St Lucia / Special Interests / Historical Sites
With its complicated and romantic history, St Lucia has surprising depth, so there are some excellent places to visit. The north of the island, where most visitors stay, has some historic estates and parks open to the public including the popular Pigeon Island.
South of Marigot Bay, itself a popular attraction because it is so attractive, you will find the most famous of St Lucia landmarks, the Pitons. The Sulphur Springs, botanical gardens and Diamond Falls are all within a short drive along the main road near Soufriere. Not many tourists make it to the small towns along the coastal road but if you can factor the time into your trip then they are well worth a visit and the drive.
The award-winning St Lucia Heritage Tourism Programme is a collection of good sights with a strong Creole flavour.
The north and Castries
Pigeon Island National Park - Joined to the mainland in a tourism project in the 1970s, Pigeon Island is a mountainous point of lawns and forest. There are historic barrack buildings and many old stone fortifications, some restored but many in ruins. One contains a nice beach bar, Jambe de Bois. Trails lead you through the woods and, of course, there is the Interpretation Centre,(see Museums).
Castries - The capital lies in the north-west of St Lucia. Not much of the attractive original wooden architecture remains, unfortunately, as the city has been burned down so many times, but there is a small clutch of wooden buildings near the city centre’s Derek Walcott Square, which has been named in honour of St Lucia’s Nobel Laureate for Literature. The cathedral, also set on the square, is a modern building but has some charm inside. A visit to the central market is definitely worth it, to see the groaning tables of tropical fruits and other goods and the lively carry-on of local business.
Morne Fortune Historic Area, Castries - The steep hill behind Castries is dotted with Georgian barrack buildings, cannons and colonial monuments, a majestic powder magazine, gun batteries and redoubts. It is one of the most fought over places in the Caribbean, so will attract anyone with an interest in military history. The views are spectacular and carry along the north of the island and out to sea as far as Martinique. Tours are available through the St Lucia National Trust.
Fond Latisab Creole Park - East of Castries inland, a former estate with many old Creole traditions on view, including the preparation of cassava bread, cooking, the catching of crayfish on the river and traditional wood sawing.
South of Castries
Marigot Bay - One of the prettiest bays in the Caribbean with its screen of tall palms, steep volcanic sides and waterfront restaurants and bars. Its entrance is so narrow that it is hard to see if you’re out at sea. One admiral is supposed to have played a trick on an adversary in pursuit by hiding his whole fleet in there.
St Lucia Rum Distillery - A rum distillery in the banana-growing Roseau valley where you can hear the story of rum and then see distillation in action. Chance to sample some of the products, including Bounty Rum and Spirit of St Lucia.
La Sikwi Historical Sugar Mill & Plantation, nr Anse la Raye - A 400-acre estate with stunning gardens set around an old restored sugar factory. There is a 40ft water wheel and a museum explaining sugar cultivation.
Soufrière - St Lucia’s oldest town, named by the French after the whiff of sulphur that can often be smelled on the air from the nearby volcano (called the Soufrière). It is a 60-minute drive south of Castries over a fantastic winding road through the rainforest, with ferns that hang over the road. The town, which still has a few nice old wooden Creole buildings, sits midway down the Caribbean coast of the island just north of the distinctive Pitons. The immensely fertile land around the town has rainforest and plantations that are worth visiting as well as the world’s only “drive-in” volcano.
Diamond Falls - Inland from Soufrière, dramatic tropical gardens set around a waterfall that comes down from the area of the volcano. The water, full of minerals that have discoloured the riverbed orange, has therapeutic qualities, so much that the French King ordered baths to be built here for the good of his troops. The waters are supposed to be good to help with rheumatism. Open Monday to Saturday 10am–5pm and Sunday 10am–3pm. General admission US$5, children under 12 US$2.50. Mineral Baths admission US$6 for a private bath or US$4 for an outdoor one. All inclusive guided tour including lunch US$30.
Sulphur Springs Park - Not the most attractive place in the world, but it has a certain fascination. A living volcanic vent, a stinking morass, where sulphur bubbles in mounds of mud and nothing can grow. Smelly, but unique as the world’s only “drive-in” volcano. Sulphur Springs Interpretation Centre. Small admission.
Fond Doux Estate - A 19th Century plantation house set in working fruit orchards, with cocoa drying trays (boucans) and an interesting medicinal herb garden. You can guide yourself on the garden and forest trails (open 8am-4pm, with a map of the garden and plant identification booklet), or take a guided tour. Full day tour with picnic lunch, starts at 10am. There is also a restaurant, boutique and nature trail through the gardens.
Choiseul, Laborie - Local coastal villages in the south-west. There is a craft centre just before Choiseul selling traditional crafts such as baskets, straw mats, woodwork and pottery. There is a former Carib settlement at La Pointe. Laborie is a picturesque fishing village with a protected, light sand beach. Above the village, Morne Le Blanc is a viewing point and picnic spot overlooking the south of the island. The River Doree waterfront and historic ruins can be accessed via a path from Anse Touloulou. The nearby Devil’s Bridge spans the river canyon.
Balenbouche Estate, between Laborie and Choiseul - A delightful guest-house and heritage site set on a former sugar plantation located on the south-western coast of St Lucia. It is still a working farm, set in 80 acres around a very pretty 19th Century wooden house, which is furnished with old Caribbean antiques and prints and is surrounded by lush gardens. The sugar mill is a typical 19th Century mill with giant waterwheel and ruined boiling and curing houses, a chimney and elaborate water system. Balenbouche Estate offers guided tours, lunches and dinners (by prior reservation).
Mamiku Gardens, near Praslin - Twelve acres of superb gardens around an 18th Century estate, still with a pretty estate house. The best gardens on the island, visited by horticultural societies from around the world. Banana walks, many flowers, orchids and medicinal plants.
Fond D’Or Historical Park, Dennery - Fond D’Or, a former estate in a large bay on the Atlantic coast near Dennery, has Amerindian ruins, sugar mill relics, hiking trails, and a white sand beach that is frequented by leatherback turtles.
Recommended accommodation view more
St Remy Villas & Villa Living
Escapists can retreat to the hills to stay in the colonial surroundings of this pretty staffed plantation house and its lush tropical grounds. Sleeps 4-6. Read more
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Looking for inspiration?
- Visit the world's only drive through volcano
- Play a round of golf at the Cap Estate
- Try dramatic wall diving off the base of the Petit Piton
- Eat local food and dance all night at Fish Friday, Anse La Raye
- Get married at a choice of romantic spots from private beaches and gardens to cliff tops and brigs