Globe Style Advisor
Luxury meets relaxation on the island’s less-travelled coast
by Andrew Sardone
Anthony Hunte’s secret garden fills a deep gully in the Bajan parish of St. Joseph. Its steep staircases and stone pathways are lined with bursting beds of papyrus pom poms and prehistorically scaled palm fronds that lead visitors to discreet clearings outfitted with rattan loungers and ornate patio sets.
To gain entry to this fairy-tale rain forest – known locally as “the most enchanting place on earth” – you ring a brass hand bell and wait for the eccentric horticulturalist to descend from his home high above the jungle. When you’re finished exploring the lush landscape, he might invite you back up to the plantation property’s original stable building for a glass of rum punch, the Caribbean island’s signature cocktail.
That ubiquitous drink is well known to regular visitors to Barbados, as are the posh resorts (from Sandy Lane to the Fairmont Royal Pavilion) that line its well-travelled west coast. But there’s a whole other, more relaxed Barbados to experience if you venture further inland to spots like Hunte’s Gardens and emerge on the other side of the island, where some of the world’s best beaches are nestled between towering cliffs and dramatic Atlantic breakers.
“The west coast of Barbados is more manicured, more pristine and more developed, [but] the east coast is more rugged, with crashing surf and dramatic coastlines,” says Canadian Paul Doyle, who has been the owner of The Crane, an iconic east-coast hotel, since 1989. Originally opened in 1887 with just 18 rooms, it now boasts 252 suites, many with their own meticulously manicured gardens and private plunge pools. Resort guests split their time between the property’s six bars and restaurants (options include the white-washed L’Azure, host to hot-ticket Sunday gospel brunches, and the casual Carriage House overlooking the hotel’s five pools) and the blue umbrella-shaded lounge chairs that line Crane Beach.
“We benefit from wonderfully clean air,” Doyle says, describing the attraction of the stretch of powdery pink sand that lies below the resort. “The breezes that hit land at The Crane have been cleaned all across the ocean from Africa.” Doyle is so committed to this side of Barbados that he’s currently developing a new property up the coast from The Crane called Beach Houses. On the limited land not set aside for Barbados National Park will rise 63 two- and three-bedroom contemporary villas with infinity pools and views over Skeete’s Bay and Culpepper Island.
When built, those homes will be a 20-minute drive south of one of the island’s most picturesque restaurant patios. Overlooking the ocean, The Atlantis Hotel’s breezy terrace is quintessentially Caribbean. On Sundays and Wednesdays, a generous buffet of pepperpot, rice and peas, pumpkin fritters and other Bajan bites draws large crowds of locals and tourists.
The hot night to visit Oistins Fish Fry on the south coast is Friday. Colourful stalls like Pat’s Place grill up swordfish steaks and other fresh seafood, serving it with traditional sides like macaroni pie and local Banks beer. Back by Crane Beach, Cutters Deli is known for its lime-smoked mahi mahi pate, battered flying fish and, arguably, the best rum punch of all the Barbados rum punches made with dark rum, raw sugar, lime juice, bitters and nutmeg (owners Roger and Kim Goddard also bottle the cocktail for visitors who want to extend their vacations with a glass back home).
The Goddards use Cockspur Old Gold in their mix and stock the Barbadian distillery’s aged and overproof spirits at Cutters. Rum lovers looking to sip some of the island’s other more refined vintages can also visit the Foursquare Rum Distillery (where the aforementioned Anthony Hunte created a 10-year-old reserve blend of column and pot-distilled rums) and St. Nicholas Abbey (a Jacobean plantation house in St. Peter).
If it’s an interest in architecture that brings you to the abbey, nearby Farley Hill House should also be on your itinerary. The once-grand structure – visited often by British royalty and used as a set for the 1957 film Island in the Sun, but destroyed by fire in the 1960s – is off-limits to the public as nature slowly reclaims the ruin. Visitors, though, can still stroll the grounds and walk to the top of Farley Hill, where the wild beauty of Barbados’ east coast extends out to the endless turquoise sea.
ON THE GROUND
THE ATLANTIS HOTEL
A boutique hotel overlooking Tent Bay, this spot is known for buffet brunches featuring local flavours on Wednesday and Sunday. Brunch prices range between $70 and $90 Barbadian dollars. (Barbados’s currency is pegged to the American dollar, with $2 BDS equalling $1 U.S. The greenback itself is widely accepted on the island.) www.atlantishotelbarbados.com
This new east coast development will incorporate luxurious villas, a boutique hotel and a pair of restaurants for residents and visitors. Prices range from $56,000 (U.S.) for four weeks of fractional ownership to $2.5-million.www.beachhouses.bb
The Crane owes its laid-back vibe to a mix of residents and guests, many of them Canadian. Room rates start at $500 (U.S.) a night. www.thecrane.com
Just up the road from The Crane, Cutters is open daily for breakfast, lunch and early dinner and offers delivery to Crane Beach. www.cutters.bb
FARLEY HILL NATIONAL PARK
The National Conservation Commission manages this 17-acre park that hosts events like Gospel Fest and Soca on de Hill. www.nccbarbados.gov.bb
Classical music mixes with the sound of the warm Bajan breeze rustling the leaves of towering palms at this lush destination. Admission is $30 BDS.www.huntesgardensbarbados.com
OISTINS FISH FRY
Friday is the most popular night to visit this family-friendly food market, but it’s bustling all weekend long with hungry visitors. A full dinner ranges between $25 and $40 BDS.
ST. NICHOLAS ABBEY
One of the island’s most iconic plantation houses, St. Nicholas Abbey still maintains its eclectic interior and a museum documenting its 350-year history. Adult admission is $40 BDS. www.stnicholasabbery.com
Original article: Globe Style Advisor – March 2015