Formed during the Ice Age and discovered in the early 1900s, Bermuda's Crystal Caves are a spectacular sight to behold and a can't-miss stop during your visit. But it's the history as much as the natural beauty that makes these eerie caves one of the island's most popular attractions.
Ice Age Bermuda
To start, we have to go back. Way back to the Pleistocene Ice Age approximately 1.6 million years ago. Much of the Earth’s oceans froze, sea levels dropped and rainwater seeped into Bermuda’s limestone, creating hidden caves in and around the island. Not much happened for the next million years or so. But around the turn of the 20th century, things started to get interesting.
A Game of Cricket Leads to Discovery
Picture it: It’s the spring of 1907 and two Bermudian teenagers, Carl Gibbons and his friend Edgar Hollis, are playing a game of the island’s favourite sport: cricket. Edgar tosses a pitch a bit too high and, naturally, Carl runs after it.
Rather than recovering the ball, however, Carl notices a curious thing: a small hole emitting warm air from somewhere below. Intrigued, the boys dig away at the earth and discover a subterranean marvel.
The Wilkinson family, owners of the property, soon learn of the discovery. Fourteen-year-old Bernard Wilkinson is lowered on a rope into the darkness with only a lamp from a bicycle to light the way. Bernard is astonished at what the lamplight reveals: incredible formations of white stalactites covered with crystallized soda straws, surrounding a crystal-clear lake. Learn more about how the caves were discovered.
Mark Twain Visits the Crystal Caves
In 1908, the celebrated author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer became the first tourist to descend into the Crystal Caves.
“We visited a wonderful cave …” he wrote in a letter. “The most beautiful cave in the world, I suppose. We descended 150 steps and stood in a splendid place 250 feet long & 30 or 40 wide, with a brilliant lake of clear water under our feet and all the roof overhead splendid with shining stalactites, thousands and thousands of them as white as sugar, and thousands and thousands brown and pink and other tints.”
Over the next century, the caves became one of Bermuda’s most popular attractions, with thousands of people discovering the otherworldly subterranean beauty that lies beneath the island’s surface.
The Fraggle Rock Connection
What does the beloved 1980s Jim Henson series have to do with the Crystal Caves? A lot, actually.
The caves and the story of their discovery inspired Fraggle Rock's co-creator, Bermudian artist Michael Frith, who imagined an underworld filled with strange and delightful creatures.
You put yourself in that kid’s shoes ... to go in there and shine the light around and you’re in this magical place.
“You put yourself in that kid’s shoes ... to go in there and shine the light around and you’re in this magical place,” he said in 2004. “And I thought you know, there’s something so powerful in that story. There’s something about how under our feet, behind the skirting board – who knows where – there is this magic that’s all around us. At any moment, through some accident, through some design, however it may happen, suddenly you could find yourself in that place.”
Visiting the Crystal Caves
The Crystal Caves are open to the public every day from 9 am to 5 pm, excluding some holidays. Guided tours are offered throughout the day.
Tips for your Trip:
- Sensible footwear is advisable; rubber-soled shoes are ideal.
- Air temperature inside the cave is 72 degrees year-round.
- Fiddlestix Gift Shop and Café Ole are also located on the property.