Located 1050 kilometers (650 miles) off the coast of North Carolina is a 55 square-kilometer (21 square-mile) island dotted with pastel-colored houses, pink sand beaches and narrow winding roads. As a self-governing British colony, Bermuda is comprised of 181 small islands and islets connected by bridges and causeways that resemble a fishhook from the air.
Bermuda is divided into nine parishes or "tribes," as they were called back in the 1600s when the island was first surveyed. The original eight tribes, named after prominent shareholders in the Bermuda Company, included Sandys, Southampton, Warwick, Paget, Pembroke, Devonshire, Smith's and Hamilton, and were divided by narrow lanes. While some tribe roads are remnants of the past, others exist today as shortcuts to major roads and footpaths found during walks around the island. St. George's, considered public land back in those days, is the island's ninth parish.
Each parish is unique. St. George's captures the island's past with structures dating back to the 17th Century - now they are modernized, and pastel-colored buildings make up the government and shopping destinations in the city of Hamilton and Pembroke Parish. Nature reserves and scenic bays can be found in Sandys.
St. George & St. George's Parish
Situated on Bermuda's East End, St. George's houses the island's first capital, the town of St. George. Founded in 1612 when the Sea Venture was shipwrecked off the coast, the Town has experienced little change in the past 400 years and illustrates what life was like in past centuries. A current revitalization project - ensuring not to jeopardize the Town's unique historical character - will restore cobblestone streets, monuments and structures, as well as add a new Heritage Visitor Centre, waterfront promenade and boardwalk. In November 2000, the town of St. George was named a World Heritage Site.
Also found in the Parish is Fort St. Catherine; it is Bermuda's most impressive fortification dating back to 1613. Tucker's Town, in southern St. George's, is home to the most expensive luxury homes in Bermuda as well as the Natural Arches, a unique arrangement of caves and rock that united to form archways, sometimes called the "ninth wonder of the world" by Bermudians. St. George's also houses L.F. Wade International Airport.
Centrally located, Pembroke houses capital city Hamilton, which replaced the Town of St. George as capital in 1815. Known for its shopping, international business and culture, Hamilton is home to the island's governmental system and Parliament.
Front Street, lined with rows of distinctive, pastel-colored buildings, houses the main ferry terminal, department stores, banks, restaurants and is where parades and other local happenings can be found. During high season, from April through October, cruise ships can be seen docked in Hamilton Harbour, along the street.
Outside of the capital to the northeast is Fort Hamilton, which was originally designed to overcome any city attack and is now home to a garden moat lined with flora. Spanish Point is a scenic parkland and residential area that is off-the-beaten tourist path, while Admiralty House Park offers a scenic beach with magnificent ocean views, hiking trails and a park.
The westernmost of all Bermuda's parishes, Sandys is the furthest away from the island's airport. While an expensive taxi ride, the parish is served by four ferry stops, as well as the island's buses.
Attractions on the West End tend to be natural such as Mangrove Bay, Ely's Harbor and Springfield and Gilbert Nature Reserve; however, the big draw is the Royal Naval Dockyard, a British naval shipyard abandoned in the 1950s, and Maritime Museum. Somerset Village houses the world's smallest drawbridge - the 81-centimeter (32-inch) plank Somerset Bridge barely provides enough room for a sailboat's mast.
East of St. George's, Hamilton runs from the North Shore to the South Shore and is best explored by moped, bicycle or taxi. The area has deep limestone caves, including Crystal Caves and Cathedral and Prospero's Caves. Hamilton Parish surrounds Harrington Sound and is also home to the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo, located in Flatt's Village, Holy Trinity Church, the Bermuda Perfumery & Gardens, and several parks and nature reserves.
Smith's sits between Hamilton and Devonshire, running from the North Shore to the South Shore and overlooking part of Harrington Sound. The island's three main roads—North Shore Road, Middle Road and South Shore Road - pass through Smith's, each offering scenic views from narrow and winding roads.
Smith's includes Devil's Hole, a natural aquarium that was once an ocean cave, Spittal Pond—Bermuda's largest bird sanctuary stretching nearly 25 hectares (60 acres), and the popular beach, John Smith's Bay. In addition, Verdmont Historic Manor House, built in 1716, exemplifies early Georgian architecture and houses a collection of Bermuda cedar furniture and valuable mahogany.
Devonshire runs from the North Shore to the South Shore - set between Smith's to its east, Pembroke to its northwest and Paget to its southwest. At one time, the parish housed the British Army headquarters with the majority of the land used for military purposes. Today, the only remnants of base are a former hospital, now a government ministry headquarters, a graveyard, and the Officers Mess - now the Police Recreational Club.
Nature can be seen throughout the parish at the nine-hectare (22-acre) Arboretum, full of tall trees, open meadows and palms, and the Edmund Gibbons Nature Reserve - a small walking area with local flora, fauna and migratory birds. Palm Grove is an estate with gardens, a tropical bird aviary, moongate and an island map set in a pond.
To Devonshire's west is Paget, extending from Hamilton Harbour on the North to the South Shore. Best for exploring, the Parish is home to the Bermuda National Trust headquarters at Waterville and other historic houses.
The parish features the 15-hectare (36-acre) Bermuda Botanical Gardens, which exhibits flora that thrives in the island's sub-tropical climate, as well as Camden House, the official residence of Bermuda's Premier. Also of note is Paget Marsh, Bermuda's second largest nature reserve that features palmetto and cedar trees, as well as a mangrove swamp.
Set between Southampton and Paget, Warwick spans from the Great Sound to the South Shore. The parish is the most densely populated of all parishes and is famous for its South Shore beaches.
South Shore Park extends from Chaplin's Bay, a scenic public beach, east passing over Stonehole Bay and Jobson's Cove. The stretch ends at Warwick Long Bay, Bermuda's longest length of unparalleled beach.
Southampton is the second-most western parish sitting between Sandys and Warwick, overlooking the Great Sound. Due to the long distance, getting to the parish from the airport is an expensive taxi ride.
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and park, just under four hectares (ten acres), is a prominent Bermuda landmark and one of the oldest iron lighthouses in the world. Horseshoe Bay stretches for a quarter of a mile and is shaped like a horseshoe of pink sand beach fringed by limestone cliffs. Another popular public beach in Southampton is Church Bay Beach, which is known for swimming and snorkeling.