Whether you are visiting Bermuda for a few days or putting down roots forever, the National Trust (NT) is an institution that will hugely enrich your local experience. Like its British counterpart, the purpose of the Bermuda National Trust is to protect special places “for everyone, forever”. It provides and preserves a veritable treasure trove of historic, natural and architectural sites and monuments that are maintained for public enjoyment.
A Little National Trust History
The Bermuda National Trust is a non-profit charity which manages the portfolio of land and properties which have been bought, donated or bequeathed to the NT. Established in 1970, the purpose of the National Trust is to preserve Bermuda’s treasures and encourage public appreciation of them. The organization supersedes the Bermuda Historical Monuments Trust, which conserved Bermuda’s unique heritage from 1937 to 1970. The Trust works closely with other weighty associations including government departments, the Audubon Society and the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.
Currently the Bermuda National Trust cares for 82 properties and 277 acres of Bermuda’s prime attractions from museums, historic homes, gardens, cemeteries and islands to stretches of outstanding coastal beauty and significant nature reserves.
What sets the Bermuda National Trust apart from other commercial attractions on the island is the fact that it exists solely to protect and promote the island’s natural and cultural heritage. Relying heavily on a team of dedicated volunteers, the NT continues its work by acquiring and conserving land, monuments and artefacts. They also provide education and research to inspire appreciation and participation.
Enough of the dry stuff; what does the Bermuda National Trust actually have to offer YOU!
Top places to Visit with Bermuda National Trust
The historic Town of St George is a must-see with charming lanes just wide enough for a horse and carriage. It is the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the New World and has the distinction of being awarded World Heritage Status in 2000AD. It includes a cluster of properties managed by the National Trust including:
- Historic Tucker House, now a living museum attraction laid out as a typical 1700s home of the Tucker family. Informative guided tours are available through rooms filled with period furniture, antiques, quilts, crystal and silverware
- Globe Hotel, home of the Bermuda National Trust Museum and former office of the Confederate agent during the American Civil War. It offers permanent exhibits of Bermudian and US Civil War history
- Bridge House, the oldest inhabited building in Bermuda, situated right on Town Square. Now housing an art gallery, visitors can check out the early 17th century cedar timberwork while browsing for souvenirs
- Stewart Hall, a beautiful building with its massive double chimneys and gabled roof, now home to the famous Bermuda Perfumery on Queen Street
- Samaritan’s Lodge, once the home of the International order of Good Samaritans, this lovely cottage now houses historic slave emancipation exhibits
- Fanny Fox’s Cottage, a most-photographed Bermuda cottage with a fascinating family history, now managed by the NT as an idyllic holiday cottage rental
Beyond St George’s, NT properties include the gracious Vermont Historic House and Gardens in Smith’s Parish. Guided tours highlight some of the fascinating history and antiques within the mansion, which enjoys spectacular South Shore views from the Old English garden.
Waterville in Paget is another quintessential 18th century Bermuda residence in a panoramic location overlooking the blue waters of Hamilton Harbour. Admission is free as the building now includes the headquarters of the National Trust. Browse the furnished reception rooms and gardens brimming with blooms by the Bermuda Rose Society. It’s gorgeous!
Bermuda Military History
An important part of Bermuda’s colonial past is contained in several military cemeteries which are managed by the National Trust and are free to visit. Ireland Island is home to the Convict Cemetery and the Royal Naval Cemetery. I bet you didn’t know that like Australia, Bermuda received convicted felons who served their time working on the British fortifications rather than being executed for their crimes.
The island also has a series of military cemeteries with well-tended gravestones of personnel who died of yellow fever or were killed while on active service in Bermuda
National Trust Nature Reserves in Bermuda
On a cheerier note, outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate some of Bermuda’s most outstanding natural beauty spots that are managed by the National Trust. Take a trip to the Gladys Morrell Nature Reserve to see hardy endemic trees and perhaps catch a glimpse of vivid Eastern Bluebirds that nest there. Stroll the boardwalk though Paget Marsh or enjoy the woodland trails through Gilbert Nature Reserve in Somerset which connect to the Railway Trail.
Somerset Long Bay East Nature Reserve is the place for birdwatchers to spot migratory birds and waterfowl, including rarer Whistling Swans and Siberian Flycatchers. Further east, the 64-acre Spittal Pond and the larger Idwal Hughes Reserve offer unique geological features and caves.
For history lovers, sites of archaeological interest include the National Trust dig on Smith’s Island and the excavations around the Old State House. Recovered artefacts are on display in the Tucker House Museum.
So, who can visit Bermuda’s National Trust properties?
Most National Trust properties are open to the public. Some are tenanted business premises while others offer guided tours for a modest admission fee of around US$5. However, Bermuda National Trust membership allows visitors unlimited access to any and all the properties for one fixed annual amount, currently $50 for individuals and $60 for couples who are Bermuda residents. Members also get discounts, a monthly newsletter and invites to special members-only events. Annual membership makes a thoughtful philanthropic gift too!
The Bermuda National Trust continually organizes cultural events, theatrical productions, festivals, informative talks and walkabouts with knowledgeable guides so it’s worth keeping in touch via the website. Some events are free while others are ticketed events. It’s reassuring to know that every dollar of profit goes directly to support the ongoing work of the National Trust in Bermuda.
The great news for visitors to Bermuda is that those with a National Trust membership in their home country get the same reciprocal benefits in Bermuda. So, if you’re planning a holiday in Bermuda, or even dropping in as a cruise port of call, it’s worth bringing your NT membership card with you and visiting some of the island’s top attractions for free.