The Crane Resort – An East Coast Luxury Oasis
Walking through the winding garden paths of the expansive Crane Resort, you feel as though you’ve stumbled onto the grounds of a Tudor mansion.
— By Amie Watson
— Photography: Kenneth Theysen
But the warm breeze, jaw-dropping view of the Atlantic Ocean and pink-sand beach far below – a view available from the glass-windowed L'Azure restaurant, from many of the suites and from the elevator that descends to sea level – reminds you that you’re far from England. If you needed another reminder, just order a passion fruit cocktail along with a plate of L’Azure Chef Duayne Holligan’s baked barracuda with lemon and lime beurre blanc or tuna tartare with fresh papaya salsa, avocado mousse and pickled cucumber.
“People see this as a place of tranquillity. It’s the kind of place you come to rest, relax and rejuvenate”, says Annmarie Thompson, Chief Marketing Officer of The Crane Resort, the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean.
Now celebrating 130 years, The Crane was founded in 1887 by Donald Simpson as an 18-room cliff-top property named after the mechanical crane used to raise and lower cargo from the beach below. The resort stayed the same for more than 90 years – a windswept nook on the rugged East Coast – until developer, owner and managing director Paul Doyle bought it in the 1980s and started expanding, with the goal of keeping the resort true to its history, says Thompson.
As more buildings were added, so was a timeshare programme in the original historic hotel, followed by luxury fractional ownership in the newer accommodations. Then came the vacation club, where you buy points and choose whichever available accommodation you like within the property. Later, as long-time guests started thinking about living in Barbados, the first set of two- and three-bedroom private residences, owned outright, was built.
Now, The Crane has grown into a full resort community, with amenities including five pools, an award-winning beach, restaurants (its Thai-Japanese restaurant Zen is the top-rated Zagat restaurant on Barbados), bars, a daily kids’ club and a local artisanal marketplace.
The resort encompasses 252 hotel rooms and 16 private residences, yet it’s retained a feeling of spacious luxury. “Exclusivity was not our aim, it’s always been about attracting the type of people who would enjoy this unique location”, says Thompson. “That has definitely remained the same over the years. One of the things that’s so special about The Crane is that we’re spread over 40 acres, with lots of little nooks and crannies. Even when we’re full, our guests tell us it never feels crowded.”
Thompson stepped out of the open-air reception area into the gardens to show me some of The Crane’s most spectacular views, luxury suites and other attractions that draw guests back again and again.
What sets The Crane apart from resorts on Barbados’ West Coast?
Location, location, location! What some would consider isolation here on the South-East Coast is something that Crane people seek out. Because they think: “That’s exactly where I want to be.” And we’re still close enough to things that guests can explore very easily.
How does the beach compare to West Coast beaches?
It’s naturally spectacular, and simply more dramatic. It’s always more rugged on this coast. Among its many accolades, Crane Beach was most recently named Best Beach in the Caribbean in a 2015 USA Today reader’s poll. The pink sand is so soft – combine this with the easterly trade winds, and you’ve got the perfect relaxation spot, surrounded by beautiful azure waters.
What about guests who prefer calmer waters?
There’s a 1.5-acre cascading pool complex consisting of a children’s wading pool, a waterfall pool and an alfresco jacuzzi spa pool. And there’s an adults-only pool adjacent to the historic hotel. Plus, we have 132 private pools on property, in just about half our rooms. A lot of those are on rooftops, in private gardens and in side turrets on each building on the sea.
L’Azure restaurant has been a fixture of the resort for a long time. Now there’s Zen, D’Onofrio’s Trattoria, The Grove Beach Bar & Grill, Bar 1887 and The Village Cafe and its ice cream bar, coffee and dessert counter full of cakes, all made in-house by your pastry chefs. What are your favourite dishes?
I love the caterpillar maki at Zen. It’s just so beautiful on the plate. At The Carriage House
I like the grilled shrimp kebabs. Out by the poolside with a tropical cocktail or beer, it’s perfect. As for The Village Cafe – almost everything! There are some owners who’ll be there at 7:30 a.m. to get their home-made banana ice cream every morning that they’re here.
Does The Crane host weddings?
Yes, you can get married on the beach, by the pool, in the historic wedding garden or by The Carriage House with the dramatic cliff setting in the background.
What do guests love about staying here?
Besides the spectacular ocean views every-where, people love how spacious the rooms are. Some of our suites have a fully enclosed private garden with a dining gazebo, private pool and lounge chairs, and the vast majority of our rooms feature full kitchens. For supplies, the general store is in the Village, there’s a shuttle to Emerald City and some of our regular guests go to Brighton Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.
How were the newer rooms designed with the historic hotel in mind?
The design was very much taken from the historic hotel. The inverted tray ceilings, the pickled wood, the slatted windows to let in the breeze, the rendered coral stone, the four-poster beds and the floor chests would all have been traditional back in 1887.
You’re constructing the second phase of the new private residences. How do these differ from the rest of the resort?
The Crane Private Residences are a contemporary departure from the more traditional, colonial architecture of the main resort. Each residence is bright and expansive featuring large, airy kitchens, natural stone bathrooms with large soaker tubs and spacious private patios. Ground floor residences have a large private pool and garden, while penthouse units include a private roof terrace with dining gazebo, rooftop swimming pool and sweeping coastal views. They’re designed for long-term living and include underground parking and an elevator leading directly to the foyer of each residence – a rarity for Caribbean properties.