Picturesque highways bordering brilliant turquoise waters and a network of backcountry roads that crisscross the rural interior make Barbados a pleasure to explore on your own.

With your own transport, you might stumble upon an action-packed game of cricket on parish grounds or curious green monkeys chilling out by the side of the road – a side of Barbados that’s far from the big resorts and cruise ships.

Here are five of the best island car trips that include the stately mansions, beautiful gardens and forest-filled ravines of the interior as well as the less-visited rugged coasts of the Parish of St. Lucia and the Atlantic Ocean. .

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Highway 1 takes you directly to the paradise of Paynes Bay © Flavio Vallenari / Getty Images

West Coast of Barbados

Ideal for calm waters and snorkeling

Departure – Bridgetown; End – Six men; Distance – 14.5 miles / 23 km

Barbados’ Platinum Coast stretches across the west side of the island just north of Bridgetown and is home to the country’s quietest waters and the villas of movers and shakers.

From the capital, head to Highway 1 passing Brandons and Brighton beaches to Paynes Bay for a morning swim and snorkeling with sea turtles in front of singer Rihanna’s pad at One Sandy Lane.

From there it’s only a short drive to Holetown for a stroll along the promenade and a gourmet meal with a view before continuing north to Folkestone Marine Park where you’ll again need to your tuba.

North of Folkestone, the narrow Highway 1 enters its most attractive stretch, skirting the water’s edge as it twists and turns north through tiny villages that are often just a cluster of houses and a rum store.

Stop for a break on beautiful Mullins Beach before diving into historic Speightstown to visit the Arlington House Museum and soak up the old town atmosphere of “Little Bristol”.

Finally, merge onto Hwy 1 and continue north staying on the seaside road as the freeway splits until you reach the small village of Six Men’s where the unpretentious Braddie’s bar awaits you by the waterfront. water with cool drinks, dominoes and a killer sunset.

A banyan tree at Welchman Hall Gully, a park in Barbados
Enjoy a picnic under a banyan tree at Welchman Hall Gully, a nature reserve just north of Highway 2 © Getty Images

Crossing the island of Barbados

Ideal for gardens, ravines and caves

Beginning – Holetown, End – Bathsheba; Distance – 14 miles / 23 km

This vacation serves the best of Barbados’ nature on a relaxing 14 mile coast-to-coast drive. Start in the heart of Holetown from where Highway 1A ascends to Rock Hall, where the countryside of rural Barbados sets in and the pace of life is noticeably slower.

Continue east to Harrison’s Cave to discover the bizarre underground caverns. Get back in the sun and grab some freshly baked coconut bread at Celestine’s restaurant just across the road before enjoying a picnic lunch at Welchman Hall Gully just north on Hwy 2.

Cross to the other side of Highway 2 and visit Flower Forest Botanical Gardens (a 49-acre garden on a former sugar cane plantation). Or visit Coco Hill Forest to hike the trails through the remaining native forest and take in the breathtaking views down the forested slopes to the Atlantic.

Follow Richmond Road to Highway 3a to see Barbados’ most colorful outdoor attraction, Hunte’s Gardens, set in a crater-shaped depression formed by a collapsed cave.

The last leg of the trip is all downhill to the small village of Bathsheba, the main town on the Atlantic coast, where you can end the trip in style with a meal overlooking the Soup Bowl, one of the best spots in the Caribbean. for the waves.

Palm trees on the white sands of Bottom Bay Beach in Barbados
Bottom Bay is considered one of the best beaches in Barbados © Getty Images

Flavors of Barbados

Ideal for tasty treats and al fresco dining

Start – Maxwell; End – Martin’s Bay; Distance – 25 miles / 40 km

For a full day of Caribbean culinary delights, take this relaxed route to experience the flavors of both coasts.

Begin the journey in Maxwell, in the South West, where the legendary Golden Sands Restaurant serves a traditional hangover-free “pudding and souse” breakfast that will get you ready for the road.

Once properly fueled, head inland to Brighton Farmers Market for coffee and homemade baked goods while browsing the works of local artists.

Head east on Highway 5 to grab some of the island’s best sandwiches at Cutters of Barbados before a picnic lunch in the peaceful hidden cove of Shark Hole, just down the road. Continue along the coast to Bottom Bay and spend the afternoon on one of the island’s best beaches with silky white sand surrounded by chalky cliffs.

Finally, join Highway 5 to go up the east side of the island to Martin’s Bay. Sit at one of the picnic tables in front of the crashing waves outside the Bay Tavern, and end the trip with the island’s freshest plates of fish.

Atlantic Barbados

Ideal for historic buildings and panoramic views

Departure – Bathsheba; End – Saint-Nicolas Abbey; Distance – 10 miles / 16 km

This off-the-beaten-path adventure is perfect for ditching the crowds and discovering Barbados from another era. The road trip begins at the rock-strewn beach of Bathsheba on the east side of the island via the Ermy Bourne Expressway and then on to Highway 2.

Follow the windswept coast north to Lakes Beach and Walkers Beach, two long stretches of empty sand backed by hills that are perfect for long hikes along the thundering Atlantic. Leave the car at one of the beaches and walk to Long Pond, Barbados’ most pristine wetland, which separates the two. The beaches are not considered safe for swimming.

Stop at the magnificent Parish Church of St Andrew, which appears to have been airlifted from the English countryside. Then continue north to the beautiful Morgan Lewis Windmill, one of only two complete windmills remaining in the Caribbean.

After taking in the views, follow the rural road to Cherry Tree Hill, 260 m (853 feet) above the coastal plain below, which marks the entrance to St. Nicholas Abbey, one of the best-preserved estates on the island.

Waves breaking on rocks at Little Bay in St Lucy Parish, Barbados
St Lucy’s Parish Walk takes visitors to awe-inspiring cliffs and secluded wild bays © Getty Images / iStockphoto

Saint Lucia Loop

Ideal for dramatic cliffs and hidden coves

Begins and Ends – Speightstown; Distance – 18.5 miles / 30 km

Barbados’ rugged northern tip couldn’t be more different from the tranquil waters sheltered on the covers of most tourist brochures. This journey through the parish of St. Lucia takes visitors to awe-inspiring cliffs and secluded wild bays. Note that swimming is dangerous on most of this stretch due to the wild waves.

From Speightstown, head north on Highway 1B along the coast to reach Harrison’s Point Lighthouse, which can be climbed for great views of the grassy hills descending to the sea.

Park near the hospital and get off to avoid the trail that breaks the axles. Join Hwy 1B and turn left at Crab Hill to find Hidden Archer Bay, framed by forest-covered limestone cliffs with rocky outcrops and transparent green waters.

Return to Highway 1B and continue to the island’s most northerly point at Animal Flower Cave, a deep cave hidden under one of the island’s most towering cliffs.

From there the highway turns south to River Bay, where a small river flows into a pretty enclosed bay; it is one of the few places on this coast where swimming is safe, but do not go beyond the headlands.

From River Bay, Highway 1C returns to Speightstown through quiet farmland in the interior of the island which is populated by grazing goats and small villages.