Where to go, when to go and what to look for while there.
The transition from summer to fall is a welcome one. As the weather starts to cool down, we can finally spend more time outside without the oppressive heat hindering our activity. Here’s our guide to some of the best spots for your outdoor excursions, whether that be for a hike, a stroll, a picnic, or for the daring, even a swim!
Walsingham Nature Reserve
Better known on the island as Tom Moore’s Jungle, this expansive park received its informal moniker after the nineteenth-century Irish poet of the same name found inspiration while roaming the grounds.
While most visitors enter at Blue Hole Park, the nature reserve has many points of entry. We recommend parking and starting your hike at the entrance near Tom Moore’s Tavern. Taking the trails at your own pace, meander through the thickets of brush and trees that line the walkways, charting your own course whenever you reach a fork in the path. The beauty of Tom Moore’s is allowing yourself to get lost along the trails, eventually stumbling upon a mangrove bed or hidden cave. Heralded as a time-traveller’s paradise, revisit a time when Bermuda was more populated by trees than people as you wander through the jungle.
Sprawling across 37 acres of Warwick’s south shore, Southlands is rich with history and rugged beauty. Before becoming a national park, Southlands exchanged hands many times. Dating back to the 1700s, the property was the residence of the ministers of Warwick’s Christ Church. By the 1800s, Southlands was replete with excavation sites, providing limestone to many buildings in the City of Hamilton. Fallen to its role as a quarry, the grounds became littered with scrub and the estate lost much of its charm. However, on one of his sojourns to the island in the early twentieth century, Canadian captain of industry James Morgan recognised the property’s potential. He and his wife decided to convert the land into a private estate, consecrating their very own refuge from metropolitan life. Naturalistic gardens replaced rubble, ponds filled shallow pits and greenery soon grew from the forty-two quarries; the Morgans breathed life back into Southlands.
Today the property provides the perfect escape from modern-day life, with towering tree canopies providing a natural oasis to visitors. Coupled with its exotic flora, the property still features nine gardens and six ponds, long-since-abandoned homes, as well as a mausoleum for the late owners, James and Anna Morgan. The next time you’re looking for a diversion from reality, consider Southlands for a simple, scenic slip into nature.
Long Bay Beach at Cooper’s Island
Long Bay Beach at Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve becomes nearly desolate in the off-season, allowing for private walks along the shoreline or even solo swims. Only accessible by foot, the longer walk to the beach dissuades many beachgoers, as Clearwater Beach is the more convenient option. However, for those seeking a more secluded beach-going experience, the walk to Long Bay is well worth it.
By mid-fall, the cooler weather brings cooler waters, bringing with it crystal-clear visibility underwater. Don your snorkel gear, and a wetsuit if needed, and enter at the far end of the beach to experience exquisite snorkeling. As this area remains relatively undisturbed by both human and boat traffic, the shoals of fish are particularly abundant around the reefs. Notable animals you might see include arrow crabs and nimble spray crabs, as well as smooth trunkfish, lobsters and West Indian top shells. Cooper’s Island offers a spectacular rim reef snorkeling experience, with large, hard, brain and mustard hill corals. Afterwards, warm up on the beach with a thermos of your favourite hot beverage and soak in the solitude.
South Shore Park
South Shore Park is an impressively long stretch of green, straddling the southern coastline of Warwick and Southampton parishes and containing a chain of picturesque coves and beaches. Depending on how long you wish to walk for, you can start from Horseshoe Bay and work your way to the end of Warwick Long Bay—tides permitting. Hidden amongst this mile-long sandy stretch is Chaplin Bay, a quiet cove that can almost guarantee seclusion in the cooler months.
Warwick Long Bay
Even at peak season, Warwick Long Bay is never as crowded as some of our other major south shore beaches, allowing a far more private, secluded swimming experience. It is, as its name suggests, very long and its straight stretch of creamy sands beneath the clifftop contrasts dramatically with the turquoise of the ocean and ragged grey of the rocky boulders. Especially at high tide, on entering the water you’ll soon encounter a sudden shelf on the ocean floor quickly taking you out of your depth. Snorkelling is rewarding here because of the reef so close to shore but even from the shore edge it is possible to see schools of parrot fish riding just below the crests of the waves, while further into the water you can see these blue and green creatures gliding in and out of the reef.
Named after the picturesque St. Anne’s Church on the other side of the road, compact Church Bay is our best public beach for snorkelling, thanks to the potboilers of the reef which even at high tide are well within reach from the shoreline. The reef is a haven for parrot fish, blue and yellow grunts, wrasse, and angel fish. The beach, framed on one side by pillared limestone formations, lies at the foot of a clifftop parkland, and a convenient wooden staircase at the edge of the bay grape, yucca and palmetto woodland takes you down to the sandy cove.
