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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online
Bermuda Pink beach - photo Bermuda Tourism
Bermuda has some magnificent large and small beaches. Beach sand is not volcanic but from finely pulverized remains of calcium carbonate shells and skeletons of invertebrates such as corals, clams, forams and other shells. Beaches begin with tiny single-celled animals, Foraminifera, in particular, homotrema rubrum - or forams - dark red skeletal animals that grow profusely on the underside of Bermuda's coral reefs. When the red forms die, the skeletons plummet to the ocean floor. Wave action erodes the forams. They become mixed with other debris on the seabed such as the white shells of clams, snails and sea urchins.
Another Bermuda pink beach -photo Bermuda Tourism
It is at that time that Bermuda's white sand takes on its characteristic pink hue. Bermuda is one of the northernmost areas in the Western Hemisphere (but not the northernmost place in the world) for coral reefs. In Bermuda, see the contrast of pink sand, turquoise water between the shoreline, outlying reefs, and dark blue of the ocean beyond the reefs or land. The sand in Bermuda is exceptionally fine. Beaches in Bermuda are often favored for weddings. Often, religious ministers in Bermuda shorts and knee length socks will preside. Most beaches are on the South Shore, but a few are on the North Shore. Watch out for the rip tide and rip currents on the South Shore beaches! They are formed by water seeking its own level. More water is pushed up on the beach as the frequency of the waves breaking on the beach increases.
As this water accumulates, it returns to the sea to find its own level, thus causing a drag outwards. The larger the surf, the more intense the rip currents. They pull out to sea, not down beneath the surface. At low tide, when the reef formations are clearly visible and the sea is calm, South Shore potboiler formations can be explored. Some contain deep natural pools for visitors to swim or wade out to and enjoy. Visitors used to riding surf boards on high rolling waves should note that only when the wind is blowing heavily from the south do Bermuda's South Shore beaches get any decent surf. Many people assume, wrongly, that Bermuda must have good surfing beaches. Beaches are closed when the wind blows too heavily from the south. When gales and hurricanes occur, of the type that bring surfing conditions, surfing is dangerous. Rip tides are bad then, too.
Some Bermuda beaches are noted for their sea glass. Unfortunately, especially since 2012 they have been raided illegally by visiting cruise ship and other American tourists. It is illegal to take glass from this or any other Bermuda beach. The sign, posted by Bermuda's West End Development Company (Wedco), adds: “If you steal it you are depriving all those who come after you. Persons who choose to remove such items are liable for prosecution.” The Historic Articles (Export Control) Act 1983 prohibits the exportation of historic artifacts — items more than 50 years old which carry national, historic, scientific or artistic importance — cannot be exported without a licence granted by the minister responsible.
Water temperature can be as high as 85 degrees Fahrenheit in August. But it can dip to below 64 degrees in winter, too cold for most residents, only for the human penguins from Canada, Europe, UK and the USA's East Coast. After all, Bermuda is NOT part of the Caribbean.
At almost any time of year - except when there are hurricanes or gales driving the sea to shore in huge waves - a walk on the beach is glorious. It is the South Shore Park between Horseshoe Bay in Southampton Parish and Warwick Long Bay in Warwick Parish. The public beaches are open from sunrise to sunset. Do not attempt to use them illegally at night, for your own safety.
Warwick Long Bay and (lower down) Stonehole Bay. Photo Bermuda Tourism
Beaches in Bermuda - public and private - do not allow topless, nudes or semi-nudes. Camping and sleeping on the beaches are not permitted. The Bermuda Police Service encourages all beach-goers, especially visitors, to be extra vigilant of their belongings at the beach and only take items that are really necessary. They advise visitors not to take a lot of cash or credit cards or passports or watches other forms of identification or jewelry.
