If you’re looking to escape the more commercial hub of Barbados life when choosing where to holiday on the island, then the smart money suggests setting your coordinates for the south-east side, as opposed to the north-west. While the latter is decidedly upmarket in appeal, in terms of what typical Caribbean destinations offer the discerning holidaymaker, the south-east is significantly more chillaxed, to coin modern lingo. The laid-back vibes associated with the area spread to the touristic perspective too, with those visiting this area often from the surfing communities and/or independent travellers who aren’t necessarily concerned with pinpointing the picture perfect beaches. Which incidentally, are just a short drive up the coast anyway, if you’re that way inclined.
Right at the heart of life and times on this side of the island of Barbados is the parish known as Christ Church, and if any one area defines the town’s stripped back approach and attitude then it’s the much-hyped St Lawrence Gap. To the uninitiated, this 1.3 kilometre stretch of road comprises of a raft of fine eateries, lively nightlife, good shopping opportunities and an eclectic choice of accommodation. And those who stay in Christ Church get to see the best of St. Lawrence Gap from the best seats in the house, so to speak. This trendy neighbourhood has more funky bars and top-tier restaurants than just about any other destination on the entire island. 'The Gap', as it is commonly referred to as, is a place where various cultures meet and merge, and it’s a unique experience that tourists are actively encouraged to sample for themselves whether staying here as part of their summer 2019 Barbados holiday or simply passing through.
Bridgetown is where much of the seaborne action is for kids, primarily thanks to the Atlantis III submarine which routinely sails from the shore here. Capable of diving to depths of 150feet, the 48 seater sub scours the ocean bed affording passengers the opportunity to peep through the portholes and observe the crystal clear Caribbean waters; an out-of-this-world experience which proves fascinating to kids time after time. But the Atlantis III is not just the preserve of kids, as adults – more especially those aren’t into diving or snorkelling - find this a very worthwhile pursuit to immerse themselves in too. Other maritime-based pursuits located hereabouts include a cruise on the traditional tall-ship called ‘Harbour Master’, while closer to the Gap, Ocean Park sightseers will be privy to a cross-section of marine exhibits.
Remaining in historic Bridgetown for a while longer, and the Barbadian capital is home to some rather splendid British Colonial era architecture which shouldn’t be missed, while the duty free shopping is another aspect of Bridgetown which shouldn’t be overlooked either. Drop in at the nearby Pelican Craft Centre and those enjoying a Christ Church holiday will come face to face with some incredible local art, pottery, woodwork and glass crafts, while the colourful and somewhat larger-than-life presence of the fruit and veg market at Cheapside is highly recommended too. The former Jacobian plantation house, namely St Nicholas Abbey – complete with rum distillery in situ (not to mention an interesting back story all of its own) – is definitely worth a pit stop too while you’re in the area, whilst Oistins Fish Market will be expanded on a little later, but worth highlighting I in this bite-size list of must-see Barbadian places of interest.
Don’t just take our word for it, but instead those foodies who’ve been there, done that (several times) and naturally own a T-shirt or three to prove it; but when you mention the St Lawrence Gap in the same breath as food, then you should follow your noses to the Bajan Roots and Rhythm venue. Apparently a complete no-brainer if you’re in the market for an unparalleled combo of dinner and entertainment. Be it seafood (unsurprisingly given the geographical location), barbeque, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Asian or steakhouse dishes which pique your more culinary interests in those there parts, there are a host of eateries which cater for just about every taste imaginable. And then some. We could of course cite an exhaustive compendium of bars and restaurants; however we’d be here all day. So alternatively we’ve given a heads up to the fine dining tour de forces in the immediate Christ Church environs, such as Champers, Primo Bar and Bistro, Beach One and Asiagos.
On the other hand, we’ve endeavoured to list two supreme examples of eateries with a more rustic and traditional Barbadian charm and enduring appeal, the first of which is Oistins Fish Market. Not so much one actual establishment as a raft of them. We’re not lying when we say that those enjoying a Christ Church holiday make it a priority to experience this full-scale street party, which is enormously not just with visitors but obviously the locals who’ve championed its existence from the year dot. Every Friday evening – and in the direct aftermath of the local fishermen having hauled in their daily catch, mended their nets and divvied up the fish – womenfolk preside over their wooden huts, grilling and frying swordfish, mahi-mahi, snapper and flying fish, grilled barracuda, dolphin fish and marlin, in a sort of mass community fry-off. Mo's, next to the main stage, is a good a choice as nay of the eateries which then present the dishes, as it also does lots of local side offerings to accompany the fish mains. Throw into this already heady mix a lot of rum, ear-splitting calypso and reggae beats, and everyone from teenagers to OAPs feel the need to subsequently dance the remainder of the night away.
Families are equally well catered for in Christ Church, and extended the same level of welcome and peerless hospitality as singles, couples and other mixed parties of tourists all planning on experiencing a holiday in this Barbadian idyll. And on this note you’ll be pleased to learn that there are several interesting museums located in Christ Church, with further cultural offerings in the nearby capital, Bridgetown. Located at the Grantley Adams International Airport is the Barbados Concorde Experience, where the aviation history of this world-famous supersonic passenger airliner is explained, and visitors even get the chance to walk aboard a decommissioned BA Concorde. Other cultural draws include the Wildey House estate, the Barbados Museum at St. Ann's Garrison and the Kirby Gallery at Hastings.
