Barbados Naked Part 3 – Activities and Things to Do
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Here is the last of the article of the Bardados Naked series by Definitive Caribbean. These stories were written awhile back so some of the shopping places might not be perfectly up-to-date, but will be close. My Barbados friends usually leave comments and tell you the best places anyways! Enjoy.
Things to do in Beautiful Barbados
Named after an Indian bridge that crossed the waterway now known as the Careenage, Bridgetown was founded by English settlers in 1628. For centuries it has been a busy harbor for cross-island vessels and the schooners at anchor in Carlisle Bay. Now the Bridgetown marina is visited mainly by yachts and pleasure boats as well as a fleet of lively colored fishing boats. The former warehouses along the waterfront have been brought back to life with duty free shops, department stores and shopping malls abound.
National Heroes Square
Places of interest in Bridgetown include:
National Heroes Square, with Nelson’s Statue, erected in 1813 pre-dating the London column and the Dolphin Fountain that commemorates the waterworks in Bridgetown. The Parliament Buildings date back to 1871 – Barbados has the third oldest parliament in the English speaking world. In 1786 St Michael’s Cathedral was completed on the site of an original church. The Central Bank Building houses the Frank Collymore Concert Hall.
Garrison Historic Area & The National Cannon Collection, St Michael
The former British Military Garrison in St Ann’s Fort dating back to 1704 and the Main Guard with handsome clock tower dated 1803. A military cemetery is located to the back of the fort, and there is a large collection of 17th Century cannons (largest in the world) which includes one of only two cannons with Cromwell’s Republican Arms on it.
George Washington House, Bush Hill, The Garrison, St Michael, t 228 5461
Barbados was the only country outside America that George Washington ever visited so it appears George Bush was in good company! At 19, Washington and his half brother Lawrence spent two months in Bush Hill House in late 1751. A former plantation house built in 1719, the house, now fully restored, was officially opened to the public in January 2007. A 15 minute film about the trip called ‘George Washington in Barbados’, is available for viewing. Opening hours 9am-4.30pm, Mon-Fri. Admission fee Bds$25 per adult and $12.50 per child. Annual closure in September for cleaning and refurbishment.
Cotton Tower, St Joseph
One of a string of military signal stations that could send messages around the island in quick time to warn of danger, Cotton Tower was named after Lady Caroline Cotton, daughter of the then governor of Barbados.
Farley Hill National Park, St Peter
Officially opened by H M Queen Elizabeth II in 1966, Farley Hill has stunning views of the Coast and Scotland District. It is a popular picnic spot and the location for the annual Jazz Festival. The ruins of an opulent great house, thought to have been built in 1818 and finished some 50 years later by English planter, J L Briggs, stand at the centre of the park. In 1956 the house was partially restored for scenes in the Hollywood film, ‘Island in the Sun’, featuring Harry Belafonte. In 1965 fire destroyed Farley Hill, consuming everything apart from the walls.
Francia Plantation, St George, t 429 0474
A traditional family home built in 1913. Fine collection of antique maps, with earliest dating back to 1522.
Grenade Hall Forest and Signal Station, Farley Hill, St Peter, t 422 8826
A walk-through forest with explanations of the plants’ uses in medicine and other aspects of life. Post 1816 military signal station.
Gun Hill Signal Station, St George
Military signal station built in 1818. Any signal going from Cotton Tower to St Ann’s Fort in Bridgetown had to be relayed via Gun Hill. Another attraction is the lion, which was carved in 1868 by a British officer who was stationed at Gun Hill.
Barbados Wildlife Reserve, St Peter, t 422 8826
A zoo, with two areas – a walk-through area with deer, monkeys, caymans, otters and tortoises, and a closed aviary with parrots and toucans. Also a reptile house with iguanas and snakes and a fine collection of orchids. The zoo has a snackbar.
Harrisons‘ Cave, St Thomas, t 438 6640
Tram ride through natural limestone caverns with streams, waterfalls, pools, stalagmites and stalactites. Opening hours 8.30am to 4.30pm 7 days a week. Adults Bds$40 and children $20.
