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Kingstown

Though lush and tropical, the capital isn't as architecturally significant as Grenada's St. George's. There are some English-style houses, many of which look as though they belonged in Penzance or Cornwall rather than the Caribbean. This is a chief port and gateway to the Grenadines, and you can see the small boats and yachts that have dropped anchor here. On Saturday morning, the market at the south end of town is at its most active.

At the top of a winding road on the north side of Kingstown, Fort Charlotte was built on Johnson Point around the time of the American Revolution. The ruins aren't much -- the reason to come here is the view. The fort sits atop a steep promontory some 190m (623 ft.) above the sea. From its citadel, you'll have a sweeping view of the leeward shores to the north, Kingstown to the south, and the Grenadines beyond. On a clear day, you can even see Grenada. Three cannons used to fight off French troops are still in place and there's a series of oil murals depicting the history of black Caribs. Admission is free, and the fort is open daily 6am to 6pm.

The second major sight is the Botanic Gardens, on the north side of Kingstown at Montrose (tel. 784/457-1003). Founded in 1765 by Gov. George Melville, these are the oldest botanic gardens in the West Indies. You'll see 8 hectares (20 acres) of such tropical exotics as teak, almond, cinnamon, nutmeg, cannonball, and mahogany; some of the trees are more than 200 years old. One of the breadfruit trees was reputedly among those original seedlings brought to this island by Captain Bligh in 1793. There's also a large Spachea perforata (the Soufrière tree), a species believed to be unique to St. Vincent and not found in the wild since 1812. The gardens are open daily from 6am to 6pm; admission is free, but a tour guide costs $3.70.

The Leeward Highway

The leeward, or sheltered, west side of the island has the most dramatic scenery. North of Kingstown, you rise into lofty terrain before descending to the water again. There are views in all directions. Here you can see one of the finest petroglyphs in the Caribbean: the massive Carib Rock, with a human face carving dating from A.D. 600.

Continuing north, you reach Barrouallie, where there's a Carib stone altar. Even if you're not into fishing, you might want to spend some time in this village, where whalers still occasionally set out in brightly painted boats armed with harpoons. While Barrouallie may be one of the few outposts in the world where whaling is legal, Vincentians claim that it doesn't endanger an already endangered species, as so few are caught each year. If one is caught, it's an occasion for festivities.

The highway continues to Chateaubelair, the end of the line. Here you can swim at attractive Richmond Beach before heading back to Kingstown. In the distance, the volcano, La Soufrière, looms menacingly.

The adventurous set out from here to see the Falls of Baleine, 12km (7 1/2 miles) north of Richmond Beach on the northern tip of the island, accessible only by boat. Baleine is a freshwater falls that comes from a stream in the volcanic hills. If you're interested in making the trip, check with the tourist office in Kingstown for tour information.

Marriqua Valley

Sometimes known as the Mesopotamia Valley, the Marriqua Valley is one of the lushest cultivated valleys in the eastern Caribbean. Surrounded by mountain ridges, the drive takes you through a landscape planted with nutmeg, cocoa, coconut, breadfruit, and bananas. The road begins at the Vigie Highway, east of the airport. Surrounded by mountain ridges, it opens onto a panoramic view of Grand Bonhomme Mountain, rising 954m (3,130 ft.). At Montréal you'll come upon natural mineral springs, where you can have lunch and take a dip. Only rugged vehicles should make this trip.

Around Kingstown you can also enjoy the Queen's Drive, a scenic loop into the high hills to the east of the capital. From here the view is panoramic over Kingstown and its yacht-clogged harbor to the Grenadines in the distance.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.