Have a "Bermudaful" experience this winter

With refined charm hinting of a British past combined with carefree, beach-life style of the Caribbean, Bermuda's got it all. This 22-mile island chain of volcanic rock and limestone has attracted east coast vacationers for years, with easy access to azure water and pink sand beaches, but beyond the sand and surf lies a wealth of history, mystery and culture spanning several centuries, starting with its location.

Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory, lies less than 1,000 miles from the United States, making it a perfect warm-weather getaway for residents of the east coast. That location also made it a compelling stop for merchant ships and various naval flotillas as far back as the 1500s, when a lack of navigation and early warning systems ended many a sailing upon Bermuda's treacherous coral reefs ringing the island. Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English and American settlers made a go at life upon Bermudian soil. Eventually though, only the British were able to pull off the effort to sustainably survive in a place formerly referred to as the "Onion Patch" (born-and-raised Bermuda residents are, in fact, called "Onions" as a nod to this history).

For west coasters like myself, travel to Bermuda is an easy but time-consuming effort requiring at least two connections before hopping aboard a jet serving L.F. Wade International Airport. Our trip from Anchorage was a carefully-orchestrated jaunt to Seattle, then John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, and finally, Bermuda the following morning. But once settled in our vacation rental on Bermuda's south shore, in full view of the warm Atlantic, all that travel stress melted away in the knowledge that we had, truly, gotten away from it all.

We spent our two weeks exploring the island tip to toe with the help of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, a newish organization created in order to enhance the country's allure among the world's travelers. Information was plentiful, helpful, and always served with a smile and "And how are you today, Miss/Mister?" For older adults who thought politeness went out the window with video games, Bermuda is the place for you.

The country is not without its frustrations, however. As a center for world offshore finance and banking, Bermuda is full of wealthy expats driving up per capita income among the country's 66,000 residents. Combine an extremely high cost of living with the island's North Atlantic remote location, and the fact that 80 percent of all supplies must be shipped in, and Bermuda's rating as one of the most expensive countries in the world makes sense.

Does this mean Bermuda visitors must go into debt visiting this beautiful island territory? Not at all, it just takes a bit of planning and a lot of willingness to be independent.

Flights: Alaska Airlines mileage plan members will do well to utilize those banked miles for this trip or use up the annual Companion Fare; both are excellent ways to mitigate the high cost of cross-country travel ( http://www.alaskaair.com ).We hopped on a JetBlue flight for the short trip to Bermuda and found fares very reasonable ( http://www.jetblue.com ).

Accommodations: Hotel space is at a premium in Bermuda. If you prefer luxury and an all-inclusive experience, try the Fairmont Southhampton on thesouth shore ( https://www.fairmont.com/southampton-bermuda/ ), or Hamilton Princess and Beach Club in capital city of Hamilton ( https://www.thehamiltonprincess.com ). Vacation rentals are an excellent option for those wanting to handle most aspects of the Bermuda experience. We utilized HomeAway for a charming cottage near beautiful beaches we had only dreamed of visiting, plus access to local restaurants and the historic Gibbs Hill Lighthouse just up the road ( https://www.homeaway.com/traveler/th/inbox/conversation/da5fc4da-a3f7-41a7-b1d6-b3c9249e382f/details )

Getting around: Bermuda is divided into parishes (similar to counties), and an efficient government-run bus and ferry system is the most logical way for travelers to get around. Passes make it easy; from one to seven days, or longer, the passes work on both the ferries and buses. We found riding with the locals to be a pleasant experience, with very helpful drivers and crew. https://www.gov.bm/bus-fares

There are no rental cars to be found in Bermuda, save for Twizy, an electric two-seater that zips around Bermuda's narrow roads with ease. https://www.currentvehicles.com. Scooters are also popular and can be secured at some resorts and various other locations around the island. Note: Bermuda's roads are narrow, and drivers of any motorized vehicle should be aware that Bermudians drive on the left, as in the United Kingdom. Confused? Take the bus.

Walkers and "pedal bike" (bicycle) riders should also take note of the above; Bermuda was designed for horse and carriage, not vehicles, so no shoulders can be found, save for a few near neighborhoods and resorts. Always walk facing traffic and be ready to jump aside should a vehicle get too close.

Activities: The Bermuda Tourism Authority has an excellent listing of every available activity, including those famous pink sand beaches, on its website, https://www.gotobermuda.com/bta.

That said, our favorite activities, aside from lounging on soft sand sipping the famous "Dark and Stormy" rum drink, centered around Bermuda's history.

The Royal Naval Dockyard is an impressive fortress built over the centuries for the safety of not only Bermuda, but the United States as well. Stop by the National Museum of Bermuda for a truly immersive few hours. Don't forget to wander the entire stretch of property, including the barracks, keep, and Commissioner's House. https://nmb.bm

The Bermuda Railway Trail officially opened to walkers, equestrians, and bicyclists in 1984, and follows the discarded route of a railway created in the 1930s. Currently, 18 of the rail trail's 22 miles are accessible, although there are some bumpy spots. We utilized Social Cycles for our ride, and appreciated the drop-off-pick-up aspect, and the expert guiding. http://socialcyclesbda.com/social-cycles-e/

Conservation and stewardship of Bermuda's marine creatures and education take center stage at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, located in the Flatts neighborhood near the center of the island. Take time to visit the animals, peer at the tropical fish, then grab a quick bite in the Beastro Cafe overlooking beautiful Harrington Sound. https://bamz.org.

Erin Kirkland is an Alaska based author and journalist.

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