Breathtaking Vista, Atlantic Ocean
Bathsheba on the East Coast
Text by John Sherman Mills Photography by Thomas I.
Nowhere else on earth could I feel as carefree as this! I’m
whizzing down a windswept coastal road along an
endless coral beach. Groves of
graceful palms flutter off to my right- a frothy surf tumbles shoreward to my
I’m commander-in-chief of my rented Moke (the Barbadian variation of a
high-octane dune buggy).
Barefoot and shirtless, I defiantly press its sandy
accelerator to the floor. Rumbling over the
ruts and bumps is nothing less than hilarious, bone-rattling fun.
Daily Bartering: A typical seaside fish market
And having a good time is
exactly why Brenda and I are here in Barbados for a week’s vacation.
Snorkeling, surfing and serious partying just start the list of fun-in-the-sun
things to do ion this wild
Caribbean paradise. The quandary upon arriving is not what to do, but how
to squeeze it all in.
Bridgetown is the gateway city of Barbados
and is quickly reached by non-stop jet service from Miami.
260,000 residents, Bridgetown and the cozy, rustic towns nearby comprise a
where most visitors prefer to stay. This corner of Barbados
is close to all the attractions and beaches.
Since the island is only
twenty-one miles long and fourteen miles wide, you can drive to anywhere on t
island in less than a couple of hours.
“B-town,” as the islanders call it, is a
haven for people lovers who want to immerse themselves in its
nightlife. Just on the southern outskirts of B-town are the beachside areas of Worthing,
and St. Lawrence Gap. Here you’ll find a mishmash of funky bars, seaside
handful of upscale resorts and affordable accommodations, like the Allamanda Beach Hotel and Shells
The shoreline between Bridgetown and St. Lawrence Gap is
dotted with romantic places for
intimate dining right at the water’s edge.
Brenda and I winked acknowledgements to many
other same-sex couples as we awed
at the evening sunsets during dinner. Barbados is renown
for its world-class
chefs. Seafood is always the specialty at most fine restaurants. Be prepared
for delicacies like the fresh filet of Atlantic salmon, stuffed with crab,
sautéed, roasted, and served
with a mango-guava sauce. Or indulge yourself
with the steamed Caribbean lobster tail wrapped
in proscuitto and smothered in
passion fruit Hollandaise. Even the fast food places feature fish,
“flying fish burger” (without the wings, of course) at the top of their menus.
Barbados has a long, colorful history of being a notorious
playground- from the early days three
centuries ago, when rum was first
invented, to the opulent era of steamship travel. Sir Edward Cunard,
of the company that launched the ill-fated “Titanic,” is accredited with being
in land marking Barbados as an international Mecca for celebrities
and royalty from around the world.
"Miami" Beach, just south of Bridgetown
Unquestionably Barbados’ immense popularity is due to its
geological uniqueness as the only
Caribbean island that’s actually an ancient
coral atoll. As a result, its entire coastline is awash
vanilla-colored sand. Favored beaches for naturalists include Long Bay Beach
(South Coast), Cattlewash Beach (East Coast) and Batts Rock Beach (West Coast).
Bathsheba Beach on the Atlantic side, however, is
internationally famous for surfing. Gigantic,
powerful waves hammer
relentlessly toward shore. As the surfers hang ten, other thrill seekers
from the contorted rock formations that jut 100 feet above the grumbling surf
is the treacherous “Soup Bowl,” where daredevils tackle waves
with crests reaching over
15 feet high. The “Bowl” is considered one of the top
ten surfing beaches in the world. Brenda
and I get a bird’s eye view of all
this aquatic frenzy from the terraces of the Atlantis Hotel. Perched
craggy outcropping, the bar and restaurant at the Atlantis is a great place to
partake of an icy afternoon libation, and perhaps make a new
friend or two.
Whether by bike or car, spend a day following Hiway 1 (a
two lane road) that twists alongside the
coast from Bridgetown north to Speightstown. This section of the western coast is characterized by
vegetation, postcard perfect vistas and the spectacular gardens of the luxury
here. For the most part, the restaurants and impeccably
manicured grounds of these pricy resorts,
such as Sandy Lane, Glitter Bay and
Coconut Creek, are open to the public. Brenda and I just enjoy
to admire the tranquil landscapes of these park-like settings.
Several stretches of the beaches along Hiway 1 are public
and are marked with access signs.
Frequently you’ll pass an artist capturing
his or her interpretation of the area’s natural beauty.
We chatted with a
painter, Pauline Davis, as she put the final watercolor strokes onto her
Her melodious Welsh accent immediately clued me that she had ventured
here from abroad.
“I tumbled instantly in love with Barbados,” she confessed.
“The azure skies, the rocking sailboats, the
crimson sunsets… I just had to stay
here forever and paint them.” Davis’ works are showcased in many
throughout the island and in nearby Holetown, a quaint little village half way
along the route.
Holetown’s charming character draws on its restored historic buildings and
A weathered obelisk and row of rusty black cannons commemorates the site as the
settlement in 1627.
Secluded Resorts hug Barbados' Calm Western Coast
Heading back Bridgetown, Brenda and I are jazzed to take
the “Atlantis Submarine Adventure.”
The “Atlantis” stretches sixty-five feet
in length and weighs over 80 tons. The tour departs every
90 minutes from its
berth adjacent to where the cruise liners tie up. Propelled by battery powered
the “Atlantis” slips silently amongst delicate coral reefs and sponge
gardens lying about two miles off shore.
