Exploring Historic Bridgetown, Barbados

By Betsi Hill / February 18, 2017
The dry dock of Blackwoods Screwdock in Bridgetown

With its storied heritage of African, American, British, Carib and Creole, Barbados offers an eclectic cultural mix to visitors. This tiny island nation’s capital—also its largest city—Bridgetown, in particular, brims with this fascinating mixture of heritages. You’ll see imposing colonial buildings, and narrow cobbled streets lead you through the town.

Narrow Streets filled with cars and pedestrians in Bridgetown Barbados

Modern Bridgetown – Narrow streets filled with cars and pedestrians

Exploring Bridgetown

Beguiling alleyways beckon you to explore them. It’s not hard to imagine the sounds of an era long gone swirling around you; the voices of slave traders ringing out above the clamor and the groans of the stevedores as they load their cargo onto the waiting ships.

Bridgetown, Barbados, Caribbean

Cannons at St. Ann’s Garrison [photo by @photobeginning/DepositPhotos]

Cannon and other weapons of war fill St. Ann’s Garrison.

The Garrison, constructed in 1870, is the Old Town’s bellwether. As the head-quarters for the British Imperial Forces, it was at the Garrison, in November 1966 that the grand celebration marking Barbados’s Independence from Great Britain took place. The lowering of the Union Jack and the raising of the Barbadian flag was the centerpiece of this Independence ceremony.

Housed in the old military prison, the Barbados Museum gives you a peek into the history that forms the backbone of modern Barbados. As you walk the floors of this ancient building, it’s hard not to feel the history come alive. From the geological formation of the island to its culture, the museum whisks you from the pre-Colonial days to the African and Europeans who settled the island, to modern day Barba-dos, and what is shaping its future.

The Careenage in Bridgetown Barbados

The Careenage with magnificent iron railings and embellished lamplights

Strolling along the Careenage, featuring magnificent iron railings and embellished lamplights is evocative of a seaside promenade. The catamarans and multi-million dollar yachts filling the marina hail from ports all over the world. For over three hundred years the Careenage has been a gathering spot for Barbadians and tourists alike to meet and share a glass of sweet, rich caramel-colored Barbados rum while gazing out over the seaport.

Colorful boutiques and cafes line the Careenage in Bridgetown

Colorful boutiques & cafes line the Careenage

Backwoods Screw Dock

Entrance to Blackwoods Screw Dock

The deep water dock is home to the antique Blackwoods Screw Dock. Here, merchant ships would be careened on their side as the massive screws on either side of the dock were turned, slowly lifting the ship from the water. Once out of the water, she would be scrubbed, repaired and painted and then lowered back into the water.

Blackwoods Screw Dock

Blackwoods Screw Dock is the only remaining screw dock in the world.

This antique dry dock was used to careen ships out of the water for repair and painting. Cargos of spices, fabrics, nuts and other merchandise would be hauled ashore and stored in the nearby warehouses. Today these warehouses have been lovingly restored and now house colorful and inviting waterfront cafes and boutiques.

Atlantis Submarine

A relaxing way to while away a few hours, the Atlantis Submarine introduces you to the undersea world of Barbados. As the wind begins to kick up little wavelets, the captain and crew of our small transport boat prepare for our docking with the Atlantis submarine. Scrambling over the rail and down the hatch, we all settle in for our under-water adventure.

First glimpse of Atlantis Submarine in Bridgetown Barbados

Our first glimpse of Atlantis Submarine

Our pilot onboard Atlantis Submarine Bridgetown Barbados

Our pilot for the morning dive

Peering through the portholes in Atlantis Submarine Barbados

Peering through the portholes for our first glimpse of the watery depths

With the hatch closed, we descend into the harbor’s watery depths to the sea floor. As we peer through the portholes on both sides of the sub, we see schools of fish racing through the water.

A school of Jacks darting through the reef

Large schools of fish race by

An immense sea turtle lumbers lazily through the water, the current pushing him along.

A sea turtle lumbering lazily along

A sea turtle is lumbering lazily along the reef

When we reach the reef, a desolate landscape greets us. Devoid of color, this underwater world appears in monochromatic black and white. Sea fans, like dancers, gracefully sway in the current; staghorn coral soars upward as if reaching for the muted sunlight.

Almost wraithlike, a shipwreck suddenly materializes from the inky dark depths. A shark, its skin glowing eerily from the sub’s lights gracefully swims by each porthole. Giant eels slither around their home in the reef, sliding smoothly through the bridge deck of the rusting hulk. All too soon we’re back to reality as our sub surfaces, and we debark.

The Beaches at Bridgetown

For the beach lover, there are an abundance of beaches waiting for exploration.
Beach Bridgetown Barbados

Slices of gleaming white sand beach lined with crystalline turquoise water are found around every corner.
Beach Bridgetown Barbados

All Barbados beaches are open to the public, so you can stop your car, grab your towel, and stake your spot in a peaceful patch of sand.

Looking for a place to stay in Barbados? Check out MilesGeek review of Sandals in Barbados.

Betsi Hill

Betsi Hill is a freelance writer and travel blogger based in Florida.Her many travels have taken her to 23 countries on five continents.As the founder and editor of Betsi’s World, she shares her passion for travel, sailing, culture, and food.Betsi loves to spend smart, maximizing her travel dollars with a side of luxury.

She is an adventurer and sailor, and can most often be found on the search for the perfect beach.Shehas been featured in Sailing Life Magazine, The Best of Life Magazine, and a guest contributor to several online blogs.Her latest travel ventures and adventures can be found on her blog, Betsi’s World.

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  • I always thought of Barbados as a lovely island with lots of beautiful beaches. Now, I really would like to visit, and explore its history, as well as take a dive in that submarine.