Things to see and do in Barbados
Attractions in Barbados
Admire the colonial architecture
The Jacobean St Nicholas Abbey is graced with ornate Persian arches and well-kept gardens. Although now in ruins, Farley Hill is still covered in hibiscus and poinsettias and is one of the island's most storied plantation houses. The George Washington House and Museum is a beautifully restored plantation house, where the former US president stayed on a brief visit to Barbados in 1751.
Admire the local architecture
Tyrol Cot, the grand former home of Sir Grantley Adams, the first premier of Barbados, is a stunning example of local architectural styles. Constructed in 1854, this architectural gem offers an interesting mixture of Palladian and tropical vernacular – beautifully restored by the Barbados National Trust.
Bask on Crane Beach
The baby-pink sands of cliff-flanked Crane Beach, an idyllic spot that is one of the most beautiful on the island, are perfect for a stroll or some sunbathing. Moderate, foamy waves draw a body-surfing crowd and there are plenty of shaded spots to chill out until the magical sunsets arrive.
Breeze around Bridgetown
The Barbados capital, Bridgetown, is the best place to enjoy the island’s colonial history. Visit National Heroes Square, which boasts a statue of Lord Nelson, erected in 1813, well before Nelson's Column was put up in London. Nearby are the neo-Gothic Parliament Buildings, Bridgetown Synagogue (reputed to the oldest in the western hemisphere) and the pretty, pink pastel coloured facades of DaCosta’s Mall. When you tire of sightseeing, pop into one of the ubiquitous rum shops or head for a drink at the Waterfront area overlooking the marina.
Discover shipwrecks in Carlisle Bay
Barbados has several excellent sites for wreck diving. Arguably the most famous is Carlisle Bay, which has more than 200 reported wrecks, and the Stavronikita, a Greek freighter which rests in 37m (120ft) of water, less than 1.6 km (1 mile) from the shore at Folkestone Marine Park.
Explore Harrison’s Cave
With an abundance of stalactites, stalagmites, streams, lakes and waterfalls, Harrison's Cave is a jaw-dropping spectacle. The caves were first mentioned in historical documents in 1795 and then virtually forgotten for nearly 200 years, until being rediscovered in 1976. Visitors can explore the caves on a 40-minute guided tour in an electric cart. Self-guided walks are also possible.
Get close to nature in Welchman Hall Gully's
You can also take a self-guided hike amid rare fruit trees in Welchman Hall Gully's magnificent botanic garden or in Andromeda Gardens. Another highlight is the Flower Forest, a vast leafy garden rich in native plants. The Barbados National Trust offers free, guided hikes which are divided into three categories: stop'n'stare, where'n'there and grin'n'bear. Moonlit walks are also held.
The island's rugged south and west coasts boast world-class watersports where windsurfers, jet skiers, parasailers and water skiers enjoy perfect conditions. To ride the waves head to the Soup Bowl, South Point and Rockley Beach, which are Barbados' best surfing spots.
While there are less pelagic fish off Barbados because of unregulated fishing, divers can enjoy a range of other marine life including sea horses, frogfish and giant sand eels. Hidden caves and shipwrecks provide plenty of underwater nooks and crannies along a shoreline nested by hawksbill turtles.
Go wildlife watching in Barbados Wildlife Reserve
The Barbados Wildlife Reserve's resplendent mahogany forest is the roaming territory of green monkeys, tortoises, deer, raccoons, pelicans and otters. A walk-through aviary allows a leafy stroll with peacocks, turkeys, toucans, parrots, flamingos, pelicans, lovebirds and macaws.
Peruse the wares at Chalky Mount Potteries
Barbados' famous Chalky Mount potters are renowned for their high quality inexpensive art. You can watch the local potters at work at the wheel fashioning centuries-old designs, which is a respected 300-year-old tradition. Buy some of their wares to support the potters' time-honoured profession.
Saddle up and go for a gallop
Horse riding is a popular activity in Barbados. It's possible to gallop along the beach at sundown or simply trek along inland trails. Dozens of horse-riding events take place on the Garrison Savannah. Polo is also played to a high level by fiercely competitive Barbadian teams.
Take in the views
Lofty Mount Hillaby, the island's highest point at 343m (1,125ft), offers incredible panoramas across the east, west and northern coasts. Dramatic vistas also abound from St John's Parish Church over miles of jagged coastline and moss-covered family vaults dotted with tropical flora.
Take the East Coast Road
Barbados's East Coast Road, hemmed by crashing Atlantic waves, is one of the island's most exciting drives. A rugged coastal route overlooks treacherous reefs while an inland road weaves through rolling sugarcane to quaint plantation towns topped by church steeples.
Taste the oldest rum in the world
Mount Gay Rum, on the island's west coast, can trace its heritage back to 1703, making it the world's oldest rum producer. Made from the sugar cane that thrived across the island, it was once the favoured tipple of English sailors. Visitors can learn about the refining, aging, blending and bottling process on tastings and tours, which run hourly between Monday-Saturday.
Visit Morgan Lewis Mill
The aged and charming Morgan Lewis Mill is one of only two of the Caribbean's intact sugar mills, and a noteworthy example of a Dutch windmill from the days of the sugar cane planters. The mill includes an exhibit of the equipment used to produce sugar. Although the old plantation house has seen better days, its crumbling exteriors are very evocative and an important legacy of the island's history.
Watch a game of cricket
Cricket is the national sporting obsession. There’s always a game going on somewhere. Choose from barefoot village friendlies to international and local club cups where many of the great names of West Indian cricket are honoured, most notably Sir Garfield Sobers.
Whizz through the rainforest at Walkes Spring
Aerial Trek Zipline Adventures offers soft adventure thrills as you whizz through the rainforest at Jack-in-the-box Gully, Walkes Spring, in the centre of the island. The scenic ride began operations in 2007 and is proving popular. Advance bookings are recommended.
Barbados Tourism Authority in the UKAddress: 263 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7LA
Telephone: (020) 7299 7175
Barbados Tourism Authority in the USAAddress: 800 Second Avenue, 5th Floor, New York City, 10017
Telephone: (212) 551 4350