Aerial Trek Zipline Adventures, Jack-in-the-Box, St Thomas, t 431 0386 or 253 7232
A thrilling experience which takes you through the forest canopy of Jack-in-the Box gully, which lies to the south of Harrison’s Cave in St Thomas. Seven cables traverse the gully between eight platforms, with the first two runs from between 60-90ft long and the rest between 280-300ft. The heights vary from as little as 15ft above ground to 100ft when traveling above the gully. Age (16-80 years) and weight restrictions apply. Cost US$90 per person including transfers. Operating hours are currently 8am-2.30pm (first tour at 9am), five days a week, though the days sometimes vary, except Saturday when they are always open.
Harry Bayley Observatory, Clapham, Christ Church, Barbados Astronomy Society, t 426 1317 /424 5593
The observatory has a 14″ reflector telescope which is open on Fridays from 8.30pm to 11.30pm. A half hour video is shown before viewing starts. Bds$8 admission for adults.
Springvale Eco Heritage Museum, St Andrew, t 438 7011/437 9400
A former 200 acre sugar plantation converted into a folk museum. Also has a nature trail and snack bar.
St. George Parish Church
One of the oldest Anglican churches on the island, and home to a glorious altar painting by Benjamin West, and sculpture work by Richard Westmacott the creator of Nelson’s statue in Bridgetown.
Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill, St Andrew, t 422 7429
Dating from around 1727, it is the Caribbean’s largest and most complete working mill. Once a busy sugar harbor defended by a number of military forts – a number of cannons remain on the esplanade – Speightstown was named after William Speight, a local merchant with links to Bristol in England. It was also known as ‘Little Bristol’ due to the high level of trade between the two ports (in the 17th century Bristol was the second most important port in England after London).
St. James Parish Church, t 422 4117
The original structure was built in wood by the early English settlers in mid 1628, but was destroyed by hurricane in 1675. A stone structure was erected in the early 1690’s – the church bell was cast in 1669. In 1874 due to the decay of its 200 year old walls, the church was partially demolished and a larger structure was built.
St. Nicholas Abbey
St Nicholas Abbey, Cherry Tree Hill, St Peter, t 422 8725
A beautiful Jacobean house built around 1658, which is one of the only three surviving Jacobean mansions in the western hemisphere. The house and surrounding buildings, including an 1890 steam mill, have recently undergone extensive renovations by owner, architect Larry Warren, who purchased the property in 2006. In the stables is a display of sugar in all its aspects, fancy brown sugar, molasses and barrels in which the special blended St Nicholas Abbey rums are aged. Opening hours are 10am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday. For weekend opening hours and special events please call 422 5357. Admission fee $25 adults $15 children.
Cherry Tree Hill
Cherry Tree Hill, St Andrew
One of the island’s beauty spots with sweeping views across the sugar cane fields to the rugged Scotland District and Atlantic Ocean. The hill is around 850ft above sea level and sits along a popular scenic route, which passes through a delightful shady avenue of mature mahogany trees belonging to the historic St Nicholas Abbey (see above) and down past Morgan Lewis Mill towards the East Coast.
Sunbury Plantation House, St Phillip, t 423 6270
Listed great house dating back more than 300 years, with all rooms open for viewing and the Caribbean’s largest collection of horse drawn carriages. Available for weddings and private functions. Regular candlelit dinners at the 200 year old mahogany table, from Bds$150 per person exclusive of tax and service charge. Courtyard restaurant.
Ocean Park, Christ Church, t 420 7405
A marine-themed park aimed largely at children, with displays of southern sting rays, mangroves, coral reefs, freshwater fish and predators such as sharks. There is a classroom to explain the sea world and a touch pool with starfish, conchs and sea urchins. Also mini-golf, playground, shop and snack bar.
Tyrol Cot Heritage Village , Codgrinton Hill, St Michael, t 424 2074
The flagship property of the Barbados National Trust. Built in 1854 and the former home the first Premier of Barbados, Sir Grantley Adams and the birthplace of his son, J.M.G.M ‘Tom’ Adams, the second Prime Minister of an independent Barbados. The Village includes a replica of a slave hut, a working Blacksmith’s shop, a Chattel House Museum depicting life in the 1920’s, a rum shop and local art and craftwork. The Old Stables restaurant serves local and regional food.
