Barbados

From picture-perfect beaches along the Caribbean Sea, to a surfer’s paradise on the Atlantic coast and with rolling green hills in between. You will be as thrilled to explore Barbados as the first English settlers who arrived in 1627.

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1 Flag above Clock Tower at Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown, Barbados

The Barbadian flag above The Public Buildings’ clock tower features a broken trident. The heraldic symbol was adopted on November 30, 1966. This was the day Barbados became independent of British rule since English settlers arrived on the island in 1627. The three points represent the “government of, for and by the people.” As a constitutional monarchy, Elizabeth II is the head of state and Queen of Barbados.

Broad St & Rickett St, Bridgetown, Barbados
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2 Mutual Life Assurance Society Building in Bridgetown, Barbados

The Mutual Life Assurance Society, better known to Barbadians as “The Mutual,” was a Caribbean insurance company that supplied a significant number of loans to local plantations after being formed in 1840. Their Victorian-style headquarters with its ornate, cast-iron grillwork was built in 1895 and has become a downtown landmark on Broad Street. It has been the home of three different banks since The Mutual became the Sagicor Life Company.

Lower Broad St & Prince Alfred St. Bridgetown BB11009, Barbados
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3 Boats Moored in Careenage Marina in Bridgetown, Barbados

Bridgetown’s downtown shopping district starts along the boardwalk on the right known as The Wharf and extends for a few blocks. Inside these colorful European-style buildings you’ll find chain retailers who cater to Caribbean tourists plus a few local stores that have more charm. When it is time to get a bite to eat, cross Chamberlain Bridge and select one of the restaurants on the left for good food and a great view of the boats in the Careenage Marina. This is part of the Constitution River channel.

Chamberlain Bridge Bridgetown, Barbados
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4 Chamberlain Bridge Archway in Bridgetown, Barbados

An 1872 swing bridge once crossed the Constitution River in Barbados but it was replaced in 2006 by a pedestrian bridge named the Chamberlain. It lifts to allow watercraft to pass through the channel. Although the bridge is modern, this coral stone archway was left intact. It dates back to 1861. In the background are the West Wing, Clock Tower and East Wing of the Parliament Buildings.

Chamberlain Bridge Bridgetown, Barbados
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5 West Wing of Parliament Buildings in Bridgetown, Barbados

This is the West Wing of the Parliament Buildings in downtown Bridgetown, the capital city of Barbados. It opened in 1872 followed by the East Wing the next year. Together they house several of the government’s offices. Both neo-gothic structures were built using locally quarried coral limestone. Interestingly, the clock tower used to be a feature of the East Wing but after sinking by more than ten feet it was moved to adjoin the West Wing in 1884.

Broad St & Rickett St, Bridgetown, Barbados
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6 View of Bridgetown Harbor from Cruise Terminal, Barbados

If you are one of the half million people who annually arrive in Barbados by a cruise ship, you’ll disembark and see this view of the Bridgetown Harbor. If you haven’t booked a tour, the best way to explore the island is to hire a taxi. The drivers are knowledgably, friendly and reasonable. If you’d rather rent a car, don’t expect to cover a lot of the 167 square miles in a day because the roads can be challenging. Also be aware that because of their English heritage, they drive on the left side.

Harbour View 2, Bridgetown, Barbados
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7 Rolling Hills of the Scotland District in Saint Andrew Parish, Barbados

Most of Barbados is flat. The exception is the Scotland District, part of which is located in Saint Andrew Parish. Here you will discover Mount Hilaby, the island’s tallest point at 1,120 feet. As you drive east toward the Atlantic, you will be delighted by these sweeping lush hills and flowing valleys. This land was covered with sugarcane fields for centuries. Today, only sections of this magnificent landscape are host to small family farms.

Highway 2, Lakes, Barbados
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8 Chattel House in Saint Andrew Parish, Barbados

From the mid-17th century until 1807, slaves were imported to Barbados to work the sugarcane fields. After several rebellions, slavery was abolished in 1834 and then laborers were given small plots to live. But when they were dismissed by the employer they had to evacuate their “rab land.” This gave rise to the chattel house. They were very small, wooden homes with high-pitched roofs and no eaves to defend against hurricanes. The louvered windows permitted airflow. They also sat unsecured on a rock foundation which allowed the homeowner to dismantle and reassemble it at another plantation. Few of these uniquely Barbadian buildings remain.

