The Enchanting Parishes of Barbados: Your Ultimate Guide to Visiting Barbados
From the capital city of Bridgetown and its rich colonial history, to St. John’s magnificent Atlantic coastline, Barbados is a land of great diversity and adventure. Discover all the island has to offer on your journey through these 11 stunning parishes!There are 11 parishes in Barbados, similar in structure to states or provinces. This guide from North to South lists some of the most incredible places to stay in Barbados. Whether you’re looking for fun, crowded beaches, a family-friendly location, or something off the beaten path, Barbados has it all. For more detailed information about what to expect and plan for when you arrive, be sure to check out our Before You Land travel guide.
Visiting Barbados’ Northern Coast: A Low-Key Escape from the Hustle
St. Lucy Parish
St. Lucy Parish, located in the north of Barbados, is a breath of fresh air. It’s less developed than some of the settlements on the West Coast. It’s perfect for those who want to enjoy the basic pleasures of nature, such as rustling trees and amazing ocean views all around.
The majority of those who opt to stay in St. Lucy does so because of its remote appeal. In St. Lucy, you truly feel at one with nature and cut off from the hustle and bustle of busy life. You’ll find a side of Barbados that many new visitors never get to see.
Popular attractions in St. Lucy Parish
Tourists to St. Lucy should explore attractions such as the Animal Flower Cave, the only sea cave on the island of Barbados, reached by steps and through a hole in a cliff wall. German scientists have dated the coral floor in the cove to be 500,000 years old. Be sure to bring your swimsuit just in case you want to take a dip in one of its natural rock pools.
Other places to visit in this parish include Maycock’s Bay for surfing, the Fustic House Plantation, and St. Lucy’s Parish Church.
St. Peter Parish
Located in the northwestern part of Barbados is St. Peter Parish. The area is known for its sandy beaches, steep terrain, and incredible views. Speightstown is the parish’s largest town, and the second-largest in Barbados. It is also known to be the bustling commercial center in the region. Known as “Little Bristol,” Speightstown is a quaint beach town that’s well worth a visit, especially on weekends when markets are bustling. The name of this region stems from the once-close economic ties between Barbados and Bristol, Great Britain.
Popular attractions in St. Peter’s Parish
Aside from its beautiful beaches, brand-new jetty and architecture, visitors come to tour the St. Nicholas Abbey Rum Plantation, as well as the Arlington House Museum. Don’t miss out on the chance to observe Barbados’ wild inhabitants at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve! Monkeys have made this island their home, and you can see them playing in the trees.
Instagrammers love St. Peter for its picturesque sugarcane-covered hillsides, the busy marinas at Port St. Charles and Port Ferdinand, as well as the colonial ruins of Farley Hill National Park. Several events, including the Barbados Jazz Festival, take place in St. Peter throughout the year.
Visiting Barbados’ Western Coast: An Action-Packed Beach Getaway
This is the best place to go duty-free shopping, see historic sights, and go on a fishing trip. The west coast of Barbados is more upmarket, with a mix of high-end resorts, beachfront villas, condos, etc., which is why it’s now also called the “Platinum Coast.” Many people are drawn to the sandy beaches, including the well-known Sandy Lane beach.
Holetown, formerly known as Jamestown, was the site of the island’s first British settlement. It was given the name Jamestown after King James I of England. Things have changed a lot since then, as it is now home to a growing number of restaurants, pubs, and boutiques.
St. James Parish
St. James Parish can be found in the northwest of Barbados. This region is known for being a popular hangout spot for celebrities on the island, not to mention where you’ll find Rihanna’s mansion. However, there’s much more to it than celebrities, paparazzi and premium lodging.
The historic stone walls of St. James Parish Church are but one example. They first opened their doors to parishioners in the 1600s. Today, tours run frequently, and it’s quite possible that this is the perfect spot to begin learning about true Bajan (Barbadian) history. So visit St James today for a trip back in time, or a spontaneous rendezvous with Rihanna!
