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Hamilton

Hamilton is the hub of Bermuda, serving as both its capital and commercial center. While it's not a large city (population 15,000), it has a surprising amount of hustle and bustle - at least compared to the rest of the island. Locals refer to it simply as 'town' - 'going to town' means, without a doubt, going to Hamilton.The city's pulse is located in Front St, a harborfront road lined with turn-of-the-century Victorian buildings in bright pastel lemon, lime, apricot and sky blue. Many buildings have overhanging verandahs, where you can linger over lunch and watch the boats ferry across the harbour.Attractions include the Bermuda Cathedral, a weighty neo-Gothic building that is one of the city's dominant landmarks; the Bermuda Historical Society Museum, which contains models of the ill-fated Sea Venture; and the Bermuda National Gallery, containing works by Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and Winslow Homer.Fort Hamilton is a substantial hilltop fort with a bird's-eye view of Hamilton Harbour. It's one of a series of fortifications erected in the mid-19th century during a period of rising tensions between Britain and the USA. The ramparts are mounted with 10-inch rifled muzzleloader guns, capable of firing 400-pound cannonballs through iron-hulled vessels. These devastating weapons were, fortunately, never required.Hamilton is the island's transport hub, so you can expect to visit the city frequently if you are using the public bus system. It has the best selection of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs on the island.

 
Royal Naval Dockyard

After the American War of Independence, the British were no longer able to use ports in their former American colonies, so they chose this site on hilly Ireland Island at the western tip of Bermuda as their 'Gibraltar of the West.' It served as a dockyard facility and resupply depot for ships heading between Nova Scotia and the British West Indies. The fort was built between 1814 and 1863 by nearly 10,000 convicts who were quartered in unspeakable conditions on prison ships stationed in the deepwater cove.The fort is built of limestone blocks in Georgian style and was first used by the British navy as a base to launch their raid on Washington, DC, in 1814. It later served as a North Atlantic base during both World Wars but was abandoned as a costly outpost in 1951. Since then the buildings have been renovated and given a second life. The dockyard now includes the fascinating Bermuda Maritime Museum, located in the fort's former keep, an atmospheric pub, a movie theatre, a craft market and the Bermuda Snorkel Park.

 
South Shore Park

This one-and-a-half-mile-long coastal reserve protects some of Bermuda's finest beaches. A coastal trail runs through the park, linking a series of coves and bays divided by outcrops of craggy rocks. There are 12 beaches in total, ranging from medium-sized half-moon bays like Horseshoe Bay to postage-stamp-sized inlets like Peel Rock Cove.The splendid stretch of pink and white coral sands known as Warwick Long Bay forms the eastern fringe of the park. Since it's unprotected by headlands, this beach generally has good waves suitable for bodysurfing.

 
St George

This unspoilt town overlooking St George's Harbour was Bermuda's first capital and remains its most fascinating sightseeing area. The town is steeped in period charm as befits a place that was Britain's second settlement in the New World. Many of its original twisting alleyways and colonial-era buildings remain intact, and several centuries-old structures have been preserved and set aside as museums.Attractions include Kings Square, where the attractive Town Hall (1782) overlooks the pillory and stocks once used to publicly chastise those who offended colonial mores. Nearby is the ducking stool where gossips and other petty offenders were forced to endure the humiliation of being dunked in the harbor.The Old State House dates to 1620 and is the oldest building in Bermuda. Although modest in size, it incorporates Italianate features and has a stately appearance apropos to its former role as colonial Bermuda's parliamentary house. To the north is Somers Garden, named after Admiral Somers who, quite literally, left his heart in Bermuda. His vital organ (and his entrails) are contained in a modest tomb in the park. As was customary at the time, the rest of his body was shipped back to England.The Tucker House is the 18th-century home of one of the islands' most prestigious families and has been well-preserved right down to the period furniture. Dating from roughly the same era is the Old Rectory, an interesting place with the less than scintillating claim to fame of being one of the first houses on the island to have a stone roof.The Bermuda National Trust Museum occupies a stately colonial structure and concentrates on the role Bermuda played in the US Civil War when St George enjoyed unprecedented wealth from helping the southern states run the northern naval blockade.The original St Peter's Church, a thatch-and-wood affair constructed in 1612, was one of the oldest Anglican churches in the western hemisphere. The present structure dates from the early 1700s and is a fine building with open timber beams, marble memorials honoring early governors and a mahogany altar that's the oldest piece of Bermudian furniture on the island.Wednesday is a particularly good time to visit St George because the Old State House and Old Rectory are open to the public and the nearby Bermuda Biological Station gives guided tours of its facilities. A handful of waterfront restaurants provide a perfect setting for atmospheric dining. Nearby Tobacco Bay is a good swimming and snorkelling beach when you're through with all the history.


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