St. George’s Island is located on the East side of Bermuda just North of the airport. If you are looking for the existing original Bermuda this is the place to go. The town of St. George is listed as an UNESCO Heritage Site. Per UNESCO, “The historic town of St George with its related fortifications is an outstanding example of a continuously occupied, fortified, colonial town dating from the early 17th century and the oldest English town in the New World.”
Getting There: We were running late, so we had to take a taxi. From the Southampton (almost west side of island) area it cost us just under $50 one way. I highly recommend taking the bus into St. George it is much cheaper, about $10 each one way. If you are traveling from Southampton (depending on day and time of day) plan for about 45-60 minute bus commute, check the bus schedule to be sure.
Exploring: We started our day in St. George at King’s Square which houses the Town Hall and is adjacent to the very tiny Ordinance Island. Free daily tours covering the history and primary locations in town start at 10:30am in front of the flag pole. I found the tour to be very informative. The local guide covers general history, random stories and walks you through all the main areas in the town. He/She also gives great recommendations of further places to visit, eat and shop. The tour is about 90 minutes and takes you right back to King’s Square just in time to visit Town Hall and meet the mayor.
At 11:45am the mayor greets visitors and provides a brief speech regarding the mayoral history and politics of the island. Directly correlated to the mayor’s speech is the Town Gossip performance. Although, I appreciated meeting and shaking hands with the mayor I found the Town Gossip show to be a bit cheesy. With that said, I saw that most observers seemed to enjoy the show. The families seemed to especially enjoy the dunkings. The show is around 30 minutes and located at the end of the bridge connecting Ordinance Island with St. George’s Island. The bridge is small, so don’t worry you can’t miss it.
[Matt – The dunking is also your chance for audience participation, they pick 4-6 people from the crowd at the mayor’s speech to help dunk the gossip.]
We did not stay for the entire show, instead we started to walk the small town and are so glad we did. The area is covered in many lovely and charming nooks and crannies. The buildings are colorful and unique. Walking around was so peaceful and relaxing, I highly recommend taking the time and just wander around until you feel lost and then just keep wandering.
A few of our favorite locations were the Unfinished Church, St. Peter’s Church, The Old Rectory and walking Water Street.
The Unfinished Church is just as it sounds. A church that was never finished. What makes this site so beautiful is walking around the entire church and noticing how nature has grown in and around the grounds. When we were there the inside of the church was closed but was suppose to be re-opening any day. Even without being able to walk inside it was still a beautiful site with plenty to see from the outside.
St. Peter’s Church was probably my favorite part of St. George. The front steps leading to the church are large and inviting. If you don’t like steps you can walk the streets up and around to the back of the church. The cemetery was enchanting, especially the fallen tree outside to the right of the back door. While we were walking around the cemetery the weather turned a bit cloudy, and the wind picked up. It added an almost mystical edge to the experience – so fun. As you walk the grounds, be sure not to miss the dedicated slave area.
[Matthew – I have to echo Heather on this one, the combination of the old church and graveyard really made for an interesting location. There was a lot of history to be gleaned from wandering around inside and out. There was someone from the church on hand to provide answers to questions, which is always a nice touch. Also an interesting tidbit regarding the tree in the cemetery that has since fallen over, it was once used as the bell tower as it was the tallest thing around.]
The Old Rectory was beautiful. It was closed when we visited, but we were able to walk the entrance area and look through the front door windows. It has some goofy hours. If this is the main reason you are going to St. George, check the website for current hours. Why go see it? It is an example of an early day private residence, the architecture and the gardens.
Water Street is the main tourist street with lots of shops and restaurants. Our tour guide recommended two restaurants, the White Horse Pub and Wahoo’s. We picked Wahoo’s for 2 reasons. 1) they are famous for their fish chowder 2) I am trying to step out of my food comfort zone and try more local foods I wouldn’t necessarily try otherwise. I am recently starting to like fish, but only fish that doesn’t smell or taste like fish. Yes, I know, I am one of “those” people.
The fish chowder was nothing of what I was expecting. It was a deep reddish maroon color. The fish pieces were small but plenty. It was served with the recommendation of adding a few drops of rum and as much as your palate can handle of the local Outerbridge Sherry Pepper Sauce. I am not big on spicy, but I am getting better. I added about 3 dashes of the sauce and 1 gulp of the rum. The chowder was good, very different than anything I had ever tried. I am not sure I would order it again, but I would recommend trying it. Completely contradictory, I know. I have weird taste buds, but I can understand how a lot of people would like the chowder it is full of flavor and no fishy smell or taste was great for me.
The Bermuda dollar and the US dollar are in sync or 1:1, and I did not encounter anyone who would not take US currency; although I did not try coins. Their paper money is quite colorful and beautiful to look at, although I was told US banks will not give you a favorable rate of exchange, so I would recommend spending it all before returning. ATM withdraws will incur a Foreign Transaction Fee, as will Credit Card purchases. Unless you use the highly recommend “Investor Checking Account” with Schwab. The account has no foreign conversion/transaction fees, refunds all ATM charges and has a Visa debit card with chip and pin.
St George is open and spacious, so you can feel good about using whatever camera you have available. The one thing I can note is that at no time did I feel the need for excessive zoom or a telephoto lens.
Recommendable: YES! This is where Bermuda started. The town is charming and there is plenty to do. The town itself is quite walkable. Take time to explore the areas outside of the central city. Gorgeous views are all over this little island.