The City of Hamilton
Bermuda’s capital since incorporation in 1793, Hamilton, or “Town” in islanders’ vernacular, borders the north shore of a long natural harbor at Bermuda’s middle, making it the main port for cargo vessels that cross the Atlantic every week delivering the vital imports of food, clothing, and other goods the island survives on. Until 2008, it was also the main port for cruise ships through the high summer season, but now most ships, particularly the increasingly larger vessels, berth at the West End Dockyard.
Hamilton’s central location makes it the natural launchpad for explorations east and west through the parishes; no matter where you’re staying, you will probably want to take a good look around Hamilton first.
Strict building codes throughout Hamilton’s history retained many of the old-time facades. The 21st century is proving a battle for city planners, however, as developers scramble to take advantage of soaring demand for office space for the island’s international business industry.
Indeed, mammoth towers belonging to insurance companies have reshaped the city’s profile from east to west, and while Hamilton’s official borders have not expanded, many of its businesses have spilled over in recent years to Pembroke—west along Pitts Bay, and east towards Crow Lane. Building sites were a staple throughout the city in 2008 and 2009, though it’s not yet clear how the global economic downturn will affect such mushrooming growth.
Aside from the nine-to-five weekday, shopping is what brings most people to Hamilton, whether they’re locals or visitors. Front Street—long the domain of Bermuda’s white power bloc, whose key merchants were nicknamed the “Forty Thieves”—is today becoming a far more pluralistic thoroughfare. Gone are all but one of Front Street’s old-money department stores—landmarks Trimingham’s and Smith’s closed in 2005, but A.S. Cooper & Son remains.
Events like Harbour Nights, the Front Street Mile, Bermuda Day, and the Christmas Boat Parade bring out Bermudians from every parish and background to celebrate annual traditions along the waterfront. Front Street’s retailers are mostly geared to tourists, while Reid, Queen, and Church Streets remain the major shopping destinations, connected by the rambling Washington Mall, which underwent a major expansion in 2009.
But don’t restrict your visit to Hamilton’s most trafficked regions. Long denigrated as “back o’ town,” culturally vibrant North Hamilton is on the verge of a renaissance, with young entrepreneurs ready to take up offers by government and big business to give the area a boost. Strolling around the region’s streets, you can enjoy the West Indian architecture, wooden verandas, brightly-hued cottages and walled gardens harking back to a quieter time in old Bermuda. Don’t miss North Hamilton’s boisterous clubs, retail bargains, or popular eateries, either.
Getting to the City of Hamilton
The central bus terminal is named for a longtime driver—the Hubert W. “Sparky” Lightbourne Central Terminal (Washington St. at Church St., tel. 441/295-4311, information and dispatch tel. 441/292-3854). It is the central hub for all bus routes running throughout the parishes. Tickets, tokens, and passes can be purchased here also.
The island’s ferry terminal (6 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Sat., 8:30 a.m.–8 p.m. Sun. and holidays), serving Paget, Warwick, Southampton, the West End, and the East End, is on Front Street. A ferry ride to Dockyard is a mere 20 minutes, to the Town of St. George a scenic 45. For information, call Sea Express (tel. 441/295-4506 or 441/295-6575, www.seaexpress.bm).
Wheels Cycles (117 Front St., at Court St., tel. 441/292-2245, wheels [at] northrock [dot] bm, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily) rents mopeds ($57 per day) and single- and double-seat scooters ($75), with lower rates for longer rentals. Pickup and delivery service is also available.
There are taxi stands along Front Street outside Brown & Co. and just west of City Hall on Church Street. Otherwise, contact Bermuda Industrial Union Co-op (tel. 441/292-4476) or Bermuda Taxi Radio Cabs (tel. 441/295-4141, btrcabs [at] cwbda [dot] bm) for pickup. Typical average taxi rates from Hamilton to the airport are $35, to St. George’s $45, to the Southampton beaches $23, and to Dockyard $50.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition