St Vincent and The Grenadines is a multi-island Caribbean nation with 32 islands and cays. The largest of the islands is St Vincent, which has a lush green mountainous landscape over 133 square miles. Just over 100,000 people live on St Vincent and many of whom have Garifuna ancestry (a mix of indigenous mix of Amerindian Arawak or Carib and African). A former British colony, St Vincent is known for its active volcano La Soufriere along with numerous waterfalls, hiking trails, picturesque fishing villages, and black sand beaches. It is quite a contrast to the islands within The Grenadines (like Palm Island, Petite St Vincent, Mustique, etc.) with their yacht-filled harbors and luxury hotels lining many of the white sand beaches. While those islands attract the majority of the tourists, the mainland unofficially nicknamed the Breadfruit Isle has much to offer, so below is my list of the top things to do in St Vincent after two recent trips.
1. Explore historic Kingstown
One of the top things to do in St Vincent is to explore the capital city of Kingtown which was first colonized by French settlers shortly after 1722. Control switched to the British in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris, but the French regained control in 1779. The British regained power in 1783 under the Treaty of Versailles and were in charge until St Vincent gained independence on October 27th, 1979. Kingstown today, with a population of approximately 20,000 people is a buzzing Caribbean city with an international airport and cruise port. Its current appearance (especially the downtown area) is a little rough around the edges, but it has a lot of charm and is considered historic for its many arches, cobbled streets, stone buildings, and magnificent churches. Thus, I highly recommend spending a morning or afternoon exploring.
St George’s Cathedral
Website | Address: Grenville Street, Kingstown, St Vincent
St George’s Cathedral located on Grenville Street is nearly 200 years old. With colorful stained glass windows, a beautiful hanging chandelier, and quaint adornments, the 16th-century building is a real delight for architecture lovers. It should be noted that the present St George’s Cathedral building was financed in part from the sale of lands taken from the Caribs and under the chandelier is a large stone slab memorializing Major Leith, who allegedly duped and killed Carib Paramount Chief Chatoyer in 1795 (Yikes!). Consecrated on September 20th, 1820, St George’s Cathedral is currently undergoing repairs but remains open for regular weekday and Sunday services. An earlier church built in the 1720s was destroyed by a hurricane in 1780.
Cathedral of the Assumption
Website | Address: North River Road, Kingstown, St Vincent
Another beautiful church building in Kingstown to explore is the Cathedral of the Assumption, the mother church of the Catholic Diocese of Kingstown, St Vincent & The Grenadines. Inside the three-winged structure which makes up the Cathedral of the Assumption is a school and church with presbytery fountains, beautiful archways, and a courtyard. The original church was a wooden structure that was built in 1823 and got damaged by a storm in 1875. This present brick structure with a steeple and tower has a range of elements from different architectural styles, including Flemish, Moorish, Venetian, Byzantine, and Romanesque. It was built between 1919 and 1946.
Note: The Assumption Cathedral located on North River Road in Kingstown is also called the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, the Catholic Cathedral of Kingstown and St. Mary’s Cathedral as that is the name of the school attached.
Kingstown Methodist Church
Website | Address: Grenville Street, Kingstown, St Vincent
WIth my Methodist upbringing, it would be remiss of me not to mention the nearby Kingstown Methodist Church built by freed slaves and dedicated on 1st August 1841. Sadly it wasn’t open when I visited, so I only got to admire the building and bell from the exterior. One interesting fact is that until 1907, the church bell hung from a nearby breadfruit tree.
Kingstown Public (Produce & Fish) Markets
Address: Back Street to Bay Street, Kingstown, St Vincent
Beyond admiring the stunning architecture of the churches and other historic buildings like the Court House, Kingstown Police Headquarters, and the Peace Memorial Hall, it is worth exploring Kingstown’s Fruits & Vegetable Market located on Back Street to Bay Street. Like most Caribbean markets, Saturdays are the liveliest when traders from all over the island gather to sell their fresh fruits and vegetables. Here, I would recommend having a fresh coconut and buying some other fruits like sugar apples, julie mangoes, and guineps. Guineps are like lycee and beyond delicious when ripe!
