Barbados: Holidays of Distinction
Overview: Places to visit in Barbados
There are the rock-scattered Atlantic east coast and the sparkling sweeps of sand that fringe the western Caribbean shores. Then there is the colonial heritage of Bridgetown with its bridges and historic buildings. And let’s not forget the majestic plantations, though past their glory days, and charming, fishing towns on the north coast. There are many exciting things to do in Barbados.
Imagine an island steeped in English colonialism, with a hint of piracy, and drenched in rum. Now, come back to the future, and you can detect the heavenly scent of frangipani, mixed with the delicious smells of a Friday fish fry. This is Barbados!
Sunshine and SCUBA
The island sits like a jewel in a necklace. We know it as the Caribbean Islands. Small wonder it attracts sun worshippers to its all-inclusive resorts. SCUBA divers explore coral reefs and ship wrecks around its south west coast. And surfers battle the Atlantic rollers of Bathsheba Bay.
Top this with the best feature of Barbados, the local people with their enduring smiles and Bajan charm, and you have the makings of a holiday to remember.
Here is a sample of attractions in Barbados. You can pre-book tours. So, check with your travel agent when you arrange your holiday. These are among the best of Barbados
1. SCUBA Diving in Barbados
Clear tropical waters, up to 100 feet visability, and year round diving, are a few of the factors that make Barbados a diver’s heaven.
Barbados has collected shipwrecks for hundreds of years! A hoard of 200 wrecks makes Barbados a destination for SCUBA divers who want something unique.
There is something for every level. The Pamir is a purpose-sunk wreck, in 50-metres (165-feet of water). It has openings for divers to look into and sits in a sheltered spot with wonderful fish and fauna. This is a good dive for beginners.
You want a real Barbados diving challenge? The Stavronikita is the wreck you want. The Stav, as locals know it is a legend in the Caribbean. This 365-foot-long Greek freighter suffered fire damage while en route from Ireland to the Caribbean in 1976. The encrusted sponges attract turtles, barracuda, and mackerel, at feeding time.
Carlisle Bay Barbados has four wrecks and all are within range for beginners. Many wrecks are scattered around the coast.
There is an opportunity to complete a PADI Wreck Diver course, fish identification, and digital underwater photography courses on the island.
2. Barbados Sunset and Snorkeling Catamaran Cruise
Is SCUBA diving too energetic for you? How about snorkelling in Barbados? You can still see the shipwrecks from a more comfortable vantage point and enjoy the sea turtles and other colourful tropical marine life. Add a sunset catamaran cruise and you have an excellent way to spend an afternoon and evening.
3. A Walk Around Bridgetown Barbados
English settlers established Bridgetown in 1628. And in June 2011, “Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison” became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So there is much to impress the traveller who spends a day soaking up the Bajan atmosphere.
Bridgetown has a distinct ethnic culture. It comprises Carib-Indians, Europeans, and people of African heritage. British English is the official, spoken and written language, but Bajan is the local dialect.
Broad Street bisects the town and provides the main shopping strip, the Chamberlain Bridge and the neo-Gothic Parliament Buildings.
There are many places of interest in Bridgetown, Barbados including:
- National Heroes Square (was Trafalgar Square) and Fountain Garden
- Independence Square and The Independence Arch
- The Montefiore Fountain
- Parliament Buildings of Barbados (neo-gothic design)
- Cathedral Church of Saint Michael and All Angels
- St. Mary’s Anglican Church
- St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral
- Jewish Synagogue
- Pelican Village and Craft Centre
- Queen’s Park
- The Lord Nelson Statue
- The Barbados Museum
- Kensington Oval (site of the 2007 Cricket World Cup final)
- Carlisle Bay Beach
- Cheapside market
- The Garrison Savannah and National Historic Area (includes George Washington House within its boundaries).
There are statues of other grand colonial figures set in the sun-drenched squares. Contrast the buoyant quays of Bridgetown harbour. Here you will find the little rum bars vibrating with the chatter of visitors and local fishermen.
