Think of Bermuda and most people think of two things: the Bermuda Triangle and Bermuda shorts. However, while visitors are unlikely to fall victim to the former, Bermuda shorts are much harder to avoid. On the island of Bermuda, they're worn by everyone, from hotel receptionists and barmen to tour guides and waiters. But to focus on a single fashion garment - albeit one the locals wear with a certain natural style - would be wrong.
The lush, green North Atlantic island of Bermuda is undeniably luxurious, but it's a subtle, sophisticated luxury. Although tourist officials refuse to name the celebrities who flock to this British Overseas Territory, they also point out that the reason so many of them come here is because of the anonymity they enjoy. It's common knowledge that Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas had a home on the island (their children attended a local school) and I have it on good authority that the entire cast of Friends recently paid a visit.
The laidback approach to life is just one factor which makes this tiny island (Bermuda covers just 21 square miles) so appealing. To start with, the coastline is one of the most beautiful in the world. Its famous pink sand is made up of crushed coral and calcium carbonate, and the clear, turquoise water puts the Caribbean to shame. It's just seven hours from London and two from New York, and enjoys a climate free from extremes. July to October sees the warmest weather, but even outside of these months, the mercury very rarely dips below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius).
Bermuda's Best Bars
* Little Venice Wine Bar: Bermuda isn't all about rum, and this Hamilton-based Italian restaurant is home to one of the island's most extensive wine lists
* Robin Hood Pub and Restaurant: Because of the English connection, there's a surprising number of traditional English taverns in Bermuda and this one, in Pembroke, is especially popular with sports fans
* Swizzle Inn: Head to this South Shore bar for potent rum cocktails or, if you're abstaining, the delicious chocolate milkshakes
* Tucker's Bar: Part of the luxurious Rosewood Tucker's Point resort, this cosy bar has low wooden beams, board games and squashy armchairs
* Jasmine Lounge: This chic bar, located within the Fairmont Southampton hotel, is famous for its martinis
Where To Stay
There's a huge range of accommodation on Bermuda, including a number of high end resorts. These include the enormous Fairmont Southampton (pictured above) on the island's southern shore, where chauffer-driven buggies whisk guests from the lobby to the private beach, and the stunning Elbow Beach resort in the southern Paget Parish, which is owned by the Mandarin Oriental Group. Visitors to Bermuda head to these resorts for the undeniably top notch service, fine dining and enormous spas, but those who want to live like a local should head to one of the smaller hotels or bed and breakfasts in the historic town of St George's, which was the first permanent English settlement in Bermuda.
Food And Drink
Unsurprisingly, fish features heavily on Bermuda's menus, but the fertile soil means that there's a ready supply of a huge range of fruit and vegetables, including limes, guavas, pineapples and bananas. Bermudan air is filled with the scent of wild herbs; rosemary, basil and sage all grow in abundance. For fresh food with a spectacular view, head to Blu in Warwick Parish. Channel your inner glutton and opt for their Seafood Extravaganza Buffet or plump for the restaurant's other speciality - sushi.
For something completely different, head to the Bonefish restaurant in the Royal Navy Dockyard where you can enjoy juicy burgers and cold Coronas while marvelling at the size of the enormous cruise ships. Sharky's Bar, on the northern tip of the island, is about an informal as it gets - a ramshackle bar wedged into the side of a cliff where visitors can sip Sharky's potent cocktails with their feet in the sand.
Bermuda Basics: Know Before You Go
* The currency used in Bermuda is the Bermudan dollar, which has the same value as the American dollar
* Bermuda has one international airport, the L.F. Wade International Airport
* The official language is English
* The book: Frommer's Bermuda (£14.99) was published last year and has a comprehensive selection of maps
* The app: Visit gotobermuda.couk to download the Bermuda tourist board's interactive guide
Things To See And Do
History buffs will love St George's (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is where the island's earliest inhabitants first set up camp in 1612, led by British admiral Sir George Somers. There are several important historical sites here, including the State House, which was built in 1620 to house Bermuda's parliament, and which was the first stone building to be built on the island. The Featherbed Alley Printshop museum is equally fascinating. This was the location of Bermuda's first ever newspaper and printing business, set up by a British man, Joseph Stockdale, in 1784. To find out about a darker side to the island, explore the African Diaspora Heritage Trail, which takes in the slave graveyard at St. Peter's Chapel (pictured above) - one of the world's oldest Anglican churches.
If you're feeling energetic, climb to the top of the Gibbs Hill lighthouse in Cross Bay, which is one of the world's oldest cast iron lighthouses. The view from the top is breathtaking, but a word of warning, so is the climb to the top. Budding geologists will love the Crystal Cave in Hamilton Parish, which was discovered in 1905 when two teenagers clambered down a hole into which their cricket ball had fallen. They subsequently discovered Bermuda's largest cave network, and although much of it remains unexplored, the 500-metre-long Crystal Cave has been opened to the public, who flock here to see the crystal clear underground lake, crystallised "soda straw" formations and rare helictites. However, if that all sounds too much like hard work, you can always head to Bermuda's beautiful beaches. The bright blue waters are filled with marine life and snorkellers and scuba divers can expect to spot parrot fish, butterfly fish, eels, urchins and colourful corals.
Getting There And Away
Bermuda's only international airport, L.F. Wade International, is located near to the town of St George's and is well connected to the rest of the island by public transport. British Airways operates one flight a day from London Gatwick to Bermuda, with return airfares starting at £649.
Prestige Holidays (01425 480400 prestigeholidays.co.uk/bermuda) is offering a week's stay in the Fairmont Southampton, departing on 27 November 2013, from £1425 per person on room only, saving £151 pp (includes two free nights). The price includes return British Airways flights from London Gatwick and private transfers.