Royal Naval Dockyard
Like the old town of St. George in the East End, the Royal Naval Dockyard on Bermuda’s western point is crucial to understanding what shaped the political and social history of Bermuda. It’s also loads of fun to visit. The 24-acre area—the largest and best preserved of Bermuda’s fortifications—is a working community with shops, restaurants, a marina, and working boatyards. It also embodies the fascinating maritime history of the island, including its 150-year Royal Navy connection.
“Dockyard,” as it’s simply called by locals, sits on Ireland Island North, the westernmost of Sandys’s five islands, its tip forming the entrance to the main shipping channel into the Great Sound. Towering stone pillars stand at its entrance on Pender Road, where the notorious Casemates Prison also looms, and thick limestone walls and ramparts edge the site.
Dockyard’s waterfront is a hive of activity, with ferries coming and going, cruise ships (the largest liners, including Panamax liners, dock here and a second cruise terminal was to be opened in 2009), a marina packed with yachts and other pleasure craft, and myriad marine businesses operating out of historic former military buildings.
Public washrooms and ATMs are located in the distinctive Clocktower Building, the air-conditioned home to a plethora of shops, a restaurant, and an ice cream bar. Bear in mind that Dockyard’s retail and restaurant businesses may operate on a more restricted schedule in the winter months, when cruise crowds disappear; call ahead to check opening and closing hours or check www.thewestend.bm.
Getting to Royal Naval Dockyard
Bus service to Dockyard is efficient and frequent—it’s also scenic if you take Route No. 7, which goes via the South Shore beaches (No. 8 also travels between Hamilton and Dockyard via Middle Road). Buses leave Hamilton every 15 minutes for the West End. The 14-zone journey ($4.50) takes about an hour. Bus stops are located in front of the Bermuda Maritime Museum and in front of the Clocktower Mall. For more information, contact the Central Terminal (tel. 441/292-3851, www.bermudabuses.com).
The Sea Express (tel. 441/295-4506, www.seaexpress.bm) Blue Route operates regularly between Hamilton and Dockyard from 6:50 a.m. to late at night on weekdays (the last ferry leaves Hamilton at 11 p.m.), with less-frequent service on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays. The service runs at least once an hour, with more ferries in the morning and midday hours. Most runs are Hamilton–Dockyard direct (both ways). Along the way, you’ll see: Front Street’s facade; the lavish harborfront mansions of Pembroke’s Fairylands and Point Shares neighborhoods; landmark Two-Rock Passage, where the liners come through; and the islands of the Great Sound. The breezy ride takes just 20 minutes.
The other option is to take one of the older breed of ferries for a leisurely, scenic ride out to stops at Cavello Bay, Watford Bridge, and Boaz Island, then to Dockyard and back to Hamilton, a journey ranging 1–1.5 hours. The Sea Express Green Route runs from Hamilton to Somerset Bridge (also stopping at Rockaway, Southampton) all day long, except Sundays. Cash is not accepted on ferries; buy tokens, tickets, or cost-effective one-day or multiday passes from the Ferry Terminal or Visitors Information Centres in Hamilton or Dockyard. Regular ferry fare to Dockyard is $4 adults, $2 children 5–16, kids under 5 free.
Oleander Cycles (The Clocktower, Royal Naval Dockyard, tel. 441/234-2764, 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily) rents single- and double-seater scooters.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition