By Heather Corcoran
For those looking for an excuse to drop everything, put on a bathing suit and bake in the sun, it turns out there may never have been a better time to take a vacation. Scientists are finding that some rays might be the key to beating the winter blues. And with the islands of Bermuda only a two-hour flight away from New York, this British archipelago off the coast of North Carolina is a convenient spot to recover from the winter doldrums.
To start your trip off in style, companies like JetNetwork offer charter services on a Leer Jet 55 midsize plane that cost about $16,000 round-trip for a family of four. It’s best to make reservations a week or two in advance, although for those feeling spontaneous, a jet can be ready in as little as three hours.
It is important to remember to bring a passport. Starting later this month, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require visitors flying to Bermuda to bring identification to return to American soil. In 2008, the measures will extend to those who reach the islands by sea.
Planes land in Hamilton, where U.S. dollars can be exchanged for the Bermudian kind. The island currency is pegged to the American dollar, so visitors don’t lose value in the transaction.
A little sunscreen, a Dark and Stormy (the rummy cocktail is Bermuda’s official drink) and a pair of the island’s eponymous contribution to fashion, the Bermuda short, is all it takes to get into the spirit of this capital city—a blend of Bermudian hospitality and British elegance. During the winter off-season (after Jan. 4) temperatures in Bermuda stay around a spring-like 70 degrees, and swimming is a popular activity through January. It also means less crowds and lower rates.
When exploring the capital city of Hamilton, the Fairmont Hamilton Princess is the ultimate home base. Each of the two Fairmount Gold penthouse suites at this pink palace, which will cost about $1,499 per night, includes a Jacuzzi and wrap-around balcony with a view of the harbor. The colonial-era resort was inspired by Princess Louise, the daughter of Queen Victoria, and is one of the most romantic hotels in Bermuda.
Bermuda consists of 138 small islands, though most of the action takes place on Main Island. Also called Great Bermuda, it is only slightly larger than Manhattan and easy to explore. Visitors who want to travel like a local can rent scooters or mopeds but not cars. Nearby attractions include the Crystal and Fantasy caves, natural limestone formations that can be accessed with a guide. At the harbor, dolphins provide the entertainment, and the Princess has two pools (fresh and saltwater) for those who prefer their swims fish-free.
Though most of Bermuda’s fine dining is found in Hamilton, on St. David’s Island, visitors can sample Bermudian favorites like conch, stuffed lobster and shark hash at the Black Horse Tavern. The restaurant has become a favorite with locals as a quiet alternative to the busier city. Like most of the island’s accommodation, the dress code is casual, but modest. Think polo shirts and khakis, but never short shorts.
Also outside of the city is the Fairmont Princess’s sister resort, the Fairmont Southampton, just a 25-minute ferryride away, where guests will find amenities like spa treatments, tennis courts and golfing. The resort is located on Bermuda’s highest point and provides a beachfront counterpoint to the Hamilton Princess’s urban location.
Here the Fairmont Gold Junior Suite offers luxurious accommodations, including a sitting room, breakfast service, ocean view and access to a game room and balcony from $1,009 per night.
When even an exclusive resort doesn’t offer enough privacy, Horizons and Cottages offers 13 private cottages starting at $800 per night. Each cottage on the 25-acre, 18th century plantation is serviced by a personal maid who makes breakfast to each guest’s specifications. The compound also offers services like babysitting and weekly talks and garden tours with ecologist Tim Rodgers. Like the Fairmont properties, Horizon also has a sister resort, the Coral Beach and Tennis club, where guests can take golf and tennis lessons or swim on the private beach.
Just what the doctor ordered.