We headed east to review The Fairmont Southampton and The Fairmont Hamilton Princess hotels in Bermuda thinking they would be the perfect resort duo for us – a family with young adult children taking advantage of that rare moment when everybody’s schedules lined up. One kid had graduated from college a few days earlier and hadn’t found a job yet, and the other – a relatively recent college graduate – was between jobs.
We made the trip plans completely last minute because we had our fingers crossed that at least one of kids would be working and a family vacation wouldn’t be in the cards. But as it turned out, their lack of employment was our family vacation bonus, and we jumped at the chance to relax together for a few days.
Family Oriented Bermuda works for an Adult Kids Vacation
Easy-to-get-to Bermuda is just a 90-minute flight from Washington DC and New York, and just under two hours from Boston. It sits off the coast of the Carolinas and is in the Atlantic, not the Caribbean, as many people think. Its atmosphere is somewhat formal and polite, but it’s still easy-going and is one of the safest islands in this part of the world – perfect for teens and twenty-somethings who want some independence and to stay out late.
Of the two properties, formerly part of the beloved Princess hotels chain, the Fairmont Southampton is the best place for families to stay. It has a beach, the Kids program, tennis courts, a lavish spa, golf course, night club for ages 18 and up and all kinds of activities. We couldn’t help but think it would make an excellent multi-generational family vacation if we had the grandparents with us or even family members with babies and toddlers in tow.
Its sister resort – the pale pink Fairmont Hamilton Princess in the town of Hamilton — is more popular with business travelers and is within walking distance of many shops, restaurants and pubs in town. Guests at both properties can take a 20-minute complimentary ferry boat ride across the bay to commute between the two properties.
The Beach & Pools at Fairmont Southampton
The Southampton is perched atop Bermuda’s highest point, so it has a shuttle bus system to take guests around its expansive property.
We hopped on a trolley for the two-minute ride to the beach and settled into four shaded lounges chairs on the pink sand before renting snorkel equipment and a fat round raft to play on. The Beach Club area has a bar and grill, changing rooms with showers, water sports rentals, dive center and a shop.
Right next door is Horseshoe Beach, one of the island’s most beautiful beaches, so we headed there one afternoon to explore its long, wide expanse of pink sand and some interesting rock formations you can climb.
If you tire of the beach, you can head to one of the resort’s two pools. The outdoor pool can be a bit cramped on a sunny day if the resort is full, but the spacious indoor pool has a waterfall spilling down a “limestone” cliff and doors opening to sunny patios.
Fairmont Kids & Family Activitiesat Southampton Princess
There’s a year-round Kid’s Explorers Camp for ages 5-12 (in a particularly spacious room) for $30 per child per day and an evening program for ages 7 and up. Plus there are toddler time activities for 2- to 5-year-olds (must be accompanied by an adult) and special teen activities.
My two kids loved the ping pong table, air hockey games and other video games outside the Kid’s Camp. The resort often shows movies around the pool in the summer months and has other family-oriented activities of all sorts.
Young adults and their parents will appreciate the 31,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa. The fitness center has treatments, classes and workout machines of all types. There are two sets of tennis courts -– one near the beach and one near the golf course with a pro shop. You can also book dive trips, fishing trips, jet skis and boat rides.
Take advantage of the facilities at both hotels for variety. Be sure to take the free ferry ride to the Hamilton Princess to explore the shops and restaurants in town or enjoy the hotel’s high tea or the Friday evening cocktail party on the lawn.
Bermuda is for Golf
We’re not golfers, but seasoned golfers claim the Fairmont Southampton golf course is challenging, with elevation changes, unpredictable ocean breezes and spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean.
There are three tee offerings on all 18 holes, making it perfect for golfers of all skill levels. Golf Digest named it “Best Place to Play Golf” in 2002. As you would expect, there is a pro shop, club and shoe rentals and a bar and restaurant in the golf complex. While we were there, night golfing was offered complete with glow-in the-dark balls.
Bermuda Nightlife for Young Adults
The Fairmont Southampton nightclub was an important stop for our two kids, although they were occasionally irritated by the 18- to 20-year-olds who couldn’t drink at home in the U.S. but took advantage of a drinking age of 18 to pound down the cocktails here.
People of all ages dropped in over the evening to dance to a lively DJ and we often saw parents and young adult children requesting tunes and dancing together.
Older kids can take the free ferry ride to the Hamilton Princess in the evening. It’s a good base to check out the nightlife in Hamilton. Afterwards, they’ll have to take a cab back to the Fairmont Southampton as the hotel ferry doesn’t run late.
Getting around & exploring Bermuda
Visitors are not allowed to rent cars on this small island, so there are plenty of taxis, buses and ferries. You can rent scooters if you want to navigate the left-hand drive streets, but we were advised not to and all of the tourists we saw driving the scooters looked rather terrified.
If you feel the need to explore more beaches, there are plenty of other gorgeous stretches of sand to sample. Shelley Bay is great for families as it’s shallow, warm and sandy and backs on to a playground and sports field.
John Smith Bay is a popular local’s beach and Elbow Beach has a shipwreck within swimming distance of the beach.
Check out the Crystal and Fantasy Caves on a rainy day – they are two separate cave complexes and you can buy a ticket for each or visit both on a single ticket. Each has crystal stalactites and stalagmites that were formed over 30 million years ago and a lake so clear you can see the formations below. There are safe steps, ramps, trails and lighting through the cave complexes. Underground water passageways connect the cave “lakes” with the ocean.
Trip Planning Details for a Bermuda Family Vacation
Bermuda is served by several major airlines with non-stop flights from the US and Europe. Because the island is in the Atlantic Ocean and prone to cold winds, winter is the low season, making it a top value Christmas destination, if not a guaranteed sunny getaway. Resort rates are highest in the summer, but the Fairmont properties often have family specials. For more information about the island, visit the Bermuda Tourist Office site.
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