the North Point Surf Resort, abandoned hotel in Barbados

better pool empty

When I was a child, I stood on the cracked floor of this derelict olympic-sized swimming pool. I was with my mother, my father and my sister. From our Rockley Beach hotel we had driven to the northern tip of the island for the afternoon. That moment, that place, and that pool has haunted me ever since.

Mystery surrounds this hotel. No-one seems to know who owned it or why it was built in such an isolated area. Barbados’ north coast is wild, rugged and windswept. Here’s a photo of that same swimming pool in its heyday.

pool one 

Over Christmas we escaped to Barbados and discovered paradise. I have perfect recall of the Air Canada DC-8 jet, gleaming white on the tarmac, and me stepping out of it. I can still feel the trade winds caressing my cold-chapped skin as I descended the metal staircase. It was a day before my tenth birthday and we had travelled to this sun-drenched little isle for the holidays. Speeding along the littoral road, we caught sight of the sea and gaped like country bumpkins out on a day trip. The island sky was vast with bold cloudscapes, and there was a glittering brightness in the air.

The Sweet Life was a plantation-style guesthouse with a frangipani tree gracing its front lawn. From our rooms we threw open the shutters and gazed onto a garden brimming with fruit trees. Gecko-lizards flickered across pathways and vanished into the jungle-like undergrowth. Intoxicated by the perfume and the heat, we shed our clothes and ran to frolic on the sands of Rockley Beach.

Bajan boys, shimmying nimbly up the trunks of coconut trees, slashed open the giant shells and offered us the water to drink. I had never seen a fresh coconut before. I had never seen a black person before. That evening we feasted on jug jug and spicy fishcakes while a steel band playing tinny music plinkety-plinked beside a pool. Drunk on the voluptuousness of the tropics and too many rum punches, Dad joined the limbo-dancing contest on the beach and wrenched his back. The next day he lay subdued under a fig tree while my mother, sister and I went into town to find me a birthday cake.

In bustling Bridgetown a new language floated in the air. We heard the Bajan dialect spoken by the citizens, their lilting voices mingling with the smells and sounds of the marketplace. The next day we rented a sun moke and roamed the northernmost tip of the island. There was a cliff hotel, its setting dramatic but eerie, as Atlantic waves crashed violently onto the rocks below. We stood on the floor of the empty swimming pool, then roamed the neglected property. A compass rose was etched into the crumbling patio tiles near the abandoned bar. Despite the heat we felt chilled. Imagining the ghosts of former guests to be present, we could almost hear the chatter of voices and the clink of ice cubes in glasses as they sat in lounge chairs playing Mah Jong and sunning themselves like sleek, contented reptiles. Shivering, we returned to Rockley Beach and hurled ourselves at the waves.

 

pool two with compass

Another old photo of the hotel in its heyday, the compass rose etched into the patio tiles near the bar. That’s where I stood, years later.

Two weeks later the DC-8 jet lifted off with a powerful thrust. Within seconds we were aloft, northbound to our snow-blanketed Canadian tundra. With the sound of Calypso music ringing in our ears, we quit paradise.

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The last time I was in Barbados was with my parents in the 1990s. It’s time to go back.

I just found this video on YouTube and watched it, transfixed. It’s proof that the hotel really existed, it wasn’t just a dream.

 

30 thoughts on “the North Point Surf Resort, abandoned hotel in Barbados

  1. Wow. You’ve just transported me back to another time and place that sounds magical. Thanks so much for that.

  2. when I was 12 or 13 which was 1966 or 1967, my family stayed there over Christmas Vacation. it was the only time we weren’t home in Massachusetts for that holiday. I remember it well. the landscaping was lush, that pool was amazing, we’d stand on surf boards and go the length of the pool, there was always a breeze. the beach, such as it was, was dangerous. it’s where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean meet or so we were told. the surf was rough and the undertow powerful. we only went down there once and the rest of the time we just used the pool. we stayed in an apartment, 2 bedrooms, I think 2 bathrooms, it was a long time ago. the restaurant there was very good, breakfast was a buffet with all kinds of fruits, pastries, meats and they had an egg station where you got your eggs cooked to order. I know there was a gift shop but I don’t remember it. there were bougainvillea and hibiscus, other flowers too including some orchids. my father was known all over the world for his orchids, we would always bring home some specimens from such trips and of course he knew someone on the island whose home, gardens and greenhouses we visited. I had no idea it was abandoned, on a whim I did a search and found this. the owners were Scandinavian, I don’t remember exactly which country. I do remember the man was blond and good looking. I wish I remembered more! I’m so glad you posted this!