4. Barbados Glass Bottom Boat Adventure
If you don’t enjoy getting in the water (other than to swim and chill), you can still enjoy the tropical marine wildlife up close from the comfort of a glass-bottomed boat.
Set off from Carlisle Bay, and watch the turquoise waters for shipwrecks, turtles, and rays and a host of colourful fish.
5. Harrison’s Cave
Crystallised limestone formed this magnificent subterranean cave. It must be among the most spectacular organic structures in the Caribbean. The access to the cavern is in the central hills near Walkes Spring.
Hike-in tours are available. The tram ride though, is the most popular. Either way you can descend the winding tunnels and wonder. There are stalagmites, stalactites, waterfalls, and lagoons. Marvel at the Great Hall, 50 metres high, and the Alter, formed over millennia from mineral deposits.
6. Hunte’s Gardens
This is not your average botanical garden. Hunte’s Gardens are a sensory experience. You can wander through the orchids and yellow-tipped craboo trees to the sound of classical music drifting through the trees.
Statues hide behind exotic plants. There is a huge sinkhole, surrounded by secret gardens waiting to be discovered. And, if you are lucky, the owner Anthony Hunte will invite you to a rum punch on the verandah of his house. He converted his house from the stables of the old Castle Grant plantation where these gardens now rest.
There are related places to visit in Barbados. Welchman Hall Gully is nearby with its two thousand exotic plants and green monkeys. And Orchid World & Tropical Flower Garden is at Garden Groves (a partner garden of the RHS). So make it a day-trip.
If gardens are your scene, also visit Andromeda Botanic Gardens Barbados at Bathsheba where more than 1000 orchids are on display.
Flower Forest Botanical Gardens atRichmond, St Joseph Barbados
7. See the giant Baobab Trees
Two magnificent Baobab Trees live on Barbados. The larger is at Queens Park in Bridgetown and is 60 feet in circumference. They reckon this tree to be over 1000 years old. The story goes that a seed made its way across the Atlantic from Guinea in West Africa to start this tree.
You can find the other Baobab Tree in a small park at Warrens in the parish of St Michael. This tree is over 250 years old, brought from Guinea in 1738.
The tree loses its leaves in the dry season but when it blossoms the flowers are 4-5 in across and have waxy crinkled petals 4 inches long. The flowers open only at night. Bats pollinate the trees by feeding on the nectar. In late summer the pendant fruits are velvet covered, gray and gourdlike, a foot long.
If you are in Bridgetown, be sure to visit this unique tree.
8. Bathsheba Barbados Atlantic rollers
The east coast of Barbados is renowned as a surfer’s paradise. Not for the faint-hearted, but for those who enjoy the challenge of the big Atlantic waves. Head for Bathsheba Barbados where you will find the infamous reef break, The Soup Bowl. This beach and surf are for experts only as there are strong rip tides here.
Passive partners of the superior surfers can enjoy the coastline at Bathsheba. It is an attraction on its own. This magnificent craggy coastline, with its strange rock formations that squat in the sands, has withstood the pounding of Atlantic rollers for thousands of years. There are sea-front restaurants where you can chat with the local Bajans, as you watch the surf break.
9. Witness the unique heritage of St. Nicholas Abbey Barbados
Head north through the green fields and palm groves east of Moore Hill. Here you will discover the graceful Jacobean frontage of St. Nicholas Abbey.
It sounds as if it was a monastery at some stage of its life. But, St Nicholas Abbey is, and always has been, a private residence since its creation 350 years ago.
The house is a museum open to visitors. It has many artifacts and items of interest. This is still a sugar cane plantation. They press the sugar cane is from January to May on site to produce the syrup for their famous rum. You can visit the distillery.
Entry tickets include a rum punch cocktail and access to the beautiful avenues of Cherry Tree Hill nearby. Here you will enjoy magnificent views of the east coast.
10. Walk the Barbados Boardwalk
They constructed the Barbados Boardwalk along two kilometres of coastline from Rockley Beach in Hastings (Camelot Beach) past the small rum shacks, bars, and small restaurants, to Accra Beach near Bridgetown.
It is a favourite with walkers and joggers because it is flat and well maintained. Or, sit on one of the many benches to enjoy the sea breeze and watch the world go by.
