Small Section of a Map of Barbados Highlighting the Parish of St. Andrew, Barbados Pocket Guide

Geography of Barbados

Sitting at a very unique location in the Atlantic Ocean to the east of the other West Indies islands and boasting a Latitude 13º10' N and Longitude 59º 32' W, the island of Barbados is the most eastern island of the English Caribbean chain of islands (Lesser Antilles). Measuring 14 miles at its widest point, 21 miles long and 166 sq miles, Barbados is the eastern most island of the English Caribbean chain of islands (Lesser Antilles). Located in the Scotland District, the highest point in Barbados is Mount Hillaby which rises 1,120ft above sea level. The maritime boundary of Barbados is a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles with an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles. These lines boundaries however do not apply to the Western side of the island where Barbados has numerous neighbouring islands. In these cases there are numerous maritime lines with shared space of the other near by islands. including St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, Martinique.


Click here to jump down and see how the island was formed


Barbados Map in The CaribbeanGeographically, Barbados is in the Antilles. A grouping of island including the Bahamas to Cayman to Trinidad including the Netherland Antilles and all islands inside that loop. Barbados is north-east of Venezuela and as a result is not considered part of the Arc of Caribbean islands. The West Coast of the Caribbean lies in the Caribbean Sea while the North and East Coasts lie in the Atlantic Ocean. As such, these coasts are known to quite turbulent with very high waves and strong currents. Generally though the west coast of the island is very calm and does not see high seas unless there is a weather system coming in from the north or hurricane from the East. Strong weather system such as these are not regular occurrences. Hurricanes usually come during the summer months and cold front (bringing waves for surfers) usually come in the winter months.


Physical Characteristics Barbados

Physical characteristics of Barbados can be described being generally a very flat island as we do not share the mountains that our neighbours are know for. One explanation is that Barbados is a coral based island and has slowly risen out of the sea. Many of our neighbours are volcanic islands and were literally pushed out of the sea as the Caribbean chain was being formed by the collision of plates. While also sitting on a plate Barbados' assent has been a lot less dramatic with terraces forming at different heights around the island as it went through various periods of growth. Barbados is know for its terraced coral ridges that today as made for dramatic homes built overlooking the Caribbean sea. The middle of the island is characterized by gentle slopping rolling hills that generally parallel the coast. Approximately 85% of Barbados' surface is consists of coralline limestone approx 30 meters thick. The island is covered with soil on top of much of this coralline rock which has made it a fantastic area for rich vegetation which lead to the farming of sugar cane on the island. On the Atlantic side of the island of Barbados is an area known as the Scotland District which contains many outcroppings of Coral rock especially on the beaches. Erosion in this area is a major concern with home and crop loss occurring from landslides and washouts.


Because of the coral make up of the island our water is derived from rain that seeps into the ground and filters as it makes its way into the underground network of reservoirs and caves. The Barbados Government then has a number of water stations around the island that then pump the water to the homes around the island. There are also many private wells usually based at plantations around the island which would have used them in days gone by (before we had running water) to supply their needs.


The lovely white sand that makes up our beaches can be attributed to the fact that the island is made up of coral reefs that surround the island and protect its coastline. Barbados’ high quality water is as a result of a unique natural filtration process that causes underground water to pass through the coral stone which is underlain by sedimentary rock. Barbados’ geographical composition is considered to be non volcanic.

Geography of Towns

Scattered throughout the island of Barbados are towns that augur well for history, shopping, relaxation and dining. In the parish of St. Michael, there is the capital city Bridgetown. In the parish of St. James, there is Holetown, in the parish of Christ Church, there is Oistins and in the parish of St. Peter, there is Speightstown. The geography of the island has these town connected by roads that run across the island. Barbados road network is not a planned city network and therefore can be quite difficult to navigate for visitors until they get the hang of it and know the island better. Most of our towns are on the sea as they were in all counts once busy sea ports connecting not only the cities but also shipping to England, the Caribbean and the US. Today most of these towns economies are based on the provision of tourism based services.



The climate of Barbados cannot be beat! During the dry season of December to June, the tropical temperature in Barbados is moderated by northeast trade winds. Rainfall occurs primarily between July and December and varies considerably based on elevated areas throughout the island. Overall, the annual temperature ranges from somewhere between 24 to 28 °C (75.2 to 82.4 °F) with slightly lower temperatures prevailing at higher elevations throughout the country. Humidity levels are between 71 percent and 76 percent year round.


Due to its geographical location, Barbados is often spared the worst effects of the region's tropical storms and hurricanes as it sits just outside what is considered to be the principal hurricane belt. The last major hurricane in Barbados was Hurricane Janet. A category 3 hurricane that hit the island back in 1955, causing severe damage and disturbance.


How the island was formed

The island was formed over millions of years. See the below diagrams to get a general idea of how this took place over the years.


Plate 1

In this diagram you can see that Barbados started at the bottom of the sea about 50 to 20 million years ago. As the Atlantic and Caribbean plates collided they pushed upwards allowing the deep marine sediments to begin the process of building.


Plate 2

As years passed this growth would have continued at a very slow pace.


Plate 3

About 10 million years ago the overall collision of the plates would have kept pushing the sediments at under the sea higher and higher. The ridge that Barbados sits on would have bee formed.


Plate 4

As the ridge approached the surface of the sea there would have been more activity with life in the form of corals and plat life that would have amassed on the bed of sediment.


Plate 5

Sometime around 2-1 million years ago the island would have begin to be seen above the sea level and would have continued to grow to what it is today.


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