"I love you! God loves you!" repeats Johnny Barnes, a 92-year-old Bermudian who waves at passing scooters and cars each weekday morning at a roundabout in Bermuda's capital of Hamilton.
"We may seem very proper," says taxi driver Larry Rogers, "but we are also an eccentric island." Indeed, scratch the immaculately gardened surface of this British overseas territory, and you'll find a place brimming with personality. Every year, participants in the Non-Mariners' Race vie to construct the shoddiest vessels to see who sinks fastest; descendants of Native Americans proudly hold powwows; and policemen and businessmen insist on wearing knee-high socks with their shorts, no matter what the rest of the world may think.
You can beat the crowd headed to Bermuda for 2017's America's Cup by going now, and don't forget to say hello to Johnny. —Chaney Kwak
When to Go: March and April for whale-watching; May through September for beaches and festivals; November through April for lower rates and fewer tourists (April through November is peak cruise ship season)
How to Get Around: Ride the pink and blue Bermuda Breeze buses and the public SeaExpress ferries. Tourists can't rent cars, but motorized scooters and hybrid electric bikes or mountain bikes are available.
Where to Stay: Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa is Bermuda's first and most famous cottage colony. Founded in 1923, the resort has four private pink-sand beaches and 87 luxurious rooms and suites in its classic pink cottages (including a restored 17th-century sea captain's home). Guests ages 13 and up are welcome.
What to Eat or Drink: Spiny lobster season (September through March) is Bermuda's culinary equivalent to Christmas morning. In season, try the clawless (the meat is in the tail) spiny lobster either stuffed or served in creamy tomato sauce at Wahoo's Bistro and Patio in St. George's. The rest of the year, order the signature wahoo (mild white fish) grilled, beer-battered, on salads, or in tacos and chowder.
What to Buy: Island-made products and crafts—pepper jams, hand-turned cedar bowls and candlesticks—and Bermuda rum cakes are sold in the shops at Clocktower Mall, located in the Royal Naval Dockyard.
What to Watch Before You Go: Based on the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley, the 1977 underwater thriller The Deep (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2003) is set in Bermuda and includes several scenes shot on the island.
Cultural Tip: The unwritten island dress code is a more formal take on casual (e.g. no swim attire beyond the pool or beach and collared shirts instead of T-shirts). When in doubt, wear a pair of TABS (The Authentic Bermuda Shorts).
Fun Fact: Submerged off the coast of Bermuda are over 300 shipwrecks, including a Confederate blockade-runner. The side-paddle-wheel steamer was built in England and smuggled guns and other supplies into Wilmington, North Carolina. In 1864, she hit a reef and sank near the island's south shore. Today, divers who visit the site can see the steamer's two paddle wheels: one standing upright and the other lying on the ocean floor.