by Sue C Travel
Island Hopping with the Star Flyer
My recent Caribbean sail with the Star Flyer tall ship included stops at different islands. Here are some highlights of our week’s onshore adventures to: Nevis, Dominica, Îles-des-Saintes, Guadeloupe, Antigua, St. Barthélemy and St. Maarten.
Our first stop was Nevis- sister island to St. Kitts- a lush and lovely sparsely inhabited laid-back escape famous for having more monkeys than people! Excursions offered were an island tour in an air-conditioned bus, or a rainforest hike. The Star Flyer set up was at Pinney’s Beach- ideal for swimming, and also where Sunshine’s Bar is located, famous for their potent rum concoctions called “Killer Bees”. Passengers could also stroll downtown Charlestown and visit the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. I know Nevis well, so I revisited my favorite haunts- Nisbet Plantation Beach Club- the only ex-sugar plantation resort on the sea. Their mill ruins are epic, and this is also where Horatio “Lord” Nelson met and fell in love with Fanny Nisbet, whom he later married. I swam in the turquoise ocean and then dug into an excellent Caribbean lunch while being serenaded by a local band. A perfect afternoon. The Nisbet plantation property is also a stop on the island tour.
Next up was Dominica, dubbed “Nature Island”- a verdant hiker’s paradise with 12 waterfalls and 365 rivers flowing through a wild, mountainous rainforest terrain. Excursions offered were the Indian River rowboat (famous for being where Pirates of the Caribbean shot their voodoo scenes) which I highly recommend, a rollicking river tubing adventure, and a nature walk through Syndicate National Park. I had already thoroughly explored Dominica, and yes, the nature IS epic- but the languid scene of empty beach where we had docked in Portsmouth was too alluring. I found the “The Purple Turtle” beach bar to be the perfect authentic local food spot and spent a lazy afternoon in the water. You can also climb the hill nearby to see the remnants of old Fort Shirley.
Îles des Saintes
I’d never heard of this little archipelago of eight tiny islands off Guadeloupe. But that’s the beauty of sailing in a small vessel like the Star Flyer- you get to visit spots where the big cruise ships can’t go. Our approach into the narrow bay was incredibly picturesque, flanked by ancient cave-carved cliffs topped in greenery and dotted with small pleasure craft and fishing boats bobbing on cobalt waters. “Les Saintes” as they are also called, is anchored by the tiny fishing village Terre-de-Haut on Pain de Sucre Beach. No excursions were offered, so I spent the morning exploring its colorful Caribbean creole houses and shops and the charming stone church in the centre of town called Notre-Dame de l’Assomption. Then I went snorkeling at the spot where the Star Flyer crew had set up on the beach in front of a hotel. Apparently, the diving is also very good around these islands, too.
Another island I’d yet to visit was Guadeloupe- but I’m a snorkel and marine life fanatic and this stop offered great water excursions so I really didn’t see much of the island on the ground. There was a cetacean encounter with a specialist, a private sailing tour, a motorboat tour to an uninhabited island, and a solar boat snorkel tour through the mangroves – I opted for the last one, and it was an absolute delight. The excursion takes place in the pristine waters of Grand Cul de Sac Marine nature reserve. We snorkeled a small shipwreck, explored the mangroves, and then were served an incredible Creole lunch. We were amazed at how they whipped up this feast aboard the tiny boat – hot curry chicken and rice, salads, and killer rum cocktails… but the piece de resistance was the barbecued bananas with dark melted chocolate grilled within the skins and covered in hot rum sauce! And on the way back we stopped by to see the large colony of birds at l’Ile aux Oiseaux. Another excellent day.
I’d already done many of the excursions offered on Antigua-canopy zip-line tours, ATV tours, sailing tours, eco-kayak tours, snorkel tours, Segway tours, and even the chance to swim with stingrays up close- but I’d yet to explore much of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site). And since we docked at Falmouth Harbour, it was walking distance to visit some of the attractions like the old forts, so that was my plan for the morning. And I didn’t want to miss the famous Star Flyer barbeque on Pigeon beach later that day. We marveled at the magnitude of the buffet they presented- all brought in via the tiny tender- and then packed up again like puzzle pieces to return to the ship. It’s a gorgeous beach and we enjoyed it immensely. And though I do recommend taking excursions if it’s your first time on Antigua- this bountiful beach day was a highlight of the trip for many as well.
French “St. Bart’s” is known to attract the rich and famous to its shores- the plethora of mammoth mega-yachts dotting the waves and docked in the marina simply scream big money. The uber high-end duty-free shopping along the main streets of Gustavia also attract the well-to-do. (Think Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Cartier etc.) Sailing, a semi-submarine trip and an ATV tour were offered, but I know this island well and was anxious to return to my favourite haunt Le Select- the little burger joint and bar that Jimmy Buffet loves so much. Their signature Cheeseburger in Paradise was named after his song in exchange for a free tab for life for him and his family when they visit, and the bar is adorned with photos of Jimmy Buffet playing there. I also wanted to visit Shell Beach – it’s walking distance from downtown- and is almost South Pacific looking, and the sand is indeed all made of tiny shells. This stop was the only one when we also had tenders going ashore at night, so the chance to hobnob with the elite along the boulevard in the cafes in the evening was also a bonus.
The cruise departs and ends in Dutch St. Maarten, and it was great to spend a little time there the day before at Divi Little Bay Resort (see our Stay & Play section in the next issue) and to see that the island on that side has truly bounced back big time from last year’s hurricane. Philipsburg was jumping with at least five cruise ships in port. Before heading home, we stopped by the Sunset Beach Bar by the airport to watch the crazy famous plane landings over the beach and raised a cold Carib beer to toast a fabulous week of Caribbean adventures aboard the Star Flyer.
Award-winning travel journalist Sue Campbell is based in Montreal but makes it her business to be on top of everything cool, hot, and new under the sun throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. World Traveler welcomes her as a regular columnist.
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