Sightseeing in Barbados will open your mind to the array of beauty this country encompasses. Explore the impressive six-acre Andromeda Gardens at Foster Hall, spot armadillos and gorgeous green monkeys at Barbados Wildlife Reserve or for culture buffs, uncover Barbados’s Jewish history at the Nidhe Israel Museum. With so much to see and do here, you will never want to go home…
The glorious six-acre Andromeda Botanic Gardens, at Foster Hall in the parish of St. Joseph, were established by Iris Bannochie, one of the island’s leading 20th-century botanists. She began designing the gardens in 1954 and upon her death, bequeathed them to the Barbados National Trust so that her legacy could continue to be enjoyed.
Today, visitors can walk through this unique, horticultural haven and admire the huge variety of colourful tropical and subtropical plants, a wonderful collection of palms and some amazing trees that are not found anywhere else in the Caribbean. The vast Bearded Fig Tree with its spreading aerial roots, is a particularly amazing sight and you must keep an eye open for the incredible Green Monkeys, high up in the trees.
The main pond is a beautiful, tranquil spot to sit by and relax, surrounded by the wonderful lush vegetation and its natural scents. A great place to unwind, letting the stresses of everyday life just float away.
The Barbados Wildlife Reserve is located in St. Peter parish, on the northern part of the Barbados west coast. Visitors can walk freely through the reserve to see the animals at close range in their own natural environment, as they play, roam and interact with the other animals.
There is a variety of different animals here, some imported and some native to Barbados. Look out for green monkeys, red-footed turtles, brocket deer, iguanas, tortoises, alligator-like caimans, plated armadillos and agoutis. Then, watch the pink flamingos standing on their delicate legs, or the strutting peacocks with their fantastic plumage walk through the aviary, which houses a wide variety of colourful birds, including parrots, macaws and love birds.
Children will love getting up close to and interacting with the animals, and the feeding time is definitely not to be missed. Why not bring a picnic to eat at the reserve or go across the road to the beautiful Farley Hill National Park to enjoy the views?
Blackmans Gully is located in the parish of St. Joseph, on the east coast of Barbados and is (amazingly) over 200 years old. Hidden for many years, this incredible bridge was recently unearthed by members of the “clean up Barbados” programme and now attracts many avid hikers.
Tour operators offer guided walks through the beautiful, winding, nature trail which passes the bridge, with its lush vegetation, fauna and unique birds. There are also many interesting plants, some of which have medicinal value and hikers will often see the famous Barbados Green Monkeys, high up in the trees.
Spanning over the gully is the 17th century, 35-40 metre-long (and 3-5 metre-wide) Blackmans Bridge. Your guide will tell you all about how this limestone bridge was originally built while showing you around this beautiful area of the island, where you can also discover old buildings belonging to plantations, unearthing some Bajan history along the way.
Blackwoods Screw Dock is a unique historic site located in the heart of Bridgetown, within the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating back to 1893, the screw dock (dry dock) is the oldest surviving ship lift in the world. In fact, ships of up to 1200 tons were once lifted out of the water for repairs and to be cleaned in the dock.
Delve into the island’s fascinating history and learn how the boats were turned on their sides, so the bottoms could be scraped, caulked and painted. The dock was also traditionally used by the British Navy for boat repairs during World War II. Originally, the dock operated on steam but was later modernised to run on electricity.
Once you have had a good look around Blackwoods Screw Dock, take a walk through the Historical Maritime Centre, with its interesting displays, photographs and artefacts; then stop for a drink at Blackwoods Tavern. If you’re feeling peckish, the bar here also serves a selection of meals including grills, salads and Bajan flying fish cutters.
George Washington House, located in the parish of St. Michael, Bridgetown, is named after the first American president who along with his half-brother, stayed here for a couple of months in 1751. Did you know, Barbados is the only country he ever visited outside colonial America?
This exquisite, Georgian-style house has been restored and furnished as a typical plantation residence of the mid-18th century. Visitors to the house will begin their tour by watching a film about Washington’s time in Barbados, then move on to explore the main floor of the house, before going upstairs to the museum to see artefacts and informative descriptions about Bajan history. There is also a host of analysis and facts dotted around, regarding the appalling custom of slavery which governed plantation life in the Caribbean.
Travellers will also be able to explore a section of the underground Garrison Tunnel, which runs close to the house. Then, stroll around the gardens, shop in the on-site gift shop and enjoy refreshments in the cafe.
