By Jenny Tzeses
Bermuda may take the prize for prettiest pink-sand beaches and lushest landscapes, but beyond its scenic charms, the island offers some major architectural eye candy. Dating back to 1609, the picturesque retreat is ripe with historic gems, from period homes and cathedrals to hotels with both old-world and modernist charm. And getting there is easy: Bermuda is only a 90 minute nonstop flight from New York City and less than two hours nonstop from many major East Coast cities, making it a perfect spot for a long summer weekend jaunt. Really, you have no excuse not to go. We scoped out 10 of Bermuda’s most beautiful buildings to whet your wanderlust.
St. Peter’s Church
This little white chapel also known as St. Peter's Church in the Town of St. George has some serious cred: It’s the oldest continuously used Anglican church in the Western Hemisphere. It was even given a royal designation in 2012, when Queen Elizabeth named it "Their Majesties Chappell," a title first used in the 1690s. At more than 400 years old, the historic house of worship bears time-worn features like rugged Bermuda cedar beams, limestone walls, candlelit chandeliers and a communion table dating back to 1615. The building pulls its weight in photo gold – a set of steps leading to the entrance, a beautiful belfry and arched windows prove to be inspired backdrops. Before you go, check out the grounds, where brick pathways lead to graveyards with ornate centuries-old headstones.
Fort St. Catherine
History and battle buffs will love Fort St. Catherine at the northeastern tip of the Town of St. George. First built in 1614 and later renovated in the 19th century, the compound looms a formidable stone fortress complete with tunnels, towers, a dry moat and a drawbridge. Roam the ramparts where soldiers stood to defend the area from attack or descend into the depths, where you’ll discover dungeons, rooms where munitions were stored and the soldiers’ sleeping quarters. There’s also a main exhibit displaying weapons and relics from the 17th century.
Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity
Cutting an impressive limestone figure in a sea of pastel buildings in downtown Hamilton, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity was completed in 1905 in the Gothic Revival style. The majority of the building was constructed from Bermuda limestone, but it also showcases custard-yellow caen stone accents imported from France. Pristinely preserved, inside you’ll find stained glass, arches, and a wall behind the altar with impressive sculptures. If you have the stamina to climb the 155 steps to the top of the cathedral’s tower, you’ll be rewarded with views of the island that extend as far as the Great Sound and Royal Naval Dockyard.
Bermuda National Trust at Waterville
While today it serves as home to the headquarters of the Bermuda National Trust, a charity dedicated to preserving the natural, architectural and historic places of Bermuda, this Georgian-style building is a historic gem in its own right. Dubbed “Foot of the Lane” and located at the end of Hamilton Harbour, the house was built in 1725 by the Trimingham family and was the site of the first Trimingham’s store, which opened in 1842. Inside, you’ll catch a glimpse of Bermuda life in the 17th and 18th centuries by way of oil paintings, antique furniture and heirlooms the Trimingham family left behind. Take a tour of the grounds to see the Bermuda Rose Society's garden as well as the Mary-Jean Mitchell Green Memorial Garden and gazebo.
The Unfinished Church
As Gothic style goes, the Unfinished Church in the Town of St. George delivers the drama – both in design and in lore. Meant to be a replacement for St. Peter’s Church, which was damaged after a hurricane, construction on the grey stone building began in the 1870s. While intended to be a grand structure, thanks to parish infighting, funding issues and a monster storm, it was never finished. Today, it remains a striking shell with the grass as its floor and the blue sky its roof.
Verdmont House Museum
Practically frozen in time since it was built more than 300 years ago, Verdmont Historic House & Gardens is one of the island’s most cherished treasures. The pink Georgian-style dwelling was a private home from its construction in 1710 until 1951. Explore the original parlour, drawing rooms, nursery and bedrooms outfitted in original Bermuda cedar furniture. There’s a period cedar staircase, as well as a slew of artefacts throughout the home, including portraits of former owners and a collection of English and Chinese porcelain. Take a stroll through the garden’s hallowed grounds first planted in the 18th century and brimming with roses and palmettos.
