Carriacou holds a special place in my heart. As a child, I remember holidays with my family in Harvey Vale (Tyrell Bat for those afloat), in a small collection of guest house cottages that are now, coincidentally, my home and office. We spent most of our time on the beach across the street building sand castles, snorkeling, and marveling at the bioluminescence that illuminated the waterline at night. I remember always being at ease with the quietness and simplicity of life here. Perhaps thats why, nearly two decades later, after meeting my partner during our dive instructor training on the island, the choice to build our lives together in Carriacou was an obvious one.
After more than three years on an island of less than 13 square miles, we are still discovering pockets of the island that are timeless and breathtaking in their raw, natural beauty. Most recently, we took a day trip to the northern end of the island and to the village of Windward, the traditional boat building capital of Carriacou, to take photos and notes to include in the 2021-2022 edition of the Cruising Guide to the Windward Islands.
We were already regular visitors to Windward, but the main draw had always been Pizza Meh Heart. Affectionately known as Teena’s, this pizzeria is in a cute traditional wood building, perched on a small hillside overlooking the main road and water beyond, and worth the 30 minute drive from Tyrell Bay. Teena, originally from Colorado, has been in Carriacou long enough to be considered a local. She serves both slices and whole pizzas, hot from the pizza oven, for lunch and dinner every day but Tuesday, when she gives the hardworking staff a worthy break.
The village of Windward is scattered along a coastal road that overlooks a broad, shallow bay. Beyond the barrier reef, Petit Martinique and Petite Saint Vincent sit quietly. The entrance to the anchorage is sometimes marked, but unreliable, and best when aided by local knowledge. With good weather and visibility, it is possible for boats with less than a 6 foot draft to eyeball their way in, with caution.
If done by car (which is worthwhile), the adventure to Windward actually starts from Princess Royal Hospital, just north of Hillsborough. Perched atop the hill in Belair, it is one of the best and most accessible views of the island. From here you can see the entire southern part of Carriacou, the offshore islands of Isle de Rhonde, and on a clear day, the outline of Grenada looms in the distance.
From there, we traveled down past an old windmill once used to crush sugar cane, one of Carriacou’s signposted historical sites, towards the coast. The windward coastal road is dry and ragged, perched between sheer ocean cliffs and windswept shrubs. It leaves you with no doubts about the power of the ocean. Ningo Well, another signposted historical site, is nearby and dates back to the 1740’s. Huge and oval, it is a stark reminder of the horrors of slavery – first built by enslaved people, then used to produce indigo dye, a process that released toxic fumes and resulted in many deaths.
On the same road is Tibo Cemetery, set between the dramatic landscape of bare and twisted manchineel trees and crashing waves. Presumably due to a combination of erosion and sea level rise, many grave sites and their adjoining tomb stones are now in the surf, mere feet from their final frontier. The oldest grave stone we found was dated 1757. It is an active cemetery, so be respectful when visiting.
On the other side of Windward is the Petit Carenage beach (Lilet). The Sanctuary and Nature Trail is an easy walk, and great for bird watching. It was dry when we went, but can be muddy and buggy in the rainy season, when insect repellant is a must. The path is well signposted and takes you south past mud flats, a tidal pool, an area of mangrove restoration, up a birdwatching tower, and to a mangrove nursery project. Follow the beach north to find a gazebo that houses information on the Hawksbill and Leatherback sea turtles that nest on the beach between March and August. Peak season is June, when Leatherback and Hawkbill nesting activities overlap on the same beaches.
At the north end of Petit Carenage is Carriacou’s northern headland, Gun Point. Technically part of SVG (the line of latitude that divides Grenada and SVG runs just north of Petit Martinique, but cuts off 100 feet or so of Gun Point) is an easy hike through cacti and shrub land. To get there, follow the main road to just before the cutback at the top of the hill. The path starts to the left of the large pale yellow house. Steep at first, it quickly flattens out. The path is unmarked and difficult to follow at parts, but the shrubs are generally low enough that it’s easy to see what direction you’re traveling in. You will find an old rusted cannon among a lovely variety of cacti on the norther tip of the point (sturdy shoes are recommended), with a spectacular view of Union Island and northern Carriacou.
It wasn’t part of our visit on this particular day, but if you continue driving around to the leeward side of the island (a rough dirt road) you will come to the trail head for High North, Carriacou’s highest peak. It is a moderate to difficult hike, and takes about 2 hours. The trail is sign-posted, but to get the most out the of the experience, hire a nature guide (see below).
The KIDO foundation maintains the conservation efforts and nature trails at Petit Carenage and High North. They train guides for High North hiking and wildlife watching, Petit Carenage nesting sea turtle watching, mangrove planting and restoration carbon-offset tours, and bird watching. Nature guides can be contacted through the Carriacou Tourism Office in Hillsborough (+1-473-443-7948).
Further down the road is the path to Anse Le Roche. A moderate hike, it has a nice view of Union and takes about half an hour to reach the beach. The anchorage at Anse Le Roche is a short sail from Hillsborough and is a great lunch stop. Tim Garraway has built a small restaurant and beach bar here, though there is controversy over how it will effect sea turtle nesting.
If this all sounds like too much work and you are just looking for a great meal, Bogles Round House is nearby, and is one of our favorite places for a romantic dinner. It is a one minute walk from the main bus route, or you can anchor off Bogles (Sparrow Bay) and dinghy ashore, swells permitting. If you have a group of six or more they will provide free transportation from Hillsborough or Tyrrel Bay, or you can take a taxi. The setting is almost magical, with its domed white ceiling and circular windows made from old wagon wheels and industrial machinery. A beautifully finished old tree trunk sits upright in the center, with one of it’s stubs shaped like a cow’s head and adorned with a bell. Roxanne, the chef and owner, whips up a delicious fusion of Caribbean and International flavors, and never disappoints. She bakes her own bread and makes fresh homemade ice cream as well. Dinners are elegant, and they sometimes serve more casual lunches (call ahead to make sure they will be open). It is a popular place, so dinner reservations are recommended (+1-473-443-7841).
So, the next time you are in Carriacou, don’t forget to go beyond Hillsborough and include a trip to Windward. Be careful though, it may just capture your heart like it did mine.