Located in the central uplands of Barbados, the Harrison’s Cave underground system of rivers and caves is one of the Caribbean’s great natural wonders and is a very popular tourist attraction.
Visitors will board a small electric tram to take a guided tour of these stunning, crystallised limestone caves, passing illuminated waterfalls, pools and magnificent geological structures as you explore further. Passengers are able to get off and take photographs at certain stopping points, such as the 15-metre-high “cathedral” and “the village”, where a group of formations have fused into a cluster of columns overlooking a beautiful green pool.
Once you have finished your tour inside the cave, why not take time to explore the cliff and valley trails in the area? There are many tropical plants and flowers to admire as you walk through the lush green forests and you may even see a Green Monkey or two, up in the treetops.
Hunte’s Gardens is a beautiful botanical garden, situated in Coffee Gully in the hills of St. Joseph, on a former sugar cane plantation. It was created in the 1950s by renowned horticulturist, Anthony Hunte, who still owns and runs it today.
The garden fills a deep sinkhole and as you go down the steps and travel along the pathways, you are surrounded by wonderful tropical plants, including anthurium, rare heliconia and soaring cabbage palms. There are a host of intriguing paths to venture down, too, and many of them lead to idyllic and quaint secret gardens, featuring chairs and benches to sit and take in the beauty surrounding you.
Classical and operatic music plays in the background as visitors stroll around this wondrous site, before making their way through the exotic foliage up to Mr Hunte’s house, with its hidden, quirky, statues of Buddhas and pineapples.
Here, visitors will be invited to enjoy some refreshments, including Hunte’s famous rum punch or home-made lemonade, served on the veranda overlooking the gardens. Mr Hunte often joins the visitors for drinks and loves to regale them with his exciting tales.
The National Heroes Gallery and Museum of Parliament is located in the west wing of the stunning Neo-Gothic, Parliament Buildings, in the heart of the capital city of Bridgetown.
The Museum of Parliament traces the development of democracy in Barbados since 1629 and is expertly showcased by the mixture of traditional exhibits, which include sculptures, murals and magnificent stained-glass windows, along with interactive audio and video screens providing clear, descriptive accounts of the various displays.
The Hall of Heroes is housed in a special section of the museum, which traces the roles the Ten National Heroes played in changing Barbados into the independent country it is today. These heroes include Sarah Gill, a Methodist who was an anti-slavery activist; Bussa, an enslaved African, who led the island’s largest slave revolt; Errol Walton Burrow, the first Prime Minister of Barbados and Samuel Jackman Prescod, the first non-white politician to sit in the House of Assembly.
The Nidhe Israel Museum is a fascinating historical spot, located next to the synagogue in Barbados’ capital city of Bridgetown. It traces Jewish history in Barbados, dating back to the arrival of the earliest Jewish settlers in 1628; highlighting their contribution to the sugar industry here, as well as the trials and tribulations they faced on the island.
Within the museum, you can find historic artefacts and interactive displays, providing visitors with an insight into the interesting story of the Barbadian Jewish community. This wondrous museum also overlooks the cemetery, just across from the Nidhe Israel Synagogue, which is home to headstones dating right back to the 17th century.
In 1831, a hurricane destroyed the synagogue, which was then left in a state of disrepair for over 150 years until it was turned over to the Barbados National Trust to be renovated. The synagogue is now included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site and is still used as a place of worship by the island’s Jewish community.
Located in the parish of St Philip, the elegant building – the Sunbury Plantation House, was built around 1660 by Matthew Chapman; a British planter and one of the earliest settlers on the island. This interesting home filled with history is definitely worth a visit while holidaying in Barbados.
Sunbury Plantation House has actually survived several hurricanes, extensive damage from the slave rebellion and was then destroyed by a fire in 1995. A year later, it was restored to its former glory and today, it is the only house in Barbados which offers all of its rooms open for viewing.
Visitors can tour the beautifully-furnished rooms, housing antique mahogany tables, rocking chairs, four-poster beds and a unique collection of 18th and 19th-century artefacts. Down in the cellars, there is an impressive collection of old horse-drawn carriages and some amazing optical testing machinery and equipment. Then, while in the grounds, view the display of authentic old carts and machinery which were once used to cultivate the land.
The on-site Courtyard Restaurant and bar offers buffet-style dining, featuring delicious Bajan dishes; there is also a small shop selling souvenirs.