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"You can go to heaven if you want," Mark Twain once wrote. "I'd rather stay in Bermuda." The great American writer spent almost every winter during the last decade of his life on these beautiful islands, soaking up strength from the warm, sunny days and enjoying the calm, easy pace of this British Overseas Territory, He certainly wasn't the first—or the last—to appreciate all that Bermuda can offer.
Located 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina, and about equally as far from Massachusetts, Bermuda was one of the earliest colonies of the British Crown, settled by members of the English Virginia Company in 1609. True, the then-uninhabited islands were first spotted by the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez (hence the name) in 1503, but he never even set foot on the islands! So, it became part of the British Empire, but in a quiet, subtropical sort of way. Its 181 islands only cover a little more than twenty and a half square miles in area, but it has more than 64 miles of coastline, including some of the most beautiful beaches to be found in the Western Hemisphere. The small population of barely more than 65,000 people enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world, based on both offshore banking and, of course, tourism, and are considered to be among the most friendly and welcoming people you could imagine.
Whether you arrive by cruise ship, fly in for a vacation or sail/motor over in your own boat, Bermuda offers the sort of opportunities for relaxation, shopping, dining and watersports you'd expect from the Caribbean, except that it's in the western Atlantic Ocean. Think of it as the Old World in the New World, but with calypso and great beaches, shopping, and golf. If that doesn't get you packing your bags, then consider this:
The culture of the islands is a fascinating mix of residents whose ancestors have lived there for centuries, but with an additional population of many people who have come here in recent decades. This blend of backgrounds gives the islands a wonderful feeling; the multicultural history has given Bermuda both a traditional and modern (yet small-town, or maybe, small-island) feeling.
If you love museums and parks, you'll find everything you could want: The National Museum of Bermuda, the Tucker House Museum, and the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art will give you an appreciation of the history of the islands. Visit the Bermuda Aquarium, Natural History Museum, and Zoo or stroll through the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. The main towns of Hamilton and St. George are dotted with beautiful parks, too. Natural attractions include the Spittal Pond Nature Reserve, Crystal Cave, and Propsero's Cave.
With so much coastline available, the opportunities for watersports are bountiful. You'll find all the beautiful beaches you could possibly expect: Nonsuch Island, Sea Glass Beach, Shelly Bay Beach, Chaplin's Bay Beach, Sumerset, Long Bay Beach, and many more. Or, go take in a round of golf at Turtle Hills or Belmont Hills clubs. Shopping? Of course! The Bermuda Craft Market on the St. George pier is a must-see for local arts and crafts, but don't neglect to visit the shops in Hamilton and St. George for jewelry, art and even made-to-order men's wear.Dining opportunities are as varied as you could want. The bars, grills, bistros and steakhouses offer casual venues, but there are also extraordinary world-class restaurants. If you're looking for national cuisines, try such restaurants as L'Oriental, a taste of Mediterranean food at Bacci or Beau Rivage. For a family vacation or a romantic get-away, a trip to Bermuda can't go wrong. You wouldn't want to disappoint Mark Twain, would you?