Every summer, many families hop on board cruise ships to Bermuda—and some are overwhelmed by the choices that await them. As it takes approximately a day-and-a-half to two days to reach Bermuda, and the same amount for the return, your time there will be limited, so advance planning is key when traveling with kids. Highlighted below are some activities that may appeal to teens (an often-overlooked group), children, and their parents, covering a variety of interests.
These are listed in order of distance from the cruise ship terminal at the Royal Naval Dockyard. All are accessible by bus or ferry.
1. Bermuda Maritime Museum. Located steps from the cruise terminal, the museum highlights different stages of Bermudian history, including the slave trade, wars, and travel and tourism (including many ocean liner artifacts). Outside the museum, see if you can spot the sheep that keep the grass in shape. The museum’s hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer (last admission at 3:30), and children under age 13 years are admitted free.
2. Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse. Built in 1846, Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse is Bermuda’s highest structure, at 117 feet tall. The heartiest of visitors are invited to climb the 185 stairs to the top for a spectacular view. The lighthouse is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (as of this writing).
3. Horseshoe Bay Beach. Yes, you will find many tourists here, especially when there are several cruise ships in port, and it can get pricey. Yet, the availability of changing areas, a small snack bar, and chair rentals, combined with calm water, make this a top family-friendly area to spend part of a day.
4. Bermuda Botanical Gardens. You may have to drag older kids here, yet this 36-acre garden is a great place for a visit with the stroller set. There are several walking paths from which the sights and scents of the flowers may be enjoyed. A recent addition is a steel sculpture honoring John Lennon, whose last album was named for a variety of local flower. Admission is free.
5. Fort Hamilton. This late-nineteenth century fort is located just outside the city of Hamilton, up a steep hill. It has the usual canons and tunnels, and also features a glorious garden. A fife and drum band performs on Mondays at noon (as of this writing). The fort also offers a spectacular view of Hamilton and its harbor. Admission is free.
6. Shelly Bay Beach. If you are looking for a small beach that is used mainly by local residents, consider Shelly Bay. Note that there are no extensive facilities other than a changing room, yet the water is often amazingly clear, still, and shallow. There is also small playground located on the grass between the roadway and the beach. An added bonus is its proximity to the Bermuda Aquarium Museum & Zoo.
7. Bermuda Aquarium Museum & Zoo. The highlight is the large cylindrical tank in which schools of fish circle about close to the glass. The zoo is home to animals from all over the world, and well-marked informational signs tell the stories of those that are on endangered species lists and describe the Bermuda zoo’s work with other zoos to identify and protect these species. Summer hours are 9 am to 5 pm (last admission at 4 pm).
8. and 9. Crystal Caves and Fantasy Caves. Have you ever wondered what lurks underground in Bermuda? Find out on these two, separate guided tours that show you underground lakes, stalactites, and other natural phenomena. Tours leave every 20 minutes between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.; combination tickets that include both sites are also available.
10. Deliverance II. The town of St. George, a roughly one-hour ferry ride from the cruise terminal, was Bermuda’s first documented settlement and original capital. It was discovered in the aftermath of a 1609 shipwreck of Sea Venture, which was on its way to Virginia from England. The crew landed here and built two new ships that allowed them to continue their journey to Jamestown the following year. Deliverance II, adjacent to the ferry dock, is a replica of one of the replacement ships—and is open to visitors Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
11. Ducking Stool at King’s Square. King’s Square is the historical center of St. George and contains representative items of its past. These include a ducking stool that is used in noontime re-enactments of old-time “trials” and punishment, held Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (as of this writing).
12. Fort St. Catherine. St. Catherine in St. George’s Parish now serves as a museum of Bermuda’s military history, and still has many features such as narrow passageways, antique weapons, and cannons. There are also kid-friendly audio-visual presentations. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.