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Coast to coast Barbados—seeking out the island’s beaches by car, from the picture-perfect white sand of Gibbes Bay to the rugged and mysterious Bathsheba

Over the last three years I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the Caribbean. As a backpacker by heart the Caribbean wasn’t on my radar for many years, instead I chose to travel to places like Nepal, India and Guatemala, searching for ancient temples and intriguing cities. But all that changed when I headed to Cuba a few years back, Cuba in itself is an incredible country for so many reasons, but on one bus journey from Havana to Trinidad, I remember actually gasping in excitement at the view of the Caribbean coast out of the open bus window. I think I expected the Caribbean to be super luxurious (parts of some islands are, of course) whereas I’m more of a wild, secret beach kind of girl, so I was excited to discover that there are endless wild and rugged beaches throughout the Caribbean and you don’t have to spend thousands of pounds to see them.

A year after my trip to Cuba, I visited the Dominican Republic and this year, headed to Barbados for ten days with a friend who’s family grew up on the island. And while parts of Barbados are known for insane luxury, the hotel Sandy Lane in Saint James charges close to £1,000 a night for example, there are also wild and rugged parts to the island, places where you can have the entire beach to yourself.

We arrived in Barbados one evening and picked up a hire car from Drive-A-Matic at the airport, if you want to really explore the island I’d highly recommend getting a car, we paid around £300 for 6 days with full insurance. There are buses and mini-vans that run along the main roads all over the island which is helpful if you’re on a budget, but hiring a car gives you the freedom to explore on your own time if you can afford it. 

We chose to split our stay in two parts, spending the first half on the north-east coast in Speightstown and the last three nights down on the south coast in Worthing, this enabled us to see different neighbourhoods and to explore as much of the island as possible during our short stay. 


Home to luxury hotels and resorts, the west coast is where the a-list come to holiday and it’s easy to see why, palm trees line every beach and the calm sea is that perfect shade of turquoise you only see in the Caribbean. It’s not unusual to spot turtles and brightly coloured fish swimming alongside you on the west coast, but watch out for the super yachts and catamarans that sometimes dock up in hidden bays, blaring out terrible music. 

trees on the beach bright blue water and little boat paynes bay
Payne's Bay

We visited a few beaches along this stretch of coast, Payne’s Bay is good for swimming and spotting turtles - although it does get busy but Mullins Beach, further north is much less crowded and a little calmer. Right on the seafront at Mullins is a cool restaurant and bar called Sea Shed, the rum punch here is delicious and staff are super chilled, but I’d recommend getting your drinks in a takeaway cup and walking round the corner along the beach to one of my favourites on the whole island; Gibbes Bay. This pretty patch of sand was deserted most days we visited and provided the perfect sea-front stretch to laze away on, the sea here is beautifully tranquil too and there’s no rocks or coral as you enter. To catch the best sunset I really like the tiny stretch of sand at Smiton’s Bay as you’ll likely have it all to yourself, saying that, you can’t go wrong with any beach along this coastline because the sunsets are crazy beautiful.

tiny boat on the horizon at sunset barbados
Sunset on the west coast


The north coast is the smallest coastline and up at the top of the country the scenery changes dramatically, if you’re wanting to swim I’d advise against the north coast though as it’s very rocky and the sea can be rough at times. Archer’s Bay is tucked away through fields and down makeshift steps, you might struggle to find it unless you’re with people who know the area but you’re guaranteed to have this place all to yourself once you get there. On a cliff edge just around the corner from Archer’s Bay is a little restaurant called Catch 22 that serves delicious fish dishes with its neighbouring Olympic-sized swimming pool that overlooks the ocean providing an endless scene of blue as far as the eye can see. 

blue swimming pool overlooking ocean in Barbados
Pool views on the north coast

Local schools sometimes have lessons here but guests of the hotel next to Catch 22 can also use it. Animal Flower Bay at the very northern tip of the island has great views across the rocky coast, huge waves have battered the rocks over the years and turned them into a craggy, yet beautiful coastline complete with rock pools and a steep sheer drop straight off the cliff edge into the ocean. If you're lucky you might even spot a turtle here too.


From what I saw of the east coast, it can only be described as magical. This was my least discovered coast but I did manage to make it over to the stunning stretch of beach in Bathsheba. The magic around this area starts with the drive alone, winding up and down hills, through lush scenery, past pink churches, palm trees and banana plantations until the view opens up before you and the huge boulders in the Atlantic Ocean at Bathsheba begin to dominate the landscape. 

coral boulder and girl on beach at bathsheba barbados
The beach at Bathsheba

The mysterious rock formations that protrude out of the waves here, are said to be huge coral boulders that broke away from coral reefs millions of years ago, after being eroded by the waves, they now create a fascinating landscape. This area is popular with surfers but avoid swimming here as there are dangerous undercurrents, but there are a lot of shallow rock pools on the beach which are said to have healing properties, so take time for a dip if you’re looking to cool off.


The south coast seems to be pretty popular, and given its closeness to the airport and the country’s capital Bridgetown, it makes sense. Down south we stayed in Worthing and I headed to Worthing, Carib or Sandy Beach everyday to swim and sunbathe. 

palm tree white sand and turquoise sea barbados
Carib beach

This whole area is perfect for swimming and snorkelling with an easy-to-swim-to coral reef not too far from the shore. It’s also pretty good for beginner surfers as the small waves further out each morning make it easy to practise. There are some cool little beach bars and restaurants along the beachfront and St Lawrence Gap, known for its fun nightlife is a short stroll away. Further east along the coast is Crane Beach, another one of my favourites for scenery, the cliff edge to the right of the beach give it a James Bond film vibe. We drove to Crane one morning and spent the day on the beach, the waves here are a little bigger but swimming feels safe as there’s a breaker not too far out at sea. There’s also a great bar called The Grove, shaded by trees set back off the beach where you can grab cocktails or lunch.

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