TOURS OF BARBADOS
There are plenty of options if you would like a guided tour of Barbados or, if you are visiting on a cruise ship, there are several good Barbados shore excursions.
For an exclusive island tour or shore excursion contact St James Travel & Tours, who will tailor make a trip with one of their well-informed drivers, in the comfort of an air-conditioned private taxi or Mercedes. Prices from Bds$240 to $320 for 4 hours. Special rates apply for larger groups.
With its broad base of activities, Barbados has plenty to offer travelers with special interests. It is excellent for Luxury villa holidays where you are free to seek your own activities.
The island rhythm on Barbados is calypso, one that they share with, and over which they compete with, the Trinidadians. You will hear the calypsos on the radio, particularly in the run-up to carnival (both in Barbados in August and in Trinidad in February). There are also some more traditional styles of music, including string bands, which are known as tuk-tuk bands.
The Barbados Jazz Festival takes place in January and sees a variety of singers in a fairly broad interpretation of jazz. Unfeasibly for the Caribbean there is actually an opera season (and operetta too), the Holders Season, which is usually held in March. Gospelfest is a celebration of local church music and is held in May.
The island has five major recording studios, including Eddy Grant’s studio, Blue Wave, and several smaller ones. Artists that have recorded on the island include the Rolling Stones and Sting.
The music in Barbados is cosmopolitan. There are a number of clubs in which to see good local bands perform, but there is also a strong tradition of calypso on the island. This is at its most fertile in July, in the run-up to carnival (also in the run-up to Trinidad Carnival in January and February, because many Bajan calypsonians compete there too). As with many of the former British Caribbean island carnivals, it is generally possible to buy a costume at Crop Over and to join in the street parades.
Cricket is something of a religion in Barbados and it is well worth attending any match in either the local inter-island series or a test series, as much for the theater of the stadium as for the cricket. Barbados’s most famous cricket crowd impresario was King Dial, who would strut back and forth in his top hat and colorful coat. His heir apparent is Mac Fingall, a Physical Education teacher, comedian and occasional show compere. He entertains the crowd at Kensington Stand at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown with his quickfire commentary and antics.
Caribbean International Riding Center, t 422 7433
Novice rides: 1 ½ hours through Scotland District to Morgan Lewis Beach – bds$120, return transfer included. Intermediate/advanced : as above but longer ride, 2-2 ½ hrs, Bds$180.
Big C Stables, t 437 4056
Popular local riding school run by Di Clarke in Christ Church.
Congo Road Equestrian Center, t 423 8293
Specializes in dressage.
Snorkeling is generally best on the West Coast (where the water is calmest), especially around Holetown by the Folkestone Marine Park, which has an underwater trail. Carlisle Bay, just south of Bridgetown, is another popular snorkeling spot, where there are a number of shipwrecks to view. Equipment is available through hotels and watersports shops.
All of the Day Sail cruises offer snorkeling and swimming with turtles as part of their tour, and carry their own equipment.
Folkstone Marine Reserve, Church Point, St James, t 422 2314
Protected snorkeling area with underwater trail, Marine Museum & Visitors Center, gift shop, locker rentals, snorkel equipment, lifeguard, shower and changing area.
Barbados boasts fairly consistent surf conditions, mainly on the east (Atlantic) coast, with the best time of the year for larger swells during October to March. The top surf spot is the Soup Bowl off Bathsheba, which is now recognized by the international surfing world. On the north West Coast, things can get very lively also, especially in the New Year when the area is affected by large swells. The waves are big enough in many part of the island (particularly the beaches in the southeast) for boogie-boarding and you will find boards for hire on these beaches.