Note: The Kingstown Fish Market is located on Bay Street next to the main bus terminal. And even if you have no plans to buy fish, it is good to see the traders in action as they clean and chop up their catch, which depending on the season might include mahi-mahi, bonito, and tuna, etc. In addition to purchases by local consumers, a lot of the fish and seafood caught is bound for the island’s restaurants and hotels.
2. Have lunch at The Cobblestone Inn
Website | Address: Bay Street, Kingstown, St Vincent
After walking around historic Kingstown, have lunch at the Rooftop Bar and Restaurant at The Cobblestone Inn. The hotel and restaurant architecture dates back to 1814 and was originally a sugar warehouse and later used for processing arrowroot, which was a major export for the island from 1900 to 1965. That said, the food served in the restaurant at The Cobblestone Inn is a mix of Caribbean and continental cuisine! I would highly recommend having one of the daily specials which are typically local dishes along with a drink made from fresh fruits. Alternatively, have a bottle of Hairoun, the local beer of St Vincent.
By the way, as you walk to and from Cobblestone Inn with Georgian architecture, take note of the cobblestone walkway with numerous arches. These are a perfect example of why Kingstown is lovingly referred to as the City of Arches.
Bonus: For dessert, take a 5-minute walk from The Cobblestone Inn to Frisko Ice Cream on James Street for some delicious locally made ice cream.
3. Visit Fort Charlotte
Website | Address: Clare Valley, St Vincent
Just north of the city on top of a 660ft-high ridge is Fort Charlotte, a British-colonial era fort built by slave labor between 1763 and 1806. The fort is named after Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III of England. Fort Charlotte is worthy of a visit as on a clear day, it provides a fantastic view of Kingstown and The Grenadines along with Grenada to the south. In its heyday, Fort Charlotte housed around 600 troops and had over 30 cannons. Only a few of the cannons remain today at Fort Charlotte, and several are turned inland and not out to sea. This is because Fort Charlotte was built not just to defend sea attacks from the French but also Carib unrest and slave rebellions in Kingstown.
Note: Walking from Kingstown starting at the west end of Grenville Street to Fort Charlotte takes about a 40-minutes. However the route is uphill and so if hot and you aren’t fit, wouldn’t really recommend it. Alternatively, you can take a bus from the Leeward Bus Station to Edinboro and then walk the last 10 minutes to Fort Charlotte. You can also, of course, take a taxi which is plentiful in Kingstown!
4. Walk around St Vincent Botanical Gardens
Website | Address: New Montrose, Kingstown, St Vincent
Also north of Kingstown and worthy of a visit is the St Vincent Botanical Gardens, which dates back to 1765 and is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the Western Hemisphere. Spread over 20-acres of land, the St Vincent Botanical Gardens was initially set up by General Robert Melville, governor of the Windward Islands and Dr. George Young, the surgeon to the British Garrison stationed in St Vincent. They set it up as the Royal Society of the Arts had offered a reward to anyone who cultivated land in the Caribbean to grow medicinal and commercial plants.
Today, there is a wide range of trees, flowers, and colorful foliage plants throughout the St Vincent Botanical Gardens. One of the more famous trees planted there is a sucker from the original breadfruit tree brought by Captain William Bligh, whose ship HMS Providence sailed into Kingstown Bay on 23 January 1793. This was after Captain Bligh’s initial journey to Tahiti in 1787 with HMS Bounty to collect breadfruit plants to feed the enslaved Africans working sugar plantations throughout the region resulted in the notorious mutiny by his crew.
At the St Vincent Botanical Gardens, there is also the Nicholas Wildlife Aviary Complex, which houses some St Vincent Parrots (Amazona Guildingii), the national bird of St Vincent and The Grenadines. The colorful Amazona Guildingiis, who can be quite talkative, is protected under the Wildlife Act of 1987 as there are just 500 in the wild!