    • What a wonderful memory you have, Minette! I’m sorry for the delay in replying. I just got back an hour ago from Portugal (where I disconnected from the internet.)

      Wow. I remember too hearing the same thing, that it was where the Atlantic Ocean met the Caribbean Sea. So you and your family actually stayed there??

      Have you been back to Barbados since? I’m dying to go back. I will go back.

      Thanks so much for your comment and sharing that memory with us!

      • Although I’ve been other places I haven’t ever gone back to Barbados. Because of my father’s orchid connections, we visited the private home of a wealthy family when I was there. I remember how gracious they were. I wish I remembered more, it was a very long time ago.
        I hope you enjoyed Portugal, disconnecting sometimes is good for us. 🙂

  3. The resort was once owned by Vincent Jagdat Toolsie, he was diagnosed with MS, and retired due to his declining health. When he died, his kids inherited the resort that had by that time been neglected/abandoned for quite some time… last I heard his daughter bought out her two brothers and has been since trying to sell it…

  4. Pingback: January gray | Juliet in Paris

  5. Just googled “sweet Life” and Rockley because I have memories of a holiday some 45 or 50 years ago and found your post! Do you know whether the Sweet Life still exists is some form or other?

    • Hey Andy. Are you saying that you stayed at The Sweet Life too? Wow. I don’t believe that it still exists because I’ve googled around and even used Google Map. I see no sign of it. But I plan on going to Barbados at the end of this year and I’m going to check it out. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for commenting!

      • Hi, yes! We had a family holiday there when I was (not actually sure! :-/) maybe 6, 7? Something like that. Don’t have very clear memories, except walking across the road onto the beach and swimming in the lovely warm sea 🙂

    • I stayed @ the Sweet Life twice in the late 1960’s early 1970’s when the place
      was in full swing. Returned in mid 1990’s and saw that what was the Sweet Life
      was now a nursing home/medical facility of some sort. It looked basically the same but lost all of it’s original charm. Sad to see, many fond memories there.

  6. This hotel was in full operation 1966 when I was transferred to the Naval Base there. We stayed in the hotel until housing was available for my family. Owner of the hotel drove me to the base a few times.

    • There was a naval base there??! But, more importantly, can you tell us who the hotel’s owner was?? This place has been a mystery to me – and many others – for decades. Have you been back since, William?

      • The owners of the Sweet Life Hotel were Hannah and Peter Young, from
        Canada (Toronto area as I recall). The names of the 3 young men who
        worked there (bartender, waiter, etc.) were Earl, Winston and Stafford.
        I stayed at Sweet Life several times in the 1960’s, have many fond
        memories of the place, also Rockley Beach and the North Point Surf Club,
        now vacant. I have super 8 movies of both places

  7. Vielen Dank, dass Sie meine Erinnerung an das verfallene Hotelgelände wieder wecken!
    Ich war dort vor ca. 20 Jahren. Es war Winter nach einer Forschungsfahrt und ich war damals allein auf Barbados angekommen. Eine Insulanerin hatte neben dem olympischen Pool aus weißen Korallen Muster gelegt und damit einen Korallengarten geschaffen. Ich habe oft daran gedacht.

    • Auch ich habe oft an diesen Ort gedacht. Ich sehe, dass ich nicht der einzige bin. Danke für deinen Kommentar.

      I too have thought of that place often. I see that I’m not the only one. Thank you for your comment.

      I’ve translated your comment into English – Thank you for bringing back my memories of the dilapidated hotel grounds! I was there about 20 years ago. It was winter after a research trip and I had arrived in Barbados by myself. An islander had laid patterns next to the Olympic pool made of white coral, creating a coral garden. I’ve thought about it often.

    • During my first visit to Barbados in 1968, we visited the North Point Surf Club which was
      then open and doing well. We swam in the pool, had lunch in the restaurant and climbed
      down into the cave below (you had to be careful of large waves crashing in). We had a
      great visit. Sadly, the hotel was closed and abandoned during my next visit some years
      later. As the old saying in real estate goes, “location, location, location” Being so far away
      at the northern tip of Barbados was, I believe, its downfall.

      -John Doxsee
      Portland, Maine (USA)

      • Last time was in 2000. North Point still abandoned, Sweet Life building converted to a nursing home or some sort of medical facility (I think I’ve told you this already..?)

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