The Old Rectory
There are a lot of reasons the Old Rectory in the Town of St. George is a must-see. While today it functions as a bed-and-breakfast, the original owner was Captain George Dew, a bona fide pirate (pillaging and all) in his younger days who built the traditional white limestone Bermudian-style home in 1699. Inside, the spoils are plenty: There’s a curved “welcoming arms” staircase built as such to keep men from glimpsing ladies' ankles, original cedar beams, a multitude of chimneys and the high windows found under the eaves. But perhaps the best reason to visit: You might hear the sound of the Captain's ghost playing the harpsichord – but only if you’re lucky (or not).
Royal Naval Dockyard
Delve into Bermuda’s deep maritime history at the Royal Naval Dockyard. Built by the British in 1809, the massive stone complex served as a British Royal Navy stronghold for more than 150 years. It includes the Keep, Bermuda’s largest fort, a 19th-century citadel comprising eight massive buildings with ramparts and bastions designed to protect the entire naval base from attack. Today the National Museum of Bermuda occupies the historic buildings of the Keep, as well as the Casemates Barracks and the Commissioner’s House, a 19th-century mansion built for the commissioner of the dockyard (it’s the oldest cast-iron frame residential building in the Western Hemisphere). For a retail break, visit the nearby Clocktower Mall, a modern shopping centre housed in an 1850s naval warehouse with two towers that tell the time and tides.
Punctuated by pops of pastel and white terraced roofs, the iconic look of Bermuda’s homes is hard to miss. The architecture honours both form and function: Not only do these stepped limestone roofs keep homes cooler in the summer months, but they were built to collect rainwater in underground tanks. Thanks to this eco-conscious solution, more than half of Bermuda’s freshwater consumption comes from rainwater, minimizing the amount of water the island needs to import. As for that mosaic of pastel homes peppering the landscape, the palette dates back to the 17th century and reflects Bermudians’ positive outlook.
Thought to be Bermuda’s oldest still-standing home, the Carter House on St. David’s Island takes you way back to colonial times. The whitewashed farmhouse, built in 1640 by descendants of Christopher Carter, one of the island’s first settlers, is constructed from local limestone. There’s also a separate replica of a settler's palm-thatched mud-and-stud hut, reconstructed to show what Bermuda in the 1600s was all about. The house now operates a museum designed to create a window into Bermuda’s early settlers’ lives. You’ll see relics such as hand tools from the 1600s.
With stunning beaches, sweeping vistas and architectural wonders that will impress any design buff, Bermuda is an ideal place for a weekend away. Take in the history, explore hidden treasures and relax in luxurious accommodations — however you spend your days, you’re sure to leave feeling refreshed and inspired.
The Loren Hotel
Perched atop a cliff on the south shore, The Loren Hotel at Pink Beach gets inspiration from its surroundings. The contemporary-style buildings, built to the contours of the hillside itself, bring the outside in via floor-to-ceiling windows that afford ocean views of the Atlantic from every room. This three-year-old property blends style and substance, from its art-lined hallways and floating spiral glass staircase in the lobby to the custom carpets decorated with maps of the island. Sustainability is a priority here. The resort has a green roof as well as its own rainwater collection system that irrigates five acres of landscaped grounds.
Hamilton Princess & Beach Club
A haven for the jet-set society since 1885, the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, just five minutes from the chic city City of Hamilton, is an island icon. It’s been dubbed “The Pink Palace” for its blushing facade and played host to Mark Twain, British royalty and Allied servicemen during WWII, when it became an intelligence centre. Appreciated for its shady verandas and blue slate roof, it overlooks Hamilton Harbour, where it has its own marina. And the architecture isn’t the only draw here: It’s an art lover’s paradise, boasting a collection of works from the likes of Andy Warhol, Banksy and Nelson Mandela. As part of Bermuda’s Summer Fridays promotion, guests at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club this season can enjoy a free night with their booking.
With stunning beaches, sweeping vistas and architectural wonders that will impress any design buff, Bermuda is an ideal place for a weekend away. Take in the history, explore hidden treasures and relax in luxurious accommodations – however you spend your days, you’re sure to leave feeling refreshed and inspired.