Plenty of elbow room at Elbow Beach resort in Bermuda

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

BERMUDA — Elbow Beach is known as the grand dame of Bermuda resorts, built at the turn of the century where guests once arrived via private ferry or horse and buggy from the capital of Hamilton. The hotel used to host the island's grand balls, one of which - the Bermuda Resident's 10-year anniversary - was attended by Princess Margaret.

Elbow Beach Resort
You can eat virtually on the sand at Elbow Beach.
Elbow Beach ResortElbow Beach Resort - Cottages
If you go

That isn't to say the resort at Bermuda's South Shore is stuck in the past. They've continued to keep the resort up to date, and that includes their spa, which has six self-contained suites with granite soaking tubs, bamboo flooring and river pebble-lined steam showers.

"That's one of our big selling points," Communications Director Erica Martin said. "It used to be men would play golf and women would go to the spa. Now, women play golf and they all go to the spa."

The resort has, as you would expect, some interesting history.

It started as a simple guest cottage in 1908, the original owner being a Brit by the name of R.B. Johnson. Johnson sold the property to Harold Firth, who re-named it "Elbow Beach" and expanded it over the next 20 years. It became known as a haven for college spring-breakers in the 1950s through the '80s.

During World War II the hotel was closed and used by the Wartime Supplies Commission as a storage warehouse and some sections were later used by the U.S. Navy. Now, it's owned and operated by the Mandarin Oriental Hotel group, which owns and operates 21 luxury hotels around the world, including Prague, China, Mexico and Spain.

The hotel has just finished phase three, adding 28 more cottages and renovation of the main building is scheduled for later this year. Its standalone cottages are something the resort is proud of.

"It's something that sets us apart from other properties on the island," Martin said.

There are three types of lodging available: the four-story main building, cottages and the butler-serviced royal suites. The resort has 235 rooms, most of which have ocean views, including the penthouse suite in the main building, a two-level, 4,000-square-foot suite, with butler service "For those who seek a tailored experience with no need to think."

All rooms in the main building have high-speed Internet access and the cottages have lanais openings on to grassy lawns with easy access to the beach. The cottages have the classic Bermuda feel with pastel interiors, tile and wood floors and open-beamed ceilings.

For honeymooners, the resort offers the new "Bird of Paradise" cottage, which sits directly above the beach and has its own private beach access. The newlyweds can go directly from their bedroom onto that pink sand the resort is known for.

It has a big living room with high-raftered ceilings, and French doors that open onto a private sundeck. The master bath has a soaking tub "big enough for two" with ocean views and expansive picture windows. It also has his and her sinks so you don't get sick of each other on your honeymoon.

Make no mistake, though, the pink-sand beach is the main star here. It's a half-mile long, privately reserved for the use of guests, and has a nearby reef with a shipwreck, the Pollock Shields, which lies 60 feet deep, for the more adventurous.

Lest you become uncomfortable at the beach, attendants are on hand with chilled water, chilled towels and chilled lotions. Food and beverage service is available, as is the use of cabanas.

If you get tired of lolling in the sun, there is beach volleyball, badminton and pool and beach aerobics. On-site rentals include kayaks, aqua cycles and snorkel and dive gear. The resort is also known for its tennis facilities and Tennis Director David Lambert is former coach of the Bermuda Davis Cup team.

As for eating and drinking, Elbow Beach has a lot of options with no less than seven places. The Seahorse Grill has fine dining, including prime, dry-aged Angus steak dishes.

The Veranda Bar, just off the lobby, is Bermuda's first rum bar, Blue Point is a poolside grill, Lido, located just above the beach, has a Mediterranean influenced menu, Mickey's Beach Bistro and Bar is on the beach and serves more casual food, the Sea Breeze Terrace offers cocktails and Deep is the nightclub. Blue Point also offers an Oriental buffet.

Head chef Terence Clark is from South Africa via London and executive chef Anthony Clark is from Australia. They serve "new Bermudian cuisine," which "incorporates Bermuda's many culinary influences and cooking styles with local products."

Elbow Beach caters to business travelers, and takes its business seriously: the hotel can provide computers, and all of the rooms in the main building have two phones and a data connection and high-speed Internet access. The business center offers translations into 40 languages as well as packing and mailing, a boardroom with video conferencing and office with support staff features and four different function rooms, all with views of the South Shore. In all, there is more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

"Elbow Beach is especially well-suited to those groups booking 200 people, or 100 rooms or less," said Cindy Nagle, the director of sales and marketing. "This segment, whether coming to Bermuda, or to any other large destination, tends to get lose because predominately these hotels are 400 to 600 rooms. If you're booked in at 50 rooms and there's a 200-room group booked in with you, you take a chance of being given a lower priority for function space. This isn't the case at Elbow Beach."

Cell phones and service are also available.

There is no on-site golf course, but Elbow Beach has partnerships with local golf clubs for tee times and transportation.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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