There are periodic sightings on the beaches and in waters nearby of Portuguese Men of War (Bluebottle, physalia spp - hydroid) - (see Royal Gazette photo right) commonly but mistakenly referred to as "jelly fish" with "blue or white sails" usually clearly visible and with fiercely stinging, food-catching tentacles. They get this name from Mediterranean sailors who believed they resembled 17th century Portuguese ships of war in full sail. Not only is it not a jellyfish, it's not even an "it," but a "they." The Portuguese man-of-war is a siphonophore, an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together. The man-of-war comprises four separate polyps. It gets its name from the uppermost polyp, a gas-filled bladder, or pneumatophore, which sits above the water and somewhat resembles an old warship at full sail. Man-of-wars are also known as bluebottles for the purple-blue color of their pneumatophores. The tentacles are the man-of-war's second organism. These long, thin tendrils can extend 165 feet (50 meters) in length below the surface, although 30 feet (10 meters) is more the average. They are covered in venom-filled nematocysts used to paralyze and kill fish and other small creatures. For humans, a man-of-war sting is excruciatingly painful, and sometimes deadly. Even dead man-of-wars washed up on shore can deliver a major problem if touched or prodded. Avoid them from a great distance at all costs, in the water and on shore as their sting could be very serious, or deadly to those at risk of heat attack or stroke or both. Ashore, they may look dead but are not. If you do not use extreme care, but approach them at entirely your own risk, repercussions and financial liability and are stung by a Portuguese Man of War jellyfish, as you undoubtedly will be in these dangerous circumstances, try to rinse with salt water and remove any visible tentacles from the skin with a stick, glove or towel; treat the affected areas with vinegar; apply warm water or warm compress; remove any of the remaining tentacles by applying shaving cream with something like a tongue depressor stick or a credit card; and apply hydrocortisone cream to the affected area. To avoid further potential problems make sure you summon help in any way possible and see a doctor straight away or get to a hospital as soon as possible. British and European visitors should note these creatures are as potent as the lion's mane jellyfish in Britain and its counterparts of the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. In Europe, especially in Spain, the national Red Cross treats injured visitors on the beaches and governments also respond there by putting out red flags and sending boats to net the creatures.
Sewage. Following early 2014 reports earlier widely circulated in the USA, prepared by the US Consul General's office in Bermuda, that Bermuda's beaches contained raw sewage deposits from the sea and were not safe for American visitors to use, an international organization has confirmed the accuracy of Government’s testing of South Shore waters, stating that trends indicate the waters are safe for recreational use. Representatives for the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) were contacted by the Government in June to conduct an independent study of the water quality around the Island’s beaches and ensure the reliability of the Department of Health’s weekly water quality results. Dr Lisa Indar, of CARPHA, said that after analyzing the Department’s sampling and analytical methods and independently testing water samples, the organization found the sampling methods were in compliance with standards and the laboratory results from both bodies were similar. She also noted that a historical review of sample sites indicated that recreational areas were safe and fit for use, generally meeting the US EPA requirements. Premier Michael Dunkley said Government has been working hard to tackle the issue of water quality, and bringing Dr Indar to Bermuda to evaluate testing efforts was just one step furthering public confidence in the Island’s water quality. Asked about other efforts being taken to remedy the issue, he said: “I think the people of Bermuda are well aware the challenges that we face since this report started to get into the media in spring of this year. At that time, Government was very quick to act, to assess the situation and put in short term, medium term and long term plans to deal with the challenge. Obviously, we are well aware that it didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be fixed overnight.” The Premier said the short term, medium term and long term plans are all still in effect, but Government wanted to ensure it was following proper testing procedures with the water samples and that Government results were accurate. Minister for Health, Seniors and the Environment Jeanne Atherden noted several efforts in place to tackle the issue, including working to ensure proper disposal of grease and oil.
Sea glass. Glass weathered smooth by the ocean, can be found on beaches throughout the Island but is particularly common on a few smaller beaches. It is sometimes used to make jewellery and various decorations. Cruise ship and other visitors have been spotted seeing it and taking it away, to the huge annoyance of locals. Neither residents nor visitors are allowed to take sand, shells, coral, sea fans or sea glass out of the beach or ocean or out of Bermuda.
The Bermuda Lifeguard Service is a service of the Parks Department of the Ministry of the Environment of the Bermuda Government. In the swimming season, the most popular public beaches have lifeguards from this service. They must be at least 16 years old, fit, healthy and strong swimmers. Telephone 236-4201 or 236-5902 or fax 236-3711. P. O. Box HM 20, Bermuda HM AX or e-mail email@example.com. The private beaches do not have this service.