The best conditions for windsurfing and kite-surfing are on the south coast, with the season starting in November and running to early July and at its best between December and March. Instruction courses are available at Club Mistral on Maxwell Coast Road and, for advanced windsurfers, at Silver Sands, which is the home of windsurfing, and the most southerly point on the island. Over the last few years kite-surfing has emerged as a popular sport on the island. As with windsurfing, the best conditions are around the southern point of the island and so it takes place mostly at Silver Sands. Equipment can be rented from: Club Mistral, t 428 7277 clubmistralbarbados.com, which has locations in Oistins and Silver Sands.
Barbados is not one of the Caribbean’s best known dive destinations, however it has its fans and some consider it a secret gem. The island offers over 20 dive sites to choose from. The majority are strung along the West Coast, with Maycocks Bay and Dottins amongst the most popular. The upper south coast is known for its drift diving, being closer to the Atlantic side of the island – the East Coast has very strong currents and diving is therefore limited.
Barbados has many wrecks. Carlisle Bay has at least eight of note, some over 100 years old. Wrecks include the Berwyn, which sank in 1919, Eilon, C-Trek, Fox and former party boat the Bajan Queen which was sunk in 2002. Just off Needham’s Point, the Old Fort drift dive has a reef strewn with antique bottles and cannon balls. Carlisle Bay also has an area called Bottle Ground where 18th & 19th century bottles are found. Probably one of the most interesting of all dives, and for the advanced diver only, is the S.S. Stravonikita, a 365ft Greek freighter which was purposely sunk in 1978 (off Fitts Village), and sits upright at a maximum depth of 137ft.
Highland Adventure Center, t 438 8069
Scenic bicycle tours using professional mountain bikes. Allow for 3.5 hours the round trip. The cycle tour itself is 90 minutes hours long and takes in views of the Atlantic Ocean as you descend to the East Coast. It’s an unusual way to experience rugged and untouched parts of Barbados. Suitable for all levels of fitness. Also try Flex Bicycle Tours and Rentals, Speightstown, t 419 BIKE or 231 1518 or the Dread or Dead surf shop in Hastings, t 228 4785, which also has bikes for hire at Bds$30 with a $100 deposit.
The Barbados Turf Club has racing at the Garrison Savannah almost every Saturday during their three seasons across the year, which run from mid January to mid April, early May to mid August and then from mid October to Christmas. The main events in the Barbados racing calendar are the Sandy Lane Gold Cup, which is held on the first Saturday in March and is a huge social occasion on the island, and the Barbados Derby, which is held in early August. There is always a great atmosphere at these events. Facilities at the racetrack include bar, snack bar and restaurant and during big events, there are stalls and rumshops inside the racetrack itself.
Always best in the early morning or evening in order to avoid the heat. Be careful if you are out after sundown because not all roads are well lit and there are few paths or pavements. Apart from the beaches, there is a jogging track at the Garrison Savannah, a popular spot to run in the late afternoons. Don’t ry and keep up with Usain Bolt should you see him!
There are many keen tennis players on Barbados who compete regionally, and the island’s headquarters are at the Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex at Wildey, where the top competitions are held. The majority of large hotels and resorts have tennis facilities and there are a couple of private villas with courts also. Otherwise public courts are:
National Tennis Centre, Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, Wildey, St Michael, t 1246 427 5300
Barbados Lawn Tennis Association, t 427 5300/427 5298
Hiking has become a fairly mainstream activity on Barbados in recent years and there are a couple of options to choose from for the eco enthusiasts and those who are adventurous minded or want a less sedentary way to see the island. The Barbados National Trust, t 426 2421 or 436 9033 offers an excellent hiking option ‘Hike Barbados’, which meets at points of interest and beauty spots across the island on Sundays throughout the year. Morning hikes start at 6am, afternoon hikes at 3.30pm or a full moon hike at 5.30pm.
The morning outing is split into four different groups of varying speeds (slow/stop & stare, medium, medium fast and fast/grin & bear) whilst the afternoon/full moon is one group at ‘stop & stare’ speed. Reservations are not required, simply turn up (on time) at the designated meeting spot. The National Trust Sunday hikes are free and all guides work on a voluntary basis. The hikes are an excellent way to meet people from all walks of life and uncover the hidden secrets of Barbados. The Trust also runs the Arbib Nature & Heritage Trail in St Peter. Hikes are available by reservation only and can be booked for any day or time. Minimum of 2 persons on each hike at US$25 per person (or US$50). Group discounts are available. Peach and Quiets Walking Week is one of the most original activities in the Caribbean. A daily walk to a different area of the island is led by Adrian Loveridge, who introduces the area with a talk and then he gives a stream of information along the walk itself. The walking is not that strenuous, covering three to five miles each day over three hours or so.
