Sightseeing On Your Own
The Castries Market is a visitor favourite
Many visitors arriving on a cruise ship prefer the flexibility of sightseeing on their own rather than committing to a formal excursion. Not a problem as Saint Lucia is a friendly island and getting about is not difficult. The following are a few of the more popular activities for cruise guests to enjoy on their own:
Sightseeing in Castries
Cruise ships dock at two separate facilities located on opposite sides of Castries Harbour. No matter which side you are on you can jump on a Ferry Boat and take a scenic short ride to the other side for some different Duty Free and other shopping. On the south or town center side of the harbour you can step out of the port terminal into the middle of town. Two short blocks south you will find the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the Derek Walcott Square, both of which are enjoyable to visit.
Also very popular are the markets located directly across the street from the east end of the harbour. There you can stroll through the art and craft booths or step out back to see the farmer’s market where loads of fruits, vegetables, fish and other local items are laid out on tables every morning.
Located in the La Place Carenage Duty Free terminal on the south side of the harbour is Our Planet, a very high tech interactive center that dazzles with information and views of Saint Lucia and the world around us.
As with any city in today’s world, you are urged to use good judgement and common sense in choosing where you go in Castries. You will find the central part of town to be welcoming and safe. Also, be wise in your choice of what you wear, particularly jewellery, and what you carry with you.
A Day at a Beach
From either cruise terminal it is easy to obtain a taxi for a short jaunt to a beautiful beach. There are two good options to consider. First, Choc Beach is less than 10 minutes away in normal traffic and offers a laid back long strip of white sand where you can spend a few hours. There’s a comfortable restaurant and bar there to add to the enjoyment.
If you wish for a busier beach with more activity options, have the taxi take you on to Reduit Beach, which is another 12 minutes up the road. Reduit is in the heart of Rodney Bay, the center of Saint Lucia’s tourism activity, and offers additional choices for food and refreshment as well as water sport activities like jet skis, water skiing and parasailing. It is fine to make arrangements for the return trip with your morning driver but, at either beach, there will be no problem finding a taxi back to the ship so you do not have to pay the expense of having the driver stay with you for the day. Do make sure you know your on-board time and allow for at least an hour to return just to be safe.
On the northern side of Rodney Bay is Pigeon Island, a National Landmark on island. If you’re not into just lying on a beach it might be what you’re looking for. Also, the easy 25 minute drive will allow you to see much of the northern part of Saint Lucia along the way. Pigeon Island is truly one of Saint Lucia’s most interesting and beautiful sites that everyone, particularly children, will enjoy. Steeped in the island’s history visitors are also afforded breathtaking panoramic views in every direction which, of course, provided the strategic advantage that those who occupied the island in the past were after. In the early 1550s the infamous pirate, Jamb de Bois (meaning ‘wooden leg’, which he actually had) used Pigeon Island to ambush passing Spanish ships heavy with gold from South America.
In the 1700s the British established a military installation on the island which was active in the many skirmishes they had with France. It was from the adjacent bay that Admiral Rodney set sail in 1782 and destroyed the French Fleet in the Battle of the Saintes. Today numerous ruins are there to be explored. Consider it a must to walk to the fort atop one of the hills to see the cannons and other ruins and the spectacular views of much of Saint Lucia and the island of Martinique to the north. It’s also worth the modest climb up the even higher Signal Hill for the views it provides as well.
It must be noted that Pigeon Island was a separate isle until 1972 when the causeway connecting it to the mainland was completed using the material dredged during the construction of the Rodney Bay Marina and inner harbour. All of this interesting information and more can be enjoyed at the Pigeon Island museum. Also, on some days you will find Pigeon Island to be a great place to watch the local surfers riding the waves on the north side of the causeway. There are also a restaurant available for lunch or a refreshing drink after strolling the grounds. The cost to enter Pigeon Island is a modest US$5.
See the Pitons
Many of Saint Lucia’s most popular attractions are located in the Soufriere area on the southwest coast; these are the destinations for a majority of the formal tours offered onboard ships. But if an organized catamaran or bus excursion with the masses, so to speak, is not for you, simply hire a taxi for a day to Soufriere on your own. There are lots of excellent sightseeing stops all along the way and taxi drivers on island are trained to show you a great time. Stopping for the overlook view at Marigot Bay is a must and most guests enjoy the waterfront in the fishing village of Anse La Raye. As you approach Soufriere you will be treated to the most recognizable and photographed site in the entire Caribbean, the Pitons. Great views of the island’s majestic mountains will be seen from many vantage points. Once in Soufriere there are numerous options such as having a stroll and lunch in town at one of the many local restaurants, taking a drive up into the rain forest community of Fond St. Jacques or visiting any of the many local attractions on your own. It will be your choice and the driver is certain to know the way and make good suggestions for consideration.