Barbados or Bearded-Ones if you’re a Portuguese explorer from the 16th Century (named either for the bearded fig trees or the bearded men) is my new country crush. I didn’t expect to fall head over heels in love with the place. But after 5 weeks in Barbados, that’s exactly what happened.
Define crush? Firstly, Barbados has all of my essential three C’s: culture, cuisine and climate (temp’s peak at around 30 degrees and don’t usually dip below 22 degrees).
But, there’s SO much more, for starters: a stable economy, an adored female PM, thriving agriculture and fishing industries, not to mention squeaky clean drinking water (thanks to the underlying coralline limestone). The only thing I can see that needs improvement is the quality of roads (traffic is horrendous and pot holes are a plenty) and a decent recycling program.
Let’s talk about the first C for a minute, culture.
94% of the island is made up of Afro-Caribs and the rest make up white immigrants, mixed coloureds or Indians. There is little information about the Arawaks, the indigenous people of the island, more recent history explains that the island was populated by slaves brought over from West Africa to work in the sugarcane plantations. There’s just something about the way-of-life of the Afro-Carib today that I can’t quite explain.
However, I do need to mention the ugly side, first up, let me tell you, Barbados is eye-watering expensive. Provisions, activities, rentals, eating out, all felt ludicrously beyond reach for the average traveller. We were plenty glad to have our accommodation and vehicle free of charge (well, in exchange for cat care, while we were pet sitting.) Over the 5 weeks in Barbados, we only spent $500 AUD for accommodation. That was during our last week on the island, thanks to the month-long pet sit.
The other down sound?
Barbados was colonised by the British, and while independence was gained in 1966, it seems the island is still rife with copious; pasty white, yet slightly sunburned Brit’s abroad, usually seen sucking down beers at 10am.
If we thought for a minute we were going to be tired of lazing on the beach, pining for things to do, we would have been sadly mistaken. In saying that, there are some damn fine beaches in Barbados and if you’re into dining adjacent to turquoise waters, we have a few restaurant recommendations for that too.
Here’s what we’ve been up to after 5 weeks in Barbados…
The diverse beaches of Barbados
Trying to describe the water in Barbados, requires a colour consultant, a thesaurus and a Pantone booklet, simply to associate all the different shades of blue to a word. If I had to pick a common colour, I’d choose cerulean.
The key factor in making the water appear so vibrant? Coral. A layer of coral up to 90 metres thick covers the island. Plus! Barbados has to have some of the cleanest beaches in the world.
After 5 weeks in Barbados, our local and favourite beach was Heron Bay on the west coast. Quiet, ample pontoons, a good fifty meters from nearby resorts, calm and idyllic waters (robin’s egg blue) and a safe distance from banana shaped inflatables or jet ski’s. Sadly, it also happens to be where Rupert Murdoch spends his summer (urgh), the Daily Mail reported sighting him here after weeks of us complaining about how much space the private house was taking up without any occupants on the beach. Good views are wasted on the rich.
Rockley beach (or Acra beach) was definitely our second favourite, we were fortunate enough to be present when a hundred or so baby turtles had hatched and were migrating to the sea. The water is sublime (Jordy blue) up against the starch white soft-between-your-toes sand. The kilometre long boardwalk from Rockley to Coconut beach is a must, by the way!
Sandy Lane Beach
Sandy lane beach was a close second favourite (turquoise blue), just near Holetown. Note: there are a lot of fat cats and pseudo-celebrities floating around this place.
Carlisle Bay was a huge fan favourite for both beach club fiends and day tripping, cruise catchers. Which meant it was our least favourite. Despite having some of the clearest waters (celeste blue), a plethora of sea turtles and cool shipwrecks easily visible by flipper and snorkel. Overall, we found it to be noisy, theme-park-esque and rather uncouth!
Crane beach is supposedly one of the ‘top ten beaches in the world’ (cadet blue). I respectfully disagree – based on the one day we were there. The beach beds took up the entire stretch of sand, there were a few too many hustlers and an abundance of seaweed making the place less charming. But hey! I’m Australian, I have high ‘beach’ standards!
Surfing at Freights Bay on the south coast has to be a trip highlight (NYPD blue), where turtles are less bothered by surfers and surfers are so high on oxytocin they’re equally as blissed out.
Bathsheba beach on the east is wild. Huge surf, rogue winds and big long stretches of white wash. A sobering reminder of how exposed this little outcrop of an island is to the roaring Atlantic Ocean.
Our top restaurants in Barbados
Fish Fry at Oistens. We rather enjoyed the Pat’s and ‘Chillin’ and Grillin’ venues, although I’m sure each ‘shack’ largely serves the same thing. The area is super is informal, diverse and smells incredible. On one end you have young local hopefuls breakdancing to Reggae-ton beats and on the other you’ll hear the typical calypso tune while the old-timers are playing dominoes.
Types of fish on the menu includes tuna, swordfish, marlin, mahi-mahi, flying fish (if in season) or lobster. A huge plate of fish with two sides and a Banks beer will set you back $35BD ($25 AUD.)
Surfers Cafe was definitely a highlight for their delish fish tacos and decent coffee!
The Orange Street Grocer is a little oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of little Speightstown. Pizza is what they’re famous for, we couldn’t look past their huge salads and freshly fried, fish tacos.
Sundowners at the Sandpiper Hotel, Surfside or Zaccios is the perfect finish to any day!
Lobsters Alive was something to experience. Dine with your feet in the sand, enjoy a bottle of wine with live dulcet jazz tones to accompany the idyllic setting. Self select your lobster from the ‘almost’ overflowing tank of crustaceans and watch the masters at work. If you can believe it, owner Art Taylor, flies in the whole islands lobster distribution from neighbouring Bequia Island on his own aircraft.
The Blue Pineapple has to have the best location for a relaxed meal (although, debatable in picturesque, under-developed Barbados). Affordable food with stunning views over the shallow reef. And yes, I have a penchant for fish tacos…
The Arts Centre serves the best tasting smoothies, iced coffee and healthy salad bowls.
While, The Good Life Cafe (vegan) knocks up delicious fare with generous portions, just a street back from the beach.
Visit the farmers market at Holders Hill (only on Sundays). It’s seriously worth it just to experience the freshly baked goodies from The Cliff Bakery, (their sourdough loaves and croissants were legitimately better than Italian ones… or have I been away too long?) but seriously, the organic vegetables on offer here would have to be the most delicious we’ve had during our time on the island.
Missed my post on Hash’ing in Barbados? Read it here
More ‘things to do’ next week!
Until then xo