Barbados is the 'Little England' of the Caribbean, but not so much so that the locals have given up rotis for kidney pies, or rum for bitter ale.
Barbados sits almost a hundred miles east of its closest neighbor, so when the Spaniards, Danes, French and others were busy fighting over the rest of the Caribbean, Barbados sat back with its Pimm's on ice, remaining solidly British.
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What To See
You can tour grand 17th-century plantation homes and estate gardens, revel in the lush tropical landscapes, explore the Barbados museum and the historic Garrison area, or simply lie back with a cool drink and a big smile on one of the white-sand beaches.
Barbados Wildlife Reserve
Barbados Wildlife Reserve is a walk-through zoo opposite Farley Hill, with short paths that meander through a mahogany forest of scurrying green monkeys, sluggish red-footed turtles and a caiman pond. Other creatures that may be spotted include brocket deer, iguanas and agoutis. The monkeys are most lively during their afternoon feed.
This excellent museum is housed in an early-19th-century military prison. It has engaging displays on all aspects of the island’s history, beginning with its early indigenous residents. The most extensive collections cover the colonial era, with exhibits on slavery, emancipation, military history and plantation-house furniture, all accompanied by insightful narratives.
Built in 1833, this small synagogue between James St and Magazine Lane, near National Heroes Sq, was abandoned in 1929 and beautifully restored in 1986. The island’s first synagogue was built on this site in the 1600s, when Barbados had a Jewish population of more than 800. Over the following years the population dwindled, owing to emigration and Christian conversion, leaving only one person by 1929. In 1931 the Jewish population of Barbados rebounded when a large group arrived after fleeing discrimination in Poland.
A somewhat hidden gem that is the antithesis of its American namesake. Small, shady and intimate, it is well removed from the often frenetic south-coast pace. It gets crowded on weekends but is wide open during the week. Look for Mr Delicious, a vendor selling rum punch and fab fish cutters (sandwiches) . Take the small road heading towards South Point Lighthouse from Oistins, then curl back west to the beach.
Andromeda Botanic Gardens
At the top of the southern entrance to Bathsheba, the splendid Andromeda Botanic Gardens cover 2.5 hectares and have a wide collection of introduced tropical plants, including orchids, ferns, water lilies, bougainvillea, cacti and palms. Self-guided walks of various lengths enjoy the floral beauty and splendid views.
The largest beach in the area, it is a picture-perfect crescent of sand that you’ll want to immediately photograph and post on Facebook to irritate those left at home. Backed by shade trees, there’s surf to make things interesting but nothing too dramatic. Parking is copious, as are nearby cafes and snack shops. A new boardwalk allows you to walk west for more than 3km to Hastings.
The island's top event is the Crop-Over Festival, which originated in colonial times as a celebration of the sugar cane harvest. Festivities stretch over a three-week period beginning in mid-July. There are spirited calypso competitions and fairs around the island. The festival culminates with a Carnival-like costume parade on Kadooment Day (the first Monday in August).
In February, the Holetown Festival celebrates the 1627 arrival of the first English settlers on Barbados. Holetown's week-long festivities include street fairs, a music festival at the historic parish church and a road race. The Oistins Fish Festival, held over Easter weekend, commemorates the signing of the Charter of Barbados. It's a seaside event focusing on boat races, fish-boning competitions, local foods, crafts and dancing. The National Independence Festival of Creative Arts, held throughout November, features talent contests in dance, drama and singing. Performances by the finalists are held on Independence Day (30 November).
There are also a handful of international sporting events, including the Barbados Windsurfing World Cup, held at Silver Sands in January, and the Caribbean Surfing Championship, held in early November at Bathsheba.