5. Swim at Dark View Falls
Website | Address: Leeward Hwy, Chateaubelair, St Vincent
Beyond things to do in or near Kingstown, would recommend a drive along the Leeward Highway of St Vincent to visit Dark View Falls managed by the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority. About 24 miles from the capital of Kingstown, Dark View Falls has two main waterfalls, one above the other, cascading down a pair of high cliff faces and plunging into natural pools. Upon entering the national park, the first waterfall is reached after a 5-minute hike by crossing the Richmond River via a bamboo bridge. The second requires a further walk up 67 steps and passing a small pool.
6. Relax at one of the beaches
Saint Vincent has a wide variety of beaches, most of which are black sand due to the La Soufriere volcano. On the leeward side, famous beaches include Mt Wynne, Petit Byahaut, Buccament Bay, Richmond Bay, and Cumberland Bay. In the south, the most popular beach is Brighton Beach and on the Eastern (Atlantic) side is Mt. Young Beach at Black Point, one of the longest stretches of sand in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. In the far north, there is Sandy Bay close to the Owia Salt Pond.
During my second visit, I took evening dips at Villa Beach directly in from of Beachcombers Hotel, where I stayed while attending the Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development. During my first visit, I took dips in the white sand beach at Young Island, where I stayed. If you are not staying at Young Island, which is actually a private resort and the first island in The Grenadines, I would recommend going there for lunch and then having a swim after.
Young Island is a 5-minute boat ride from St Vincent and directly behind is Fort Duvernette that sits atop a 190 feet volcanic plug. Fort Duvernette was built in the 1790s by the British to protect the colonial hub of Calliaqua, where sugar was loaded onto ships bound for English ports. From the same docks to go across to Young Island, you can take a water taxi and hike the 255 steps to the top of Fort Duvernette to check out the remains of the buildings, two gun cannons along with spectacular views of Saint Vincent. On a clear day, you can also see the Grenadine Islands of Bequia and Mustique.
7. Take a Rum Tour at St Vincent Distillery
Website | Address: Mount Bentinck, Georgetown, St Vincent
Another of the top things to do in St Vincent is visiting the St Vincent Distillery. Touring the distillery on the grounds of the Mt. Bentinck Estate is an opportunity to see first hand how rum is produced from molasses. Initially, the molasses came from the sugarcane grown on the island. However, as sugarcane is no longer grown in large quantities, molasses is brought in from other countries like Guyana and Mexico, stored at a facility in Kingstown, and then trucked to the distillery.
After the informative tour highlighting the distillation, aging, and bottling process, there is an opportunity to sample and purchase rums produced by St Vincent Distillery. Their more famous rums include the award-winning Captain Blight XO Special Reserve Rum and Sunset Very Strong Rum. Their other rums include Mutineers Gold XO Special Reserve Rum, the Spirit of St Vincent (SLR), Sparrow’s Premium Aged Rum, and Sunset Rum Punch. Current production from the St Vincent Distillery is about 66,000 cases (approximately 800,000 bottles) of rum each year. While some of the rum is exported to countries like Australia, Germany, and the United States, a large percentage is consumed locally.
8.Have lunch at The Grenadine House for Boul Joul (buljol) aka Roast Breadfruit Bowl
Website | Address: Kingstown Park, Kingstown, St. Vincent
As alluded to above, breadfruit was brought to the Caribbean by Captain William Bligh as it was seen as cheap high-energy food for the enslaved African working on plantations in the British colonies. Initially rejected by most of the enslaved until they made it their own, breadfruit is now a staple on most Caribbean islands including St Vincent. Starch-rich and somewhat similar to potatoes, breadfruit are primarily boiled, baked, and roasted. My preference is for roasted, and one of the best breadfruit meals I’ve had is the Boul Joul (buljol) aka Roast Breadfruit Bowl from The Grenadine House in Kingstown.
Traditional boul joul is a dish made with sauteed vegetables mainly onions, tomatoes and chives with the salt fish served with sliced roast breadfruit. The Grenadine House put a twist on this and serve half a breadfruit filled with saltfish, plantains, and beans. The Roast Breadfruit Bowl at The Grenadine House is extremely popular, so I would recommend making a reservation and pre-ordering; having a bowl by yourself or sharing with a group.
