Escape to Paradise

Visit the Atlantic's tropical islands in the winter when the pace is more relaxed.
Annette Thompson

Bermuda―a true island beauty―caters to all the senses. You can see it at the Hamilton roundabout where Johnny Barnes greets drivers each day with a wave of his hat and a cheerful "Good morning, Bermuda―I love you!" You can hear it in the words "pleasant appetite," uttered by waiters as they deliver tasty meals. And you can feel it at the postcard-perfect pink sand beaches, where the soft blue water nudges the shore.

There's a lot to love in the emerald isles, 650 miles from North Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean. Now, during the off-season, you'll like Bermuda even more for lower prices and smaller crowds.

Without summer's tourist crush, you can enjoy the friendly toot of ferry horns on the harbor and the call of the kiskadee, a local songbird. Lush gardens bloom in the winter, too, with displays of oleander and poinsettia trees.

The best of Bermuda lives in the locals. They exude a charm unsurpassed by their country's beauty. Everyone here seems to agree with Kendaree Burgess-Fairn, a fourth-generation resident, when she says, "Tourists are guests here, not just visitors." Come this season to feel the hospitality and fill your senses with Bermuda.

Best romantic dinner: Slip into the elegant Seahorse Grill at Elbow Beach Bermuda resort. In addition to creative dishes, such as roasted rockfish with sesame-fried banana, be sure to sample the traditional fish chowder made rich with tomatoes. The beer-battered onion rings are a true taste of Bermuda's most famous vegetable.

Best traditional meal: Order fish-and-chips almost anywhere. We enjoyed The Kookery at Kippie's Place, an out-of-the-way diner in St. George. Try their pan-sautéed yellowtail snapper served with seasoned rice, black-eyed peas, and creamy slaw.

Best sightseeing: Explore St. George's waterfront. The cobblestone and brick streets house small churches and dozens of candy-colored shops.

Best secluded beach: Make plans to visit Horseshoe Bay at low tide to discover pristine coves hidden behind coral outcroppings.

Best golf courses: Tee off at either Port Royal or St. George, two of eight golf facilities. Both courses are set above sapphire waters and coral cliffs, where ocean breezes affect your game. For tee times call (441) 234-4653.

Best trail ride: Ride a handsome horse down a spice tree-lined path to a private cove. For reservations call Spicelands Riding Center in Warwick at (441) 238-8212.

Best hotel: Settle into the Newstead Hotel, where large rooms overlook Hamilton Harbor. Bed-and-breakfast rates begin at $250; call 1-800-468-4111 or visit www.newsteadhotel.com.

Best resort: Relax in an Elbow Beach Bermuda room or cottage with an ocean view. The island's second-oldest hotel underwent an extensive renovation in 1998, but it kept its manicured gardens, handsome pool, and elegant Bermudian service. Rates begin at $285; call (441) 236-3535 or 1-800-223-7434.

Best methods to get around Bermuda: Take taxis the first day or two to acclimate to driving on the left side of narrow, walled streets. Then during the day, rent a moped or scooter to explore on your own. (There are no rental cars.) Make it a point to take the ferry; it's the best way to get to the city of Hamilton and the Royal Naval Dockyards--the best developments in Bermuda.

For more information: Bermuda Department of Tourism, Global House, 43 Church Street, Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda; (441) 292-0023 or www.bermudatourism.com.

This article is from the December 2002 issue of Southern Living.Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.