Exploring the Heart of Barbados

Comments Off on Exploring the Heart of Barbados

Rewind the clock eight years ago and I was roaming around the New York Times Travel Show like I do year after year. And each and every year, I’d stop by the Barbados booth because their images of beaches and mountains always drew me in. I chatted with the same marketing contacts each January and I’d always say to them, “One day I’ll make it to your magical island.” A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to finally do so. I’ll start this article by saying: “Barbados exceeded my expectations, which places rarely do anymore.”

Those who have traveled for years know what I’m talking about – the more you see, the tougher it is to impress you. I only have two regrets: that I didn’t get under the sea for snorkeling and that I didn’t have more time to spend in the northern part of the island, which is still raw and authentic and also where a lot of locals live. Alas, we spent most of our time in the south. That said, Barbados is small enough that you can easily get around to anywhere you want to go in an hour or so. It’s a mere 21 miles long by 14 miles at its widest point.

Silver Rock 

Silver Rock Beach is on the south coast in the parish of Christ Church. Also referred to as Silver Sands, the beach with its high sandbanks has wrecked ships (or perhaps you could say ships no longer in use), all artistically and vibrantly painted. This lovely spot is nestled between South Point and Inch Marlow Point. Nearby, you’ll find the Silver Point Hotel.

It is also the home of Brian Talma and his deAction Surf Shop, who represented Barbados many years ago at the Seoul Korea Olympics and was also in the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona Spain. He’s had a string of top 10 finishes and since then has been running deAction Beach House and Studio, which as you can see, has a great vibe.

I absolutely loved our stop here. In addition to the cool ships, it’s a great spot for swimming, windsurfing or simply hanging out and watching the birds.

St. Nicholas Abbey

One of the more known tourist attractions in Barbados is St. Nicholas Abbey, which is in the north. They have a Heritage Railway here where you can take a steam locomotive trip through 400 acres of sugar cane fields and beautiful mahogany woods. The natural beauty of the property and its history is what is most engaging about this northern Barbados attraction. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the incredibly authentic owners and their homemade rum.

Colorful houses of yesteryear dot the property.

We made our way through the property for a walk around and then received a private tour from one of the owners.

Below, Anthony stands in front of what they refer to as the Great House.

Anthony in front of the Main House

More architectural wonder as you walk around the estate.

It’s also incredibly lush in all directions. Mind you, it was rainy season when we were there so the vegetation was vivid and colorful.

Leading out to the Terrace Cafe

It almost feels as if you’re in a tropical jungle at times.

Below is the Steam Mill, which replaced the original one that was built in 1890 by Fletchers of Derb in England. It was said that it increased the plantation’s production by 10-15% over the traditional windmill. It was later restored and is now in use (seasonally of course). There’s also a Syrup Plant on the grounds, which converts raw cane juice into almost a molasses type of substance. Hear this: it’s roughly 70% sugar.

As you walk through the plantation, you’re carried back in time and its leisurely pace makes you relax instantly. We just loved the experience and everyone we met along the way.

Below is Simon Warren, the son of the owners who offered to show us around after our “official tour.” A lovely man with a sense of humor, we learned that he is also a poet. He even shared some of his work with us while we were there.

Now let’s talk about their Rum. Copper vessels are used to preserve the flavors of the fermentation process. Then it’s aged in bourbon barrels and the resulting taste is nothing short of divine. Trust me, we tasted several of their offerings thanks to Simon. You’ll meet his mother in the video at the end of this article.

After the Distillery, we moved to the shop where we learned more about the different types of rum they offer. Yum! They were beautifully packaged for the holidays when we were there.

Simon offers us pours while educating us about the process and his passion for rum

There’s also a museum, a courtyard (see pictures above), a historic film and a Terrace Cafe (also pictured above).  Inside the Great House, there are many interesting artifacts, furnishings and art to absorb, including its eclectic chandelier which I was mesmerized by, so much so that I must have snapped 20 or more photographs of the thing. Just look at it. This 1860 chandelier is made of seashells. Yes, really.

On the official tour, we learned that the furnishings are from the 18th and 19th centuries and the English dishes in the hutches are from 1810. The artwork scattered across the walls of the rooms and hallways was a marvel to look at as we made our way from room-to-room.

The taxidermic birds in the house are over 150 years old, some of which are now extinct.

The English Sheraton sideboard in the dining room is from 1780 and is one of the few original pieces from the home’s first owners. Like most of the wood in the house, the 1850 dining room table and chairs are made of Barbadian Mahogany.