Points of interest include nature and the different environments such as the coastlines, forests and mangroves, but also historical aspects of the island such as the story of sugar, the old Barbados railway and, incredibly, an early model of the Iraqi Supergun. Walks are only available as a part of the special Walking Week package. During the week Peach and Quiet will host dinners with interesting Barbadian personalities, say a politician, an educator or a museum curator, who will talk about life on the island. Recommended clothing: long pants/trousers, cool shirt, sturdy shoes, a hat and high factor sunscreen or sunblock. Take plenty of water to drink
There are very good opportunities for holistic activities on Barbados, but they are generally designed to serve the local and resident communities as opposed to visitors. Pilates, yoga, T’ai Chi are available at a few of the hotels – Sandy Lane being a notable example – and there are also a few complementary health practitioners who will come to your hotel or villa. We have found one yoga/pilates instructor that will visit if you are in villa accommodation. Yoga and Pilates centers include
The Pilates Studio, Morecambe House, Worthing, Christ Church, t 228 8426/232 7948[email protected] Will do private villa sessions by arrangement.
The Sanctuary, Chimborazo, t 433 1787
Set in a former plantation house, the Sanctuary offers regular open days, special workshops with visiting tutors, yoga days and private consultations. Classes include meditation, yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. Private consultations on Past Life Regression, tarot reading, aromatherapy, Reiki healing, iridology, Shiatsu, Indian head massage, ear candling, reflexology and kinesiology available.
For private sessions contact:
Michelle MacKenzie, t 437 2082
Yoga, massage therapy and ancient (Thai) massage. Prices from $120-180 for one hour.
Janet Cools, t 422 4994
Massage and reflexology which generally also includes 15 minutes of Reiki. Prices from US$75-100 for one hour.
Some luxury villas make excellent retreats for holistic activities. You can create your own group and bring your practitioners with you for a week or two without work permit problems. Alternatively local practitioners and therapists can be booked to come to the villa. The best agency to use for villa retreats would be Bajan Services.
Flora and Fauna
Bajan gardens are some of the prettiest in the Caribbean. Crotons (brightly colored perennial leaves) and bougainvillea or hibiscus surround even the smallest home. And hotel gardens are often wonderful, particularly if you do not know tropical flora well. There are four public gardens in Barbados, of which the most interesting is Andromeda on the Atlantic coast, but the three others, the Flower Forest, Orchid World and Grenade Hall Forest, are certainly worth a look. Orchid World is particularly stunning if you are interested in this tropical beauty.
The best time of year for flowering is in the dry winter season, between January and March. The Barbados Horticultural Society has their flower show at Balls Plantation in Christchurch and a program of ‘Open Gardens’ that runs between January and March.
Andromeda Botanic Gardens, St Joseph, t 433 9384
A six acre garden started as a private plant collection around the home of Ms. Iris Bannochie in 1954. There are over six hundred different species of plants on view and although it is owned by the Barbados National Trust it is currently leased to Caribbean Horticultural Services
Flower Forest, St Joseph, t 433 8152
A fifty acre, lush, tropical garden with a nature trail and lovely views to the East Coast. Snack bar and gift shop.
Orchid World, St George, t 433 0306
A stunning six acre former pig & chicken farm with around 20,000 orchids on display. Well worth spending an afternoon strolling around the attractive grounds. Good country views. Snack bar and gift shop.
Welchman Hall Gully, St Thomas, t 438 6671
A jungle filled limestone ravine bursting with exotic trees and plants, and a good place for spotting the Barbados green monkey, early morning or late afternoon. Also a Barbados National Trust property.
