Talked about with smiles and admiration amongst the Eastern Caribbean cruisers, but barely known by people in the rest of the world, the Grenadines are an attractive group of islands between St. Vincent and Grenada. The official name of the country is St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with the mother island being mountainous, green and mostly unspoiled and its southern “off-spring” existing of hills, stunning beaches, small communities and clear waters. The best (and sometimes only) way to visit the Grenadines is by private vessel or affordable ferry.
Sunrise in Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau © Liesbet Collaert
Less than 10 miles south of St. Vincent lays Bequia, a popular stop for many cruisers. Admiralty Bay is a big bay that harbors hundreds of sailboats over Christmas and New Year, but is relatively empty the rest of the season. The best holding and prettiest views are found right off Princess Margaret Beach. When the swell rolls in, however, this area can become dangerous, with breaking waves and boats washed up on shore. When this happens, mostly during the winter months, moving your sailboat to the northern part of the bay makes for a more comfortable stay. And, there’s always the option to round the southern part of Bequia and anchor in Friendship Bay.
Admiralty Bay in Bequia © Liesbet Collaert
Port Elizabeth is the main (and only) town on Bequia. It offers multiple grocery stores, restaurants and bars. Fresh produce can be found in the expensive market building or at stands along the road. Customs and Immigration are straightforward and easy. A walk to Mt. Pleasant presents expansive views as does the lookout at the fort ruins. You can visit the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary or just go for a stroll along Admiralty Bay’s waterfront, passing some upscale establishments, stopping for an ice cream or getting splashed by salty waves when a north swell is running.
Stranded pirogue in Port Elizabeth, Bequia © Liesbet Collaert
Petit Nevis is a small, barren island with a charm of its own. The anchorage is rolly, but a short stop is worthwhile. You can walk all over the island (don’t go barefoot), look out over the neighboring islands and a palm fronted beach, explore the old whale rendering facilities and snorkel along the rocks. The next inhabited island is fancy Mustique, the place where millionaires hang out and pop stars own property. You are allowed to pick up a mooring and pay a hefty fee which gives you the opportunity to go to shore (or snorkel or hang out) and hunt the celebrities down.
Petit Nevis © Liesbet Collaert
Canouan is a relatively big and hilly island that is less visited by cruisers and tourists. The north side is privately owned and being developed. Ashore you can check out the small town or walk to the east side beaches. The winds can be very gusty and strong in Charlestown Bay. From every island in the Grenadines, you can see the next, making for short and fun sails. Once you’re leaving (or skipping) Canouan, you are approaching one of the highlights in the Eastern Caribbean…
Beach in Salt Whistle Bay © Liesbet Collaert
Staying clear of some rocks and reefs, Mayreau is the biggest island of the group that appears in front of you. On the west side, you find the quintessential Caribbean beach with palm trees and clear water in Salt Whistle Bay. Because of its gorgeous setting, the bay gets pretty busy, especially in the high season. The sunrise over the narrow palm fringed part of the island is spectacular and the beach offers plenty of shade. Town is located on a hill close by. People are friendly and the atmosphere relaxed. Near the picturesque church you have a nice view and multiple restaurants offer food and drinks. A bit to the south of Salt Whistle, Saline Bay is a nice place to anchor with another sweeping beach to walk and rest.
One of the beaches in the Tobago Cays © Liesbet Collaert
A visit to the Grenadines has to include a stop in the Tobago Cays. These small, deserted islands are protected by Horseshoe Reef to the east. It does get choppy occasionally, but there are various spots to drop anchor or pick up a mooring. Tobago Cays is a national park in a pretty and tropical setting. You pay a small fee and are free to investigate the four different islands (most have walking trails to the top), a handful of white beaches and a huge reef formation. There are small buoys to secure your dinghy while snorkeling with colorful fish and right off the beach on Baradel Island, sea turtles abound. Just start swimming with a mask and you can watch these gentle creatures feed on the grassy bottom. The water is clear most of the time, alluring you for a swim and the visibility is good when the trades slow down.
Happy Island in Clifton Harbour, Union Island © Liesbet Collaert
Union Island looms to the southeast and offers two great anchorages. On the west side, quiet and large Chatham Bay beckons for beach walks and 5 o’clock drinks and on the east side, Clifton offers shopping and “nightlife”. An interesting experience is man-made Happy Island, built of conch shells by Janti. He gladly serves you an ice cold beer or rum punch while you watch over Clifton Harbour and its moored sailboats. Palm Island and Petit St. Vincent are both private islands, where you can spend the night at anchor. All Grenadine beaches are public, so going ashore here or elsewhere causes no problem.
Saline Bay in Mayreau © Liesbet Collaert
As you can see, the Grenadines offer an expanse of luring islands. There is something for everybody and a typical Caribbean experience is part of the picture. The hardest task is picking one of these beauties to spend some time in and leaving again …