Beautiful sunset views at 5.30 pm in the summer and 6 pm in the winter. Allow 20 minutes for a stroll – longer if you stop for tapas or a gelato.
11. Eat at the Oistins Fish Fry
Oistins famous Friday Fish Fry is the place to be on, well, a Friday! And on a Saturday too. You can smell the fish frying on the BBQs from afar. Swordfish, tuna, marlin, flying fish, mahi-mahi and lobster will set the tastebuds tingling. And if you are not a fish person, there is chicken.
You can’t party in Barbados without the rhythms of modern calypso from live steel drums, and for the oldies, recordings of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. Dance in the street if the mood takes you, but if you can resist the beat, then take it easy, and enjoy the Bajan Folk music, or just soak in the atmosphere.
A “must do” for first-time visitors to experience a wonderful blend of residents and visitors having a party!
12. Experience the real Barbados in Speightstown
The main attractions and the golden beaches are inviting. But take time out to experience the essence of island life, with a visit to Speightstown.
Here, old weather-beaten architecture welcomes travellers to Speightstown. There are rows of rickety fishing shacks, and unassuming fisherman land their catch. Along the shore, noisy fish and fruit vendors vie for your business.
The exception is the redeveloped esplanade. It introduces the visitor to pristine beaches, while rum bars invite you to partake along its north shore.
Visit the exhibitions at the Arlington House Museum. Out of respect for their colonial heritage and Barbados history, the restored 18th-century building tells tales of pirates and British slave drivers.
13. Go supersonic at the Barbados Concorde Experience
Concorde operated from London and Paris between 1987 and 2003. It travelled to JFK New York and Washington Dulles. The only other destination was Barbados! It flew 7000 times to Grantley Adams Airport from 1987 to 2003.
The average flying time to Barbados was 3 hours 45 minutes. It travelled at the speed of sound across the Atlantic Ocean. Compare that to present day times of around 9 hours.
The rich and famous used the flights. Passengers on Concorde’s Barbados route included Sir Elton John, Prince Albert of Monaco, and Sir Mick Jagger.
Other well-known people who travelled the American route were Sir David Frost (who made over 300 flights), Joan Collins, Robert Redford, Sean Connery, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rod Stewart.
What an illustrious career? Would you have expected the legendary Concorde to retire to a small aircraft hangar on the perimeter of Grantley Adams International Airport?
But that means you get to sit in the seats that the rich and famous paid $10,000 to sit in. And you can learn much more of the world’s first supersonic commercial aircraft with a visit to the Barbados Concorde Museum.
14. Taste the rum at the Mount Gay Distillery
You can only complete any trip to this rum infused island with a visit to its most popular export, Mount Gay Rum!
The Mount Gay visitor centre sits on the Spring Garden Highway. It is in the historic, Bridgetown harbourside. Here you will find exhibitions that chronicle the 300-year history of rum production on the island.
Inexpensive tours uncover the secrets in refining the Mount Gay flavour, not to mention a few tipples along the way. But make sure you have a clear head before you buy in the souvenir shop for branded merchandise and gifts.
15. See the ghostly ruins of Farley Hill Barbados
Now a national park, the Farley Hill ruins, restored for the 1957 film, “Island in the Sun” starring Harry Belafonte, and later destroyed by fire in the 1960s.
The ravaged building, amidst swaying mahogany groves, now forms an eerie centerpiece in grounds. The ruined shell, now with a hint of its former glory, offers a rare insight to the island’s long colonial history.
Many walking trails wind their way through the estate. And a series of al fresco reggae concerts are held throughout the year.
The sensational views from here of the Barbados east coast are worth the visit on their own. Don’t forget your camera!
A few more things to do in Barbados
Only fifteen “things to do,” will not do Barbados justice. We haven’t mentioned kayak exploration, high tea at Sandy Lane (luxury resort), paddle boarding off Dover Beach, and for cricket lovers, the Cricket Legends Museum and Kensington Oval Barbados.
Let your imagination run riot and enjoy this spectacular island in the sun.
There are many exciting things to do in Barbados!