Built in the early 1970s, the iconic "Big Pink Lady on the Hill" is easily the most recognizable hotel in Bermuda -- and, following a 21st-century renovation, it’s still one of the nicest. No other hotel comes close to touching this 593-room property’s laundry list of amenities, which includes eight restaurants, an 18-hole golf course, a nightclub, a spectacular spa, two pools, a private beach, tons of meeting spaces, a kids’ club, an amphitheater, and a retail wing -- all for an amazing rate (all things considered). On the downside, rooms could use some updates, and the 100-acre resort's sprawling layout means long walks just to get to the beach.
Set along 100 hilltop and beachside acres, this 593-room hotel -- affectionately known as “the Big Pink Lady on the Hill” -- is by far the biggest (and in many ways, the grandest) resort in Bermuda. And with so many activities and amenities on-site, the Fairmont Southampton gives guests few reasons to leave the hotel grounds.
For a hotel that’s neither in the middle of the city nor on the beach, the Fairmont Southampton does a stellar job of delivering access to both. The former is accessible via a free ferry that taxis guests between the hotel and its sister property, the Fairmont Princess Hamilton, located in the middle of downtown Hamilton and within walking distance of plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars. The latter is even closer via a short trolley ride (or a 15-minute walk) to the Fairmont’s beach, which includes lighted tennis courts and a pro shop, an upscale restaurant, a beachfront bar and cafe, a water sports center, and more lounge chairs than might be necessary. The strip of beach isn’t the most stunning you’ll find, and it’s almost as crowded as the public beaches, but it’s a pretty-enough cove for guests only.
Since 1972, the Fairmont Southampton has been the go-to resort on the island. Following a $64 million renovation that took place in 2004, though, you’d never know its age. Gleaming marble tile, colorful patterned carpeting, polished wood floors, grand staircases, and fresh-cut flowers maintain an elegant yet of-the-moment look in the restaurants and other communal areas. The rooms, though, could use a little of that modern TLC -- although comfortable, decor feels a bit tired, and the tube TVs are archaic for a resort of this caliber.
Despite its large size, service is friendly. Everyone here seems to enjoy his or her job, from the doorman grabbing your cab to the bartender mixing your cocktail. Of course, personable service does not necessarily mean personalized service -- when you call the front desk you’ll usually wait about a dozen rings, and there’s not much chance anyone will remember you by name. Also a drawback is the amount of money you are almost guaranteed to spend while at the resort -- the restaurants are expensive, Internet service is a whopping $14 a day, and a 17 percent service charge on virtually everything might be a hard pill to swallow.
A sprawling complex along the southern shore in Southampton Parish, you’ll walk far enough just to get from one side to the other
You may not care that you can't walk anywhere from the Fairmont Southampton because everything you could possibly want to get to (the beach, restaurants, a spa, even a ferry into Hamilton) is located on the property. That's not to say everything is at an arm's reach -- many of the resort's attractions require at least a five-minute walk, and trolleys run to some of the farther distances like the ferry dock and beach. In fact, it takes about 15 minutes just to get off of the resort's property by foot. As a result, most guests may not even realize that there is a wealth of activities just a short taxi ride away, including additional golf courses, nicer beaches, and tons of cultural attractions.
In an effort to permit as few vehicles as possible on the island, car rentals are strictly forbidden. Even locals are allowed only a single car per household -- something you'll appreciate when you see the lush, winding roads that unobtrusively snake through the island. Taxis are reliable and metered according to state law, so there is no need to negotiate fares; however, rates are exceptionally high.
Those looking to save on cab fares might consider renting a moped, the islanders’ preferred mode of transportation. While safety may be an issue for some, a local speed limit of just 35 km (about 21 mph) will likely assuage most fears. Consider the less expensive ferries and local pink-and-blue buses to cover longer distances between “the hook” (Bermuda’s westernmost island), the main city of Hamilton, and the beaches along the southern side of Warwick and Southampton.
35-minute drive to the Bermuda International Airport
15-minute walk (or 5-minute trolley) to the resort’s beach
15-minute walk (or 5-minute trolley) to the resort’s ferry to Hamilton
5-minute drive to Gibbs’ Hill Lighthouse
7-minute drive to Horseshoe Bay
7-minute drive to Belmont Hills Golf Club
7-minute drive to Riddell’s Bay Golf Club
10-minute drive to Port Royal Golf Course
12-minute drive to Elbow Beach
13-minute drive to the Botanical Gardens
16-minute drive to downtown Hamilton
20-minute drive to the Royal Naval Dockyards, featuring the National Museum of Bermuda and Dolphin Quest
Spacious with updated bathrooms, but some details are dated
While the units are roomy, Elbow Beach and Rosewood Tucker’s Point both have larger standard rooms, starting at 500 square feet and 520 square feet, respectively. Still, rooms are comfortable and have modern technologies.
The best assortment of amenities on the island, and exceptional rates to boot
The 31,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa is a definite highlight, complete with 15 treatment rooms, a large fitness center, a hair and nail salon, saunas and steam rooms, a sundeck with Jacuzzis, and a beautiful indoor pool reminiscent of a Roman bathhouse with crashing waterfalls and vaulted ceilings. You easily could -- and should -- spend at least an entire day there. The reception area helps set the mood with the scent of lemongrass and guava, and you'll find a gift bag brimming with samples from the spa’s product boutique -- from an algae gel masque to aromatherapy hair products -- when you get to your locker.
Golf fanatics are best advised to stay either here or at the Rosewood Tucker’s Point. On-site at the Fairmont Southampton, guests will find a highly acclaimed 18-hole, par-three golf course. Additional highlights include a full-service pro shop with equipment rental and storage, membership benefits at the nearby Riddell Bay Golf and Country Club, and even golf-inspired spa treatments at the Willow Stream Spa.
Several dining options offer a variety of cuisine, including one of the island’s best upscale restaurants
Of the Fairmont Southampton’s eight dining choices, the harbor-front Waterlot Inn should be a requirement. Dating back to 1670, the upscale steakhouse has been described by guests as “life-changing.” Hyperbole or not, the cuisine is in fact divine. The Cowboy and Cowgirl steaks are so succulent, they’ve lured vegetarians to the dark side, and extra toppers like truffles and shrimp make any meal even more decadent.
The beachside Ocean Club features fresh seafood in a cliff-top setting.