Getting to Know Barbados – St Joseph's Parish
The Parish of St Joseph is the jewel of the Barbadian east coast. One of the most visually stunning parts of the island, it is home to ruggedly picturesque beaches, glorious gardens and fascinating fishing towns. It is also where you’ll find the famous Soup Bowl, a magnet for surfers from across the globe. Here we’ll look at some of the best places to visit on a trip to St Joseph.
Despite the myriad of attractions and activities offered on the more developed west and south coasts, Barbados’ most popular tourist attraction, according to TripAdvisor, is Hunte’s Gardens – and you’ll find this right in the heart of St Joseph.
Hunte’s Gardens is the lifelong work and passion of Anthony Hunte, one of Barbados’ most celebrated gardeners. Hidden away in the tropical forest of the island’s centre, miles from the beaches and resorts, it is an eclectic creation of unique gardens that have been developed and nurtured since the 1950s.
What Hunte has done is to take a highly fertile, limestone sinkhole, 50 metres by 150 metres in size, and use it to create some of the most extraordinary and exquisite gardens visitors are ever likely to encounter. Here, along the tangle of intertwining pathways, you’ll discover all kinds of vibrant and verdant plant species thriving among the terraced slopes and coral-limestone walls.
It is a truly magical place, one where you might expect to bump into Oberon and Titania or find Puck hiding among the foliage. Indeed, the gardens are well populated with an array of both classical and whimsical sculptures, as well as fountains, Buddhist shrines and other features that wait in surprise around virtually every corner. It is well worth a visit.
The Flower Forest Botanical Gardens
Less than a couple of miles north of Hunte’s Gardens, you’ll find part of St Joseph’s called the Scotland District. The district was given its name by early settlers who thought the rolling hills resembled those of Scotland. Here, at over 800 feet above sea level, you’ll discover the 53-acre, Flower Forest Botanical Gardens.
The Flower Forest is situated on the now defunct Richmond sugar plantation and offers a delightful collection of plant life that includes rare tropical orchids, exotic palms and beautifully coloured shrubs. It’s elevation also means there are stunning vistas to be seen of the surrounding landscape, stretching as far as the east coast.
Andromeda Botanical Garden
The horticultural brilliance of St Joseph continues as you reach the east coast. Here, near the town of Bathsheba, you’ll find the Andromeda Botanical Gardens which are regarded by many as the finest post-war gardens in the world.
Andromeda is the creation of Iris Bannochie, a Royal Horticultural Society Veitch medal winner. On land which has been in her family for hundreds of years, she has developed these stunning, award winning gardens that are home to over 1200 species of tropical trees and flowering plants. What’s particularly unique about these historical gardens is that many of the species found here were first brought to Barbados by Bannochie herself. There is certainly nowhere else on the island and possibly nowhere else in the world that such a varied collection is to be found.
Of course, the wonderful flora is as attractive to wildlife as it is to the visitors; so, you’re also likely to see wild hummingbirds, tropical dragonflies and green monkeys as you walk around.
A stone’s throw from Andromeda Botanical Gardens is the town of Bathsheba, a quaint fishing town with a few guest houses and the occasional rum shack and restaurant. This is the more genuine, non-tourist Barbados that you really should take time to discover. Here, you’ll find such treasures as St Joseph Anglican Church, originally built in 1640, and the beautiful Bathsheba Beach.
With its majestic rock formations, glistening sands and swaying palms, the beach at Bathsheba is one of the best places for shooting memorable photographs. And while the large waves and undercurrents don’t make this beach a safe place to swim, they do make it a beachcomber’s paradise, with lots of driftwood, shells and other Atlantic flotsam making land here. If you do need to cool off, try one of the Bathsheba Pools; large rock pools deep enough to bathe in that have been hollowed out of the ancient coral.
The Soup Bowl
The east coast’s major claim to fame is the Soup Bowl; a surfer’s paradise just off Bathsheba Beach. The power of the Atlantic creates some of the world’s best surfing waves here and this attracts leading surfers from across the planet who come to ride the barrelling reef waves. While you need to be quite an accomplished surfer and swimmer to even venture out into the water, great fun is to be had watching – and this is best done while sipping a rum cocktail from one of the local shacks.
St Joseph’s is a special place, full of both natural and man-made beauty. With three outstanding gardens, unique beaches, quaint fishing towns and magnificent waves, it makes for a great day out and a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the more developed tourist areas.
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