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Central Barbados

On the central west coast, in St. James Parish, Holetown marks the center of the Platinum Coast — so-called for the vast number of luxurious resorts and mansions that face the sea. Holetown is also where Captain John Powell and the crew of the British ship Olive Blossom landed on May 14, 1625, to claim the island for King James I (who had actually died of a stroke seven weeks earlier). On the central east coast, the crashing Atlantic surf has eroded the shoreline, forming steep cliffs and exposing prehistoric rocks that look like giant mushrooms. Bathsheba and Cattlewash are favorite seacoast destinations for local folks on weekends and holidays. In the interior, narrow roads weave through tiny villages and along and between the ridges. The landscape is covered with tropical vegetation and rife with fascinating caves and gullies.

POINTS OF INTEREST

ORCHID WORLD & TROPICAL FLOWER GARDEN

Meandering pathways thread gardens filled with more than 30,000 colorful orchids and other tropical plants. You’ll see Vandaceous orchids attached to fences or wireframes, Schomburgkia and Oncidiums stuck on mahogany trees, Aranda and Spathoglottis orchids growing in a grotto, and Ascocendas suspended from netting in shady enclosures as well as seasonal orchids, scented orchids, and multicolor Vanda orchids. Benches are well placed to rest, admire the flowers, or take in the expansive view of the surrounding cane fields and distant hills of Sweet Vale. Snacks, cold beverages, and other refreshments are served in the café.

CHALKY MOUNT

This tiny east-coast village is perched high in the clay-yielding hills that have supplied local potters for about 300 years. A few working potteries are open daily to visitors, who can watch as artisans create bowls, vases, candle holders, and decorative objects—which are, of course, for sale.

FLOWER FOREST

It’s a treat to meander among fragrant flowering bushes, canna and ginger lilies, puffball trees, and more than 100 other species of tropical flora in a cool, tranquil forest of flowers and other plants. A ½-mile (1-km) path winds through the 53.6-acre grounds, a former sugar plantation; it takes about 30 to 45 minutes to follow the path, or you can wander freely for as long as you wish. Benches throughout provide places to pause and reflect. There’s also a snack bar, a gift shop, and a beautiful view of Mt. Hillaby, at 1,100 feet the island’s highest point.

WELCHMAN HALL GULLY

This 1½-mile-long (2-km-long) natural gully is really a collapsed limestone cavern, once part of the same underground network as Harrison’s Cave. The Barbados National Trust protects the peace and quiet here, making it a beautiful place to hike past acres of labeled flowers and stands of trees. You can see and hear some interesting birds—and, with luck, a native green monkey. There are limited scheduled free guided tours, and a guide can be arranged with 24 hours’ notice. Otherwise, the 30- to 45-minute walk is self-guided.

SIR FRANK HUTSON SUGAR MUSEUM

This museum is in an old boiling house in the yard of the Portvale Sugar Factory, one of two sugar refineries still in operation in Barbados. The museum has a collection of original machinery, old photographs, and other implements used to refine sugar and make molasses. A video presentation explains the production process from cutting the cane to sweetening your coffee to making rum. During the reaping season (February through May), you can also tour the modern factory to see how sugar is produced today. Call first, though, to make sure the guide (a retired worker) is on hand.