Barbados’ wild Atlantic coast seems a world away from the glitzy resorts of the west and it is here that you’ll find Bathsheba, the main fishing village in Saint-Joseph parish. The dramatic east coast scenery, low-key atmosphere and windswept beaches make it quite the contrast to more popular regions of Barbados, but a great place to relax and unwind, surf, take long beach walks and enjoy the local lifestyle. A long stretch of golden sand runs along the coast, there are several small churches to visit, botanical gardens, rainforest nature trails and look out points that offer views across the island.
Bathsheba’s attractive golden beach makes a great spot for a walk with huge, freestanding rocks shorn from an ancient coral reef dotting the sands. Although the big surf, rip tides and undertows make it unsafe to swim here, a series of shallow coral pools carved out by the sea are a popular spot for lounging in the water on a hot day. You can sit with a cool rum punch admiring the view while the surf splashes in and swirls the water like a natural Jacuzzi.
Walking along the golden sands to the north, you’ll reach Cattlewash Beach where you’ll find more safe pools for bathing and a large rock formation known as the ‘sleeping giant’ looming over the beach.
Although swimming might not be an option, the ‘Soup Bowl’ at Bathsheba is a surfing hotspot and the site of many local and international surfing competitions. It’s named after the foamy surf that predominates here and is generally accepted as the best surfing site in the Caribbean.
With big, steady rollers coming in off the Atlantic, it’s a great spot for experienced surfers with consistent waves and heavy barrels between November and May. During the rest of the year, the waves are still reliable and a little more manageable for less experienced surfers.
One of the highlights of a stay in Bathsheba, however, is its tropical vegetation with a number of gardens showcasing the rich biodiversity of the area.
The Andromeda Botanical Gardens were founded by Iris Bannochie in 1954 and are home to six hundred different species of plants including begonias, bougainvillea, cacti, ferns, heliconia, hibiscus and orchids, as well as over 60 different species of palm. Hummingbirds flit between the flowers and in the evening, monkeys can be seen swooping and playing in the trees. A huge banyan tree sits at heart of the upper garden, gaps in the foliage reveal peeks of the ocean, while a stream forms pools and waterfalls and a vibrant series of lily ponds. Along with a café and shop, the gardens also host workshops and horticultural courses.
You’ll find more exotic planting at the Flower Forest about 15 minutes’ drive inland from Bathsheba where vibrant tropical blooms and lush foliage attract numerous bird species as well as indigenous green monkeys. The gardens, which are set on a former sugar plantation, are best known for their displays of heliconia and ginger lilies.
For a glimpse of what Barbados might have looked like before the arrival of the first settlers, Joe's River Tropical Rainforest just outside Bathsheba, is a great place to see mahogany, cabbage palm, giant ficus and citrifolia. Nature trails lead to one of the island’s highest points, Hackleton's Cliff, offering walkers views of the east coast and a chance to spot tropical wildlife.
More sweeping views are on offer at the Cotton Tower, an old signal station set on a hill just inland. From here, you’ll get a panoramic view of the ‘Scotland District’, Barbados’ hilly highlands. The region of steep cliffs, unusual rock formations and folded hills, is the only above-water section of a submarine mountain range that stretches from Trinidad to Puerto Rico. Its highest point, Mount Hillaby (340 m/1,115 ft) can be seen in the distance.