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Carriacou

Carriacou, the land of many reefs, is a hilly island with neither lakes nor rivers, so its drinking water comes from rainwater caught in cisterns. It gets quite arid during the dry season (January through May). Nevertheless, pigeon peas, corn, and fruit are grown here, and the climate seems to suit the mahogany trees used for furniture making and the white cedar that’s critical to the island’s famed boatbuilding industry.

Hillsborough is Carriacou’s main town. Just offshore, Sandy Island is a tiny spit of land and one of the nicest beaches around. Almost anyone with a boat will give you a ride from Paradise Beach or Hillsborough to Sandy Island for a small fee (about $25 round-trip). Rolling hills cut a wide swath through the middle of Carriacou, from Gun Point in the north to Tyrell Bay in the south.

Despite its tiny size, Carriacou has several distinct cultures. Hillsborough is decidedly English; the southern region, around L’Esterre, reflects French roots; and the northern town of Windward has Scottish ties. African culture, though, is the overarching influence.

POINTS OF INTEREST

HILLSBOROUGH BEACH

Day-trippers (and others) can take a dip at this strip of sand adjacent to the jetty where the ferry docks, right in the center of town. The beach extends for quite a distance in each direction, so there’s plenty of room to swim without interference from the boat traffic. The best part of the beach is at the northern end, along what’s called the Esplanade. Ade’s Dream House is across the street from the beach, and snack bars and restaurants are nearby. Amenities: food and drink. Best for: swimming.

PARADISE BEACH

This long, narrow stretch of beautiful sandy beach in L’Esterre, between Hillsborough and Tyrell Bay, has calm, clear, inviting water. Popular with local folks on weekends, it’s very quiet—often deserted—at other times. The Hardwood Bar, at the southern end of the parking lot, serves local specialties for lunch. Amenities: food and drink; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; swimming; walking.

SANDY ISLAND

This is a truly deserted sandbar off Paradise Beach—just a few young palm trees on a spit of pure white, powdery soft sand—except for those who come by boat to snorkel and swim in the sparkling clear water. A 5-square-mile (3-square-km) Marine Protected Area surrounds the island. Arrange transportation to the island (about $25 round-trip) with a local boat owner at Paradise Beach; be sure to arrange the pickup time! Wear your bathing suit and bring along snorkeling gear and everything else you’ll need (sunscreen, towel, hat, shirt, food, and water, etc.), making sure to leave only your footprints when you leave. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; solitude; swimming.

ANSE LA ROCHE

About a 15-minute hike north from the village of Prospect, on the northwestern tip of Carriacou, this often-deserted beach has white sand, sparkling clear water, and abundant marine life for snorkelers. The beach was named for a huge rock where pelicans gather, so bird-watchers will also be thrilled. And because of its relative inaccessibility, Anse La Roche is never crowded. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; solitude; swimming; walking.

BELAIR

For a great bird’s-eye view of Hillsborough and Carriacou’s entire west coast, drive to Belair in the north-central part of the island. The vantage point for the magnificent view, 700 feet above sea level, is adjacent to Princess Royal Hospital. On the way to Belair, you’ll pass by the photogenic ruins of an old sugar mill.

CARRIACOU MUSEUM

Housed in a building that once held a cotton gin (the second-oldest cotton ginnery in the world), and just one block from the waterfront, Carriacou’s little museum has exhibitions of Amerindian, European, and African artifacts, a collection of watercolors by native folk artist Canute Caliste, and a small gift shop with local items. Founded in 1976, the museum is supported by the Carriacou Historical Society. Museum manager Clemencia Alexander, one of Caliste’s daughters, has worked for the museum for more than 30 years and is happy to give a guided tour.

WINDWARD

The small town of Windward is a boatbuilding community on the northeast coast of Carriacou. At certain times of year, primarily during school vacations, you may encounter a work in progress along the roadside.

TYRELL BAY

Tyrell Bay, a waterfront village in Harvey Vale, is a large protected harbor in southwest Carriacou and the official port of entry for yachts. The bay is almost always full of sailboats, powerboats, and working boats—coming, going, or bobbing at their moorings. Restaurants, cafés, and grocery stores face the waterfront.

WHITE ISLAND

On this deserted island off Carriacou’s southeastern coast, your choice of beautiful white sandy beaches and calm Caribbean waters awaits you. The island is surrounded by reefs and has beaches on all sides except for the eastern (Atlantic Ocean) side, which has a high cliff. Arrange transportation from Tyrell Bay for about $25 to $30 (EC$70) round-trip, and be sure to bring everything you may need. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; solitude; swimming; walking.