Lakes Rd, Windy Hill, Barbados
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9 Blackbelly Sheep at Wooden Fence in Saint Andrew Parish, Barbados

When these four critters rushed up to the wooden fence to have their picture taken, I assumed they were goats. In fact, they are female Barbados Blackbelly Sheep, a species that has evolved on the island from African ancestors since the mid-1600s. This small breed is raised on family farms for their lean meat. They have hair instead of wool so they are ideally suited to the hot Caribbean climate.

Chalky Mount, Saint Andrew Parish, Barbados
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10 Home on Terraced Ridge in Saint Andrew Parish, Barbados

Unlike most of the Caribbean Islands that were created by volcanoes, Barbados was formed by coral reefs that slowly got pushed above the sea. As a result, it has layers of terraces especially in the Scotland District. Many of these coralline rock ridges have become foundations for homeowners who want spectacular views of the eastern coastline. But the area is also susceptible to soil erosion, road washout and landslides during heavy rains.

Chalky Mount, Saint Andrew Parish, Barbados
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Rundown Concrete Block House in Saint Andrew Parish, Barbados

Far from the fancy resorts and pristine beaches that attract all of the tourists is the real Barbadian lifestyle. Mostly you will find modest old homes huddled together near former plantations. The island is divided into eleven parishes, all of which were named after saints by the early English settlers. Each one has a local church and, until 1967, they had their own government councils. This rundown home is in the island’s smallest parish: Saint Andrew. Its 6,500 residents are only 2% of the country’s total population.

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11 Palm Trees at Barclays Park on Atlantic Coast in Saint Andrew Parish, Barbados

In 1966, Barclays Bank gifted a 50-acre park to the new government of Barbados as part of a celebration for the country’s independence from England. Queen Elizabeth II was the highlight of the park’s dedication ceremony. The longest reigning monarch of England is still considered to be the Queen of Barbados.

Barclays Park, Ermy Bourne Hwy, Benab, Barbados
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12 Shade Trees at Barclays Park in Saint Andrew Parish, Barbados

Barbados has a hot tropical climate year-round similar to most of the Caribbean islands. So, when the local residents in St. Andrew Parish want to cool off, they often head to Barclays Park along the Atlantic coast. Although the water can be choppy and not always suitable for swimming, the view and breeze is delightful and most of the picnic tables in the 50 acre park are shaded by trees.

Barclays Park, Ermy Bourne Hwy, Benab, Barbados
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13 Palm Trees Along Bathsheba Beach in Bathsheba, Barbados

Most of the popular tourist beaches in Barbados are along the western and southern coasts that face the Caribbean Sea. However, it is worth a daytrip to the charming village of Bathsheba in the Parish of Saint Joseph on the east side. Here you can watch the dramatic waves of the Atlantic Ocean while sipping some locally made rum punch. You can also visit the Andromeda Tropical Botanic Gardens and the Flower Forest.

Bathsheba Park BB21054, Barbados
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14 People on Rocky Outcrop at Bathsheba Beach in Bathsheba, Barbados

These people have a fantastic, front row seat to the rolling surf at the base of a huge, rocky outcrop at Bathsheba Beach. On a hot day, which is almost every day in Barbados, you might want to go for a swim to cool off. But resist the temptation because the Atlantic Ocean here is beautiful but also fierce and unforgiving. Just offshore there are strong undercurrents. So wait until the tide is in and then find one of several pools that form in the rocks.

Bathsheba Park BB21054, Barbados
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15 Mushroom Shaped Rock on Bathsheba Beach in Bathsheba, Barbados

This rock resembles a huge mushroom growing from the sea. The eroded coral reef formation is one of several accenting Bathsheba Beach. These oddities earned this stretch of golden sand the nickname, “The Soup Bowl.” The coastline is rugged and tumultuous. The rolling waves are relentless and mesmerizing to watch. Plus the trade winds, which have blown unchecked for 3,000 miles since leaving Africa, offer a breath of fresh air on very hot days.

