Barbados is of course located in the stunning Caribbean and is a popular tourist destination for those seeking sun, sand and a taste of the Caribbean. The island is known for being very British and you can often see cricket matches taking place and can enjoy an English afternoon tea too! A home from home maybe! There’s so much on offer including botanical gardens, incredible beaches lush plantations.
Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados and its the largest city within it. It has a population of over 110,000 people and as you can imagine attracts thousands of holidaymakers a year. In 2012 downtown Bridgetown was named as a UNESCO world heritage site so that’s pretty special, isn’t it!
Bridgetown is in the south-west of Barbados is a popular place for Caribbean cruises to begin and finish for many cruise lines and so has a very busy port. The cruise port is only about 5 minutes taxi ride or a 15-minute walk from the town centre and so is easily accessible on a port day or before or after your cruise. The cruise terminal itself has many shops, bars and places to eat and of course many souvenirs on offer to purchase. The cruise terminal offers shuttle bus for about £1.50 to the centre of town.
Currency: The currency in Barbados is the Barbados Dollar (BD$$). This is fixed at ta 2:1 rate with the US dollar. This can make things confusing, especially if you are coming from the US so do check prices with taxis or food vendors so you know exactly what you are paying. Many places accept USD dollars too for ease of cruise passengers.
Flight time to the UK: Direct flights from the UK take 8 and a half hours. Barbados’ airport is the Grantley Adams International Aiport (GAIA) which is located in Seawell. The cruise terminal is approx 13 miles from the airport and easily reached by taxi.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit Barbados (and most of the Caribbean islands for that matter) is between the months of December to April. This is also the busiest time or the Island and when it costs the most to stay there! June to November is the official hurricane season and with storms and ain likely, most cruise lines will not travel to Barbados (or the Caribbean) during these months.
Language: English is the official language, however, the Bajan dialect is widely spoken.
Things to See:
History and Culture
Cheapside Market is a fresh fruit and veg market located near the cruise port and town centre. Here you will be able to see loads of different fruits including exotic mangoes, coconuts and various Bajan fruit. As well as fruit stalls there are souvenir stalls to grab yourself a bargain and immerse yourself into all things Bajan! It runs on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday so do check which day you are due to dock if you are hoping to visit.
St Mary’s Church:
This pretty Anglican church can be found in the centre of Bridgetown and is gorgeous from the outside. It has a lovely garden area and regular services. It’s easy to find, close to the cruise terminal and free to enter.
Bridgetown Jewish Synagogue:
Bridgetown is home to one of the oldest synagogues in the world and can be found in the heart of the town centre. It was initially built in the 1600s and so is rather old! It has a museum within which details Barbados’ immigration and slave trade history which is always worth learning about.
Harrison’s Point Lighthouse:
If you are keen to enjoy the coastline of this wonderful island then a trip to Harrison’s Point Lighthouse might be for you. Located in the northern parish of St Lucy, visitors are not able to actually go inside the lighthouse but can enjoy spectacular views and explore the United States Naval Base en route. It can be a little tricky to find so it might be worth trying to visit the site via taxi or on a cruise excursion.
St Nicholas’ Abbey:
A visit to St Nicholas Abbey offers real insight into Barbadian life. Here, visitors get the chance to explore one of the oldest distilleries in the Caribbean and the 350-year-old private plantation. Despite its name suggests, the plantation is not a religious attraction but actually a private home build in 1660. Visitors have a chance to explore the great house, the distillery and sugar mill. Admission includes a tour of the great house, syrup factory and bottling plant and visitors can enjoy the formal gardens and plantations museum. There are also guided tours available should you wish.
Tickets for the abbey, distillery and sugar grinding cost $40 for adults and $15 for children under 12 years old. If you want to add a ride on the heritage railway then add another $20 to adult tickets. There are a few different rates for different days of the week and the plantation is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so do check the website for up to date information.
George Washington House:
Open all year round and not far from the town centre is the former home to American president George Washington. The house can be explored by visitors where there are tunnels also. Interestingly enough Barbados was the only country Washington ever visited outside of colonial America and a tour will give visitors an insight into life in Barbados 250 years ago. Combined entry for the house and tunnels costs $30 for adults and $15 for children.
Mount Gay Rum Visitor Centre:
If rum is your drink then this is the place to head to! The Mount Gay Rum Visitor Centre is located in Bridgetown and enables visitors to tour the historic distillery and taste the delicious rum made here. There are various different rum tasting and food packages on offer and so you can pick which is most suitable for your trip.
Located in St Lucy, the main rum plantation can also be visited via guided tour. The rum distillery tour is strictly over 18s only and tours last about 2 hours. It is advised that only closed-toe shoes are permitted and tours are offered in English. The tour guides visitors around the working estate, its land, the fermentation house and more. Guides show you how to create the tasty rum and following the tour visitors can try 2 signature Mount Gay Rums – yum! Tickets are $40 per person and can be booked ahead online. Tickets to the visitor centre can also be booked via Tripadvisor and cost £18.38 for the hour tour.
Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill:
Slightly further outside of Bridgetown is the Mogan Lewis Sugar Mill – one of the Seven Wonders of Barbados! A visit here allows visitors to learn about sugar production in the Caribbean. The site includes the last of remaining windmill used to produce sugar. The Barbados National Trust runs regular demonstrations of the sugar production and the site offers beautiful views. The sugar mill is often a stop on a cruise excursion.
Carlisle Bay is one of the most popular beaches to head to and if you google some pictures you will see why! Open to the public, with no need to pay, Carlisle beach is a great place to soak up the sun and possibly get a boat ride out to swim with the resident turtles!
The Boatyard on Carlisle Bay is the place to head to enjoy Caribbean cocktails on its sandy beaches with crystal clear waters. The boatyard is a beach complex with various amenities including beach chairs, ocean trampolines, a beachside restaurant, pool table and even a rope swing! A short turtle boat tour is also included in the entrance fee which will cost you $60 per person although you get $45 back to spend at the bar on food and drink. Many cruise lines will offer an escorted transfer trip here.
Other beaches of interest are Accra Beach and Paynes Bay which are 4 and 5 miles away from the cruise port respectively. Accra beach offers a beautiful beach to snorkel at and a pretty boardwalk stroll. Paynes Bay is located on the west coast of Barbados and offers a fantastic stretch of stunningly sandy beach. There’s plenty of watersports available here too.
If you’re keen to get under the sea and learn about marine life then you might decide to take a trip on the Atlantis Submarine. This uniques experience offers visitors a chance to have a natural underwater adventure and dive down to witness life beneath the sea. This is a great attraction for children, although might not be best for those who suffer from claustrophobia and being in enclosed spaces. Tickets cost $112 for adults and $59 for children with many cruise lines offering excursions including transport.
This world-class attraction sees visitors explore a massive underground cave system with caverns and crystalised formations. There are two main tours available at Harrison’s Cave – the eco-adventure tour takin 3.5 hours trekking through the nature trails and caves, and the walk-in cave tour offering visitors a guided tour around the cave. The eco-adventure tour is suited more to the adventurous and costs $200. The walk-in tour lasts for an hour and costs $40 for adults. It is worth noting that this tour only operates every last Saturday of the month.
Andromeda Botanic Gardens:
These wonderful tropical gardens are certainly worth a visit if nature and gardening are your bag. The gardens are reached via bus from Bridgetown and take about 50 minutes so do account for this if you are not docked in port for long. Entry costs $30 for adults with children going free with a paying adult. There are reductions on entry prices for RHS and National Trust members so worth remembering your cards if you are members of those back home in the UK.
Sunbury Plantation House:
This 300-year-old house, built by Matthew Chapman in 1660 is full of antiques and old prints as well as an impressive collection of horse-drawn carriages. All rooms in this great house are available to guests to view and there’s a restaurant to grab a bite to eat too. Tickers cost $10USD.
Excursions and Tours
As with many popular cruise ports, there will be lots of excursions offered by your cruise line to explore the island. May will offer escorted transfers or tours to the places mentioned above and some will offer a combined tour of the islands which enable you to visit multiple sites or attractions. Below we list just a few of the tours that are on offer from Bridgetown.
Viator offers a historic walking tour of Bridgetown which costs £19 and takes about 2 hours. The guided tour will take you around the main highlights of the town including the Jewish Synagogue, the statue of Lord Nelson and Parliament House.
An island tour with lunch and a visit to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve will set you back £62 with Viator. This tour has various stops including Fower Forest Garden, St John Church and Earth Works Pottery and includes lunch. The tour departs from the cruise terminal but is an early start so you’ll have to ensure you dock early!
If you fancy swapping the ship for a smaller boat ride then a catamaran snorkelling cruise might be for you. These 5-hour tours by El Tigre Catamaran Sailing Cruises includes free-flowing drinks and snacks and a chance to snorkel among the fish. Tickets can be booked via TripAdvisor and cost £56.55.
Local tour company Andrew Transport offers a range of tours across the island. We really like the sound of their ‘hidden villages of Barbados’ tour which offers the chance to see the “real Barbados” and meet real Bajan communities. This tour lasts 5 hours includes lunch and costs $65 per person.
If you are keen to try some local delicacies then Lickrish Food Tours offers a variety of fun foodie tours. Their ‘Original Bajan Walking Food Tour’ combines visits to various local sights and enjoys over 8 tastings of Bajan favourites including fish cakes, pigtails, ice cream and local fruit. Tours cost $74.99 and last approx 3 hours.
With such a range of places to visit on this island, it’s hard to decide what we would like to do most! Bridgetown appears to offer such a range of things to do – there’s sightseeing for nature lovers, there’s plenty of history and culture and beautiful beaches too – something for everyone to enjoy surely!
If you have visited Barbados or cruised to Bridgetown then do let us know what you enjoyed doing in the comments below!