17 Dec 2009Blog

The Isle of Plenty

by Laura Henderson

Castaway boltholes of the rich and famous are Barbados’s stock in trade. But the island’s real estate scene has a great deal more to tempt buyers, as Laura Henderson discovers.

Barbados is the celebrity snapper’s dream destination – sandy beaches dripping with rich-list sun-worshippers, super models and business tycoons. But the who’s who pecking order of the Platinum Coast is only one aspect of island life. Add to this, centuries-old plantation estates, Atlantic-lashed surf and a down-to-earth authenticity and you soon get a feel for what makes the island such a compelling second-home retreat. “It’s easy to pigeonhole Barbados as a good-life getaway; all liquid sunshine and sundowners by the pool,” says Mike Braunholtz of international estate agents Prestige Property, “but the island’s diverse topography draws an eclectic mix of buyers, with investment options to match, from colonial villas and country estates to funky new build apartments and beachfront cottages. “The west coast hits the spot with beach lovers and foodies,” adds property owner Gillian Barnes from Oxfordshire. “But the wave-pummelled south and east coasts have their devotees too, while inland captures a sense of the island’s colonial past. That’s the great thing about buying here – it’s several destinations rolled into one and you can sample them all.”


The Low Down: Landmark hotels and luxury waterfront villas ooze tropical refinement. Lively Holetown, the hub of the coastline, has wining and dining down to a fine art with its collection of trendy eateries and cocktail bars, while the sleepy community of Speightstown hits the spot for bygone colonial charm.

Best For: Well-Endowed Wannabees, Bon-Viveurs and Already Made Its.

Wise Buys: Located in the heart of Holetown, Beachlands is a stunning $200m collaboration between London based KSR Architects and award winning architect Ian Morrison. Built on strong eco-principles – from preserving trees to using local labour and materials, the resort doesn’t stint on visual impact either, with its lofty colonnades, wide terraces and coral stone facades. Luxury beachfront apartments (46 in total), sport limestone, exotic wood and marble floors, while master bathroom suites house decadent ‘white island’ freestanding baths. Many of ground floor units also boast private gardens. Currently on hold.

The former home of Laura, Duchess of Marlborough, Prudence House ticks all the boxes for homespun Bajan charm. Tucked away along a private road in the parish of St James, just a short stroll from the beach, this single-storey property sports three roomy en-suite bedrooms in the main house and a charming garden cottage suite for visiting guests. A key selling point is the light and airy garden room: a beautifully spacious open area overlooking the estate’s 45-foot long free form pool. $2.5m www.island-villas.com

Top Spots: Holetown and Paynes Bay St James, Mullins Bay in St Peter.

The X Factor: Top-to-toe hedonism from al fresco fine dining to club-class beach life. Balmy waters, manicured resorts and even more manicured golf courses.

The Snag Factor: The coastline is heavily built-up with more to come – peak season holiday time (Xmas and New Year) requires a lot of stamina.

The Bottom Line: The address for prestigious waterfront living. ‘Price on application’ resort projects look set to raise the luxury bar even further, with a realistic prospect of solid long-term capital appreciation.


The Low Down: The birthplace of ‘island in the sun’ tourism, the sea is the same clear turquoise as the Caribbean side, and the sand just as white. The main difference is the unremitting four-mile trawl of resorts, apartments and hotels spreading east of the capital. Good-time hub St Lawrence Gap brimming with bars, clubs and restaurants, is one of the liveliest night-time spots on the island.

Best for: On-the-go families and first-time buyers.

Wise Buys: Introducing a popular mixed-use concept to the island’s south coast, Somerley is a one-of-a-kind complex meshing commercial and residential components. Owners have the comfort of enjoying the benefit of income from the commercial tenant on the ground floor, a unique investment opportunity. Designed by Caribbean kings Gillespie and Steel, this contemporary five-storey residence boasts private access to Worthing Beach and a Miami style roof top pool and sun deck. Two-bedroom 1,500 sq ft units and three-bed 1,900 sq ft units come with slinky Italian kitchens, granite worktops and porcelain floor tiles. Prices start from: $550,000

Acclaimed architect Ian Morrison has worked his design magic once again, this time on the hip resort of Sapphire Beach. Stretching over 370 feet of white-sand beach near the resort of St Lawrence Gap, the complex sports eighteen two-bedroom and thirty-four three-bedroom units. Townhouse-style units are located on the first two levels, with larger apartments spread across the remaining four storeys. Residents have access to two swimming pools and an on-site gym, with a boardwalk bridge leading straight to the beach. Prices start from $699,867 USD:

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Sapphire Beach

Top Spots: St Lawrence Gap and Worthing, Christchurch and Crane Beach St Philip.

