Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay on Bermuda's South Shore is one of the island's most popular beaches for visitors. It offers coves perfect for snorkeling. (Michelle Deal-Zimmerman, Baltimore Sun / April 14, 2011)

It's an island that measures only 21 square miles, about the size of Manhattan.

But instead of skyscrapers packed in like sardines, imagine miles and miles of sparkling cerulean water and pink-glittered sand.

Replace the honking yellow cabs with pastel pink buses nimbly navigating hairpin curves. Trade boroughs for parishes and skip Queens in favor of King's Wharf.

Finally, jettison North America and set up shop in the Atlantic Ocean.

Welcome to Bermuda.

Whether you come by plane — new nonstop flights from Baltimore can get you here almost as fast as you can get to New York — or by boat — Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines offer seasonal sailings to Bermuda — is up to you. The longer you can stay, the more you'll see.

But if you have only a weekend — or if you have just two days in port, like I did when I took the Carnival Pride on a seven-day cruise to the island this year — it's going to take some planning to hit the highlights.

I've come up with an itinerary for spending just a couple of days in Bermuda. It's perhaps tailored more aptly for the cruise traveler, but those on a weekend getaway might also find it helpful.

I hewed fairly closely to this schedule on my visit in April, but full disclosure: It's a sightseeing trek and not a relaxing stroll.

Also, pick up a map and bus/ferry schedule before you start out. If you prefer a slower pace, then pick one destination to explore fully and linger at the beaches. If you have more than a couple of days in Bermuda, break it up; spending a day in St. George, a day in Hamilton and another day at the beaches would be ideal.

Day 1: St. George and Hamilton

Visitors could easily spend an entire day in St. George — keep that in mind as an option if you feel rushed. Also, Bermuda is on Atlantic Time, about an hour ahead of the U.S., so set your watch accordingly. Here's our itinerary:

•Take the morning ferry, the SeaXpress, from the Royal Naval Dockyard to the historic town of St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (The town is St. George, the parish is St. George's.) It's about a 45-minute trip on the high-speed vessel as you take in lovely views of Bermuda's coastline. Sit on top and enjoy the salt spray — but hold onto your hat. Purchase a bus/ferry combination ticket: $12 for a one-day pass or $20 for a two-day pass.

•Exit the ferry into King's Square, the heart of St. George. Take a quick tour of Ordnance Island to view a replica of the Deliverance, a British ship that played a role in the founding of the town in the early 1600s. Take a short walk through the square to St. Peter's Church, first built in 1612. (It's been rebuilt a few times since then, most notably after a hurricane in 1712.) The day we were there, the priest was consulting with a wedding party. It's still an old tradition to be married here. After visiting the interior take a stroll through the church's small, historic graveyard.

•Across the street is the Bermuda National Trust Museum, originally the Globe Hotel. Nearby is Temptations, a place to stop for a sweet treat. For sweet smells, pop around the corner to the popular Bermuda Perfumery, which offers custom scents.

•Set out on foot along Duke of York Street for Tobacco Bay beach, a 30-minute walk from the town's center. Along the way, stop at Somers Garden, a tropical oasis, to admire the traditional Bermuda moongate. Walking through one of the circular stone structures is said to bring good luck.

•Exit the garden through the alley and onto Duke of Kent Street. Take a right and walk around the curve, passing the "Unfinished Cathedral" as you continue toward Tobacco Bay.

As you're walking, take in the lovely pastel colors of the island cottages. Be careful, since streets in Bermuda are narrow with very little clearance and few sidewalks. It's not a long walk to the beach —a mile at most — but much of it is uphill.

What awaits at Tobacco Bay is well worth the hike. The beach is a gorgeous swimming cove with coral rock formations and shallow aqua waters, perfect for snorkeling. A snack bar offers drinks and more. If you continue walking past the beach, you will come across Fort St. Catherine with its tunnels and ramparts dating to the 1800s. The fort houses a museum with displays of weapons and replicas of the British Crown Jewels.