2017. September 2. Bacteria levels at Bermuda’s beaches are well within environmental guidelines, according to the latest figures from health watchdogs. A report by the Department of Health revealed some spikes in enterococci, a group of bacteria used as an indicator of pollution or faecal contaminants, but levels remained well within US limits. The US guidelines recommend that the 30-day geometric mean does not exceed 35 colony forming units of enterococci per 100 millilitres. Results between April 30 and August 20 show enterococci levels well below that limit, although levels at two beaches temporarily exceeded 15 CFU per 100ml over the course of the summer. The first and largest peak was recorded at Snorkel Park on the week of May 21, when testing showed a mean of nearly 20 CFU per 100ml. Levels at the beach fell throughout June, reaching a low of 5 CFU per 100ml before rising again in subsequent weeks. The second highest spike occurred at the east end of Horseshoe Bay on the week of July 30, with levels again approaching 20 CFU per 100ml before falling. CFU levels at the centre of the beach and at the west end remained lower, as did the results from Warwick Long Bay. In the east end, enterococci levels at Tobacco Bay exceeded 10 CFU per 100ml twice, while waters at Shelly Bay reached 5 CFU per 100 millilitres between May 28 and June 11. Levels at Clearwater Beach, John Smith’s Bay and Grotto Bay did not exceed 5 CFU per 100ml. Centrally located testing sites — including Elbow Beach and Grape Bay — showed consistently low bacteria levels throughout the summer, with no results over 5 CFU per 100ml. The Department of Health has regularly tested seawater from across the island since 2014, using US Environmental Protection Agency methodology for recreational water quality for marine water, and posted results on their website. Problems with bacteria in the islands waters arose after a 2013 water quality study revealed levels of enterococci well above US guidelines — although only during rare and sustained weather patterns. The report led to an official warning about Bermuda’s beaches on the US State Department’s website. Enterococci can enter the sea from a variety of sources, including storm water run-off, animal and seabird waste, failing septic systems, sewage effluent, boating waste and from bathers.
2016. May 20. The seawater at Bermuda’s top tourist beaches has been given a clean bill of health as the summer vacation season gets into full swing. Environmental health officers have been regularly testing the quality of the bathing water at the nine most popular beaches for swimming since the start of April. And their latest results — obtained this week — put all the beaches in the clear when it comes to the quality of the bathing water, with low levels of pollution. Senior public health analyst Elaine Watkinson told The Royal Gazette it was “early days” in terms of collecting and analyzing water samples as the testing only began on April 4, but she added: “From the results we have got, it still looks good. We are early on in the season but we can look at the last two years’ data and expect that sort of low trend to continue. There is nothing we know of that has changed.” She said as the summer progressed, officials would gather enough data on levels of bacteria to produce a geometric mean — a measure of an overall average — for each beach. Graphs showing the quality of the water in the East End, West End and central area would then be shared with the public, as they have been for the previous two summers. “The most important area for us to concentrate on is the major beaches,” she said. “We sample over a period of time over all the main months when people swim and we are looking at the data over a period of time. We go by the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) guidelines. The individual readings don’t mean as much as the readings over a period of time. So what we do is collect an average value using 30 days of sample results. Every time we do another test and get another result, we get another average value.” The sampling sites are: Clearwater Beach South, Clearwater Beach North, Elbow Beach West, Elbow Beach Central, Elbow Beach East, Grape Bay, Horseshoe Bay East, Horseshoe Bay Central, Horseshoe Bay West, John Smith’s Bay, Shelly Bay, Snorkel Park, Tobacco Bay and Warwick Long Bay West. The water taken from those beaches is tested for enterococci, a group of bacteria used as an indicator of pollution or faecal contaminants, in accordance with EPA methodology for recreational water quality for salt water. The EPA’s maximum acceptable level of enterococcus per 100 millilitres of water for a single sample is 130 cfu. The latest test results show all 14 sampling sites well below that level, with half showing a level of less than 1 cfu. Even the beach with the highest level, Tobacco Bay, in St George’s, is still only at 15 cfu. Since the testing began, Snorkel Park at Dockyard has exceeded the 130 cfu level on one occasion and environmental health officers are working with the West End Development Corporation, which owns the beach, to determine what caused the spike. On April 4, the level of enterococcus at Snorkel Park was 71 cfu per 100ml. The EPA guidelines suggest retesting if the level is above 70 cfu so another sample was taken the following day and the results showed the level had dropped to 4 cfu. On April 11, the level of enterococcus at Snorkel Park was 151 cfu per 100ml — exceeding the EPA’s acceptable limit. The next day it was retested and the level had dropped to 61 cfu. The most recent