The Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda is the most visited place on the island. It is one of my favorite places to go whenever I am in Bermuda because there are lots of things to see and do. With a backdrop of beautiful crystal blue water, the Dockyard’s restored historical buildings house a variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions.
These are my favorite things to do in a day at the Royal Naval Dockyard.
History Of The Royal Naval Dockyard
The Royal Naval Dockyard was established by the British Royal Navy after they were defeated in the American War of Independence. It left them with no operational base between Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the West Indies. Bermuda was a strategic mid-Atlantic location for them so they purchased 200 acres of land.
They began work on their new station in 1809 which continued into the early 20th century. It was known as the North America and West Indies Station, and it was a huge project involving large land reclamations. Thousands of convicts from Britain housed aboard rotting naval fighting ships provided the labor force for the project.
In the 19th century, the Dockyard provided over 15% of Bermuda’s income as it employed over 1,000 Bermudians at any one time. It was a center for marine technology and inventiveness so generations of Bermudians received training in trades like plumbing and carpentry.
An Important Base In Times Of War
In the summer of 1814, during the Way of 1812, 5,000 British troops and Royal Marines set sail from Bermuda for the famous attack on Washington, D. C., and Baltimore. Famously the words to Star-Spangled Banner were penned by prisoner, Baltimore lawyer Francis Scott Key after he saw the American flag still flying above Fort McHenry after a heavy bombardment on one of these British ships.
For another 139 years, the Dockyard remained an important strategic base. During the First World War (1914-18) and Second World War (1939-1945), it was a busy port. Nearly 600 ships were repaired for combat deployment and sea patrols escorted people between the UK and Canada. Additionally, German soldiers passed through the Dockyard on their way to the POW camps in Canada. Antisubmarine training was also done at the Dockyard.
The Royal Naval Dockyard Today
The Royal Navy finally left the Dockyard in 1951, although the naval base wasn’t officially closed until 1995. It was then left largely abandoned until the National Museum of Bermuda was in the Keep, and the Dockyard was restored.
In 1982, after the West End Development Corporation (WEDCO) Act was passed, the once-unused area became one of the islands’ biggest tourist attractions. It was also home to the 35th America’s Cup, an international sailing competition, in 2017.
Today, the Dockyard is the most popular place in Bermuda and a must for every visitor to the island.
How To Get To The Royal Naval Dockyard
As the island of Bermuda is so small, it is very easy to get to the Dockyard. By public transit, you have the choice of the ferry or a bus.
From the City of Hamilton, the Dockyard is only 20 minutes away on the high-speed ferry. During the summer you can also get the ferry from St George’s in under an hour. So the ferry is the fastest option and a gorgeous way to see Bermuda.
If you would like to see more of Bermuda’s sights as you travel, there are two bus routes that will bring you from the City of Hamilton to Dockyard. The scenic #7 Route takes you along the beautiful South Shore, which boasts many of Bermuda’s finest beaches. The #8 Route is a slightly shorter journey, which offers glimpses of the harbor.
Please note that buses are not wheelchair accessible.
Bermuda Breeze bus tickets and passes are available at the Visitor Information Centres. Please call the Central Bus Terminal at +1 441 292 3851 for further information.
National Museum Of Bermuda
The National Museum of Bermuda is well worth a visit, and one of the best things to do at Royal Naval Dockyard.
The museum showcases 500 years of Bermuda’s fascinating history in multiple exhibits. There is a lot to see (and read) across the exhibits so allow at least 2 or 3 hours to truly experience and see it all.
Exhibits at the National Museum
There are a lot of exhibits across several buildings including:
- Hall of History
- Shipwreck Island: Sunken Clues to Bermuda’s Past
- The Slave Trade & Slavery in Bermuda
- Prisoners in Paradise
- Bermuda & The West Indies
- Destination Bermuda: A History of Tourism
Mon to Friday 9 am to 5 pm
Sat & Sun 9.30 am to 5 pm
Last admission at 4 pm
Adults $15, Under 16 Free, Seniors (over 65) $12
Enjoy The Talents Of Local Crafters
At Dockyard, in the Cooperage Building, the Bermuda Craft Market offers Bermuda-made and inspired products with local crafters on-site at the Market.
There are collections of gifts, prints, jewelry, food goods, cedar work, pottery, and more in the Craft Market.
Classes and workshops are also offered here sometimes.
Swim With Dolphins
Located on the National Museum of Bermuda grounds is Dolphin Quest. If you love dolphins, you can view, meet and experience dolphins here, as well as learn more about them.
There are a few dolphin interaction experiences to choose from starting from $135. But you can also just go and see the dolphins in their sheltered, natural ocean lagoon setting if you visit the National Museum.
Grab A Bite To Eat
There are a few good options for food at the Dockyard including:
Frog and Onion
Address: 4 Maritime Lane
A popular choice is the Frog and Onion which is a Brewpub with a lot of traditional British food on its large menu. It has four indoor dining areas and two outdoor patios so it’s one of the best options especially if you are at Dockyard on a busy day.
Bone Fish Bar & Grill
Address: Dockyard Terrace
The Bone Fish Bar & Grill is right next to the Cruise ship pier, and the food is great. There is a lot of seafood and international food on the menu and an outdoor deck with a view. Very family-friendly if you have small children.
Anchor Restaurant Bar and Grill
Address: Freeport Drive
The Anchor Restaurant Bar and Grill is a fast-paced restaurant that offers takeaway as well as sit-down dining. The menu is a mix of local and contemporary food.
Dockyard Pastry Shop
Address: Dockyard Terrace
Dockyard Pastry Shop has a wide selection of salads, sandwiches, wraps, and paninis if you are looking for a lighter bite, or something really casual.
They also sell really delicious European pastries here.
Shopping At Royal Naval Dockyard
There are a variety of shops at Dockyard ranging from large jewelry stores to clothes and local gifts.
Personally, I really like:
Sells Bermuda souvenirs, locally made goods, jewellery as well as women, men & kids apparel.
Crown & Anchor
An upscale lifestyle brand which is full of beach apparel, accessories, gifts, and souvenir items. It has a lot of items that have been designed in Bermuda for Bermuda as well.
Both of these shops are located on Dockyard Terrace.
Most of the shops are located in the Clocktower Mall and around the Dockyards itself such as on the Dockyard Terrace. So you can easily pass some time shopping at Royal Naval Dockyard.
Treat Yourself To Delicious Ice Cream
Finally, no visit to the Dockyards is complete without treating yourself to at least one scoop of Alex & Pete’s Bermuda Artisan Ice Cream
I am not exaggerating when I say it is some of the best ice creams that I have ever tested and the flavor combinations are amazing. The mint aero and sea salt caramel are two of my favorite flavors.
These are just a few of the things to do at the Royal Naval Dockyard. I hope this list inspires you to go visit the Dockyard if you go to Bermuda! Have you been? Let me know what you liked best there.
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Gemma Lawrence is the creator of This Brits Life. Born and raised in England, she has been living in British Columbia, Canada as a permanent resident since 2016. A solo traveler for the past 9 years, she hopes to inspire and help others to enjoy solo adventures too. As someone who has always struggled with her self-confidence and mental health, she also shares tips and inspirational stories relating to self-love, self-care, and mental health.