Long before colonial settlement, when the island was inhabited by the Indigenous Peoples, rich rain forests covered the length and breadth of Barbados. Today, those forests have largely been replaced by modern developments but there is still evidence of the flora and fauna in some places. A journey to St. Joseph, located on the eastern side of the island, will reveal such untouched beauty. Known for its rugged coastline and unique rock formations, there are several natural inland areas which are perfect for the visitor with a love for eco-adventures.
Top Places to Visit in St. Joseph
Parris Hill Mural
On the drive into St. Joseph from the southern side, you are likely to pass one of the most unique murals which the island has to offer. The Parris Hill Mural is one of a kind because the colourful artwork uses the natural formations of the coral rocks to create stunning animal sculptures. The artist, Christopher Chandler, works diligently with residents in the neighbourhood to upkeep the area surrounding the sculpture, making it a fantastic community-building project, while providing visitors with the opportunity to view the remarkable artwork.
The Cotton Tower Signal Station
Continuing up the road from Parris Hill is the Cotton Tower Signal Station, which was one of 6 signal stations constructed by the British colonists after the 1816 slave rebellion in Barbados. Opened in 1819, it is the only signal station on the island that stands 3 storeys high, supplying a clear view of the coastline and the surrounding plantations to coordinate an early response in the event of any threats identified by the British Military. Today, the station is maintained by the Barbados National Trust. The tower is not open to the public but the property is highlighted as a historical landmark with commanding views of the Scotland District on the east of the island.
Coco Hill Forest
Standing tall and overlooking the east coast of Barbados is Coco Hill Forest. This agro-forest site has been the home of a forest regeneration project since 2013. Using permaculture techniques and a terracing layout, Coco Hill is now home to several species of tropical fruits, herbs, spices and medicinal plants which are used for local consumption. The primary goal, however, is to preserve the forest and rehabilitate it through the planting of forest trees and clean farming. In 2016, the forest was opened to the public for hikes, eco-tours, nature walks and other forest-friendly events. Guided tours will highlight the properties and usage of the plants while stopping at those points where the forest opens its windows to allow for a magnificent view of the east coast.
Peg Farm and Nature Reserve
Yet another regenerative agriculture site can be found in St. Joseph at Peg Farm and Nature Reserve. Like Coco Hill, Peg Farm uses clean farming techniques to rehabilitate the soil and encourage the natural growth of plants in the gully and surrounding fields. They have also expanded their farming to include free-range animal husbandry to encourage healthier and more holistic dietary practices among visitors and locals alike. Guided educational hikes and eco-tours are available, where you can learn about sustainable farming practices while enjoying the surrounding beauty and serenity of the nature reserve. After your tour, you can visit the on-site farm-to-table Chrysalis Café and relax on the breezy terrace which offers views of the countryside while you savour the tastes of local, organic produce and free-range animal products.
St. Joseph’s beautiful landscape allows for several locations which provide a sanctuary for those who wish to escape the rush of city life. One such haven can be found at the expansive Flower Forest, where you can find 53 acres of flora and fauna. This tranquil forest has a main walkway which serves as a guided trail through the grounds. However, guests are welcomed to explore the many paths that go off that main trail. A romantic site and serene garden, the plants are green and flowering year-round, making Flower Forest an ideal spot for weddings, photography or just a casual stroll to enjoy the peaceful vibe of nature. You can also visit their café for a range of local treats and refreshing home-made Bajan drinks.
Also in St. Joseph is the enchanted landscape of Hunte’s Gardens. Here you will find a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours in the several tastefully designed gardens which are situated on the property. With at least 84 sighted species of birds and plants, you can journey along the path to see if you can spot the many unique, exotic species which have made this oasis their home. You can also make yourself at home by unwinding on the benches that are incorporated into the garden designs. The cooling St. John breeze and soothing sounds of classical music add to the elegance and calming nature of these dramatic gardens which you are welcome to experience while having your own picnic or purchasing from the refreshments which are available on site.
Andromeda Botanic Gardens
Exquisite gardens are not in short supply in St. Joseph. Andromeda Botanic Gardens has been described by a judge of the Royal Horticultural Society as, “one of the most unique and outstanding gardens in the world”. It boasts a wide array of local and imported tropical and sub-tropical plants and is the oldest such garden in Barbados. The winding pathways throughout the garden allow visitors to enjoy this horticultural wonder, which includes an exceptional collection of palms and succulents and its positioning on a hill above the east coast provides a gentle breeze throughout the garden to keep visitors cool while exploring the area.
Hummingbirds, dragonflies and monkeys are regular guests in the garden and the main pond is a favourite spot for children who are excited to feed the fish. Art enthusiasts can visit the Andromeda Gallery Lounge where local photography, art and craft items are on display and available for sale. As with many of the other gardens on the island, you can also sample local delicacies at their café.
A short drive - or an exhilarating walk - down the hill from Andromeda, you will find one of the most popular picnic spots along the east coast – Bathsheba. Located along the coastline, this area is famous for its pedestal rock formations which stand just offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.
Turbulent waters hug this coast but the coral reefs also provide calm, relaxing pools which are safe from the Atlantic currents. For those who simply wish to enjoy the beauty of the majestic rolling waves and ocean breezes, there is a park which provides shade, seating and nearby restaurants with your choice of treats. The massive waves at Bathsheba have their own claim to fame. Known as the Soup Bowl, this area has hosted international, top-rated surfers who compete to challenge the monstrous waves as they roll ashore. With year-round swells that can rise to over 15 feet, professional surfers often journey to the Soup Bowl to ride the giants even during the off-season!
While in Bathsheba, look out for “Brooke’s House”! Atop one of the rocks is the remains of a small building structure which came to prominence in the late 1990’s when the American soap opera ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ filmed episodes on the island. It was used as the home that Brooke, a protagonist of the soap, used as her tiny “home” in the episodes.
These are only a handful of the attractions that St. Joseph has on offer. With its lush and beautifully landscaped gardens, naturally forested areas and a rugged Atlantic coastline dotted with gentle plunge pools, St. Joseph is a parish where there is an abundance of nature trails and adventurous thrills. So, whether you’re looking for a relaxing or an exhilarating holiday, St. Joseph will offer you the experience of a lifetime!