There is so much to explore in Bridgetown, Barbados. Credit: Shutterstock

An expert's cruise port guide to Bridgetown

Author: Amelia Glean

Published on:

With brilliant turquoise bays, swaying palm trees and historic houses, discover why Bridgetown, Barbados’ colourful capital, is one of the world’s most popular cruise ports.

Bridgetown’s Deep Water Harbour has welcomed cruise ships since 1994. The port is perched on the south-western side of Barbados, with its azure waves, coconut trees and pristine beaches. Step off your ship and there’s plenty to see on a short stroll from the port. But if you’ve got a day to spend, take the time to delve deeper.

Established in 1628 as a key hub for the international trade of cotton, tobacco and sugar cane, Bridgetown. With a history steeped in shipping and trade, Bridgetown has many marinas, harbours and ports to explore has an intriguing mix of British colonial and West African architecture, with buildings dating back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

You can explore its history at the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, housed in the UNESCO-listed Garrison building.

The town overlooks Carlisle Bay, where the adventurous can scuba dive among six ancient shipwrecks on the ocean bed. The waters also have an abundance of marine life, and the local beaches offer pure relaxation.

Other nearby places worth a day trip are Harrison’s Cave, a world of mesmerising limestone structures, and the Wildlife Reserve which is home to the famous Barbados green monkey.

The town also boasts an eclectic food scene. From fried fish, traditional conkies and gooey macaroni pie to pickled sea cat, guava cheese and killer rum punch, Bridgetown has every culinary experience covered.

Here’s how to make the most of your time in the beating heart of Barbados...

Barbados has the richest and deepest rum culture in the world. Credit: Shutterstock


Carlisle Bay

This crescent-shaped bay, with pristine white sands, is a perfect spot to bask in the Caribbean sun, or have a go at snorkelling. Carlisle Bay was the first body of water to be crossed by slave ships back in 1645, but it’s a protected marine park today, where you can book group tours for scuba diving and explore sunken shipwrecks, or see what lies beneath from the comfort of a glass-bottomed boat.

Harrison’s Cave
Prepare to engage all five senses at this 2.3km long underground cavern, stacked with crystallised limestone stalactites hanging precariously from its roof and stalagmites which are still growing.

First opened to the public in 1981, Harrison’s Cave is a wonder to behold – some locals even get married among its countless waterfalls and crystal-clear pools. Tours run daily and can last for up to three hours.

Downtown Bridgetown

Downtown Bridgetown became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011, so it’s a great place to kick off your adventure. Begin at Independence Square, with its grandiose fountains and sculptured seats, before crossing the 39-foot swing bridge – Chamberlain Bridge.

It’s a popular photo spot, withplenty of Bajan souvenir shops selling unique Barbadian trinkets nearby.

St. Nicholas Abbey

This Jacobean-style mansion is one of the oldest plantation buildings in the Caribbean, and a 40-minute drive from downtown Bridgetown. It’s beautifully preserved – walking through it feels like you’ve turned back time.

Don’t miss the Great House, its lush surrounding gardens and the rum distillery. You can even enjoy a ride on the old heritage steam train, which runs a loop round the property and up to Cherry Tree Hill.

Go back in time at St Nicholas Abbey. Credit: Shutterstock


Mustor's Restaurant

Fondly known as ‘the gem of Bridgetown’, Mustor’s on McGregor Street is a humble, lesser-known lunch spot, tucked away from the crazy tourist‑packed eateries on the water’s edge.

Frequented mostly by locals, this is the best place to sample the freshest Bajan seafood, including steamed ‘Flyin Fish’ that melts in your mouth.

Harbour Lights
Sip on fresh coconuts filled with rum as you laze on the sun loungers at Brownes Beach. If you’re looking to spend an evening here, head over on a Wednesday or Thursday for the ‘Beach extravaganza dinner show’ with a Bajan barbecue, stilt walkers, limbo dancers and fire eaters.

But Friday nights are reserved for partygoers, when the whole bar transforms into an open-air nightclub with two dance-floors and bars.

La Cabane

You may need to hop in a taxi to get here, but as you kick back overlooking the soft white sands of Batts Rock Beach, you’ll be glad you did.

Enjoy a Mediterranean-style menu from fresh local ingredients with craft cocktails, including mojitos served popsicle-style, and rum in coconut shells. Arrive early in the evening to watch the sun turn from bright orange to hot pink over the horizon.

Cuz’s Fish Shack
Situated just off Pebbles’ Beach, this Barbadian version of a food truck is fiercely popular among Bajans. Get in line for its ‘cutters,’ a term locals use for any sandwich made with salt bread filled to the brim with fried steak fish, tomato, lettuce, Bajan pepper sauce, lashings of mayo and a fried egg. Pair with a cold Banks beer or a can of Plus – a sugar cane thirst-quencher.

A beach club by daytime, Harbour Lights morphs into the island's hottest dance venue by night. Credit: Harbour Lights


What to expect

From idyllic stretches of sand and calm, turquoise waters to rich colonial history, Gothic architecture and spectacular shopping, there’s something for every traveller in Bridgetown.

When to go

Bridgetown is warm all year round, with temperatures between 23 and 30°C… not to mention 3,000 hours of sunshine each year. But if you can, book your trip between March and May to avoid the crowds.

Getting around

The downtown is easy to explore on foot but renting a car or hiring a driver is the better option for sights off the beaten track. Feeling brave? Hop on a yellow and blue-painted city bus for cheap, user-friendly travel and meet the locals while you’re at it.

Where to stay
Aim for a beachfront hotel. The four-star Radisson Aquatica Resort delivers breathtaking views of Carlisle Bay, while the five-star Fairmont Royal Pavilion is elegant, offering everything you need for a Caribbean getaway.

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Mount Gay Rum

It wouldn’t be a trip to Barbados without rum. If you’re looking to treat friends or family back home (or keep a little stash for yourself), don’t leave Bridgetown without a bottle of three centuries old Mount Gay.

Bajan seasoning

Once you’ve tried hot garlicky Bajan seasoning, you’ll never go back. While you can’t stay in Barbados forever, you can take some home with you. Pop into any local supermarket for your fix – it’s sold in jars and various dry packets.

Tamarind balls

Often called ‘nature’s candy’, these simple sugar-coated balls of tamarind might be a little sour for your tastes, but they’re packed with Vitamin B and calcium, making them a healthy gift for family back home.

Tamarind balls are a Bajan delicacy.

"Don’t forget to try famous Bajan dishes, including pepper pot and flying fish. Our cuisine is one of a kind – full of flavour with seasoning and herbs."
Janelle Sealy, tour guide

"Bridgetown is known for its beaches, but its festivals aren’t far behind. If your trip ties in with Crop Over or Oistins Fish Festival, make sure to go along."
Renee Alleyne, student

"As Bridgetown is on the west coast, there’s no shortage of sea views. If you can, rent a car and take a drive to see the stunning coastline scenery."
Amanda Griffith, blogger

Be sure to try Bajan specialties says tour guide, Janelle Sealy. Credit: Janelle Sealy
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