The submarine’s fifty circular windows
become massive kaleidoscopes swizzling images of hundreds
of magical marine
life. A leatherback turtle suddenly presses his dark brown nose against the
and peers in with a comically dubious expression. He seems as curious
about us as we are about him.
The underwater excursion climaxes as we plunge 130
feet below the surface to snoop around the eerie,
encrusted edges of a spooky,
The "Atlantis" Prepares to Submerge
We return dockside just in time to catch the “Bajan Queen”
as it chugs along the harbor.
This clunky, three-story vessel strangely
resembles a riverboat. The forty-foot waterslides
on both its port and
starboard sides, however, are a dead give-away of the naughty nautical
intentions of its rowdy passengers. Rumor has it the Bajan Queen carries more
barrels of rum,
than it does fuel. As a zesty musical mix of Latin Salsa and
Caribbean dance proclaims it’s party
time. This fun-filled cruise putts its way
around Carlisle Bay for the entirety of a sun-drenched afternoon.
Roger,” an amusing replica of a pirate ship, claims a similarly zany agenda,
setting sail at noon
and 8 PM seven days a week.
Barbados’ natural wonders are hardly limited to the waters
that surround it. A must-see is
Flower Forest and Orchid World. The Flower
Forest is a botanical garden covering over 50
acres in the verdant highlands
just a few miles east of Bridgetown on Hiway 2. Once the
Plantation, the hillside is now covered with thousands of exotic flowering
plants and trees. Heliconias, torch gingers, antheriums, birds of paradise and
are everywhere. Throughout the park you’ll suddenly find yourself
enveloped by mysterious
mixtures of subtle fragrances like jasmine and gardenia, plumeria and lavender. You can set
the pace of your activity by choosing one
of the gentle, meandering pathways or any of the
strenuous hiking trails.
Thoughtfully placed vantage points throughout the property offer
vistas of the rolling mountains, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Your
admission ticket is also good for entry to the nearby Orchid World. More than
their sprays bursting with thousands of vibrant colors, adorn
dozens of formal and natural
Even more natural wonders are to be found underground
inside the incomparable Harrison Cave.
Amazingly, this labyrinth of caverns was
known only in native folklore until 1970. Barbados’
natural treasures also include those of
the furry, cuddly kind. The Wildlife Reserve of Barbados
is located in a
natural mahogany grove just off Hiway 2. Once inside its protected environment
you can get surprisingly close to the both the graceful brocket deer and the
Green Monkeys. The monkeys are fed daily at 4 P. M., an ideal
time to catch all their sidesplitting
A tour of Barbados just wouldn’t be complete without
experiencing at least one of the island’s
“great houses.” The Barbados National
Trust offers an Open-House program, a neat way to
glimpse backwards into the
days of the expansive sugar plantations. Their extensive registry
architectural treasures such as the Tyrol Cot Heritage Village, Wildey House,
Station and the Hutson Sugar Factory. The Morgan Lewis Sugarcane
Plantation (1750) has a fully
restored mill, one of only two in working
condition in the Caribbean.
Barbados also boasts several great homes preserved by
private foundations, such as the
Sunbury Plantation House overlooking the
southeastern corner of the island. The mansion
is a grand, 300 year old home,
featuring exquisite European furniture, marble fireplaces, rare
collectables and a sweeping balustrade. The walls of the house are two and a
feet thick, created with ballast stones carried by empty sailing ships
coming from England to be
loaded with barrels of rum. Be sure to plan some time
for a delicious light lunch served in the
home’s sunny, trellised courtyard.
Unquestionably, the stateliest of the great houses is the
owner’s residence of the Francia Plantation.
One of the first plantation homes
in the Caribbean, the Francia had absolutely no expenses spared in
construction. The interior walls of the main floor are paneled in rich
Brazilian hardwoods. Every
room is lavishly appointed with Barbadian antique
furniture and fine European paintings. The parlor
is decorated with a
collection of framed nautical maps sketched in1522. Multi-paned French doors
from the living room and library open onto stone terraces leading off to
expansive lawns and manicured
classical gardens. As Brenda and I leave the
grounds, we take a closer look at the colossal fig trees
that line its gravel
driveway. Sure enough, every limb has massive rows of fuzzy, dangling roots,
some as long as 15 feet. It was this quirky feature of the figs that inspired
the first explorer,
Pedro a Campos, to name the island “the bearded ones” or
“Los Barbados” in Portuguese.
Another name you’ll encounter over and over in Barbados is
“Mt. Gay Rum.” Advertisements for
M.G.R. appear everywhere in the Caribbean.
This internationally famous libation has a visitors’
center right in
Bridgetown. Indeed, it’s the oldest rum factory in Barbados, and for that
in the world. Its three hundred year anniversary will be celebrated in
2003. A presentation about
the company’s history and the distilling process is
part of the tour at the center. At the tour’s
conclusion you’ll most likely
find your fingers wrapped around a frosty, complementary drink.
Pulling away from the parking lot, all at once Brenda and I
discover ourselves looking at each
other. We both realize there’s still time
for some duty free shopping down on Broad Street.
“I’m sure I must have some
extra room in my flight bag,” Brenda leads suggestively. “I think I
do too” was
my response. In a heartbeat my foot bears down on that Moke’s accelerator yet
one more time.
Surfside at the Allamanda Beach Hotel
Allamanda Beach Hotel (Ask for Room 27) Hastings
Tel (246) 435-6693 Fax (246) 435 9211
Mango Bay 2nd Street Holetown, St. James
Joes’ at the Bayshore, Bridgetown
Shak Shak Hastings
Pieces (St. Lawrence Gap)
Carambola St. James