Cooper’s Island is located at the eastern end of Bermuda just on the edge of the airport runway. The island is now connected to St. David’s through Cooper’s Island Road. Technically, it is now a peninsula. With an American Airbase in the area, the island remained close and off limits to the public until 1995. When they left, the Bermuda Government went on to massive restoration effort to bring the island back as close to what it was even before settlement started to pop up.
Cooper’s Island is just 12 acres. As little as it may seem, going around it takes about 2 to 3 hours by foot depending on your pace. Driving inside the reserve is not allowed. Parking is available just outside the gate.
Things To Do In Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve
Cooper’s Island features various walking and hiking trails in the woodlands. Bermuda Cedars and a lot more are scattered all around the nature trail providing respite from the hot summer sun. As you walk along the trails, don’t be scared if you hear something in the woods. These are mostly wild chickens. There are many of them in the island.
FUN FACT: There is no snake in Bermuda. The only snake present in the island is in captivity displayed in Bermuda Aquarium.
You can start your hike on the entrance in front of Clearwater beach. A few steps away from the island’s bus stop. You will immediately see a sign with an arrow pointing towards the trails on your right. As you walk on further, you will see another sign pointing to two different paths. Choose between Salt Marsh Trail and Boardwalk and Woodland Trail.
Salt Marsh Trail and Boardwalk
The salt marsh is a small salt water pond. A huge sign board at the end of the trail says, “The wetland area contains salt water and is tidal being connected to the ocean by a number of underwater passages that extends under the island to Castle Harbour. The original salt marsh on this site was filled in by rubble and dredged fill during and after World War II when Cooper’s Island was connected to St. David’s Island to create a military airbase.
The wetland was restored in 2007 with a deeper permanent pond area surrounded by shallow areas on both sides of the boardwalk. These become exposed at low tide and you can see mudflats and salt marsh habitat, which are threatened in Bermuda and are important feeding areas in autumn for many species of migratory Shorebirds or Sandpipers. The endemic Bermuda Killifish was also introduced into this wetland in 2008 to establish a new population of this critically endangered species.”
Reaching the end of the boardwalk, you will continue your journey through the woods. There are various trails to follow. Getting lost forever is not an option. All trails are connected to another and will surely lead you to the nearest exit point.
Within the woodlands, you will see some underground storage facilities with lightning rods installed to protect it. I believe these are used by the American military to store their ammunition. Found your way out of the woodlands? Try to go on the western side of the island. This part offers a good view of Castle Harbour and the nearby Nonsuch Island.
Following through the path going further into the reserve, you will reach Well Bay. Walking along its coast will lead you to a higher ground through a concrete stairs by the cliff and it offers another stunning view. From here, most likely, you already noticed a lone tower at the far end of the peninsula.
2. Wildlife Watching
This tower is called the WILDLIFE WATCH TOWER or Wildlife Observation Tower. The tower provides astonishing 360° view of the island. It is perfect for bird watching such as the longtails, humpback whale watching during March-April of each year as they migrate and spotting many other wildlife living in the area.
As you enter the tower, you will be welcomed by posters describing the history of Cooper’s as well as the important flora and fauna found in the island. You will climb a spiral staircase to reach the observation deck. Having your binoculars as well as camera with monster lenses will surely help make your hike more memorable.
Dripping with sweat? You feel like the waters are calling you for a dip? Why not! Go back on the trail and choose your spot.
Inside the reserve, Cooper’s Island offers two great beaches. Well Bay Beach and my personal favorite Long Bay Beach (not to be confused with the Long Bay’s of Warwick and Sandys parishes.
Well Bay Beach
Located well, you got it, in Well Bay! It is on the west side of the island. This beach is great for swimming and snorkeling too. There’s no enough tree along the shore. It is mostly shrub and other vegetation. The shoreline is wide and perfect for sunbathing.
Long Bay Beach
Long Bay is on the other side. Just opposite of Well Bay. This beach features a very nice white sand shore line too. You can see the observation tower from here. The nature reserve is just at the end of the airport property, so Long Bay is a perfect place to do airplane spotting. Jetblue, American Airlines, Delta, United, Canadian Air and British Airways fly in and out of Bermuda frequently.
Long Bay’s beach is very nice and beautiful. The sapphire to emerald to turquoise water is enough to calm and cool off your tired body from hiking. The waves are gentle and so swimming is not tiring. Clear your mind and just float. Enjoy nature’s gift.
The beach is dominantly sandy. Rocks can only be found on both ends of the stretch. The right end of the beach has a shallow part protected by walls of rocks and is good for snorkeling as well. From the shore, watching cruise ships come and go are a delight.
There are no stores to buy food and drinks inside the reserve. There are a few tables and benches, but there is nothing along the beaches. Bring your own mats, chairs and umbrella or tents.
How to get there?
There is no direct public transportation going inside the reserve itself. From Hamilton City, you can take Bus Routes # 1, 3, 10 and 11. Double check with the driver that they are going all the way to St. George’s. Bus # 1 and 3 has an alternating short trips.
From St. George’s terminal, you can transfer to Bus #6. This route goes through all the way to St. David’s. Some alternating trips of this route goes to Clearwater Beach. Be sure to ask the driver. Clearwater bus stop is just a few steps on the entrance of the reserve going to the trail. Download the bus schedule here and be mindful of your time.
Taxis are also available in Hamilton and in St. George. If you don’t mind throwing a few bucks, then taxi is the most convenient way to go. Take your drivers contact details so you can arrange your way going out of Cooper’s Island when you are ready to leave this piece of paradise. Rented motor bikes and mini electric cars can also be a fun way to go to the reserve.
As you enter Cooper’s Island, you will pass by Clearwater beach. It is just right across the entrance of the trails of the reserve. It’s a good beach often visited by locals. Turtle Bay is also located just before the main entrance gate of Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve and just after Clearwater beach.
Gombey’s Bar & Restaurant is a beach bar in Clearwater Beach. Great restaurant to try some island drink and snacks. It is open from 11:30 AM to 8:00 PM and until 10:00 PM during Saturday and Sunday.
Nearest hotels are in St. George’s, Tuckers Town and Grotto Bay. Room prices vary, so please check it with your hotel of choice. AirBnB is also an option.
NASA also built one of their space tracking station here in the 1960s until it was closed down in 1997. However, in 2018, they opened another tracking station in the same location to support Wallop, Virginia and Cape Canaveral, Florida NASA facilities.
• Going inside the nature reserve is FREE!
If you are interested to know the management plan the Bermuda government is doing, check this out for more details.