On my first visit to Barbados I ran into my friend Vince, the Port and Shopping Guide, in the terminal. It was lunchtime and he said, “If I pay for the cab, will you come have lunch with me at The Boatyard?”
I hesitated. I kind of just wanted to walk around and explore Barbados, not go off to some restaurant. But, he was my friend, so I agreed.
When we reached The Boatyard in the capital city of Bridgetown, I was greeted by not just a restaurant but by a beach club that was to become my No. 1 favorite beach in all of the Caribbean.
Our cab pulled into a tiny parking lot and I hopped out and followed my friend through the entrance that was disguised as a dive shop. As we emerged, we were greeted by an energized restaurant and bar, white sand, and a long pier stretching into the clear blue waters.
The Boatyard charges an entrance fee, but admission includes beach chairs, umbrellas, sunbeds, a rope swing off the pier, an ocean trampoline, a cocktail, and even transportation back to the ship. Spend your day sunning, swimming, eating, and drinking. When you work up your courage, jump off the pier or fly off the rope swing.
When you’re on the beach, if you walk away from town (left, when facing the ocean) you’ll see a large double-decker boat come and go from the shore. Beyond the boat is a buoy line. Wait in this area until you see tour boats arrive about 100 to 200 yards from the shore.
This area has a couple of awesome shipwrecks so you’ll see people jump into the water with masks and snorkels. The large groups of people will point you in the right direction, but it can get very crowded and chaotic with everyone in the water at once. The good thing about not being on the tour is you don’t have to leave when everyone else does. Be patient and hang back a bit. The shipwreck will still be there when the group is gone.
A friend of mine found this spot when he saw the groups arriving. It’s a significant swim from the shore. Don’t try this if you’re not a strong swimmer in good physical shape. The water is deep and you’ll be floating and swimming for a while. The effort is worth it, though. The sunken ship is larger than most wrecks I’ve seen and it was swarming with schools of tropical fish.
Take it at your own pace, sea turtles and all
After the group has enough time to explore the shipwreck, the guides will take them closer to shore and put food in the water to draw in sea turtles. Although this too can be crowded and chaotic, try to stay close to the group when the feeding is happening. The turtles soon disappear when the food does. But again, you’re not constrained by the timeline of the tour so you can swim with the turtles for as long as the turtles will allow it.
You’ll be spent after this swim, but it’s a Caribbean highlight for me. Of course, you can always book the tour for a guide and a less physically demanding experience. Also, book the tour if you don’t have your own snorkel gear.
Recover after your swim with lunch back at The Boatyard. My typical go to orders were the club or chicken salad sandwiches with a side of fries. Regardless of which dish you choose, you have to try the yellow hot sauce. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, feel free to buy me a bottle and send it over here.
Wash down all that spiciness with your free drink. Your entrance fee includes a cocktail, but for what it’s worth, the orange juice is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Just squeeze your way up to the bar and shout out your order. A word of warning, both the food and drink menus feature prices in Barbados dollars. However, The Boatyard accepts United States currency. Divide the list price in half for U.S. prices.
Whether you choose to swim with the turtles, jump off the pier, smother your meal in hot sauce, or just relax in a chair next to the water, a day at The Boatyard will be filled with memories that will soon have you planning your next trip back to Barbados.