The Chip and Dale staircase was built in 1746 and there are seven bedrooms, some of which have fireplaces. The James Thwaites of London grandfather clock (1759) remains today and apparently still keeps time. Also to be discovered is an English Oak Settle (1696) and an 1825 Barrallier Map of Barbados. The study has a 1936 Gentleman’s Chair and a mahogany Judge’s Chair with a Coat of Arms from William IV (apparently made in England in the 1830’s).

The plantation itself is laced with beauty and history. In the Cherry Tree Hill area, you can find Arawak Indian artifacts of ceramic, glass, and pottery pre-dating European colonization. They also have a beautiful flower and herb garden with hibiscus, orchids, and roses, as well as citrus, mango, avocado, and breadfruit trees. In the garden, you’ll also find lemongrass, garlic, chives, aloe vera, bay leaf, and peppers. On-site are also lush gullies, cabbage palms, ancient silk cotton, and an abundance of flora and fauna. If you’re lucky, Harley and Baby, their Moluccan Cockatoos will say Hello to you. Listen to the video at the end of this article and you’ll hear them as I whiz by them in the soft rain.

For information, be sure to visit their website. While you’re up north, take a side tour of the Gallery of Caribbean Art and the Animal Flower Cave (discovered in 1753), which is a natural wonder.

The Center of Barbados

Here you’ll find hills and valleys throughout and it was especially lush when we were there during the rainy season. The parishes of St. George and St. Thomas are inland, so not connected to the sea in any way.

Although we didn’t have time to stop in the central part of the island, we did drive through. Recommended spots to take in here include Earthworks Pottery, Coco Hill Forest and Flower Forest. Nature is the order of the day here. A true botanical paradise, Flower Forest sits on 53 acres.

They also have a great gift shop that carries only locally made items, crafted by Bajan hands. They sell some of the beautiful pieces from the Earthworks Pottery (mentioned above), hand-carved mahogany, food, straw works, and more. You can also taste one of their locally made frozen ice lollies (Tamarind, Gooseberry, Bajan Cherry, Coffee, Carrot, Coconut). If you’re a foodie, then you’ll want to go home with some Bajan chutney, a pepper sauce in varying strengths, or taste locally made sweets such as guava cheese or tamarind balls.

The view from Flower Forest. Photo Courtesy: Flower Forest (https://www.flowerforestbarbados.com/)

For nature lovers, here are two great picks. At Hunte’s Gardens, you can connect to nature with legendary horticulturist Anthony Hunts. The biodynamics project at PEG Farm &  Nature Reserve is also worth visiting as well.

Photo Courtesy: Huntes Gardens (www.huntesgardens-barbados)

The Beaches

Truthfully, I could spend a lot of time on the beaches of Barbados because frankly, they’re all so beautiful. We went to five different beaches during our stay but spent more time on Rockley Beach than any other since it was so close to our hotel. This is Rockley Beach – stunning right?

Rockley Beach

Above shots, all taken on Rockley Beach

Crane Beach

We mentioned Silver Rock Beach, also along the south coast, which is a great choice for swimming or beach walking. Think serenity and loveliness. We went into more detail about The Crane and its beach in our article about Great Stays in Barbados, but let’s just say that Crane Beach has been listed as one of the nicest beaches in the world.

Dover Beach is another breathtaking spot. Located at the O2 Beach Club & Spa, it’s also a short hop and jump to the St. Lawrence Gap area which is brimming with bars, cafes, nightclubs and restaurants.

Above and below: Dover Beach

Other beach call-outs include Thunder Bay (located in the central west coast) which is great for snorkeling, Batts Rock Bay (located on the southern end of the west coast), which is a good spot for swimming and snorkeling, Crane Beach (we mentioned it above; it truly one of the most beautiful beaches around), Carlisle Bay (find lobster, drinks, great food and turtle tours), Accra Beach (at the end of the Richard Haynes Boardwalk), which is great for body surfing, and lastly, Sandy Beach, a quiet beach located in a breezy lagoon.


Okay, so the first half a dozen times I heard a local talk about Speightstown–also known as Little Bristol–I thought they were saying Spicetown. The second largest city center of Barbados, it is only 12 miles north of the capital Bridgetown, which is where our Royal Clipper cruise left from. Bottom line, Speightstown is about as authentic as it gets and there are some great pubs here to hang in as well.

Speightstown. Photo courtesy: Barbados Tourism

Photo credit: Barbados Tourism Board

The town was named after a 17th-century merchant who once owned the land. The antiquity is felt in this pure town, where its over 350-year history seeps through as you walk the streets. Speightstown is now over 350 years old and is Barbados’ 2nd largest town. 