Bathsheba Park BB21054, Barbados
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16 Abandoned Cement Shack on Bathsheba Beach in Bathsheba, Barbados

This abandoned cement shack on Bathsheba Beach piqued my curiosity. Unfortunately, I could not learn its history. At one time I’d imagine the owner was proud of having the best view of the Atlantic Ocean in Barbados because the structure was built directly into a large rock on the sand. I am certain waves frequently splashed against the front door. And perhaps that was its downfall because the crumbling building now sits empty and lonely.

Bathsheba Park BB21054, Barbados
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17 Legend of Village Name at Bathsheba, Barbados

According to legend, the wife of King David pampered herself with milk baths in order to keep her skin soft and beautiful. The Atlantic Ocean creates similar warm, frothy pools in the rocks along the east coast of Barbados. Some people also claim the water contains minerals that provide cosmetic and medicinal benefits. As a result, this small fishing village in Saint Joseph Parish was given the queen’s name: Bathsheba.

Bathsheba Park BB21054, Barbados
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18 Surfers’ Paradise on Bathsheba Beach in Bathsheba, Barbados

Experienced surfers love finding any destination where the waves are fast, large and exhilarating. That perfectly describes the surf at Bathsheba Beach. The swells can reach 30 feet and the right point break can offer rides of over 300 feet. No wonder The Soup Bowl attracts professionals from around the world for annual contests such as the International Pro Surfing Classic.

Bathsheba Park BB21054, Barbados
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19 Bathsheba Rock in Bathsheba, Barbados

There are several huge rocks along Bathsheba Beach, most of which resemble misplaced cannon balls, but the largest and most famous is called Bathsheba Rock. It sits just offshore from a small park that has picnic tables and restrooms. Nearby is a one of the island’s classic rum factories and across the street is a typical Barbadian bar that caters to local residents and the occasional tourist.

Bathsheba Park BB21054, Barbados
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20 Andrews Sugar Plantation in Saint Joseph Parish, Barbados

Sugarcane was introduced to Barbados by the Dutch around 1642. But it was the British who flocked to the island to establish plantations. Soon sugarcane displaced tobacco and cotton as the primary crop. At first, plantations had their own grinding mills. Then ten factories emerged to process the cane. This commercialization transformed Barbados into a major exporter. As the economics changed, the industry declined. Gradually the cane fields disappeared, most plantation owners left and all but two factories closed. Andrews in Saint Joseph Parish is one of the few plantations still in operation. Nearby is the Andrews Sugar Factory. It processes 20,000 tons a year to supply molasses for the local rum industry.

Ashley’s House, Highway 3, Barbados
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21 Boatyard Pier at Carlisle Bay Beach in Bridgetown, Barbados

If you are looking for a great place to swim close to Bridgetown, your best bet is Carlisle Bay Beach. After a short walk or taxi ride, you can be sunning on this pristine sand. Need more excitement? The Boatyard is your answer. You can rope swing from this pier and plunge into the water. Their Adventure Beach has water slides and trampolines plus a bar, restaurant and games. After all that, you can rent a beach chair and umbrella then finally relax.

Bay St & Waterloo Alley, Bridgetown, Barbados
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22 Mount Gay Umbrellas at Carlisle Bay Beach in Bridgetown, Barbados

Bajans love their rum, a heritage that goes hand-in-hand with the English sailors who developed an affinity for the island’s unique spirit since they began arriving in the early 1600s. The largest distillery in Barbados is Mount Gay. Founded in 1703, it is also the world’s oldest brand of rum. It’s a short walk to any bar to try this golden, strong liquor. You can also tour the Mount Gay Visitor Centre in Bridgetown.

Shurland Alley Bridgetown, Barbados
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23 Browne’s Beach at Carlisle Bay in Bridgetown, Barbados

Carlisle is a very large, crescent shaped bay near Bridgetown. Historically it was the major harbor for the west coast of Barbados along the Caribbean Sea. Six shipwrecks lay below the surface just offshore. This Marine Park is a favorite among scuba divers. There are four beaches along Crescent Bay. Adventure Beach, which is nearest to downtown, is active and crowded. If you prefer quiet and serene, try Browne’s Beach towards the southern end.

