St Lucia and Martinique

Martinique & St. Lucia

4St Lucia

Mountainous and lush with many white sand beaches, tropical rain forest interior giving way to cultivated agricultural land around the more moderate sloping coastal fringe – this is St Lucia, the largest of the English-speaking Windward islands. St Lucia offers excellent sightseeing, hiking, water-sports including scuba and sailing.

St Lucia is a top charter yacht destination, but yachts tend to stay on the western leeward side of the island where there are excellent marinas and snug coves. The island is volcanic in origin and the soaring peaks have a wealth of attractions, from sulphur hot springs and mineral baths to waterfalls, adventure rainforest hikes, zip-lines, botanical gardens and loads more.

If you are flying into St Lucia to meet your yacht, the main international airport is Hewanorra at View Fort on the southern tip of the island. Not far are the famous twin Pitons which tower over the town of Soufriere. These volcanic ‘plugs’ located in a World Heritage Site, are probably the most photographed landmark on the island and are a major attraction for hikers and mountain climbers. Soufriere is the old French Capital of St Lucia and from here you can visit the drive-in volcano, Diamond Falls and the Botanical Gardens and don’t miss some of the best snorkelling on the island at Anse Chastenet.

Heading north along the west coast Marigot Bay is another of the Caribbean’s spectacularly beautiful anchorages. It’s a well-sheltered anchorage with an almost hidden entrance and once inside it’s the perfect place for the sunset photo and sundowner cocktail. Ashore is an active community with many attractions, shops and restaurants. There are a number of trails in the hills above the city which offer hikes to vantage points overlooking Marigot Bay, down the island to the highest mountain – Mt Gimie (3,117 ft./950m) and the Pitons and in the other direction down the Caribbean coast and to Martinique.

Castries is the island’s largest city and Capital. It is also the cruise-ship port for the island and is served by Vigie Airport. Of interest is the local market – For over 100 years farmers have been bringing their produce and spices to this old market – flanked by an equally interesting craft market.

Rodney Bay is over a mile long. On the northern shore a manmade causeway built in 1972 connects Pigeon Island to the mainland and also provides protection to the anchorage. The inner lagoon is completely sheltered. Ashore there are shopping areas and restaurants. As well as being a main yachting centre for the island, Rodney Bay is also the location of some fabulous beaches and also a major tourist location with hotels and beach resorts.

Pigeon Island was the main base for the British Navy in the 18th century this part of the world – ideally situated within sight of the Martinique, the main French base. Today, the Pigeon Island National Park is one of the most important historical sites of Saint Lucia. The park is a beautiful place to visit, even if not for the history but for the views over the ocean! There is a museum which explains the history of the area and all over the island are the ruins of military buildings. There is also a lookout point at the top of the Fort with old cannons.

And on to Martinique.

Martinique is one of the larger islands in the Eastern Caribbean. Also known as L’iles aux Fleurs, the flower island after it’s original Carib name – Madinina. Apart from a few short spells under the British it has been part of France since it was colonized. In 1946 it became an oversea department, a special status which has helped raise it’s standard of living to way above many of its Caribbean neighbours. These days it has excellent roads and a thriving economy. The island is famous for being the birthplace of Empress Josephine, the ill-fated wife of Napoleon.

The first capital was St Pierre the flourishing and elegant city known as the Paris of the Caribbean which was destroyed by a massive volcanic eruption in 1902. The only survivor was said to be a prisoner who was saved by the thickness of his cell walls. Many ruins still remain and have been incorporated into new buildings or walled gardens. There is a museum on the hill above the old city and several excellent hikes for the more energetic: such as up to the Statue of the Virgin Mary; to the Distillerie Depaz one of the oldest rum plantations on the island; or along the Canal de Beauregard for dramatic scenery; or even up to Mont Pelée.

Today the Capital of Martinique is Fort de France. Anchor in the bay and come ashore for shops, interesting monuments, street market and spice market, restaurants and people-watching.

Traditional Martiniquais food is creole influenced by African, French and Indian tastes. Typically rustic and hearty with some more modern lighter touches.

Martinique’s rums are a big part of the island’s identity. There are about 15 active distilleries on the island some of which are open to the public and the varieties range from Rhum Blanc used in the local drink of ti punch to an aged dark Rhum enjoyed as an after-dinner liqueur.

Martinique is a paradise for nature and sports-lovers. Scuba-diving, surfing, kite-surfing, golf and walking. There are any number of well-marked trails to follow including long stretches of coastline, such as the easy path at the southern tip of the island to the secluded beach of Anse Trabaud – also good for surfing. Other excellent beaches include the Grand Anse de Salines with its mile-ling stretch of sand fringed by coconut palms. Most of the safe anchrages are on the southern two thirds of the western side of the island from St Pierre to Marin Bay and then Baie des Anglais on the south-eastern tip. Martinique’s windward side is seldom visited, making it one of the Caribbean’s last hidden treasures, although there are shallows and stretches of hidden rock – but a knowledgeable Captain will find a few of the hidden gems. You could easily spend a week in Martinique, but even a few days will give you a good feeling of the delights and charms of this island.

There are flights into Martinique from many other islands in the Caribbean as well as long distance flight from Paris, Miami and Montreal. But charters starting in Martinique will attract VAT.

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