Elbow Beach, a grand dame of luxury lodging in Bermuda, with its iconic yellow main building high on a hill, and 98 cozy bungalow rooms and suites dotting the landscape below, reopened in May 2014 as an independently managed property under the Burns Group, represented by industry leader Edmund Burns.
For several years it was managed by Mandarin Oriental, and since 2008, the 70 rooms in the main building, located on upper floors above the ornate lobby, library and meeting spaces, were dormant.
For the renovation, the hotel broke the rooms in half, knocking down walls and creating 35 suites. In addition, the Sea Horse Grill reopened. Another plus: Elbow Beach is now open year-round, having been closed for winter under previous management.
The hotel has retained the classic luxurious look that has made it a staple of Bermuda lodging since it was built in 1908, the first lodging built along the island’s famed South Shore beaches. In 1924, the formal resort that exists today was built by Harold H. Frith, with arriving guests taken from Hamilton by private ferry or horse and buggy. During World War II, it was closed and used as a storage facility by the U.S. Navy.
Elbow Beach had a reputation as a party place in the old college break days, but no more. For many years now, the hotel has appealed to a more sedate crowd, people seeking to relax on the pink-sand beach, and who can afford the price.
There are several categories of room sizes in the bungalows, from very comfortable 450-square-foot premier ocean-front cottages, which we had, to the sprawling 2,500-square-foot Bird of Paradise cottage.
Rooms are nicely appointed and comfortable, with relatively speedy WiFi, HDTV, roomy bath with rain-head shower, and Nespresso coffee machine. Best bet: Get room service for breakfast and enjoy on the patio with the new morning sun.
The beach, about a half-mile long, is as good as it gets, with pink sand and ample lounging chairs and umbrellas, along with dedicated, uniformed attendants who always seem to be there when you’re thinking of getting something to eat or drink. Enjoy Dark ‘n Stormy cocktails or fabled Bermuda fish chowder whenever the mood strikes.
The food scene in Bermuda has vastly improved over the last 20 or so years, and it shines at Elbow Beach. At Café Lido you can enjoy a ridiculously large – and exquisite – double lobster-tail dinner, perfectly cooked, and seasoned. Lunches are best had at the Sea Breeze Terrace, where the Mediterranean salad is packed with squid, shrimp, scallops, octopus, and greens, along with killer ocean views.
Other dining options here, some closed in winter, include Blue Point Restaurant (poolside), Mickey’s Beach Bistro & Bar (right on the beach) and The Deep Lounge, a moody, sexy lounge that can be booked for private functions.
Great off-site dining options include Little Venice in downtown Hamilton, an Italian staple on the island, run by Umberto, Emilio, and Antonio, any one of whom regularly visits tables to check on things.
The spa is a must at Elbow Beach, as well, refurbished in 2012 with six private spa suites and done up in soothing colors and organic textures, with handcrafted granite soaking tubs, bamboo flooring, and river pebble-lined steam showers.
Another must is the pool, and a bar alongside.
The resort, already pretty spectacular as is, should be noticeably better under Burns’ regime. He would seem to know his stuff: With more than 30 years in the hospitality industry, he’s been part of developing, building and opening more than $2 billion worth of hotel real estate, and more than $1 billion in acquisitions.