A little more characterful than the surrounding communities, Speightstown is Barbados’ second largest town and a lively west coast hub. It was once a thriving trade port and its streets are lined with colonial-era architecture, its marina full of yachts, and its long, white, sandy beaches dotted with snack stalls and sun worshippers. Street vendors sell fruit and vegetables, fishermen mend nets and unload their catch, and visitors stroll the Esplanade. Although Speightstown is a little grittier than Barbados’ upmarket resort districts, what it lacks in glitz it more than makes up for in local charm.
The town is named after William Speight, a member of Barbados' first Assembly and former local landowner. The area was settled in about 1630 and was once Barbados’ busiest port with sugar, cotton and slaves being shipped back to London and Bristol. So many Bristolians came to settle here it was for a time known as ‘Little Bristol’.
As you wander the town’s streets, you’ll come across plenty of examples of colonial-era architecture, especially on Queen Street, Church Street and Orange Street. One of the most impressive is Arlington House, a white-stucco mansion dating from the 19th century that is now a museum tracing the history of the region, its nautical heritage, sugar plantations and links to the ‘Motherland’.
Also look out for Saint-Peter’s Parish Church, one of the oldest on the island, which was constructed in 1629, but was rebuilt on several occasions since. The present Georgian church dates to 1837. You’ll also find several art galleries around the town, plenty of local shops and a new luxury marina.
Speightstown has several beaches and is set on the prestigious ‘Platinum Coast’ of western Barbados, which is renowned for its white sands and clear, calm waters. The beaches here tend to be less popular than those in more upmarket tourist areas, so can make a good spot for a quiet day out. One of the best is Mullins Beach on Mullins Bay to the south, where soft sands, turquoise water and local snack shacks create an authentic Caribbean vibe.