A Bermuda vacation isn't complete 'til you've basked in these wonders' glory:
1 A Fairy Tale Come To Life: The Unfinished Church
The striking Unfinished Church in St. George's might make you think of a romantic ruin straight out of a fairy tale. But it was actually planned as a replacement for St. Peter's in the mid-19th century. For one reason or another, the church was never completed. But what remains is positively breathtaking, with soaring stone arches, a grassy floor, and only Bermuda's blue sky for a roof. There's no place on earth quite like it – probably one reason why the Unfinished Church has become a popular spot for Bermuda weddings … of the fairy tale-variety, of course. Learn more about Bermuda's historic churches.
2 Bermuda Underground: The Crystal Caves
It's 1907 and two teenagers lose their cricket ball down a hole. To retrieve this precious item (Bermudians are serious about cricket), they wriggle their way after it into the darkness – and discover something truly amazing: the Crystal Caves. Located 140 feet below ground, these caves offer incredible crystal formations (white stalactites covered with crystallized soda straws) surrounding a crystal clear, 50-foot deep lake. Mark Twain, who knew a thing or two about caves, called it "the most beautiful cave in the world" – and we agree. Learn more about the Crystal Caves.
[Bonus] Bermuda Underwater: With more than 200 sunken vessels, Bermuda is known as the shipwreck capital of the world – a paradise for divers. But even if you're not into scuba, you can check out the HMS Vixen, a three-masted British gunboat from the 1860s that was sunk in shallow water off Daniel's Head – her bow sticks out above the surface of the water.
3 Must-See Trees: Southlands' Banyan Grove
The sprawling, 37-acre Southlands is one of Bermuda's oldest estates – the original, still-standing hilltop structure was built all the way back in 1745. It's a wonderfully evocative spot, and is now open to the public. As you wander the winding pathways, you'll come across rambling gardens, crumbling buildings and placid ponds. But the most amazing characteristic of Southlands is its enormous Banyan tree grove, Bermuda's largest. Incredibly, this tangled mass of branches is made up of just three trees that have grown over the decades into a marvel of natural engineering. Explore more secluded Bermuda spots.
4 Military Might: Fort St. Catherine
For centuries, Fort St. Catherine sent one clear message to would-be invaders: Do not mess with Bermuda. The largest and most visually spectacular fortress on the island, it towers above the pink sand beach where the Sea Venture's crew – Bermuda's original settlers – came ashore in 1609. Today, you can explore Fort St. Catherine's massive ramparts, antique artillery, labyrinthine tunnels and chambers carved deep into the bedrock. You'll also enjoy a museum that focuses on the age-old task of protecting Bermuda and soak in incredible ocean views … see any pirate ships on the horizon? Learn more about Bermuda's forts.
[Bonus] Another Wondrous Bermuda Fort: Forts were a part of Bermuda's landscape since the very beginning. King's Castle Stone Fort was built on Castle Island in 1612 - and today it's the oldest still-standing stone fort in the western hemisphere. Accessible only by boat, a visit to the fort is a trip back in time.
5 Welcome to the Jungle: Walsingham Nature Reserve
Locals call the 12-acre Walsingham Nature Reserve "Tom Moore's Jungle," after the 19th century poet who wrote some of his best-known works here. And it's definitely a jungle – a fact that will become readily apparent as you make your way through dense greenery along winding trails, birds chirping happily in the trees above. The payoff for your jungle trek is the gorgeous Blue Hole Park, offering a crystal clear mangrove pond, with subterranean grottos and caves to swim to. Getting lost in the jungle was never this much fun. Check out some more Bermuda Eco-Adventures.
6 A Bermuda Miracle: Nonsuch Island
Located at the eastern end of Bermuda in St. George's Parish, Nonsuch Island is a pristine natural landscape – and a place where miracles take place. For 300 years, Bermuda's national bird, the Cahow, was thought to be extinct. But in the 1950s, 17 nesting pairs were found. Since then, conservationists have worked to restore the species, with ongoing success; in 2009, a Cahow chick named "Somers" was born on Nonsuch Island. The last time that happened? All the way back in 1620. Discover more of Bermuda's Breathtaking Natural Landscapes.
Please note: because of the island's delicate eco-system, landing on Nonsuch is by permit only.
7 Ironclad: Gibbs Hill Lighthouse
Bermuda's Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is a towering beacon in Southampton Parish. Completed in 1846, it's one of the oldest cast-iron lighthouses in the world. Gibbs Hill's powerful light can be seen up to 40 miles out to sea – and by airplanes at 10,000 feet and 120 miles away. The lighthouse's lens is capable of building the light up to the power of half a million candles. Impressive. Even more impressive? The sweeping panorama of Bermuda that you'll take in when you climb the 185 steps to the top. Learn more about Bermuda's lighthouses.