There’s also an 85-foot majestic lighthouse (built in 1925) and although it’s no longer operable, its beauty draws people to it. Harrison’s Point Lighthouse is slated to be one of four remaining lighthouses that actually still exist in Barbados. When it was still in operation, it was used to warn ships to stay away from the northern coastline which is known for its jagged cliffs and limestone fringes which could really damage a vessel.

On your way back down to the southern part of the island, you can pop over to the coast and take in historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, which is an iconic landmark that has been added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While we didn’t have a chance to take in the town in depth (only for a couple of hours), there are several things you can do there, such as a Lickrish Food Tour or the Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum. We really wanted to experience both but ran out of time. The Synagogue and Museum, which was founded in 1654, is apparently the oldest synagogue in the western-hemisphere. How cool is that? I guess there are graves that date back to 1658 on-site.

The drive up north and circling around the island is absolutely lovely. You’ll come across some residential homes along the way, sugarcane plantations and a handful of churches as well. Below are a handful of shots I took on that jeep tour, one of the last things we did before we left Barbados.

On the way back from St. Nicholas Abbey, we stopped by a local rum shop along the side of the road.  We were told by our driver that there are more than 1500 Barbados rum shops on the island and that their history can go back as far as 300 years. Originally they were simply small bars or even a room attached to an owner’s house. At this local mom-and-pop shop, we stopped for some local rum drinks (and lunch of course).

The food was simple – a plate of fish, rice and a veggie. The rum drinks were served in tall classes and mixed with your choice of a juice or soda.

Right before we got there, I spotted an interesting mural alongside the road and couldn’t wait to stop to get a closer look.


There’s no shortage of places to grab cocktails on the island of Barbados. Since we spent more time in the southern part of the island, that’s where we drank most of our Pina Coladas. Margaritas and Tropical Drinks.

Above and below, cocktails at a local outside bar on Rockley Beach, not far from Tapas Barbados Restaurant where we dined for both lunch and dinner

Below, while we waited for our table at Champers, a waiter served cocktails to us and others we were chatting to before dinner. Shall I entice you? How about a Honey Badger (plantation XO Rum with homey, cinnamon syrup and lemon), a Spicy Affair (White Rum, Guava, Scotch Bonnet, Pineapple and fresh lime), The Botanist (Citadelle Gin, Cucumber, Basil, Fever Tree Tonic and lemon), or the Mango Tango (Mango Vodka, Peach Schnapps, Peach, Mango Juice and fresh lime). They also had a number of great martinis made from various flavors, including Espresso, Lychee, Green Apple, French, Lemon Drop, Watermelon, Coconut and Salted Caramel Mocha. (yes, really).

Below, one of the most scrumptious cocktails we had at the Cocktail Kitchen in St. Lawrence Gap. The name is certainly appropriate.  How about a Mango Chow (E.S.A. Field White Rum, Mango Puree, Cilantro, Lime, Brown Sugar), a Coconut Mojito (Tortuga Coconut Rum, Fresh Mint, Lime, Sugar), a Passionate Libation (Passion Fruit, Cinnamon Syrup, Lime Juice, Aromatic Bitters, Old Brigand), a Lavish Sensation (Pink Grapefruit, Falernum, Black Pepper, E.S.A.Field White Rum, Nutmeg) or Fine & Dandy (Old Brigand, Strawberry Puree, Coconut Cream, Aromatic Bitters, Pineapple Juice). Delish, right?

This spot was right on the beach at Rockley, where they offered a variety of Rum (and other liqueur) cocktails as well as virgin options of the same.

We had drinks at Tapas Barbados several times during our stay and fell in love with all of their cocktails. They offered the standards, such as Frozen Flavored Mojitos (strawberry, mango, guava, wildberry, passionfruit or peach), but also drinks such as Strawberry Cheesecake (Vanilla Vodka, Cream Cheese, Graham Crackers, Chambord & Strawberry), a Guavaberry Blast (Gin, Guava, Wildberry, Lemon & Gomme), the Active Volano (Mount Gay Eclipse Rum, Coconut Cream, Pineapple Juice, Guava & Wildberry Puree), The Ultimatum (Old Brigand Rum, Mango, Passion Fruit, Coconut Cream, Pineapple Juice & Blue Curacao) or the ever so decadent Pirates of the Caribbean (Old Brigand Rum, Tia Maria, Rum Cream, Ice Cream & Chocolate Syrup). Heavenly right?