sample taken this week showed a level of 1 cfu — in line with samples taken at Horseshoe, Elbow and Clearwater beaches. Wedco general manager Andrew Dias said yesterday that the beach at Snorkel Park was not open on April 11 as there was no cruise ship at Dockyard. “There is no obvious source [of the pollution],” he said. “Obviously, we jumped on it immediately — both Wedco and environmental health. It’s still an active investigation that we continue to monitor. We are not resting on our laurels. While we are pleased with the latest results, we are still obviously investigating. We are retesting a lot more frequently to try to pinpoint if it’s coming from the land in any shape or form. We are taking proactive measures.” He pointed out that no sewage was pumped out from land to sea at Dockyard and the sewage treatment plant beneath Casemates was tertiary level — “the highest world standard that you can have for the treating of sewage. None of the water goes into the sea. The water that comes out is basically potable water and is then reused for flushing and irrigation. That water is sampled daily and injected with chlorine.” Mrs Watkinson said: “The area is being inspected to try to identify possible sources. When we get spikes of enterococci it could be down to a number of different factors or sources. It could be storm water run-off or even cleaning activities in the area or from animal contamination or from some sort of pipe leakage. It’s difficult to say for sure.” Snorkel Park operator Tom Steinhoff said the “blip” on April 11 had clearly not come from swimmers in the water so the source was a “concern”. “The storm run-off [factor] is interesting because we did have a ton of rain. It could be an anomaly because of high rain levels.” He said the latest results were welcome, adding that Snorkel Park was looking forward to a busy weekend and May 24 holiday. The Government promised in April 2014 to tell the public if sewage pollution levels off Bermuda’s beaches hit danger levels, after the United States Consulate warned US residents and tourists that the island’s waters could be unsafe at times, depending on wind and weather conditions. The first test results to be made public in 2014 included Hungry Bay in Devonshire, after fears were raised that sewage was ending up there from the Seabright sewage outfall in certain weather conditions. Hungry Bay is not listed as a sampling site this year and nor was it last year. A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Hungry Bay is not a bathing beach. The Department is focusing the recreational water monitoring programme on popular bathing beaches in accordance with advice from Carpha (Caribbean Public Health Agency).” She added: “Sampling results show that water quality of all monitored bathing beaches in Bermuda satisfies US EPA recreational water quality criteria. Bathing water quality results generally can be described as ‘excellent’ for Bermuda’s South Shore beaches. The public will be notified if waters exceed acceptable values by posted notice on the affected beaches, media release and by advisory at www.gov.bm.” nterococci – colony forming units per 100ml of water. Source: Department of Health
It seems online maps of public beaches feature only some, not all, of them. The following tries to give short descriptions of them all.
Some are 4 star rated by this author, an international travel editor. All owned by the Bermuda taxpayer and operated/cleaned by the Bermuda Government from whom all particulars about any specific beach, such as whether there are bathrooms and restaurants or beach bars should be obtained. All members of the public using a public beach should be aware they do so entirely at their own risk. They are all approachable by land and are usually free (except for Snorkel Park at Dockyard) to the general public and open from dawn to sunset. They are not open to the public at night. Please respect this. It is to prevent misuse or spoilage of or unseen-by-night dangers from the beaches including by persons who are local but may be homeless, or others who will never get permission, or visitors with nowhere to stay while on vacation who will also never get permission. Those who attempt to do so are usually caught, detained overnight by police, then deported. Camping on beaches by visitors is not allowed. Nude or near-nude or female-topless bathing on public or private beaches is not allowed for any visitor or local and can also be downright dangerous, not only to help prevent undesirable attention but also because clothes help give some protection against sunburn, possible jellyfish stings and nearby submerged reefs or rocks. Public beaches are without the off-beach and water-sports facilities of private beaches. Only two public beaches have a privately-run bar. Most Bermuda beaches are family beaches. A few have basic restaurants franchised from the Bermuda Government but usually with no bars. An exception is at Tobacco Bay in St. George's. Some public beaches have a basic bathroom or toilet but others will not. None have changing rooms or showers unless specified. Don't be surprised to see, on the Good Friday public holiday, hundreds of multi-colored, hand-made Bermuda kites are up in the air above some of the public beaches.
Locations of Bermuda's main (but by no means all) public beaches
Some public beaches are best enjoyed when the tide is low (some are completely or partially submerged at high tide) visitors should consult the tide table for that day See Bermuda2017Tides.pdf. The Royal Gazette daily newspaper publishes one on the front page.
