Barbados offers history-tour 'Passport'

December 20, 1992|By Rick Sylvain | Rick Sylvain,Knight-Ridder News Service

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- Everyone knows the Caribbean turns on the Five S's:

Sun, sea, sand, shopping and sex.

ZTC But too much sun and you risk skin cancer. Too much sea and you get salty skin. Too much sand and you get all gritty. Too much shopping and you go broke.

That's four no-nos out of five.

But tourism officials in Barbados, an island on the eastern edge of the Caribbean, figure too much history never hurt anyone.

With its new Heritage Passport, Barbados aims to prove it's not just another pretty face, that not all Caribbean isles are created equal.

Away from the beaches, Heritage Passport holders discover a Barbados endowed with history and texture, tropical delights and architectural riches.

"We wanted to offer an alternative," says Penny Hynam of the preservationist Barbados National Trust. "There's much to offer and the Passport pulls it all together."

The Passport opens the doors and unlocks the gates to places of historic, cultural and ecological importance, from the freshly restored Bridgetown Synagogue to Andromeda Botanic Gardens.

To hit all 11 touted attractions would cost nearly $40 in admissions. So at $25 the Passport represents good value.

It works, too. Take a cool walk through jungly Welchman Hall Gully. Beaches are quickly out of sight.

You might find families of the Barbados green monkey at play. You'll certainly find hundreds of exotic plants and vine-draped cliffs.

The Passport leads you to the less visited but ruggedly scenic east coast of Barbados where the Caribbean gives way to the Atlantic. Here the ocean sends huge breakers crashing onto beaches. Above the wind- and wave-sculpted coastal rocks of St. Joseph's Parish is Andromeda Gardens.

In one walk through Hillside Park, Barbados' lushness is distilled: acres of bougainvillea, hibiscus, orchids, palms and cacti.

Inland roads winding past cane fields lead to other Passport sites.

From restored Gun Hill Signal Station, dating from 1818, you get the same panoramic view flagmen had, reporting the approach of enemy ships.

Above the Scottish-like hills of the east coast is Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill, the only complete windmill left in the Caribbean. Its blades no longer turn the sugar cane grinders but plantation artifacts are on view.

The Heritage Passport may be purchased through travel agents and tour operators, says the Barbados Board of Tourism. Purchasers are issued a voucher they can redeem in Barbados. Or you can obtain one in person on the island at offices of the Barbados National Trust.

IF YOU GO . . .

Barbados is stamped with hundreds of years of British rule. Bridgetown, the capital, boasts its own Trafalgar Square, its own statue of Admiral Nelson (it predates London's) and its own Thames -- a canal called the Careenage.

Diversions: On rollicking, four-hour cruises of the Jolly Roger, passengers dance, eat and drink from barrels of rum-laced pirate punch; call (809) 436-6424. Big breakers on the east coast call to surfers. Golf is best at Sandy Lane. Harrison's Cave contains caverns of streams, waterfalls, stalagmites and stalactites.

For more: Barbados Board of Tourism, 800 Second Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017, call (800) 221-9831.

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