Note: St Vincent and the Grenadines now have over 25 different varieties of breadfruit, and along with fried jackfish makes up the national dish. Also, each August, Saint Vincent holds a month-long Breadfruit Festival. Coinciding with Emancipation Month activities, the St Vincent Breadfruit Festival takes place in different communities each weekend and showcases dishes and drinks made with breadfruit. Beyond simply boiling, frying, or roasting, breadfruit can be used to make breadfruit breadsticks, breadfruit puff, cheese pie, chips, pizza, lasagna, quiche, plus sweet and sour candy.
9. Hike La Soufriere Cross Country Trail
Website | Address: Rabacca Trail, Georgetown, St Vincent
As I drove around the island of St Vincent on my two recent visits, there were numerous views of the La Soufriere volcano. At 4,049 feet, it is the highest mountain in all of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Surprising, even though the La Soufriere is an active volcano (it last erupted in 1979), you can still hike it via the La Soufriere Cross Country Trail which was initially a trading route used by locals to carry fish and other products from the leeward to the windward side of the island.
From the windward side of St Vincent, the four-mile La Soufriere Cross Country Trail begins at the Rabacca trailhead near Georgetown and takes about two hours to get to the summit. The walk is apparently moderately difficult but is the easiest and most popular route. From the leeward side, the route is more challenging and takes longer as its five-miles and the path is less defined and overgrown. Once you get to the summit from either side, you can hike down into the crater. Whichever route you chose, you need to be accompanied by a local guide who can be booked via the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority.
Note: While time didn’t permit me to hike La Soufriere Cross Country Trail on either of my recent visits to St Vincent, it is top of my bucket list for next time. The plan would be to do an early morning hike from the leeward side and then make a return trip to Dark View Falls which I really enjoyed!
10. Visit one of the Grenadines Islands, including Bequia and Tobago Cays Marine Park
Address: Bequia or Tobago Cays Marine Park, The Grenadines
One of the final top things to do in St Vincent is to take day trips to one or more of the islands in The Grenadines. From Kingstown, you can take an early morning ferry to Bequia and spend the morning doing an island tour visiting sites like Fort Hamilton, the Boat Museum, and exploring the streets around Port Elizabeth. Then have lunch at Coco’s Place or The Fig Tree Restaurant followed by a swim at Princess Margaret Beach.
Another day trip option from St Vincent is to the Tobago Cays Marine Park which has several coral reefs, sea turtle nesting sites, and small systems of mangrove. Known as the Jewel in the Crown of the Southern Grenadines, the Tobago Cays Marine Park is a great place to go diving and snorkeling. Fans of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl can also check out Petit Tabac where a few of the critical scenes were filmed.
These are a selection of the top things to do in St Vincent based on my two recent visits. There are other top tourist attractions on the leeward side of St Vincent, including the Layou Petroglyph Park, Buccament Bay Beach, Vermont Nature Trail, and Wallilabou Bay, which was a movie set for many of the Pirate of the Caribbean films. Other tourist attractions on the windward side of St Vincent include the Black Point Heritage Park & Tunnel, Montreal Gardens, Hells Gate Falls, and Owia Salt Pond. That said, for information on how to get to St Vincent from North America or Europe, check out my article: 10 Islands To Visit In St Vincent And The Grenadines.
Getting around St Vincent
During my two recent visits, we were driven around the island of St Vincent by Foreign Tours who I highly recommend. Owned and run by Vincentian Quency Lewis along with his lovely wife Julecia, they bring the energy from pick up at your hotel or cruise port and ensures you get around the island safely while having a good time. Along with being knowledgeable and passionate about the island of St Vincent, I love that their air-conditioned vehicles had a cooler of sorts with snacks and cold drinks including Foreign Tours’ own brand of rum punch! Note that Foreign Tours has a number of vehicles in varying sizes so they can accommodate small and large groups! Also, in addition to regular taxi and airport transfer services, they also offer a number of tours, the most popular being their Pirates Tour to sites where the Pirate of the Caribbean movie was filmed.
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