Built by Royal decree to defend British superiority on the seas, the Royal Naval Dockyard is today a resplendent place of discovery. Within the walls of this nineteenth century fortress where troops once marched, there are now lawns, flower lined lanes, fine dining and a quaint Clocktower shopping mall.
Where once all was war readiness, now exists an invitation to adventure. Swim with dolphins, snorkel at the Snorkel Park, explore the historic National Museum of Bermuda or experience Dockyard through our daily events. By daylight or moonlight, there is so much to discover. For daily event information, please visit our website www.dockyardbermuda.com.
We invite you to be a part of the adventure, local culture and luxury that the Royal Naval Dockyard is known for.
When the British were defeated in the American War of Independence, the Royal Navy were left urgently seeking a new base and it was to a 21-mile long spec in the Atlantic Ocean that they turned.
Without a secure operational base between Halifax, Nova Scotia and the West Indies, there was a pressing need to identify a strategic mid-Atlantic location where a secure anchorage for the Navy’s fleet and a dockyard, victualling yard and ordnance depot to maintain the ships could be developed.
So, in 1809, two hundred years after the British first set foot in Bermuda, the Navy bought 200 acres of land at Ireland Island and started work on what was to become the North America and West Indies Station. It was a huge project that involved large land reclamations and the labour of thousands of convicts from Britain who were housed in appalling conditions aboard rotting hulks of former naval fighting ships.
Later renamed the Royal Naval Dockyard, it remained an important strategic base for a further 139 years. During the First and Second World Wars, it was a bustling, vibrant port with floating docks where ships were repaired for combat deployment. Nearly 600 vessels were repaired and put back into action. In addition, sea patrols from here escorted people from and to the UK and Canada, and German soldiers passed through Dockyard on their way to POW camps in Canada.
The Royal Navy left the main Dockyard in 1951, although the naval base was not officially closed until 1995. For the next two decades the area was largely abandoned until the National Museum of Bermuda was officially opened in the fortress known as the Keep and its success led government to begin to restore the Dockyard as a cultural tourism destination.
In 1982, Bermuda passed the West End Development Corporation (WEDCO) Act and more than $60 million has now been invested into Dockyard which has been carefully and thoughtfully restored with attractions added that complement its British history and the Bermudian culture.
Buildings, with walls two or three feet thick, have been carefully restored and have some peculiarly British names like the Chicane building; the Sail Loft and the Victualling Yard. Instead of naval stores or staff, they now host a huge variety of things to do – a Transport Museum, a British-themed pub, a glassworks studio and a shopping mall to name a few. The variety is enormous and history, culture and entertainment all intermingle seamlessly to provide a unique experience.
Dockyard is Bermuda’s most visited attraction and it will continue to evolve. It will, however, always have one eye on its past which will be carefully respected.