Astwood Park is one of the more “local” parks, compared to the more tourist-y areas like Horseshoe Bay nearby. The steep climb down to the actual beach makes it the perfect secluded romantic spot. The snorkelling off the south shore is spectacular—and because not many people go off Astwood Cove, the reefs are pristine and thriving. The park is very high up, compared to the sea, and a wonderful place to take in ocean views, have a picnic and play games. Here you can see good examples of dunes and rocky shore habitats in Bermuda, with examples of prickly pears and Spanish bayonet, but be careful navigating around the steep trails on the edge of the park.
With some 63.66 acres of open space straddling the western peninsula of St. George’s Island, Ferry Point is one of Bermuda’s largest parks. Because of its position at the end of peaceful Ferry Road and because a section of the Railway Trail running through the park continues along the coastline beyond its boundary, it seems even larger. It also boasts a blend of natural scenery, incorporating the bleak and the picturesque, woodland and craggy open spaces, secluded bays, a lake and the open sea.
On the eastern part, visitors can follow a stretch of Railway Trail to enjoy the maze of woodland trails around Lovers’ Lake, itself a nature reserve within the park. A sunken green pool set in a hollow and ringed with black mangroves, it is surrounded by hillsides of asparagus fern—luminous green in summer, burnt golden in winter—and woodland, including the silver skeletal frames of dead cedar trees and the contrasting cedar saplings springing to life next to them. Moving west, visitors can stop at the curving Whalebone Bay, the one beach in Bermuda with traces of volcanic ash. Backed by stands of Natal plum, prickly pear and casuarinas, it is a rewarding beach for snorkelling.
What makes this stretch of land so loved by countless Bermuda residents? Of course, for families, it’s a scenic place to go for a reasonably lengthy ramble with children and dogs, and a favourite venue for fishing off the coastline as well. Everybody, including flora and fauna, relishes the diverse range of habitats at Spittal Pond: a dramatic coastline, constantly hammered by magnificent seas, seasonal mudflats, brackish and freshwater ponds, a dairy farm visited by cattle egrets, mangrove swamps and a spillover salt marsh flooded by the sea during storms, as well as extensive areas of woodland.
Those interested in Bermuda’s history should visit Jeffrey’s Hole, a cave formation that according to local lore is named after an enslaved man who once hid there for several weeks. Sadly, he was caught and what happened to him after that nobody knows.
Another historically significant rock nearby has undergone a name change as part of Bermuda’s 400th anniversary celebrations. Once called Spanish Rock and transferred to the National Trust by the government in 1976, it carries the initials of a sailor and the date 1543. These initials were once thought to be TFC, attributed to the sailor Theodore Fernando Camelo. However, more recent research suggests the initials stand for Rex Portugalis (King of Portugal) and were carved by a marooned Portuguese sailor watching out for a ship from the clifftop.
Hog Bay Park
From its rocky coastline and panoramic views to lush trails and an agricultural heritage as rich as its soil, Hog Bay is a parkland oasis with a little something for everyone.
Enter the park and you immediately feel as though you are walking in private farmland, which in a sense you are since much of the land has been farmed continually from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century. One trail, past an old lime kiln (a limestone-lined hole in the ground once used for burning lime), leads to leafy tunnels through thickets of palmetto,
Mexican pepper, fiddlewood and newly planted cedars. Fruit pickers love the loquat trees in February. Other trails follow the perimeters of the fields, sometimes allowing easy views of birds, both local and migrant, that frequent the park. The woodland areas, hedges and newly ploughed fields attract all kinds of warblers. Andrew Dobson, author of A Birdwatching Guide to Bermuda, says that Hog Bay is a Mecca for birds. Birds of prey, such as merlins, ospreys and rough-legged hawks, occasionally drop by, and in the evenings barn owls are known to swoop through the parkland.
Another trail on the southwestern part of the property leads to Sugar Loaf Hill, which offers panoramic views over cedar tops of the Wreck Hill peninsula and St. James’s Church to the north and the City of Hamilton and Spanish Point to the east and northeast. The curve of St. George’s can be seen behind Spanish Point. And to the west, the open turquoise ocean meets the horizon. Another pathway takes you down to the water and to Brown’s Bay, which comes and goes with the tide. There you can wade for miles without going out of your depth and gaze at fishing boats making their way through Hogfish Cut.
