People and Places

5 things I learned about Barbados during Hockey Week

Ottawa Magazine’s Kimberley Johnson is in Barbados for Hockey Week, courtesy of Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc. Follow her dispatches from the Caribbean every day this week, as she explores sun, sand, and the Senators. She’ll also be tweeting (@ottawamag) and posting photos via Instagram (ottawa_magazine). And read an exclusive excerpt from Bruce Firestone’s new book about the Senators, Don’t Back Down: The Real Story of the Founding of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, on our website.


Hockey Weekers are relaxing on the beach during the day. But, since I’m not one to sit still, I took an island tour.

Here are the surprising things I learned about Barbados while driving through the country:

1. ALL the beaches are open — and free!
Barbados isn’t the kind of place where the resort has control of a beach. Local residents fought hard to protect their beaches from private ownership — which means all the beaches are free and open for anyone to use. Instead it’s easy to stay in hotels, which will give you relaxation and the comfort of the beach but are in the city, allowing you to roam the streets and immerse yourself in the culture after a day in the sun (and eat the delicious Caribbean fare).

Photo by Kimberley Johnson, Ottawa Magazine.
Photo by Kimberley Johnson, Ottawa Magazine.

2. Rum is everywhere and is deeply embedded in island culture
There are more than 1,500 rum shops — places where you can buy rum, if you haven’t guessed — but this isn’t like The Beer Store where people simply grab and go. These open places are the heart of communities and deeply embedded in Bajan culture. People meet and hang out in the sun — play games, sit and chat with neighbours, drink rum and cokes, or grab a mini (a small bottle of rum) for the road.

One of the many rum shops you'll find in Barbados. Photo by Kimberley Johnson, Ottawa Magazine.
One of the many rum shops you’ll find in Barbados. Photo by Kimberley Johnson, Ottawa Magazine.

3. Canadian banks were key to building the island’s banking industry
Canada and Barbados go way back and their banking laws are even based on ours. Because of that you can find CIBC, RBC, and Scotiabank — which have roots in the country dating back half a century and are a major institution in the Caribbean.

A bird's eye view of Barbados. Photo by Kimberley Johnson, Ottawa Magazine.
A bird’s eye view of Barbados. Photo by Kimberley Johnson, Ottawa Magazine.

4. It takes two hours to drive the entire coast of Barbados (without stopping)
And about one hour to drive through it. The terrain can be a little steep as my tour guide and driver laughed and said “depending on how fast you drive.” Also, they drive on the other side of the road, so if you ever drive it, give yourself a little more time to adjust.

Photo by Kimberley Johnson, Ottawa Magazine.
Waves along the Atlantic coast are a favourite of surfers. Photo by Kimberley Johnson, Ottawa Magazine.

5.  Despite this distance the coastal waters are extremely different
The Atlantic waters (East side) versus the Southern beaches are wildly different from one another, and because of this the country gets all different kinds of tourists. Southern and western beaches, like the famous Carlisle Bay or Crane Beach, are calmer, while the Atlantic’s large crashing waves draw surfers.