Our cocktails one afternoon at Tapas Barbados

We also had Pina Coladas at the South Beach Hotel Bar where we stayed.

Anthony sips a Pina Colada at South Beach Hotel

And at the bar across the street from it, which was right on the beach.

Worthing Square Food Garden

Worthing Square Food Garden is also located on the south coast. This outdoor food hall is filled with 20 or so street food canteens and pop-up food trucks, each offering unique cuisine and dishes. The fun offerings here come from Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Venezuela. There’s even a Mount Gay bar and an ice cream parlor. Delish, right?  We were there during the day – below are a few snapshots on a sunny afternoon.

The Barbados Art Scene

Art isn’t abundant throughout the island, but you will find spots where it is. For example, there’s an art walk on Rockley Beach, where they hang local artists latest paintings for viewing. Each painting includes a card, so you can learn more about the artist, and how to reach them.

Below, art hangs on the walls at Tapas Barbados Restaurant.

I fell in love with this one by Yasmin — what a treasure right? This painting was on display at the 02 Beach Club & Spa.

A stone’s throw from our hotel (South Beach Hotel in Rockley Beach), there’s a cafe where you can get bites, great coffees and drinks and it also has art adorning its walls, as well as other crafts and gifts.

Where to Stay

Depending on whether you want to be on the East or West Coast, the North or the South, there are options. Our time during this particular stay was mostly spent on the South Coast; however, we did visit other properties as well. Let’s take a look at a handful of our picks. Be sure to read our Barbados Stay article which has much more detail on the below properties with numerous photos.

02 Beach Club & Spa 

Ocean Hotels in Barbados has three properties located on the South Coast. Although they are a short drive from each other, they couldn’t be more different. We loved our experience at 02 Beach Club & Spa, which offers an all-inclusive experience where you stay in traditional rooms or one or two-bedroom suites. Below is one of the main pools that winds around some of the rooms as well as a swim-up bar, which was quite fun. At the end of the pool, you have sweeping views of the beach and ocean beyond.

Sea Breeze Beach House

Also part of the Ocean Hotels is the Sea Breeze Beach House on the South Coast. The hotel is situated on a beautiful beach and has a lovely pool, sundecks, and jacuzzis.

Photo courtesy of Sea Breeze Beach House.

View of the pool and ocean beyond. Photo courtesy of Sea Breeze Beach House

One of the room options. Photo courtesy of Sea Breeze Beach House.

South Beach Hotel

We stayed here during this trip to Barbados. Located across the street from Rockley Beach, it’s very conveniently located to popular activities, beaches and restaurants. It is undergoing a renovation but its current vibe is retro, hip and fun.

Retro Chic Design. Courtesy of South Beach Barbados.

Walking through the property. Courtesy of South Beach Barbados.

The suite area. Remember, all offerings are suites here. Courtesy of South Beach Barbados.

Since we wrote a separate piece on Barbados Hotels & Resorts, please read our article on our experiences with the properties. The post has tons of photos and links to each of the hotels where you can find out more and make a booking.

The Crane

As the oldest continuously operating hotel in the CaribbeanThe Crane Resort is all about luxury. Their amenities range from cascading cliff-top pools and award-winning restaurants to a kid’s club and Crane Beach, which we were told is slated to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

They boast five pools, one of which is known as the Cliff Pool Complex, a 1.5-acre cascading pool area that includes a children’s wading pool, a waterfall pool, and an alfresco Jacuzzi spa pool. Other options are more hidden if you like, with more privacy.

Getting Around

Williams Tours Barbados

Close to the end of our trip, we ran into Scott, the owner of Williams Tours Barbados. He’s such a nice guy that we ended up in his truck zipping around the island with him before we left. How could we say no? The man is a wealth of knowledge and told us about the history, the local vibe by region and little tidbits that you wouldn’t get on a typical tour.

For more information about them and how to book a tour, visit their website.

By Taxi

You can also get a private taxi to take you around or use one you took once and . Here’s our recommendation. Grab a taxi from the airport and if you like your driver, get their phone number and set up a deal with them for a tour or scheduled times for them to drop you off and pick you up (to a restaurant on the other side of the island for example).

By Bus

There are local buses as well if you want to experience the island the way locals do. This is more of an option if you have more time on your hands and don’t mind waiting for their pick-up times.

Below is a short video of some of the highlights. Enjoy!

Other Resources

Read More Share

Recent Author Posts

Join Our Community

Connect On Social Media

Most Popular Posts

We Blog The World

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!