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Top Barbados Attractions

The first time you visit Barbados, or any new destination, the question asked isn’t usually what attractions should be scene but what attraction to see first, what to expect, how to get there, and how much time is needed. We’ve provided tips, advice, and other information about the top tourist attractions in Barbados to help with your itinerary planning.

Harrison's Cave Harrison's Cave
Bridgetown Bridgetown
Atlantis Submarine Atlantis Submarine
Flower Forest Flower Forest
Jacobean Mansions Jacobean Mansions

Harrison’s Cave

 Address Near the southern end of Welchman Hall Gully
 Admission $16 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under.
 Hours 9:00 am - 4:00 pm daily
 Phone 246-438-6640

The most popular attraction in Barbados, perhaps in large part because it attracts the entire family, is Harrison’s Cave. First reported in historical documents in 1795, the caves were virtually forgotten for two centuries until local residents “rediscovered” them 30 years ago. They officially opened to the public in 1981. After a trip to the Visitors Centre (which has a snack bar and restaurant), the tour starts in a theatre with an audio-visual show documenting the geological history of Barbados. The shows illustrate how this marvelous cave came about. Visitors then board a tram for a ride underground to see calcium-rich water dropping from the ceiling. Visitors look right and see a fast-flowing stream. On the left there’s a spectacular view of a 100 by 150-foot cavern. Thousands of stalactites and stalagmites hang from the ceiling. Many of these formations have been here for thousands of years, previously unseen by human eyes. Along the way, visitors see a blue-green underground lake that like much of the cave has an eerie beauty. Riders on the tram can get out at periodic stops for pictures.

 

Bridgetown

Because it’s such a small island, less than three times the size of Washington, DC, visitors often find explorations to the towns and villages are well worth their time. You can start out at Bridgetown, the capital and commercial center of the island. It’s a very walk-able city of less than 100,000 residents. With ships and yachts in the background, visitors find an abundance of duty free shops and harbor-side vendors. The parliament buildings are also here. Opposite Parliament, there’s Trafalgar Square and a statute of Lord Nelson. The later was erected in 1813 and is older than the London version. If you’re hungry, fast-food vendor Chefette has five locations here which offer pizza and barbecue but also salad bars. If you want to learn something about the architectural heritage of Barbados, visit Speightstown just north of Bridgetown. It was the country’s first commercial center and has been revived and restored to its former glory. There are art galleries and beachfront restaurants. At another village, Holetown, you can see where the first English ship landed in 1625. Fitts Village is a small town that has good snorkeling and swimming as well as one of the best Italian restaurants on the island. St. Lawrence Gap with its numerous night clubs and bars is tailor-made for the late night revelers.

 

Atlantis Submarine Adventure’s

 Address Location is the Shallow Draught in Bridgetown
 Admission Tickets are $84 for adults, $57 for teens (13-17), and $44 for children 12 years and younger
 Phone 800-546-7820
 Website www.atlantisadventures.com

It’s not cheap but the Atlantis Submarine Adventure’s claim to see the Barbados “few ever get to see” is certainly true. Eighty-ton submarines carry 48 passengers in air conditioned comfort through a 50-minute, guided ocean tour. The subs, which have various safety certifications, carry passengers down to depths of 130 feet to view ship wrecks, sponge gardens, coral reefs, and exotic fish and marine life. The voyage begins with a seven-minute ride on a shuttle vessel, the “Ocean Quest,” which takes passengers to the Atlantis submarine, where the crew explains the voyage. The submarine first dives to 55 feet to view the coral reef and an abundance of marine life. Windows for seeing this underwater paradise are spacious. The pilot throughout the journey points out sea life and talks about the submarine itself -- a 65-foot-long vessel that has such safety features as constant radio contact with the shore. At the end of the cruise, an adult ticket includes a free lunch or t-shirt. All guests receive a complimentary drink and free transportation. The tour operator guarantees customer satisfaction or free tickets to another attraction.

 

Flower Forest

 Address Highway 2, Richmond Plantation, St. Joseph
 Admission $7 for adults, half for children
 Hours 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Daily
 Phone 246-433-8152
 Website www.barbados.org/flowfrst.htm

Visitors to Flower Forest generally come for the plant life but the monkeys an added pleasure. The 50-acre island of tranquility is like a headquarters for the “sounds of silence” -- except, of course, for those jabbering monkeys. But don’t worry about them. They are tame and conditioned to seeing humans. The real attractions here are the flowers: brilliant clusters of Heliconia also known as bird of paradise and three-foot high begonias, with leaves the size of human hands. There’s an immense variety of plants and an explosion of color as visitors walk the winding pathways that are reminiscent of a jungle. Tours are available or visitors can stay as long as they like strolling the various pathways. There are benches to rest. There’s also a snack bar that has everything from hot dogs to flying fish. And oh yes, a well-stocked film department for photographers who find there is more to film here then they planned. The forest is very popular. With some exaggeration, perhaps, that is reflected in the visitor book with one notation: “If I owned Paradise and Flower Forest, I would rent Paradise and live in Flower Forest.”

 

Jacobean Mansions

Visitors should not miss seeing some of Barbados’s old great houses, many of them several centuries old. Two of only three genuine Jacobean mansions in the Western Hemisphere are located here, St. Nicholas Abbey and Drax Hall (the third is in Virginia). Both were built in the 1650s. Drax Hall was believed to have been built by two brothers who prospered in the sugar industry. St. Nicholas Abbey shows off such interesting architectural features as Dutch gables, cedar paneling, corner chimneys and a Chinese Chippendale staircase. The home is set amidst a lush forest of mahogany trees. Visitors will find a world of fine antiques, china and silverware at another grand house, Francia, which also has on display a map dating back to 1522.

Sam Lord’s Castle
If you want to see the lifestyle of an alleged pirate, Sam Lord’s Castle built in 1820 is also open to the public. Some of his original furnishings remain in the castle.

Farley Hill
There are also ruins such as Farley Hill, which was once the most magnificent home in the country. Today, the house gets attention because of its well-landscaped gardens which have plants the owner imported from all over the world.

Typically, prices for the great houses that are open to the public are about $10. Some of the island’s most historic and private homes can be visited from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, mid-January to mid-April, under the National Trust’s Open House Program. These range from the old plantation houses to opulent modern villas. A $15 entrance fee gives visitors access to the homes. Children 5 to 12 are charged half price, while those under 5 are free. (tel. 246-426-2421)

 


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