Harrison's Cave, in the parish of St. Thomas (and where a tram transports passengers through a series of interconnecting natural caverns, past some exceptional calcium deposits) is a recommended excursion for the all the family to enjoy, while many further beaches await. But perhaps one of the most memorable detours might be the one which takes in a trip to the Globe Drive-in cinema back in the Christ Church base. Here you can bring your rental vehicle (ideally a convertible when explained fully) and observe a movie as cinema-goers did in 1950s America. Complete with snacks, suffice to say. Moreover, the majority of shows are presented as double feature, so you certainly get your money’s worth.
Action & Adventure
Sports is almost a religion in Barbados, what with cricket, hockey, football, tennis or athletics being entwined into the social fabric as such. Another sporting pursuit you can easily add to this list in more recent times is that of surfing, as Barbados is now quickly becoming synonymous with the surfing community. And, arguably, there’s no better place to worship at this water sport than at the ever-moving tide temples located at Christ Church’s beaches. It’s agreed that the south shore boasts the best waves and this spot is remote enough that surfers don't have to worry about dodging bathers and jet skiers. Although there are coral reefs abound, in certain places they form breaking points that add to the already excellent surfing conditions. Boards can be rented from many hotels and outfitters, some of whom offer lessons to beginners.
The beaches around Christ Church – although not quite as appealing as those discovered further north - are among the predominant reasons why this part of Barbados acknowledges such a high number of holiday makers and tourists each year in more recent times. But rather than simply lying back on them and thinking of England, they are more suited – or at least the waters which lap up against them are – to holidaymakers keen to delve a little deeper into the great blue yonder. Or the sea, between you, us and, well, the audience of thousands who’ll read this at some point. Indeed, the beaches which make-up Barbados’ south coast are recognized as centres for endless snorkelling, surfing and windsurfing opportunities, with Dover Beach being amongst the busiest in the parish. They also present perfect conditions for those tourists who enjoy body boarding too, according to experts in this particular field. Another popular coastal spot to run the rule over is Rockley Beach, where tropical palm trees and comfortable sun loungers all add to the holiday experience.
Other impressive beaches in this area – for those of a more sun-worshipping disposition - include those around Silver Sands and Bottom Bay. On the hot topic of Rockley Beach, did we mention that the south coast boardwalk begins to take shape around here? Nope? Well, this mile-long, wide wooden boardwalk zigzags along the shore from Rockley Beach to Hastings, and represents the ideal platform in which to engage in either a genteel stroll or a jog. You can even catch your breath at points and partake in some tapas, should you choose (probably more agreeable to those out for a leisurely walk, as opposed to any more physical endeavours). Oh, and a clutch of huts at one end of Rockley Beach sells beer and burgers.
A polite word of warning in advance for those considering a holiday in Christ Church any time soon. Be prepared for live music, karaoke sessions and a whole lot of rum! So not so much a warning, more a clear-cut invite to paaarty if you ask us. But then the Barbadian parish of Christ Church is a by-word for ‘good times forecast’ anyway, specifically if you plan on taking in the sights, sounds and liqueur habitually associated with St.Lawrence Gap. Where entertainment in every conceivable sense of the word starts and finishes on the Caribbean island. A stroll through ‘The Gap’ reveals a number of nightclubs, catering to all musical tastes, including The Cove (a hopping club which routinely offers a wide range of music, from reggae and calypso to mellow music and rhythm and blues) and Old Jamm Inn (see what they’ve done there? - with a diverse selection of live & DJ music ranging from hot jazz to sizzling soca, and unofficially regarded as one of the hottest spots in the 1.3km drag, the walls of this mecca to nocturnal entertainment are clad with comic book wallpaper and the bar here is lined with alcohol bottles as far as the eye can see).
Meanwhile Café Sol, Shaker’s Bar and Grill (which is all about the rum, rum and more rum, according to urban legend), Sharkeys (an outdoor bar replete with its rainbow décor and neon blue lightshow) and Crooners at Scoopie's Jazz (tucked away from the noise of other venues along the St Lawrence Gap it may be, but none the less renowned for its warm atmosphere and soft jazz music played live throughout the week) are all worth a shout out.
Andromeda Gardens in Bathsheba and Gun Hill Signal Station atop Gun Hill both offer those couples who circumnavigate the immediate area commanding views to gaze out upon; the latter representing one of the island’s highest natural points. The Flower Forest – which forms an integral part of the Richmond Plantation – is also well worth a stroll through, arm in arm with your partner, down the winding pathways. Meanwhile The Tiki Bar is a little beach hut where the meals are served with a side of stunning waterfront views. The bar's slogan is 'It's Always Time for Rum', which is a difficult slogan/mantra to argue against, tell you the truth. In addition to light bites, you're treated to a nice long list of cocktails to be enjoyed from the bar, or with the waves at your feet. Now just HOW romantic is that?!
From the Christ Church Parish Church at Oistins, and St. David's Church within St. David's Village (the latter of which is one of the island's oldest and dates back to just before the middle of the 19th Century), the area around Christ Church and its satellites offer up a number of cultural high points. Although few scale the architectural heights associated with South Point Lighthouse; which looms large over Miami Beach and towers over the Atlantic Shores district cast in its mighty shadow. Featuring vivid red and white stripes, the lighthouse – somewhat bizarrely – hails from Victorian London, many thousands of miles away; yet was transported to Barbados in the jmid-19th Century after appearing in the Great Exhibition.