The X Factor: A happening atmosphere with a brand-new 1.6m seaside Boardwalk and a pick ‘n mix of leisure amenities. Properties are a good third less expensive than the west coast, but still with a thriving holiday rentals scene.

The Snag Factor: The relentless energy of the south coast might be too much for some. Property options are also largely of the identikit new build variety – Hobson’s choice for holiday-homers.

The Verdict: A prime buy-to-let location – ideal for first-time buyers dipping their toes into the market. Quantity takes precedence over quality in some locations, so choose wisely.


The Low Down: Unashamedly glitz-free and endearingly louche in places. Rugged Atlantic waves and bracing beaches nestle amid spectacular rock formations. Villages sport the trappings of laidback surfer communities – makeshift rum shops, street food shacks and pastel coloured chattel houses.

Best for: Property pioneers, surf-hounds and world-weary escapees.

Wise Buys: Sitting on 10,000sq ft of rugged hillside in the parish of St Joseph, the whitewashed architect-designed creation of White Caps boasts panoramic views from Pico Tenerife to Martin’s Bay. Built on three-levels, the property’s open-plan interior and floor to ceiling picture windows provide a bright and spacious living environment. Luxury extras include a fully equipped games room with pool table, projector screen and wine cellar. $975,000 USD

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White Caps

The perfect lock-up-and-leave proposition, Serenity Hills residential community is located in the tranquil district of Kendal in the heart of St John’s parish. Phase One comprises just 15 lots and offers buyers a choice of three off-plan designs available in two and three-bedroom models. Units come with fully fitted kitchens and bathrooms as standard. From $235,453 USD

Top Spots: Bathsheba and Cattlewash, St Joseph

The X Factor: Salty seadog air, rugged vistas and the best rum punch on the island.

The Snag Factor: Buyers won’t make a fortune from rentals unless they’re prepared to surrender occupation at peak times to paying guests.

The Verdict: Traditionally a local buyers’ market, much of the eastern coastline is protected land, with limits on new development, so buyers are unlikely to see a replica of the west coast’s high-price, high-density footprint.


The Low Down: Mahogany woods, sugar cane estates and coral stone plantation houses paint a vivid picture of the privileged lifestyle of the old Barbados, mixed in with a sprinkling of modern-day tourist attractions such as Gunhill Signal Station and Orchid World.

Best for: Traditionalists and limelight escapees.

Wise Buys: At 1,000 feet above sea level Lion Castle Polo Estate in the parish of St Thomas is one of only a handful of niche residential estates on the island. Covering 64 acres, all forty-three house lots and 10 semi-detached homes are centred on the community’s championship polo field and clubhouse. Owners can build from original plans or choose from a selection of designs specially created for the estate. Lot prices start at $261,885 USD. 

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Lion Castle Polo Estate

Set in four acres of woodland, pasture and landscaped garden, and sporting views of the Caribbean Ocean and Atlantic Sea, the stately 18th century manor of Chimborazo is the highest plantation house on the island. Restored back to its original grandeur with antique wooden floors and hand-carved architraving, the five-bed, five-bath property is made for entertaining from the elegant indoor galleries and formal reception rooms, to the 48 ft long drawing room with wrap around exterior deck. Price on application.

Top Spots: St George wins hands down for its panoramic views of the south and west coasts, with the off-roading wilderness of the Scotland district running a close second.

The X Factor: A taste of the ‘real’ Barbados, yet just a short drive from the five star distractions of the west coast.

The Snag Factor: Splendid isolation among the cane fields, woods and gullies might get the better of you. Short-term rentals are harder to come by.

The Verdict: Good hunting ground for large-scale renovation projects and ready-to-move-into family homes. Ideal for those looking to relocate on a full or semi full-time basis, but the off-the-beaten track location may ultimately make for a trickier re-sale.

This article is published courtesy of Living Barbados magazine…