Pigeon Island – St. Lucia
Often heralded as one of the loveliest of the Caribbean gems, St Lucia is full of natural magnificence. Verdant rainforests, plunging and picturesque waterfalls, dazzling white sand beaches and the World Heritage volcanic peaks of the Pitons –this is what awaits for all those who venture to these green and tropical shores.
Natural beauty aside, authentic and unspoiled St Lucia offers a glorious melting pot heritage made up of European, African and Asian elements which has fused together to present a rich and absorbing Creole culture. Leftovers of the past are everywhere and waiting to be explored are any number of former grand plantations, colonial forts and an array of historic buildings. Tacked onto all of this is an incrediblemenu of things to do which range from horseback riding to remote beaches to donning a spacesuit-like helmet and walking on the seabed among coral reefs full of marine life. You can also arrive on this paradise island and learn to paint, make chocolate andsail, feast your way through barbecue lunches or lobster dinners washed down with rum punch or get your kicks with adrenaline activities as diverse as ziplining and kite surfing.
Pigeon Island which sits in the north of St. Lucia is one of its most treasured jewels. No longer an island since a causeway was built in the 1970s, the whole 44 acres of this peninsula are national park land and home to the island’s most significant military leftovers with the 18thcentury Fort Rodney its main highlight.
Whether you arrive here simply looking for a slice of paradise in which to laze away your hours or want to pack in as much as you can St. Lucia has something for everyone.
A Morning in Pigeon Island and St. Lucia
St. Lucia’s colonial history is best seen by wandering the ruins and relics of Pigeon Island which is where your day will begin. After exploring this national park and landmark with its sensational views you can take in a little more of this island’s natural beauty with an off-road adventure by Segway.
Although the Caribbean islands have today come to represent some of the most perfectly idyllic tropical destinations on Earth this corner of the world was once an arena for constant military struggles and sea battles which began in the 1600s.As the most powerful colonial forces of the time fought to gain Caribbean supremacy a great number of fortresses were built in the area at strategic points and their remains, in many cases, can still be seen today.
Fort Rodney which sits atop Fort Rodney Hill on Pigeon Island is one such example and winding your way around these old ruins and relics allows you to understand something of St. Lucia’s part in the colonial wars.
The conflicts which this island experienced were mainly between the French and English and although St. Lucia was won and lost several times in the 1700s the English finally emerged victorious at the end of the century. To protect their new prize and establish a base for further battles with the French in order to continue the fight for other islands in the area, the English built Fort Rodney in 1780. With the French base of Martinique just 25 miles across the water Fort Rodney allowed the British to keep a close eye on the movements of their enemy’s fleet.
The fortified military structure was to remain more or less actively garrisoned from that point until the early 1900s although, during the Second World War, it was to once again act as a military tool during troubled times. During this period the US forces set up a communication station and used the fort’s platform as an observation post.
Today Fort Rodney is part of a naturally gorgeous landscape of trees and park lawns and which is as much about the spectacular views as it is about exploring the fascinating relics of the past.
Identifiable structures still partially intact besides the original surrounding stone parapets include the officers’ mess, the commander’s residence, gunpowder bunkers, a lime kiln and two sets of barracks. Also littered around are some authentic cannons of the era although the fort’s original cannons disappeared in the 1800s. The former officers’ mess which stands near the entrance gate today houses an interpretation center where you can learn something of the site’s history and its strategic importance as a cog in the colonial wars of the Caribbean.
Besides simply being a beautiful place to stroll the Fort Rodney site offers the kind of sweeping sea views of which dreams are made. From this lofty perch you can gaze at the whole northern half of St. Lucia withboth Rodney Bay to the south and Martinique off to the north both clearly visible.
Morning Coffee In and Around Pigeon Island
After you have finished exploring the gorgeous landscapes around Fort Rodney you can start considering where to take a morning pause.
For those who need a little sustenance to keep their energy levels up you can head to Rodney Bay’s 7th Heaven Bakery, a couple of kilometers to the south. Here you will be greeted by the mouthwatering aroma of home-made breads, pastries and cakes, all fresh from the oven, at this Swiss-inspired bakery which is part of the slick Harbor Club resort. Take your pick from the incredible range of sweet and savory artisan goods here and then settle down with your morning treat and a coffee in this crisp and airy contemporary cafe.
