Sometimes simply referred to as ‘The City’, Bridgetown is one of the Caribbean’s earliest established towns.
Boasting intricate colonial architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in ‘Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison’, several fascinating museums and Rihanna as its most famous daughter, the capital of Barbados is a worthwhile destination in itself as part of your Caribbean holiday itinerary.
And that’s before you consider the abundance of natural riches on the city’s doorstep, with beautiful pink-tinged beaches, luscious gardens, wildlife reserves and unique rock formations just a grain of sand’s throw away.
Tucked away from the Caribbean’s main hurricane belt in the southeastern most point of the lesser Antilles, if you’re looking for a holiday immersed in nature, then the capital of Barbados is the perfect place. Here are 5 incredible nature excursions close to Bridgetown, Barbados.
THE BEACHES OF BRIDGETOWN & BEYOND
Just as you can’t come to the Caribbean without sprawling beneath palm trees on golden sands with crystal-clear waters lapping at your toes, so you can’t write an article about the Caribbean without mentioning palm trees, golden sands and crystal clear waters…
Anyway, such descriptions are cliched for a reason; they call to mind tropical tranquillity and the most perfect kind of sunkissed escape, and you’ll be pleased to hear that Barbados boasts both in abundance.
Perhaps the finest collection of beaches on all of the island, found at Carlisle Bay, are actually in Bridgetown, just five minutes from the city’s downtown area. Here, Brownshore Beach, Pebble Beach, and Bayshore Beach offer vast swatches of immaculate, powdery sand and supremely shallow water, making it perfect for paddling children and lounging adults alike.
Served by several shacks dishing up refreshments – including the legendary Cuzz’s Fish Stand and its iconic Bajan fish cutter (a delicious sandwich) – you can spend several days here in utter serenity.
On Barbados’ opposite eastern coast but just a thirty minute drive from Bridgetown, Bathsheba Beach, Crane Beach and Bottom Bay Beach are equally as idyllic. Or, drive north of the capital for 15 minutes, and you’ll find Sandy Lane beach (connected to the world famous resort of the same name), which is a gorgeous spot for sun, sand and sea, too. Speaking of which…
SNORKELLING & SCUBA DIVING OFF THE LUXURIOUS SANDY LANE RESORT
Sandy Lane Resort, arguably the Caribbean’s most famous hotel, is one of the world’s most premium private getaways. With villas to rent on the Sandy Lane Estate starting from around £400 and reaching upwards of £11’000 for a single night’s stay, it’s certainly an exclusive place to spend time (Simon Cowell proposed here, and the Beckhams are regulars).
That shouldn’t put you off visiting the area. In fact, Sandy Bay Beach offers public access to all, with a path found at the southern end of Sandy Lane Hotel.
What’s more, Sandy Lane Bay and Barbados’ west coast as a whole boasts some fantastic – and accessible – snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities. Just off shore, the Sandy Lane coral reef has schools of barracuda and other small tropical fish, as well as lobsters, frolicking amongst its skeleton-like structures.
A larger coral reef can be found just a kilometre south at Payne’s Bay. Here, you’ll see turtles, parrot fish and much more. Both are served by the Barbados Blue dive school, found in the Hilton at Needham’s Point and perhaps the most prestigious centre on the island. Alternatively, check out the West Side Scuba Centre, whose offices are in Bridgetown.
FOLKESTONE MARINE PARK & MUSEUM
Along the same stretch of coastline as Sandy Lane and Payne’s Bay is the Folkestone Marine Park and Museum, which boasts an artificial reef created by the wreckage of the ship Stavronikita, which sank in 1976. Around the wreckage – found just half a mile from shore – are plenty of chances for more snorkelling and diving, with soft and hard corals, sponges, barracuda and turtles all calling the debris home.
If the famous Barbados dive site feels like too much of an undertaking, the marine park also boasts a recreational zone with an inshore reef. There’s also plenty of scope for kayaking and paddleboarding in these calm, crystal clear waters. To catch further glimpses of local marine species, on dry land you’ll find the Folkestone Museum, which houses an aquarium.
BARBADOS WILDLIFE RESERVE
After so much time in the sea, we’re heading inland, to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, which is found on the north of the island, and is a 40 minute drive from Bridgetown.
Here you can observe animals both native and introduced to the island as they eat, play and interact with each other. Some of the highlights include Barbados’ famous green monkeys, who were brought to the island some 350 years ago from West Africa, and are now so abundant and iconic that they’ve become Barbados’ national animal.
Also calling Barbados Wildlife Reserve home are turtles, snakes and iguanas, as well as a range of gorgeous birds, including parrots and macaws, found in the reserve’s dedicated aviary.
Entrance to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve is just $15, with your fee also granting you admission to the adjoining Grenade Hall Forest and Signal Station. What’s more, closeby is Farley National Park, if you’re keen to make a full day of it. And why wouldn’t you?
HARRISON’S CAVE ECO-ADVENTURE PARK
Phew, that was enough time away from water; we need to cool off a while. So next, we’re heading to Harrison’s Cave, a natural limestone cavern which features streams, pools, stalagmites and stalactites, formed over thousands of years. Though it’s not on the coast, it’s the perfect place for a swim, with the natural pools and underground lakes here refreshing, invigorating and squeaky clean.
To descend into the vast, interconnected cave system, a tram tour is available, with tour guides able to offer fascinating insight into what many Bajans consider the ‘eighth wonder of the world’.
THE BOTANICAL GARDENS OF BARBADOS
Finally, we’re taking a tour of the island’s Botanical Gardens of which Barbados has several, all devoted to the protection of native flora, fauna, habitats and ecosystems.
The three key sites of interest are the National Botanical Gardens, the Andromeda Botanic Gardens, and the Flower Forest Botanical Gardens, though you’ll also find plenty to immerse yourself in within the grounds of Hunte’s Gardens, the Peaceful Garden, and even the natural gully of Welchman Hall.
And the best bit? All the gardens we’ve mentioned are within roughly a half hour’s drive of each other. Most resorts will arrange a tour for you.
And with that, we hope you have a wonderful time in Barbados. Don’t forget to say hi to Rihanna for us!