Horseshoe Bay, famous on postcards, photos and prints, has long been our most popular public beach and has played host over the decades to countless tourists who love its wide curve of pink sands and expanse of water stretching out to a far horizon. Edged on each side by Aeolian rock cliffs, breeding places for our longtail gulls swooping in and out of rocky crevices, the ocean here is stunning. So the popularity of this beach is understandable since it has something for everyone. If you’re a keen swimmer, you can quickly reach the deeper water and have a good workout swimming laps from end to end. At low tide, you can easily swim out to the inner reef and enjoy excellent snorkelling. In breezy weather you can take a surfboard to ride the waves or on calmer days glide over the water on a stand-up paddle board.
Fort Scaur in Somerset is a popular attraction because of panoramic views of Ely’s Harbour and the Great Sound. It’s also possible to explore the ramparts, subterranean passages and dry moat. The parkland surrounding the fort includes old whitewashed water catchment, an overgrown quarry, and a field and hillsides dotted with cedars, palmettos and Bermuda olivewood trees, all rewarding birdwatching spots for warblers and migrants, particularly in the fall.
This beach, like others on the south shore, is subject to rip tides. But the ocean here is fairly sheltered even when on the western side of the beach the surf roars in. On the eastern side, low overhanging cliff formations give the illusion of caves and are good spots for refuge from direct sun. A rocky promontory running towards the water in the centre of the bay effectively cuts it in two. Also on the eastern end and out to sea is a rock formation closely resembling a man driving a boat. A lunch wagon in the parking area sells snacks during the summer.
Elbow is part of a magnificent strand of sand stretching from what is now the Coco Reef Bermuda hotel, past Elbow Beach Hotel to Coral Beach on the western end. Only one part ofthe beach, to the west of the hotel and to the east of Coral Beach, is public where it is permissible for everyone to swim and sunbathe. Enthusiastic swimmers love this part of the ocean for its easy access to deeper water and for its proximity to the reef where snorkelling is excellent.
End to End: Traversing Bermuda’s Railway Trail
Bermuda’s Railway Trail allows you to navigate the route taken by the railroad in the mid- twentieth century, granting exposure to Bermuda’s uncommercialised, raw beauty. Whether hiking or biking, this extensive 18-mile route provides an interlude into the open air. Here are a few of our favorite stretches of the trail, from east to west:
Town of St. George to the Oil Docks
Departing from Penno’s Wharf follow Mullet Bay Road west before turning onto Wellington Lane. Follow this road until you reach the start of the trail. Follow the Railway Trail westward to a peak featuring breathtaking panoramic views of the north shore on one side and Mullet Bay on the other. Continue along to find even more uninterrupted vistas of the North Atlantic. Wooden pylons form a make-shift staircase down the side of the cliff, granting a closer view of the bays below. This segment is for the slightly more adept hiker, as the steep slope requires a bit more effort to traverse. For those who wish to keep going, the path flattens back out on the other side and leads to the Oil Docks, its fence marking the end of this section.
Bailey’s Bay to Crawl
Donated to the public in 2015 by Friends of the Bermuda Railway, the footbridge across Bailey’s Bay grants unimpeded access to this stunning section of the trail. As you cross it, make sure to stop and take in the uninterrupted views of the water on either side. Beyond the bridge, the grassy trail winds its way along the water’s edge to Crawl, offering up spectacular views of the rocky coastline as you go.
Shelly Bay to Flatts
Park at Shelly Bay and traverse the footbridges along the way—they offer an easy, continuous route to Flatts and undisturbed views of the water. Work your way west towards the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo, spotting the old Aquarium Station on the way. Ideal for an evening walk, end up at Flatts inlet to watch the sun slip below the boats and bay, a ceaseless tide following.
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse to Church Road
Starting at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, take in the panoramic views of the island before following a set of stairs below to Tribe Road #2, eventually merging onto the Railway Trail. This segment of the Railway Trail is made up of secluded paths that track up and over through the centre of the island away from the main roads. Seek solace in these shaded parts, taking in the abundance of native plants along the way.
Somerset Bridge to Somerset Station
Starting at Somerset Bridge, this section marks the final piece of the Railway Trail in the west end. Look out over a waterfront view of pillars from the old railway bridge before heading further inland. Just short of two miles, the paved paths make it particularly amenable to cyclists. Weathered limestone walls line the walkway and broad leaves form a canopy overhead. Sporadic views of the Great Sound crop up along the way, making this segment full of surprises for first-time visitors. For those cycling, consider continuing towards the Royal Naval Dockyard for some sightseeing or a lunch break. For walkers, the historic Somerset Station marks the end of your journey and a time to congratulate yourself on successfully conquering Bermuda’s Railway Trail.