Another choice in the small town of Rodney Bay is rather more of the hidden gem kind. Island Mix is indeed a tranquil cafe where you can order up a quality coffee or tropical juice but this special place is also something more than that. Set at waterside so you can be sure of lovely marina and bay views from the pretty porch here, Island Mix is a hot-spot for the island’s artistically inclined who gather to chat and work quietly at their own arts and craft creations.
Warm and welcoming, this tucked-away haven of a cafe has a very special atmosphere as well as surrounding you with beautiful hand-made gifts and the attached gift shop is an essential stop for all those looking for unique souvenirs. Full of gorgeous jewelry, sculptures, paintings, bright textiles and an array of hand-made goods, this section has to be passed through to arrive at the cafe so you won’t be able to miss it.
Off-Road Segway Adventures
While some of the ways to get out and exploring St. Lucia have been around ever since the first waves of visitors started arriving there are others which are newer arrivals to the island’s exciting menu of things to do. One of the most recent of all is that of touring by Segway which is a fun, eco-friendly way of immersing yourself amid some of the island’s natural beauty.
All the nature trail tours begin with a short practice session so you can see for yourself just how intuitively easy this form of transport is to both balance and maneuver. Once you can confidently handle your Segway you’ll head off from Rodney Bay on a journey of discovery and off-road highlights which take you along specially prepared routes stretching for just under 2 miles. As you glide along your guide will enrich your ride with fascinating insights into the area’s flora and fauna as well as filling you in on various chapters from the island’s history such as the sea battles between the English and French.
Beautiful scenery is a constant but there are some especially spectacular viewpoints on route where you can pause and gaze from above on Pigeon Island, Rodney Bay, beaches and the panoramas of the sparkling Caribbean. Other stops include the abandoned bunkers, lookout posts and tunnels which the US Navy constructed for use during the Second World War and a beautiful nature pond full of fish.
Lunch In and Around Pigeon Island
After a morning spent exploring the history-rich peninsula of Pigeon Island and traversing the natural terrain around the north-western corner of the island you will have no doubt have worked up something of an appetite. Luckily, once you have returned your Segway to its Rodney Bay base you are going to be well placed to choose from a great range of lunch spots clustered around the near vicinity.
If you are on the hunt for truly authentic island cuisine in a no-frills but cute and clean setting make your way to Lucian Cuisine, located right where your morning ended in Rodney Bay. Tucked away from the town’s main streets, this wonderful little spot tends to be something of a locals’ secret which visitors typically only find once some islander has chosen to share its location with them. Offering fantastic value for money, here you can peruse the blackboard menu hung in the cheerfully sunshine yellow interior before choosing one of the tables set on the wooden deck outside.
This a great pick for those with healthy appetites as the portions here are large despite the incredibly pocket-friendly price tags and the high standard of the food. What’s on offer changes every day depending on whatever fresh ingredients are available but there is typically a choice of mains all of which are served with at least five different side accompaniments.
The history-and nature-rich peninsula of Pigeon Island, in its entirety a national park, has several restaurant choices once you start turningyour thoughts to where to stop for lunch. If a tranquil meal appeals one of the Pigeon Island choices is the decidedly lovely Jambe de Bois which has an enviable tucked-away waterfront setting at the northern extreme of Rodney Bay. The enchantingly rusticinterior offers bare stone walls, an exposed beam roof and walls full of island art which you can enjoy from the cushion-strewn sofas. The tree-shaded veranda out back with its beautiful views of bay and boats is every bit as charming, scattered with chunky wood tables and hefty tall-back chairs bleached by the sun and made up from tree-branches, driftwood and cartwheels.
The inexpensive cuisine here is a mix of Caribbean favorites and international choices with a menu diversity which includes such delicacies as curried lamb, fish fillets and seafood lasagna.