Beaches and dogs. Dogs are not permitted on any public beach each April 1 to October 31. Non-local dog owners who come to attend local dog shows and bring their dogs should be aware of this. Most beaches beyond Bermuda limit or forbid their use by dogs. Most visitors don't bring dogs to Bermuda with them. From November 1 to March 31 local and visiting dog owners are warned it’s illegal to unleash their dogs on the beach. When leashed, during those winter months owners can exercise their dogs on beaches, usually in the early morning and evening.
Not permitted on any public beach from April 1 to October 31 of each year, strictly enforced.
Beaches and bon fires (for example, for a barbeque). Beachgoers both residents and visitors (tourists) have been warned by the Bermuda Government not to light bonfires without adhering to a strict policy set by the Ministry of the Environment. There have been reports of illegal bonfires on certain beaches which have left behind dangerous debris that could hurt other beachgoers. Anyone holding a bonfire must apply for a permit from the Department of Parks in advance and agree to the bonfire policy before receiving a permit. A strict beach bonfire policy must be observed and the following beaches may be subject to further restrictions: John Smith’s Bay; Elbow Beach; Horseshoe Bay Beach; Whale Bay Beach and Tobacco Bay. Bermuda’s beaches fall under the protection of the Bermuda National Parks Act 1986 and The Bermuda National Parks Regulations 1988. The bonfire policy states, in part, that:
Beaches and horses. For clarification on the seasonal and/or year policy re public beaches consult the Ministry of the Environment of the Bermuda Government.
Bermuda reefs off a beach. Photo: Bermuda Tourism
Private beaches cannot be approached by land without trespassing. Owned privately by individual hotels or individual home owners. All hotel-owned private beaches have licensed beach bars, often with tourist restaurants. They have changing rooms and showers for their staying guests only. But all beaches and waters are public - not private - from the sea and up to (but not in excess of) their high water mark. This means they can be approached and accessed by boat providing neither the boat nor the passengers are above the high water mark. Many private beaches are as gorgeous as or better than the public ones and may have more facilities.
Several private beaches
The following listing shows the parishes in alphabetical, not geographical, order, although the map below shows them in geographical order from west to east.
This map shows where where Parishes - including their beaches both private and public - are located. Bermuda buses go past or near many - not all - beaches. Others can be accessed by moped. Parishes below are mentioned in alphabetical, not map, order. Please note how these different parts of Bermuda - Parishes - run from St. George's in the east to Sandys in the west.
Devonshire Parish area
Hamilton Parish area
Bay Island Beach
Mid Ocean. Photo: Bermuda Tourism
Paget Parish area
Coco Reef Beach and hotel
Elbow Beach, hotel part, Bermuda Tourism photo
Elbow Beach public part, photo Bermuda Tourism
Bay Grape tree at Grape Bay Beach. 2009 Photo by this author exclusively for and copyrighted by Bermuda Online
Grape Bay beach
Hungry Bay beach
Pembroke Parish area
Spanish Point Park. Stovell Bay. At the western end of Spanish Point. Public. Different. Again, off the tourists' beaten track. No facilities but nice views over to Dockyard.
One of the best parishes for number of public beaches.
Mangrove Bay, by Keith A. Forbes
John Smith's Bay
91 rooms. South Road, Smith's Parish. Closes November 2011 for update and major renovations for reopening spring 2012. Telephone 1 441 293 1666. Fax 1 441 293 8935. With its own two gorgeous small private pink sand beaches (see above graphic).
Church Bay beach. Photo: Bermuda Tourism
Photos above and below, Horseshoe Bay. Above : Bermuda Tourism
Munro Beach, part of Whitney Bay. Private, part of Munro Beach Cottages (closed since 2007) land. Exquisite small private and romantic beach.
The Reefs beach. Photo: Bermuda Tourism
St. Georges Parish
One of the best parishes for number of public beaches.
Achilles Bay beach. Photo: Bermuda Tourism
Building's Bay beach. See above article.
Clearwater Beach, photo by author
Mullet Bay. Off Mullet Bay Road, Mullet Bay. Man-made, public, a small beach not as good as some others less than three miles away, but adequate. Part of Mullet Bay Park.
Rosewood Tucker's Point Beach Club
Jim & Edna Rhilinger of Maine enjoying Tobacco Bay with it's distinctive Bermuda Moongate. Photo by the author.
Jobson's Cove: Photo: Bermuda Tourism
Photo: Bermuda Tourism
Warwick Long Bay. Photo: Bermuda Tourism
October 15, 2018
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