Visiting Vieux-Fort - What to See and Do
(St. Lucia Hewanorra International Airport UVF, St. Lucia)
Situated on the southern coast of St. Lucia, Vieux Fort is the second-largest town on the island and home to St. Lucia's airport. Its name means 'Black Bay' after the infamous pirate Blackbeard who used to stash his booty here. Vieux Fort may not be one of the major attractions on the island, but it does have a nice Old Town with colonial architecture along Clark Street.
There are a handful of hotels in Vieux Fort, although the majority of travellers choose to base themselves further north, where the most appealing beach resorts are found. St. Lucia is a beautiful island, with a super mix of natural wonders and comfortable resort amenities. You can see the world's only drive-in volcano, marvel at the twin Pitons peaks, trek through tropical rainforests and explore colonial-era forts.
The island offers bustling beaches like Reduit or secluded hideaways such as Marigot Bay. Whale watching is common off Vigie Cove, and the scuba diving at Anse Chastanet is some of the Caribbean's finest. National parks in the interior give visitors lots of alternatives to the beaches, while most resorts and towns have decent nightlife and great dining.
Ten things you must do in Vieux Fort
- The capital Castries is the best place on St. Lucia to work out your shopping needs and other urban pleasures. The town itself is fairly quiet, but its Public Market is one of the best in the Caribbean. Dream of the colonial era in the stately Derek Walcott Square and tour the architecture of the cathedral, one of the most important in the West Indies.
- Many people have argued that the views from atop Morne Fortune are the finest in the entire Caribbean. That is a mighty big claim, but you can judge for yourself because this hilltop lookout is just outside the capital Castries and very easy to get to. Remnants of the British battery, a small museum and military cemetery are the historic elements of this impressive mount.
- Marigot Bay could well be the most scenic beach attraction on St. Lucia, but it has plenty of competition. It is a gorgeous cove, hidden from the sea behind a spit of coconut palms. The best way to experience the beauty of this sheltered cove is on a boat cruise out of Castries, though you can easily make the drive from the capital in 30 minutes or so. Unspoiled and backed by palms and emerald cliffs, it is one of the best picnic spots imaginable.
- The Pitons are two conical shaped hills that are St. Lucia icons, situated on a pretty bay at Soufriere, and climbable if you are fit, but certainly photogenic. It may sound kitschy, but the drive-in volcano at Soufriere is definitely worth a visit. You can drive right to the edge of this primal place, where mud bubbles and gas steams out of its lunar landscape. A trail leads from the parking lot to the edge of the volcano, with lookout decks and information signs along the way.
- The first national park protected by St. Lucia is the Pigeon Island National Historic Park. It is a small island connected by a causeway, with two perfect little beaches on the west coast and a nice museum relating the colourful history of the island. Between the pirates and the colonial British admirals there is a lot of local history, and this interpretive centre does a nice job laying it out.
- When you are ready to add a little excitement to your day at the beach, head over to Rodney Bay. It is just 15 minutes north of the capital and is one of the hottest spots on the island. Besides the buzzing nightlife, dining and hotels favoured by the yachting set, Rodney Bay is also one of the Caribbean's top spots for water sports fun.
- A fascinating outing is available in the Diamond Botanical Gardens, where the Diamond Waterfall creates one of the island's top natural attractions. The water here was pooled up by French King Louis XVI in 1784 to create the Diamond Mineral Baths. You can take a dip in the hot mineral waters, which are said to have recuperative powers. More exciting is the fact that the waterfall itself changes colour several times each day due to the minerals.
- The best way to experience the rainforest biosphere of St. Lucia is from its canopy. The Rainforest Aerial Tram Adventure is a loop that carries passengers in open-air gondolas over and through the pristine colourful rainforest. It is not a cheap ride, but there is nothing quite like it in the Caribbean and the natural scenery certainly pays for itself.
- There are no shortage of beaches to choose from here, from the (relatively) busy scene at the popular Reduit Beach to the family friendly sands of Choc Bay. Malabar Beach stretches for around 3 km / 2 miles, while Anse Chastanet is the quintessential hideaway. There are also miles of soft white sand around Vieux Fort at the southern end of the island, so you are never going to be far from a beach on St. Lucia.
- A hike is a great way to get off your towel for the day and explore the rich biodiversity of St. Lucia's tropical forests. The most popular path is the Barre de l'Isle Trail, a relaxing 1.5-km / 1-mile walk that even the kids can manage. More challenging hikes are possible in the tropical rainforest that covers the southern half of the island. The government does a fine job of maintaining the land and allowing the public to enjoy it.