Discovering Saint Vincent: A Hidden Gem in the Caribbean

Discovering Saint Vincent: A Hidden Gem in the Caribbean

Fort Charlotte photo by Tonya Fitzpatrick

Posted May 22, 2024

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In the grand scheme of world travel, Saint Vincent often gets overshadowed by its more famous neighbors. Some might say this little island should stay hidden to avoid the effects of mass tourism. But keeping such a beautiful place a secret would be a real shame. Saint Vincent, part of the Grenadine Islands, is a true paradise with its own unique charm and rich history.

Exploring Kingstown

Our journey starts in the capital, Kingstown. This quaint town, with its stone houses, archways, and cobblestone streets, feels like stepping back in time. The weekly market bursts with color and life, making it a must-see. The market is more than just a place to buy goods; it’s a cultural hub where locals gather, exchange stories, and maintain traditions that have been passed down through generations.

Just a short trip north of Kingstown, you’ll find Fort Charlotte. Sitting on a hill, it offers stunning views of the capital and the surrounding Grenadines.

Fort Charlotte is over 200 years old and was built to house around 600 soldiers. The cannons still stand guard, and the officers’ quarters display paintings that tell the story of the Black Caribs. This indigenous group, also known as the Garifuna, has a fascinating history of resistance and resilience. They were originally the descendants of West African slaves who intermarried with Carib and Arawak people. Their struggle against European colonization is a testament to their strength and tenacity.

During our visit to Fort Charlotte, we had the honor of interviewing a Garifuna elder for our podcast. Hearing firsthand accounts of their history and culture from such a knowledgeable source added a profound depth to our understanding of Saint Vincent’s past and present.

St Vincent.Fort Charlotte.Tonya photo

St Vincent.Fort Charlotte.Tonya photo

Mysteries of Layou

Next, we head to Layou, a small village surrounded by rugged landscapes. This place is dotted with ancient carvings, probably left by the Amerindians. The Layou Petroglyph Park showcases these mysterious signs of the island’s earliest inhabitants. These petroglyphs are more than just carvings; they are a glimpse into the spiritual and daily lives of the people who once called this island home.

Back in Kingstown, the National Trust Museum offers a deep dive into the island’s history. From the first settlers to British and French colonization, and the influences of African and East Indian cultures, it’s all there. The museum’s exhibits include artifacts from the island’s indigenous peoples, colonial relics, and items that reflect the blending of cultures that makes Saint Vincent unique. Don’t miss the St. Mary Catholic Cathedral and St. George Anglican Church, both about 200 years old and full of historical charm. These churches not only serve as places of worship but also as landmarks of the island’s colonial past.

St Vincent at Layou Petroglyph Park. Photo by Tonya Fitzpatrick

St Vincent at Layou Petroglyph Park. Photo by Tonya Fitzpatrick

Black Point Historic and Recreation Park

Nearby, the Black Point Historic and Recreation Park features the Jasper Rock Tunnel. This incredible tunnel was dug through solid volcanic rock by Caribbean and African slaves. It’s a powerful reminder of the island’s past and a testament to the strength and resilience of its people. The park is a place of reflection, where visitors can contemplate the harsh realities of slavery and the enduring spirit of those who were enslaved.

The Rich Cultural Tapestry of Saint Vincent

Saint Vincent’s culture is a vibrant tapestry woven from its diverse history. The island’s festivals, music, and cuisine reflect its multicultural heritage. The annual Vincy Mas festival, a lively celebration featuring calypso, soca, and steelpan music, showcases the island’s love for vibrant rhythms and dance. Traditional dishes like callaloo soup and roasted breadfruit offer a taste of the island’s culinary heritage, blending African, East Indian, and indigenous flavors.

One of the most authentic experiences on Saint Vincent is watching the local fishermen. Seeing them pull in their catch with the lush island as a backdrop is truly special. It’s a real slice of island life, connecting you to the community and its traditions. Fishing is not just a livelihood here; it’s a way of life that has shaped the island’s identity.

Reflecting on Saint Vincent

Saint Vincent is a place that captures your heart and stays with you long after you leave. The island’s history, from the bustling streets of Kingstown to the ancient carvings in Layou, is rich and deeply intertwined with its natural beauty. The local fishermen, with their daily routines, offer a glimpse into the authentic life that defines this Caribbean gem. If you’re looking for a destination that combines stunning landscapes with a genuine cultural experience, Saint Vincent is calling your name.

For more travel stories and insights, and to listen to our interview with a Garifuna elder from Fort Charlotte, visit World Footprints, where we celebrate the world’s rich heritage and diverse cultures through travel.

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  • Tonya Fitzpatrick, Esq., is a co-founder of World Footprints, a social impact travel media company that she runs with her husband, Ian. She is an award-winning journalist, global public speaker, and three-time TEDx presenter who has written for several prominent publications including the Miami Herald, AAA World, The Lens and Island Soul. Recognized as Black Travel Journalists of the Year alongside Ian, Tonya serves on several travel industry boards, including SATW, The Explorers Club (DC chapter), NATJA, and JourneyWoman. She has also been appointed to the Maryland Tourism Development Board by Governor Wes Moore.