Shurland Alley Bridgetown, Barbados
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24 Lion Sand Sculpture at Browne’s Beach in Bridgetown, Barbados

Most people go to a Caribbean beach to relax and enjoy the tropical sun. Occasionally you’ll see a child digging a hole in the sand or making a rudimentary castle. Rarely, however, will you find a true artesian whose ideal day at the beach is painstakingly shaping it into a lovely sculpture like this life-size lion. It was magnificent.

Shurland Alley Bridgetown, Barbados
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25 Row of Small Wooden Houses in Bridgetown, Barbados

These houses are typical in Barbados: some are rusted and worn while others are proudly maintained yet most are small and modest. One look and you’d assume this is a poor island yet the country ranks as the 53rd richest in terms of GDP. I was told this apparent dichotomy is because the Barbadian culture abhors debt. They rarely have a mortgage and typically enhance their homes only when they can pay for an improvement in cash. In short, they are frugal and smart.

Browne’s Beach, Bridgetown, Barbados
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26 Couple Strolling at Paynes Bay Beach in Saint James Parish, Barbados

Paynes Bay has one of the best beaches in western Barbados. Paynes Beach is located along the “Platinum Coast” in the middle of Saint James Parish. This area also has the island’s major golf courses (it is where Tiger Woods got married) and is lined with very exclusive resorts for the rich and famous. If you see someone resembling Robyn Fenty, say hello because she probably is Rihanna. She has a home at Sandy Lane and was born in the neighboring parish of Saint Michael.

Hwy 1 & White House Terrace, Barbados
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27 Palm Tree Canopy at Paynes Bay Beach in Saint James Parish, Barbados

For this photo I could talk about the three types of native palm trees (plus the coconut tree) or explain the locations and merits of the different beaches along the west coast of Barbados, or describe how the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea are typically calm and warm. But if you were staring at this view right now would you really care? No? Sorry to bother you. Please return to your dream.

Hwy 1 & White House Terrace, Barbados
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28 Women Shopping at Chattel Village in Holetown, Barbados

For a unique shopping experience while in Barbados, spend some time strolling among the boutiques at Chattel Village. This is a collection of ten retailers inside very colorful chattel houses. These portable homes were used by Barbadian plantation workers after slavery was abolished in the early 19th century. You’ll find an array of apparel and souvenirs plus a hair salon, café and cigar store. They are located north of Bridgetown on Highway 1 in Holetown.

Sunset Crest, Chattel Village, Highway 1, BB24045, Holetown, Barbados
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29 St. James Parish Church in Holetown, Barbados

The English settlers built their first Anglican church in Holetown in 1628. The following year it was designated as the Parish Church of St. James. It succumbed to a 1675 hurricane. Its stone successor then stood on “God’s Acre” for almost two hundred years. It was replaced with this current building in 1874. The original bell that hung from the belfry is dated 1696.

St. James Parish Church Holetown, Highway 1, Folkestone, Barbados
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30 St. James Parish Church Organ in Holetown, Barbados

Shortly after the St. James Parish Church was rebuilt in 1874, they received an elaborate organ from the English firm of Hill & Son. Over time it was refurbished and expanded until in 2007 it was completely rebuilt. However, some of the pipes date back over 100 years. The sound is superb and the elaborate wood carvings are exquisite.

St. James Parish Church Holetown, Highway 1, Folkestone, Barbados
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31 Hotels and Condos along Holetown Beach in Barbados

Although a crew from an English ship set foot on Barbados in 1625, it would be another two years before the first settlers arrived, formed a community and named it Saint James Town. That landing area is now Holetown, a small resort town that caters to tourist and snowbirds. Some colorful hotels and condos line the beach. Nearby is a selection of shops, restaurants and bars.

Highway 1 & Sunset Blvd, Holetown, Barbados
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32 People Enjoying Holetown Beach in Barbados

These people sitting in the sun at Holetown Beach are practicing how to have a perfect vacation in Barbados. 1) Find a flawless stretch of sand. 2) Rent a beach chair. 3) Position it facing the Caribbean Sea. 4) Sit down. 5) Forget everything. Feel free to follow this timeless formula. But remember: practice makes perfect.

Highway 1 & Sunset Blvd Holetown, Barbados
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