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The Beauty of Bermuda

Winter in Bermuda
Despite popular conception, Bermuda is not the Caribbean, neither geographically nor culturally.

The spectacular islands are nearly 800 miles north of the Bahamas, 650 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and 800 miles south of New York City.

This 21-mile cluster of islands has a rich history -- dating to the early 1600s -- and is a major international business center for banking and insurance, known as well as a corporate and tax haven.

Yet the misconceptions about Bermuda persist. I recently returned from a winter getaway, and my friends at home expressed surprise at my lack of a tan. I knew in advance this wouldn't be a snorkeling or sunbathing vacation, though.

Unlike high season (April-October), winter temperatures in Bermuda are springlike and, to me, ideal.

Besides the temperate climate, the best aspects of a winter trip to Bermuda are the smaller crowds and lower costs. You may spend more time soaking in the sun and swimming if you visit in summer, but the humidity and thick crowds can be unpleasant.

In contrast, here's what you can expect this time of year: little difficulty snagging prime restaurant reservations, reasonable hotel rates and airfares, easy access to the famous spas and quiet enjoyment of the island's amazing historic sites and beautiful beaches.

Flora and Fauna

Upon arriving, the visitors will note the charming uniformity of Bermuda's colorful limestone buildings and distinctive white-terraced roofs, which collect rainwater, the islands' main source of drinking water.

The Town of St. George, established in 1612, has a fascinating collection of historic buildings and churches. Hamilton is the island's busy commercial hub. However, don't expect to find bargains among the Hamilton boutiques; Bermuda has steep value-added taxes and is not a duty-free destination (like many Caribbean islands) for U.S tourists.

Bermuda hosts two notable art events during the winter. The seven-week Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts (mid-January to early March) draws top-notch dancers, musicians and actors from across the globe. The Bermuda International Film Festival shows more than 70 films over nine days each March, with support from Bermuda's resident Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Other top attractions include the Crystal Caves ($12), which feature dripping stalactites and underground tunnels. This is found in Bailey's Bay, where you can eat at the Swizzle Inn (slogan: "Swizzle Inn, swagger out"), a local hangout named for the island's favorite drink, the super-sweet rum swizzle.

Bailey's Bay also houses the peaceful and uncrowded Blue Hole Park , a nature preserve where I saw a mighty yellow-crowned heron basking in the quiet; the park is located just west of the airport causeway.

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