up before they arrive and prove it is more thirtysomething than fiftysomething, and just as fun and hip as it’s ever been.
Sell: Seven hours to sunshine
Bermuda is often associated with the Caribbean islands, but it’s about 1,000 miles north of Puerto Rico, and about 700 miles off the East Coast of the US.
Its climate is a big selling point. From May to September, temperatures hover between 25C and 30C. For the rest of the year, clients can expect a pleasantly balmy 20C, and while sea temperatures drop, hotel pools are heated.
Flying time from the UK is just seven hours, making a long weekend an option. It’s also worth noting that clients get, on average, four more hours of holiday time than if they were flying to the Caribbean.
At L F Wade International airport, the customs and baggage claim systems are run like a well-oiled machine, so little time is spent dealing with airport hassles.
Bermuda is just a two-hour flight from New York, making a twin-centre with the Big Apple a breeze, especially as passengers clear US immigration before departing the island. Hayes & Jarvis offers a seven-night holiday combining New York and Bermuda from £1,399 in November.
See: Fast and slow
Whether you’re a player, or want a deep and meaningful relationship, Bermuda has the attraction for you. Speed merchants will love Somerset Bridge Watersports’ jetski tour.
You can let rip on the calm waters of the Great Sound, take a spin around the Royal Naval Dockyard, then take a look at the wreck of HMS Vixen. bdawatersports.com
Adrenaline junkies should sign up for the fledgling sport of flyboarding with Coconut Rockets. Jet nozzles strapped to your feet power you into the air, and if you can keep your legs straight, it feels like you’re flying over the ocean. coconutrocket.com
To appreciate the island’s scenery, customers can take a walk, horse ride or cycle along the 18-mile Old Railway Trail, an off-road pathway that leads to secluded coves, historic sites and inland villages of pastel-coloured houses with neatly tended gardens.
Those who want to get to know Bermuda’s inner beauty should head to the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, where an interactive exhibition unravels the island’s volcanic origins.
If clients are more interested in the island’s creative side, send them to the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. This state-of-the-art gallery displays a rich and varied collection of Bermudan-inspired work by local and internationally renowned artists.
But if all you really want is to strip down to your swimwear and stretch out on a beach, this 22-mile long by one-mile wide island has plenty of them.
Backed by grassy sand dunes and hedgerows rather than palms, Bermuda’s beaches are more reminiscent of those you’d find on the Welsh and Cornish coastlines than in the West Indies. On the South Shore, they are particularly striking, their pink sand contrasting with slate-grey rock formations.
Stay: Refurb revolution
Every hotel seems to have a fabulous location on Bermuda, either by a beach, surrounded by scenic splendour or both. You can expect well-maintained rooms, gardens and facilities, as well as excellent service, island-wide.
However, the buildings themselves are often architecturally bland and the decor is generally a little dated. The tide is turning, though, and the 410-room Hamilton Princess & Beach Club is leading the way in Bermuda’s contemporary refurbishment revolution. This stately city harbour hotel is investing $100 million in an attempt to draw the in-crowd.
The interiors of the 98 seaside cottages at Elbow Beach on Bermuda’s South Shore are arguably the most chic and pleasing on the island. While the cottage exteriors lack charm, they look out on to an idyllic sandy beach.
Footsteps away on the same beach is Coco Reef Resort, which comes with a considerably lower price tag. The 68 rooms in its low-rise accommodation blocks have old-school floral-print soft furnishings, while the public areas are classical in design with touches of vibrant Cuban street art.
The Fairmont Southampton is another property on a makeover mission, shelling out $11.5 million on updating its 593 rooms. This hill-top high rise has one of the most comprehensive range of facilities on Bermuda.
There’s an 18-hole golf course, heated pool set in a glass atrium, spa, tennis courts and a kids’ club. A shuttle bus transports guests to the property’s private beach club, a somewhat unattractive building with restaurant and dive shop that nevertheless backs a sublime cove with rocky outcrops perfect for snorkelling.
The characterful 210-room Grotto Bay Beach Resort is another good choice for families. While the number of steps at the property could be bit of a pain for customers with a buggy, there’s a sheltered beach with an inflatable water park and a pier from which boat trips depart.
A children’s programme runs from June to September, when there is also nightly entertainment. Again the rooms are a little dated, but the public areas are more modern. This hotel can also be booked on an all-inclusive basis.
Hayes & Jarvis offers seven nights’ room-only at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club from £1,687, departing October 8. The price includes flights and transfers. hayesandjarvis.com
Classic Collection Holidays offers seven nights’ room-only at Grotto Bay Beach Resort from £1,577 in October, including flights, private transfers and UK lounge passes. classic-collection.co.uk
ITC Classics offers seven nights’ room-only at Elbow Beach from £2,345, including private transfers and flights, departing October 5. itcclassics.co.uk
Ask an expert
Hayes & Jarvis destination manager Jessica Jackson:
We introduced Bermuda this year due to customer demand. British culture combines with relaxed island charm, the vibrant capital Hamilton contrasting with the historical town of St George, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
We think Bermuda is a standout destination. Then there’s the thrill of activities such as diving to see shipwrecks and great snorkelling, all making for an easy sell.
Tried & Tested: Hamilton Princess & Beach Club
With a restaurant that has menus created by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, and a new marina that overlooks what will be the scene of the America’s Cup, the Hamilton Princess is fast becoming the talk of the town.
The public areas of this 130-year-old building are now light and airy places to mingle and admire funky artwork, there’s a swish infinity pool and the rooms are stylishly functional.
From the lobby, you can hop on a shuttle bus to the hotel’s smart South Shore beach club, or take a five-minute stroll into the capital Hamilton to check out the restaurants, shopping and nightlife.
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