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Family Travel Ink
Caribbean: Bermuda's not just for Adults anymore
Bermuda? A holiday destination for families? For years, this very British island seemed to follow Great Grandma’s advice: “Children should be seen but not heard.” Some hotel properties went even further—children were not to be seen on the grounds. Well times have changed and so has Bermuda’s attitude to family vacationers. Kids are now welcomed to the island with coloring books, their own family guidebook, kids camps at many hotels and seductive family packages.
Of course, you still won’t find Disneyesque amusement parks, kiddie-themed restaurants or frivolous entertainments. But that’s part of Bermuda’s charm. The families we saw on a fling last spring were having a fine time riding the buses around the island (you can’t rent a car here), laughing along with the Town Crier at the dunking ceremony in St. George’s and building castles in the sand. Certainly, if you’re traveling with a youngster on a pink jag (parents of five-year-old daughters will know what I mean), this place will be heaven—pink pastel cottages, pink and blue buses, pink sand, even pink Bermuda shorts worn very properly by Bermudian businessmen.
Add to this a zoo and an aquarium with touch pools of starfish, sea cucumbers and spiny urchins, a fort with underground tunnels and a “ghost,” the highest concentration of limestone caves in the world (the inspiration for Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock TV show), seven miles of beaches along the South Shore and a dolphin program where kids five and up can interact with the sea creatures in their own territory, and you’ve got more than enough attractions to keep kids busy. Better yet—even the most rambunctious todder can handle the short two and a half hour flight from Toronto.
Now is a great time for families to visit. For starters, because Bermuda is not a Caribbean island (it lies east off the Carolina coast) you won’t endure debilitating heat (temperatures hover between 60 and 70F). No worries about heat rash for babies, sunburn for toddlers or sunstroke for a kid practising tennis in the noonday sun. And unlike the islands further south, prices plummet during winter. For instance, a room at the family-friendly Southampton Princess Hotel (now part of Canadian Pacific Hotels & Resorts) costs a whopping $320 per night in July. Between November 15 and April 9, however, the same room (for two adults and two children under 17) goes for $165. And don’t forget Bermuda’s temperature guarantee: should any day in January, February or March not reach 68 degrees Farhenheit, guests at certain hotels receive discounts in the shops, transportation passes or other value added goodies.
A highlight for parents, however, is that you can’t but relax in a place where the speed limit is 20 miles per hour and the ubiquitous mopeds roar along on 5 horsepower. Biways are given such old-fashioned names as Pigeon Berry Lane, Needle and Thread Alley and Happy Talk Lane; visitors are offered “Soft drinks and home-made cookies complimentary” at the Visitors Service Bureau in downtown Hamilton. It’s the kind of place where a postal mistress will hunt for stamps showing teachers with kids or where a bus driver, his name prominently displayed at the front of the vehicle, lets everyone troop off the bus to admire a particularly scenic golf hole.
If you’re touring with the kids, a good place to start is Fort St. Catherine. Youngsters and parents will love the huge ramparts, deep dungeons and intricate dioramas showing them the history of the island. Meandering along the fort’s underground tunnels, kids come upon spooky figures who suddenly light up and come to life. Don’t miss the weekly historical enactments in the town square in St. George’s, Bermuda’s version of Niagara-on-the-Lake. At noon on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Town Crier rings his bell and it’s time to dunk the woman who stole chickens from her neighbor’s backyard. Here, kids can also put themselves into the stocks, visit the replica of the 1610 ship Deliverance and taste a fish cake in the White Horse Tavern.
At the other end of the island, there’s lots of room to roam at the Royal Navy Dockyard (along with Rambo and his 12 ewes). Visit the Children’s Room equipped with a rope board and a costume box; kids can dress up as a convict or assume the role of a naval captain resplendent in a gold fringed jacket. After being seen and heard on this picturesque island, your kids may agree with Mark Twain: “Sometimes a dose of Bermuda is just what the doctor ordered.”
Accommodation: Family-friendly hotels include the Southampton Princess where kids five and up can book a Dolphin Encounter with room reservations, the just-renovated Elbow Beach hotel on a wonderful strip of sand, and the Sonesta Beach Resort where a beachfront two-level suite after November is a bargain. Air Canada flies to Bermuda daily from Toronto; Conquest Tours offers three, four or seven night packages for families. For the Bermuda Family Guide and information on family packages, call the Bermuda Department of Tourism, 1-800-387-1304.
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