Barbados has good shops for the Caribbean, so there is plenty on offer if you are seeking some duty-free retail therapy. Almost everything is imported so, with the exception of come locally made pottery and artwork, it is international. Shopping hours do vary but the main business hours are generally between 8.30-9am to 4.30-5.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturday. However you may find some stores open until 6pm or as late as 9pm on weekdays, and to 3.30pm Saturdays, with one or two open on Sundays. Duty free shopping is available in most of the main shopping centres and in some hotels, with items purchased (apart from tobacco and alcohol) allowed to be taken away on the spot. Note that you will need to present your immigration slip or passport and airline ticket when duty free shopping.
Caribbean Cigar Company Inc, #3 Pelican Industrial Park
Royal Barbados Cigars, handmade locally from Cuban tobacco.
Cheapside Market, Temple Yard
The city’s main market for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Colombian Emeralds, Broad Street
Flagship store, specializing in Emeralds. Watch boutique.
DaCosta’s Mall, Broad Street
A variety of products and services including duty free, a supermarket, island craft, souvenirs, beachwear, leather goods, designer glasses, jewelery, 1 hr photo lab, bookstore, health store, a food court and Tiffany & Co…
Diamonds International, Broad Street
For a selection of jewelery and loose diamonds with choices of mounts. Two locations on Broad Street and four further outlets on the island.
Harrisons, Broad Street
There are two stores on Broad Street offering luxury Duty Free items.
Pelican Craft Village, near the Deep Water Harbor
Over 25 art and craft shops, and artisan workshops. Local condiments, baked goods on sale. Two restaurants serving local food.
Little Switzerland, Broad Street
Two shops on Broad Street for Duty Free merchandise.
Verandah Art Gallery, Wharf Road
For original paintings and sculptures by local and Caribbean artists.
Zemicon Gallery, Hincks Street
Features work by leading local artists.
Shopping on the West Coast:Beth and Tracie, Speightstown, t 422 0401
Two independent designers who share a shop in Speightstown. Stylish beachwear, children’s wear, bags, belts and custom-designed jewelery.
Cave Shepherd Plaza, Sunset Crest
A second Cave Shepherd store, plus various services including a tour agency, boutique and a bank.
Chattel Village, Holetown/Sunset Crest
A collection of colorful wooden chattel houses selling souvenirs, beachwear, handicraft etc.
Earthworks Pottery, St Thomas
Distinctive hand-made locally pottery. Tree House Café for light snacks.
Gallery of Caribbean Art, Speightstown
For the serious collector.
The Gallery St James, Holetown
Caribbean and international art, and antiquarian Caribbean maps.
Exclusive designer wear. Located at the following hotels: Sandy Lane, Royal Pavilion, Colony Club, Tamarind Cove and Crystal Cove.
Gaye Boutique, Holetown
Has been running for almost 30 years and offers exclusive resort and evening wear.
Speightstown Mall A small selection of shops.
Shopping on the South Coast:
Chattel House Village, St Lawrence Gap
A collection of colorful wooden chattel houses selling souvenirs, beachwear, handicrafts, etc.
Quayside Centre, Rockley Boutiques, shops, food court, photo processing, and mini mart.
Sheraton Mall, Sargeants Village
Over 100 stores and restaurants, including supermarket, bank, dry cleaners, gym, pharmacy and a multiplex cinema.
Walkers World, St Lawrence Gap
Home accessories, furniture and decorative objects from around the world. Best of Barbados, shops located at Chattel Village, Holetown; Mall 34, Broad Street; Orchid World; Flower Forest; Quayside Center; Southern Palms Hotel; Cruise Terminal and Walker’s World, Dover. Set up in 1975 by artist Jill Walker and featuring locally crafted or designed gifts and souvenirs. The distinctive prints of local scenes and architecture are extremely popular, as are the colorful array of tea towels, floral table & drinks mats and traditional Bajan and international games.
Thanks for taking the time to reach the bottom of this article! Next week we are covering excursions. Here I will inform you about the various organized trips there on the island from Diving to dining all is thrown in! So if you are in a private villa you will have access to all the telephone numbers to ensure you miss out on nothing.
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