St. George's & Vicinity

The capital city of Grenada, St. George's is the prettiest harbor town in the West Indies. Its landlocked inner harbor is actually the deep crater of a long-dead volcano. In the town, you can see some of the most charming Georgian colonial buildings in the Caribbean, still standing despite a devastating hurricane in 1955. The steep, narrow hillside streets are filled with houses of ballast bricks, wrought-iron balconies, and sloping, red-tile roofs. Many of the pastel warehouses date from the 18th century. Frangipani and flamboyant trees add to the palette of color. The port, which some compare to Portofino, Italy, is flanked by old forts and bold headlands. Among the town's attractions are an 18th-century pink Anglican church, on Church Street, and the Market Square, where colorfully attired farm women offer even more colorful produce for sale. Fort George, on Church Street, built by the French, stands at the entrance to the bay, with subterranean passageways and old guardrooms and cells.

Everyone strolls along the waterfront of the Carenage, on the inner harbor, or relaxes on its pedestrian plaza, with seats and hanging planters providing shade from the sun. From its large open windows, you'll have great views of the harbor activity. The hamburgers and rum drinks are great, too. On this side of town, the Grenada National Museum, at the corner of Young and Monckton streets (tel. 473/440-3725), is set in the foundations of an old French army barracks and prison built in 1704. Small but interesting, it houses finds from archaeological digs, petroglyphs, native fauna, the first telegraph installed on the island, a rum still, and memorabilia depicting Grenada's history. The most comprehensive exhibit traces the native culture of Grenada. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 4:30pm, Saturday from 10am to 1pm. Admission is $2.50 for adults, $1 ages 6 to 16, and free 5 and under.

You can drive up to Richmond Hill and Fort Frederick (tel. 473/440-6158), begun by the French in 1779, completed by the English in 1791, and radically restored by the Canadian government in the late 1990s. From its battlements is a superb view of the harbor and yacht marina. Admission is $2 and includes the services of a guide, who will expect a small tip. Access to the fort is Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm.

An afternoon tour of St. George's and its environs might take you into the mountains north of the capital. A 15-minute drive delivers you to Annandale Falls, a tropical wonderland, with a cascade about 15m (49 ft.) high. You can enjoy a picnic surrounded by liana vines, elephant ears, and other tropical flora and spices. The Annandale Falls Centre (tel. 473/440-2452) offers gift items, handicrafts, and samples of the indigenous spices of Grenada. Nearby, an improved trail leads to the falls, where you can enjoy a refreshing swim. Swimmers can use the changing cubicles at the falls for free. The center is open daily 8am to 4pm.

A Spectacular Rainforest & More

If you head north out of St. George's along the western coast, you can take in beaches, spice plantations, and the fishing villages that are so typical of Grenada. You'll pass through Gouyave, a spice town that's the center of the nutmeg and mace industry. At the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Cooperative, Gouvave, St. John (tel. 473/444-8337), near the entrance to Gouyave, huge quantities of the spice are aged, graded, and processed. This is the best place to see spices being readied for market. Workers sit on stools in the natural light from the open windows of the aging factory and laboriously sort the raw nutmeg and its byproduct, mace, into different baskets for grinding, peeling, and aging. Jams, jellies, syrups, and more are sold. Hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm; admission is $1.

In the northeast corner of the island (just east of Sauteurs) is palm-lined Levera Beach, an idyll of sand where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. This is a great spot for a picnic lunch, but swimming can sometimes be dangerous. On the distant horizon, you'll see some of the Grenadines. The 180-hectare (445-acre) Levera National Park actually has several white-sand beaches for swimming and snorkeling, although the surf is rough here where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. It's a hiker's paradise, although you should go hiking here only after you've hiked Grand Etang National Park and Forest Preserve, which is more lush and of far greater interest. Levera Park contains a mangrove swamp, a lake, and a bird sanctuary, where you might see a rare tropical parrot. Offshore are coral reefs and sea-grass beds.

Heading down the east coast of Grenada, you reach Grenville, the island's second city. If you pass through on a Saturday morning, you can enjoy the hubbub of the native produce market. There's also a fish market along the waterfront. A nutmeg factory here welcomes visitors. From Grenville you can cut inland into the heart of Grenada; here you're in a world of luxuriant foliage, and you pass nutmeg, banana, and cocoa plantations.

In the center of the island, reached along the major interior road between Grenville and St. George's, is Grand Etang National Park (tel. 473/440-6160), containing the island's spectacular rainforest. The entrance fee of $2 per person is, according to local officials, merely a means of registering the identities of whomever opts to wander around these isolated landscapes, just in case someone should be injured or lost.

Our favorite attraction north of St. Georges is the River Antoine Rum Distillery, St. Andrew Parish (tel. 473/442-7109), which offers a set of almost bizarre visuals, each ripped directly from the pages of the colonial Caribbean's mid-19th-century Industrial Revolution. It's the oldest rum distillery in the world, replete with much of its original cane-crushing machinery and complicated network of siphons and distillation vats. Components of the facility include a late-18th-century water-powered mill whose groaning, creaking gears continue to mesh, connect, and crush the sugar cane. About 90 people are employed here, operating in low-tech, not particularly sanitary conditions. Tours depart whenever an interested observer happens to show up. Although tours are free, your guide will expect a tip of around $3. The finished product (River Antoine Rum) comes in strengths of 138 proof and 150 proof -- and, in the locally famous Rivers brand, an alcohol content so high that it's too flammable to pass through the security screening devices at airports. Clearly signposted from the coastal road, the distillery is open Monday to Saturday 9am to 4pm.

On your descent from the mountains, you'll pass hanging carpets of mountain ferns. Going through the tiny hamlets of Snug Corner and Beaulieu, you eventually come back to the capital.

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.