An Afternoon in Pigeon Island
Crystal clear, warm waters, beautiful coral gardens and thriving tropical marine life mean snorkeling is a popular activity on St. Lucia. However, this island also offers two other exciting choices for exploring the wonderland beneath the waves –snuba and sea helmet. Both of theseactivities give you all the advantages and freedom of diving but need no qualifications so are suitable for absolute beginners and even non-swimmers.
Among its many other fantastic highlights Pigeon Island offers visitors the wonderful underwater experience of snuba. With snorkel mask and the ability to breathe through a diving regulator connected by hose to the surface, snuba offers all the benefits of diving but without the need for training or qualifications of any kind.
All that is necessary here is a few minutes of orientation and then you enter the water with your guide from a gently shelving beach to embark on your marine world discovery. The Pigeon Island snuba gives you freedom to choose your own comfort level without pressure; for those with the confidence and desire to do so this adventure allows you to go as deep as 20ft down while those a little less sure can hang around nearer to the surface.
The beautiful coral reef eco-systems are sufficiently fascinating on their own withall kinds of colors on display and sprouting a variety of life such as barrel sponges and brain corals. Once you add the fish and other marine creatures into the mix however your snuba experience becomes one of constant discovery. Marvel at the swarming schools of sardine, watch as octopus and seahorses venture out from their coral garden hideaways or follow the spiny lobsters as they move across the sandy seabed and of course there is always the chance you will be joined by a turtle or two.
Sea Helmet Experiences
Yet another way to have a dive-like adventure without being a diver is with a Sea Trek helmet experience, also available from Pigeon Island. This time you are supplied with a comfortable space-suit-like helmet with an air supply by way of a hoseallowing you to breathe freely underwater without the need for a mouthpiece or mask. Everything inside the helmet is completely sealed off from the water so you stay dry which means if you are a wearer of prescription glasses you can keep them on the entire time, allowing you to enjoy the underwater wonders to the full. So easy is this form of underwater exploration in fact that even non-swimmers can take part.
Just as with the snuba experience you are first given a brief orientation and then, once again, enter the marine wonderland of corals and water creatures directly from the beach. Likened by many to an anti-gravity space-walk, this type of adventure puts you in the hands of a guide at all times so all you have to concentrate on is taking another breath and marveling at the colors and sea-life around you.
Pre-Dinner Drinks and Dinner on Pigeon Island and St. Lucia
With the choice of watering holes ranging from rustic beach bars to elegant sea-view lounges and an incredible diversity of cuisine exciting enough to satisfy even the most discerning foodie St. Lucia really has you covered from every angle with regard to drinking and dining.
While places such as the capital of Castries and Rodney Bay, a little to its north, represent two of the main hot-spots for bars and restaurants other choices can literally be found tucked into every little corner of the island. This latter is often where you’ll find the hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path hideaways for some truly memorable sundowners and evening meals.
When it comes to places to plant your feet in the sand as you sip on tropical cocktails or ice-cold Piton beers and take in a spectacular sunset show St. Lucia really has it covered. One which ticks all of these boxes and then a few more is the gorgeous Reduit Beach-located Spinnakers -the creation of a warm and welcoming British ex-pat couple who arrived to live their dream on St. Lucia many years ago.
Built right on the dazzling white sands, casual vibe Spinnakers is a spacious coconut thatched beach bar which offers not just a wonderful cocktail menu but also a perfect location for enjoying the nightly spectacular of the sun setting over the sea.
This little slice of paradise has a few tables sprinkled around on the beach as well as a spacious wooden deck where you can lounge on wicker sofas and chairs, listen to the waves and enjoy such concoctions as the frozen Spinnaker mojito which is blended with home-grown mint. Once the sun has gone down the delicate strings of lighting here transform it into a romantic spot and should you find it difficult to tear yourself away Spinnakers is also a restaurant so you can both drink and dine here if you choose.
The lovely Pigeon Island, designated a national park in its entirety due to its significantly important historical and natural elements, has a handful of drinking and dining choices of its very own if you want to enjoy sundowners here. Of the options possible though none offers quite the level of historic setting as the charming Barnacles which is located inside an old stone building –once the officers’ quarters for the British military forces stationed at Fort Rodney.
