When the ship approaches this port, stop whatever you're doing, grab your camera and go topside. The town and harbor of St. George's easily live up to their reputation as the most picturesque in the Caribbean.
With its red-tiled roofs and backdrop of lush green hills, St. George's looks like an idyllic little town on the French Riviera. Once you step ashore, however, you'll see a bustling town with a decidedly unpretentious charm.
HistoryGrenada was sighted by Christopher Columbus on his third voyage in 1498, but the first permanent European settlement on the island was established in 1650 by the French. During the 18th-century dynastic wars, the island was held alternately by France and England until 1783, when the Treaty of Paris ceded Grenada to the British. It wasn't until 1974 that the three-island nation, comprising Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, achieved independence, becoming one of the smallest independent countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Although political instability halted tourism in the early 1980s, intervention by the United States and several Caribbean countries in October 1983 restored order. Near the end of the following year, Grenadians chose their new prime minister in the first free elections since the unrest. The government consists of a prime minister supported by a cabinet of six ministers; a governor-general appointed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of the prime minister; and a House of Representatives and a Senate.
Grenada is known as the Isle of Spice because it is the largest spice-producing island in the Western Hemisphere. The nutmeg tree was introduced here in 1843, and the production of the aromatic seed and mace, the seed's fibrous covering, has since grown into one of the country's biggest industries, an enterprise that also includes the cultivation and export of ginger, cloves, cocoa, cinnamon and several other spices.
Today, Grenada is expanding its economic base in the tourism and light manufacturing sectors. Tourists will find many new attractions, including a national parks system, as well as a growing list of restaurants and resorts.
SightseeingGrenada is considered by many to be the quintessential Caribbean island: it was discovered by Columbus; it has volcanic mountains dotted with waterfalls and miles of gleaming, unspoiled beaches; and its capital is built on verdant sloping hills surrounding a harbor. The entire island is approximately twice the size of Washington, D.C. (133 square miles). If you like picture-postcard landscapes, a leisurely tour around this island is definitely in order and can easily be accomplished in a day.
St. George'sSt. George's was founded in 1705 and named Fort Royale by its French governor. In 1763, during the English occupation, the city was renamed St. George's in honor of King George III. Grenada's capital is ideally suited for a walking tour. From the Tourist Board Office located at the inner harbor, the Carenage, you can walk east to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo, a wonderland of tropical plants and flowers, rare Caribbean birds and animals.
Young Street, on the western side of the Carenage, is where you'll find the Antilles Hotel, one of the city's oldest buildings; constructed as a French Army barracks in 1704, it has since served as a prison, a warehouse and a hotel. Part of the ground floor is occupied by the Grenada National Museum, featuring a collection emphasizing the island's history and culture and including pre-Columbian and colonial artifacts.
Near the hotel is the 12-foot-high, 340-foot-long Sendall Tunnel, named after the governor in office at the time of its construction in 1895; it leads to the Esplanade, a commercial area filled with markets and shops facing the waterfront of the outer harbor. Not far from this end of the tunnel is St. Andrew's Presbyterian Kirk, popularly known as Scots' Kirk, built in 1831.
The town's dominant structure, Fort George, is located at the south end of Church Street. Built by the French in the early 18th century and originally called Fort Royal, its weather-beaten battlements honeycombed with tunnels are always fun to roam through. From the top of the fort you'll get a panoramic view of the city.
Market Square, on Granby Street, is a colorful place filled with shops and stalls selling a variety of tropical produce and local crafts. The square is also the site of parades, political speeches and religious gatherings. In the center is a war memorial honoring Grenadian casualties of the two world wars.
Farther east on Granby is the Houses of Parliament building, a brick structure where Grenada's House of Representatives and Senate meet.
Heading south on Church Street, you'll pass the Sedan Porches, a row of buildings with quaint little residential porches open on both ends so that travelers of yesteryear in sedan chairs could stay dry during rains. Close by is St. George's Anglican Church, built in 1825 by the British. This lovely stone and stucco edifice contains interesting historical plaques and some beautiful stained glass.
A few blocks north past Lucas Street is the 1884 Roman Catholic Cathedral, constructed on the site of an 1804 church. It retains a tower dating from 1818, which combines West Indian colors with a Victorian architectural style.
Fort Frederick, just off Lucas Street on Richmond Hill, was begun by the French in 1779 and completed by the British in 1783. Its battlements command a spectacular view of St. George's. For another excellent view, visit the nearby Georgian-style Government House, where the governor-general of the island resides.
The IslandOne of the most luxuriant spots on the island is not far from St. George's. The west coast road, heading north out of town, takes you past Concord Falls, a three-level cascade deep in the mountains. Continuing north, you'll arrive at the Dougaldston Estate at the entrance to the village of Gouyave, home to the nutmeg and mace cooperative. At the spice factory on the grounds, you can see and smell the aromatic spices drying in the sun.
The Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve, only eight miles from the city center, is a hilly tract covered with tropical foliage. Its focal point is Grand Etang, or "Great Lake," a 13-acre lake in a volcanic crater 1,900 feet above sea level. The Grand Etang Forest Center, located on the hill overlooking the lake, offers information on the park and its facilities; nearby is the beginning of a self-guided nature trail that leads to the lake itself. Once you reach Grand Etang, you'll see 2,300-foot-high Mount Qua Qua to the north.
Not far from the park is Annandale Falls, a secluded Eden where you can picnic and swim near a 50-foot waterfall. It is a favorite spot with locals and visitors alike.
BeachesIn keeping with its reputation as a unique Caribbean island, Grenada has something special for beach lovers. South of St. George's, the beach at Grand Anse is probably the island's most famous recreation retreat. Luxurious villas and resort hotels line its 2 1/2 miles of pure white sand shaded by a fringe of coconut palms.
Located about a mile south of Grand Anse Bay, Morne Rouge Beach is a charming half-mile-long crescent that is wonderful for swimming.
There is a pretty, powdery beach at Levera National Park and Bird Sanctuary, located east of the town of Sauteurs, on the northernmost tip of the island. The town's great cliff--Le Morne de Sauteurs, or "Leapers' Hill"--is the place where Grenada's last band of Caribs leapt to their death in 1651 rather than be captured by the French. Although the surf here is somewhat rougher than on the Caribbean side of the island, it's a good place for bird watching. There are also some pre-Columbian ruins and petroglyphs, and the beach offers a view of the Grenadines in the distance.
SportsGrenada's sports activities range from snorkeling to hiking, but water sports, of course, predominate.
The clear, calm waters surrounding the island are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving, boasting a splendid variety of fish and over 40 species of coral. Boating is also a good way to view at least the surface of Grenada's underwater world.
Still another sports option is golf. The 9-hole course at Grenada Golf and Country Club near Grand Anse is noted for its views of both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. There is also a public tennis facility at Grand Anse, and several hotels have tennis courts.
Trail blazers can hike through the Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve's system of trails.
ShoppingShoppers will want to hit the many stores along the Carenage and the Esplanade, as well as those in the vicinities of these waterfront areas. You'll find duty-free bargains on an array of luxury goods. You can also take home island-made goods including perfume made from local spices and flora, scented wood carvings, potpourri, pottery, brightly colored paintings, coral jewelry, pink conch shells, calypso recordings and strong local rums.
Without a doubt, spices are the best buy on the island. Street vendors line the Carenage selling baskets of island-grown spices; they are likely to be fresher than any you can get in your local market at home, and the savings are substantial.
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