Mopeds are the Right way to See the Island

By Marc Atchison

HAMILTON, BERMUDA - You can tell the people who rent this island’s famed mopeds. They’re the ones with the scratches and bruises – badges of honor for many who are daring enough to rent one of the noisy little scooters.

No matter the risk, though, they are still the transportation of choice for tourists and they certainly allow the best, uninterrupted views of this treasured island of sandy beaches, cotton-candy colored homes and turquoise sea.

But driving or riding on a moped may be the most dangerous experience of your life. Just ask the local taxi drivers, who have a special disdain for the small scooters.

“Did you kiss your mamma goodbye?” asks one cabby who adds: “because the chances of you seeing her again if you drive one of those things are very slim.

“I see people just about every day injured on those things. Just take a cab – it’s a lot safer,” the cabbie advices as he swerves to miss one of the tiny motorcycles.

But Bermuda’s cabs are expensive, and that’s why most tourists like the mopeds. While a taxi ride from Hamilton, the capital, to Southampton, where Bermuda’s best beaches can be found, costs around $25 – one way – a moped can be rented all day for about $40.

But before you rent one of the little scooters, you’ll have to get a quick lesson in Bermuda’s driving habits – the most significant difference being that Bermudians, unlike other North Americans, drive on the left side of the road.

And the best way to remember that, according to local cabbies, is to recall this little warning: “The left side is the right side and the right side is suicide.”

A 50cc moped, the most popular with tourists, can reach the breakneck speed of 50 miles an hour (the mandatory speed limit in Bermuda) and, according to cabbies, breakneck is the key word here.

“Some tourists have been killed,” the cabbie tells us. But then he admits: “Okay, not many – but there have been many injuries."

The one good thing about riding a moped in Bermuda is that it’s hard to get lost. The island only has three main roads – South Road, Middle Road and the North Shore Road - but they tend to be winding and narrow and that’s where the tourists get into trouble. While they’re busy admiring the scenery, visitors sometimes forget the “right side” rule and end up in ditches trying to avoid oncoming traffic.

Most major hotels have moped rentals on property and for those who don’t they’ll happily arrange pickups by local shops. What you see from the mopeds is almost worth the risk, though.

We drove one to Horseshoe Bay and Coral Beach, where we were introduced to Bermuda’s fabulous pink sand beaches. Along the way, we passed the island’s colorful homes and exchanged smiles with the smartly dressed school children waiting for buses.

The most nerve-wracking part of any moped experience is the drive through Hamilton. Although tiny by most capitals’ standards, Hamilton’s main street (Front St.) is always crowded with pedestrians – many from the massive cruise ships that dock most days here. Front St. quickly becomes an obstacle course.

There are almost 22,000 registered mopeds, scooters and motorcycles in Bermuda (and about the same number of cars) but residents are allowed to drive the much bigger 100cc models.

It’s easy to spot the tourists - they’re the ones with the red license plates and the frightened looks on their faces. There’s plenty of parking spots on Hamilton’s side streets for the mopeds but the best place is right beside the cruise terminal, which is shaded and keeps the bike cool for the return trip.

Hamilton is a great place to stretch your legs. The shops, especially the ones offering jewelry made from sunken treasure, are fun to browse and every tourist is recommended to stop at the Black Seal rum shop to buy some souvenirs. The country’s handsome parliament and senate building is also located on Front St., and its gardens are some of the most enchanting you’ll ever visit.

A good spot for lunch in Hamilton is the Hog Penny Pub just off Front St. – their fish and chips are the best on the island. For upscale dining options, head over to the Fairmont Hamilton Princess where you can eat under the stars or at poolside.

You can drive your moped from Hamilton to the Royal Navy Dockyard but the journey is long. A good alternative is to leave your scooter parked in Hamilton and take a $6 – one way – ferry ride to the site where once the British anchored their fleet. The dockyard had sunk to a state of disrepair but was rescued a few years ago and has become a tourist favorite. There’s an old fort and prison you can tour, dolphin pools where you can swim with the slippery mammals and lots of shops selling local handicrafts. If you’re looking for a place to eat at the Dockyard, we highly recommend Pirate’s Cove. There’s also bus service to the Dockyard from Hamilton but the ferry is much more comfortable.

A drive from Hamilton to St. George, Bermuda’s first capital, is also recommended on your moped. Take Middle Road just outside Hamilton and head towards St. George. Along the way you’ll pass some immaculate golf courses, Old Devonshire Church, built in 1716, and a few other places of worship – this tiny country has over 100 churches in all.

The country’s aquarium and zoo are also along this route and you’ll have to go over a small causeway to reach St. George’s Parrish.

The quaint streets of St. George are a joy to explore and this is where you’ll see a replica of the Deliverance, the ship which carried the first settlers to Bermuda in the early 1600s.

Enchanting Somers Gardens, a memorial to Admiral Sir George Somers who was shipwrecked here in 1609; State House, Bermuda's Supreme Court; and the White.

Horse Tavern, from where you can watch cruise ships slip out of port on their way to New York City, are all part of a visit to St. George.

If you take Middle Road, you’ll come upon Gibbs Hill lighthouse, an island landmark and highest point from which you can see the entire country on a clear day – which is almost every day on Bermuda. Along this route you’ll also come across Somerset Bridge, the smallest drawbridge in the world.

Don’t be afraid to rent a moped, just be smart and alert when driving one. And don’t listen to the cabbies – they have a $25 fare to protect.

Information

- The island's residents are restricted to one car per family.

- There are over 300 taxi cabs in Bermuda.

- Most major hotels have moped rental shops on site. Daily rental fees average between $40 and $60.

- No driver's licence is required to drive a moped.

- For more information, call 1-800-BERMUDA.