Inside the bare stone walls makefor an atmospheric place to enjoy some pre-dinner drinks with some tucked away niches while the benches outside surround you with palm trees and the chance to gaze upon gorgeous sea views.
From beach shacks serving up barbecues to refined international cuisine at elegant restaurants, St. Lucia truly offers the complete range when it comes to dining options.
If you’d like to push the boat out or have somethingspecial to celebrate there is probably no better choice than the Cliff at Capwhich is located a few kilometers north of Pigeon Island. Literally cliff-perched, this stunning fine dining choice with its romantic decks and beautiful lighting lets you gaze across the Caribbean Sea as you dine, taking in Pigeon Island off to the west and Martinique in the distance towards the north. If you dine early enough you also get all of that plus a front row seat to watch the setting sun turn the skies purple and scarlet.
Although the location and romance-infused ambiance alone are enough to draw in the customers the exquisite culinary dishes created by the French-trained chef are the real icing on the cake. Perfectly blending the best of French and Caribbean cuisine, the diverse menu offers such dishes as reef conch ceviche, pork with clams in a coconut foam with sides of caramelized plantains and spiny lobster ravioli. Crisp table cloths, sparkling glass and silverware along with impeccable service round off this unforgettable dining experience at what many consider to be one of the finest restaurants on the island.
If that still doesn’t sound quite special enough the Cliff at Cap also offers an entirely private and hyper-special option on its Rock Maison. Here, on a deck which projects into the water at the cliff base, is set just one table for two offering one of the most intimately romantic dining experiences you are ever likely to have.
If you’d rather dine rather more rustically on Caribbean and Creole fare with your feet in the sand head five kilometers east from Pigeon Island to arrive on the island’s Atlantic coast side. Here you will find the idyllic white sands of Cas en Bas beach where the charmingly rickety wooden structure of Marjorie’s Restaurant and Bar is located.
The rusting metal relic you will see as you enter is a piece of a US rocket booster which the ocean dumped onto the sands here back in the 90s while inside the bamboo and wood interior you can see a photo of the magnetic owner Marjorie with Amy Winehouse. This late pop icon was apparently a friend of Marjorie’s and a big fan of this chilled out ramshackle spot which serves some of the best rum punches to be found on the island.
Dining here is right on the sands beneath the waving palms and sea-grape trees or on the covered deck and the local cuisine menu offers a bit of everything –from barbecue jerk chicken to lobster. As everything is cooked to order there is sometimes a little delay but with such loveliness to gaze upon and a choice of cocktails and Piton beer to keep you occupied until the food arrives no-one seems to mind.
An Evening in St. Lucia
With music featuring as such a fundamental element of St. Lucia’s culture it won’t be hard to make this a part of your after-dark island time if youso choose. Several bars and restaurants host live music performances and you will more than likely encounter a street musician or two simply by strolling around Rodney Bay after dark. The liveliest typically Caribbean musical events however are the jumps-ups of which the most beloved and well established is the Gros Islet one, just west of Pigeon Island
For more than half a century Friday nights in this former fishing village are filled with the sights and sounds of locals and visitors enjoying themselves at a Caribbean-style open-air party. While most of the music emanates from the main drag, the side streets running away from here are where the islanders set up their barbecues and serve constant helpings of grilled chicken and seafood to the hungry hordeswhile makeshift bars provide the beers and rum punches. Dancing is all part of the fun but if you prefer to get in a little last minute souvenir shopping you may be able to find just what you have been looking for among the stalls of the arts and craft sellers.
For a fun evening trying your luck at the slots and tables head to Rodney Bay’s Baywalk Mall where you’ll find the Treasure Bay Casino. Something of a casual venue without a dress code, this one and only casino choice on the island still has a goodrange of table games with all the classics such as roulette and blackjack along with a few other options you might never have heard of unless you are a committed gamer. With such a relaxed and welcoming vibe the Treasure Bay is ideal for all those who aretotal novices to the casino scene although if you prefer to just spectate you can simply grab a drink at the bar and watch the action.