Popular attractions in St. James Parish
Be sure to visit the Sir Frank Hutson Museum, the Folkestone Marine Park, and the Portvale Sugar Factory, which is one of Barbados’ few remaining sugar factories. Areas such as Sandy Lane, Sugar Hill, Royal Westmoreland, and Porters are all worth stopping to explore.
St. Michael Parish
On the island’s west coast, you’ll find St. Michael Parish, which is home to Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. St. Michael is home to Carlisle Bay, which features stunning beaches and an underwater dive park with many sunken boats and ships.
Popular attractions in St. Michael Parish
Some of the more notable attractions in St. Michael are the St. Ann’s Garrison, a Unesco World Heritage Site, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, George Washington House, and the Barbados Museum. Learn about Barbados’ historic past, while enjoying the incredible scenery of St. Michael, who said vacations can’t be educational?
There are also the Tyrol Cove Heritage Centre, Frank Collymore Hall (a theater), Cockspur Visitor Centre, Kensington Oval (a cricket field), Mount Gay Rum Distillery, Pelican Village (local arts and crafts), and Brighton Beach.
With a number of things to do and sights to see, St. Michael is certainly the place to be if you like being in the center of it all!
Central Barbados: A Look Back at the History of Barbados
St. Thomas Parish
St. Thomas was one of the first parishes to be created on the island of Barbados. In 1629, English settlers first arrived at Holetown in the parish of St. James, and with them the region began its colonial thumbprint.
Popular attractions in St. Thomas Parish
Don’t be fooled by the lack of coastline, the parish of St. Thomas has a lot to discover and explore. The aptly named Bagatelle Great House was a former sugar plantation. Nowadays, it hosts private events and boasts a variety of unique restaurants that remain open to visitors.
It’s here in St. Thomas that you can find Harrison’s Cave. This natural treasure is an enormous limestone cavern full of both stalagmites and stalactites. Rediscovered in 1970, it’s now a subterranean park and one of the biggest, popular tourist attractions on the island.
St. George Parish
Being an inland parish means people aren’t visiting St. George for its beaches. However, they do come for its breathtaking views, and on weekends, they come to the Brighton Farmers Market. Here you’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables, teas, coffee, pies, pottery, and plants, as well as local arts and crafts. It’s a great way to spend an early Saturday morning browsing, shopping and strolling.
Popular attractions in St. George Parish
If you fancy colonial architecture, St. George offers the Drax Hall Plantation. This is one of the earliest and largest sugar plantation properties in existence, dating back to the mid-17th century. Once owned by a wealthy family in Barbados, Drax Hall was erected by James and William Drax. Like many of the houses of the era, the Jacobean style was in vogue, with this structure sporting gable roofs and casement windows to match.
Be sure to check out the Francia Plantation House, Gun Hill Signal Station, and Orchid World on your next visit to St. George.
The Eastern Coast of Barbados: Reconnecting with Nature
St. Andrew Parish
St. Andrew’s Parish Church is another great place for colonial architecture. It also holds Barbados’ highest point, Mount Hillaby. Due to its hills and green valleys, British settlers named the parish in honor of its resemblance to Scotland.
Popular attractions in St. Andrew Parish
Grenade Hall Forest & Signal Station, Morgan Lewis Windmill, Mount Hillaby, St. Andrew’s Parish Church, and Turners Hall Woods are just a few of the many sights waiting to be explored in the parish of St. Andrew.
One of St. Andrew’s most spectacular views can be found atop Chalky Mount (particularly The Hole). The soils in this parish are mainly made of clay, which blends nicely with the surrounding terrain. The Chalky Mount Potteries, where local potters use clay from Chalky Mount’s parish to make unique items. It is a must-visit while you’re in the area, and take home a hand crafted item from the local potters as a souvenir or gift for someone special.
The forest covers nearly half of St. Andrew’s parish, including Turners Hall Woods, a dense tropical forest. Perfect for an early morning hike, where you just might see some exotic animals grazing.
The Spring Vale Eco-Heritage Museum is also worth a visit. It is situated on the grounds of a former 200-acre sugar plantation. It’s hoped that these tours will teach both locals and visitors alike about the traditional ways and lifestyles of years past.
St. Joseph Parish
If you enjoy touring botanical gardens, welcome to St. Joseph. The Flower Forest, a former sugar plantation, is a popular spot to relax – as are both the Andromeda Gardens and Hunte’s Gardens. While the region’s flora is undeniably its calling card, Bathsheba Beach is a destination in its own right, with perfect waves that are popular with experienced surfers.
St. John Parish
The St. John Anglican Church is one of several Anglican churches in the parish of St. John. The church is on the edge of Hackleton’s Cliff and has amazing views from Ragged Point in the east to Pico Tenerife in the north. This makes it one of the most romantic places in Barbados, perhaps the perfect spot to get down on one knee!
Popular attractions in St. John Parish
Many picturesque bays dot the east coast of St. John’s, including Consett Bay, Martin’s Bay, and Bath. These are all excellent picnic areas and great places for a swim.
While in St. John, Villa Nova is a must-see. Many great houses have been preserved or repaired over the years, and Villa Nova remains in good stead. It was built in 1834, at the same time slavery was abolished. It’s made of coral stone, laboriously shaped by teams of stonemasons. The Villa Nova House sits on 6 hectares (15 acres) of land and overlooks the stunning east coast. It has been a place of rest and retreat for both royalty and celebrities.
Barbados’ Southern Coast: For Sun, Surf and Sand
Christ Church Parish
Christ Church is located on the southern tip of Barbados. It’s home to the Grantley Adams International Airport and the St. Lawrence Gap, known locally as “The Gap,” which is the nightlife entertainment hub of the island.
It’s here in St. Lawrence Gap that you’ll find many of the best clubs, shops, restaurants, and bars in the country. So come visit, party like Rihanna, and get a true sense of local Bajan culture.
Popular attractions in Christ Church Parish
Be sure to visit the Harry Bayley Observatory on Observatory Road, which is usually open to everyone on Friday evenings. You will have the chance to view the clear night sky through a powerful telescope available onsite.
Fancy a day at the track? Christ Church hosts exhilarating horse races at Garrison Savannah. Want to practice your swing? Head to the Barbados Golf Club, Rockley Golf & Country Club, and after enjoy a cold beer at the popular Banks Beer Brewery. All this, along with the gorgeous beaches for swimming, surfing, and kite surfing, and the St. Lawrence Church (a landmark from the early 1800s), and you have one incredible place to visit.
The Concorde Experience/Museum next to the airport is also a must-do, where you get to learn about, see, and actually sit on the aircraft.
St. Philip Parish
St. Philip Parish is located in the southeastern area of Barbados, and is the perfect destination for someone wanting a quiet holiday on a stunning beach. Be sure to visit Sam Lord’s Castle, enjoy a dip at Shark Hole, and view Bottom Bay. Although the beach and sea views in this area are strikingly beautiful, the tides can be rough, and swimming is often ill-advised.
Popular attractions in St. Philip Parish
St. Philip is steeped in history, with a variety of historic plantation houses to visit and explore – their architecture dating back to the 1600s. Ragged Point boasts four lighthouses, and the nearby FourSquare Distillery has visitor tours daily. It’s also the place to be if you want to view one of the island’s major attractions—the Bushy Park Racing Circuit, where you can hop in and enjoy a true motorsport adrenaline rush.
Where To Stay in Barbados
Regardless of its small size, Barbados truly does offer something for everyone. Choosing the best vacation rental in Barbados is entirely up to the traveler and what they want to get out of their vacation. The most popular places to stay in Barbados are on the island’s south and west coasts. But the choices don’t stop there. You can choose between a rugged and relaxing north coast, the affluent west coast, the accessible center of the island, the rustic green, east coast, or the vibrant modern south coast. Each parish provides visitors with a unique experience.
However, if romance is on the horizon, and you don’t have a particular parish in mind for your getaway, we’ve got just what you need! Check out our carefully chosen list of beachfront vacation rentals so you and your partner can spend every day watching a beautiful sunset.