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Castries, St. Lucia

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Did You Know …

  • During the French Revolution, Castries was renamed Ville de la Felicite (Town of Happiness).
  • St. Lucia is really the tip of an underwater volcano.
  • Castries was virtually leveled by fires at least four times (1796, 1813, 1927 and 1948).
  • Four in 10 St. Lucians live in the Castries district.
  • Part of the 1967 movie “Doctor Dolittle,” starring Rex Harrison, was shot in Marigot Bay.

Beauty and the beach

Castries is the capital of St. Lucia, an island known as one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful because of its rain forest, mountains and luscious coastline. The beauty even extends below the surrounding waters, making St. Lucia a favorite among divers.

St. Lucia merits this reputation despite its capital, a small city that does not win many points in the beauty department. However, Castries offers some of the benefits of a city — for those who want any. It is a bustling place with a selection of fine-dining restaurants, shopping, festivals and a few tourist attractions associated with its colonial history.

Castries also is the island’s cruise port, a fact with downsides (occasions when there are too many tourists floating around) and upsides (access to the shopping, sightseeing and activity-related services that a port city develops to meet the needs of cruisers). Indeed, tourism is the island’s largest employer.

Several of the city’s attractions center around Derek Walcott Square. A number of old Creole-style buildings and homes line one side of the square, and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1897, sits on another side. Tourists also visit the Castries Market, which sells produce and fish, and then they shop at the nearby Vendors’ Arcade.

Fort Charlotte sits on a hill, Morne Fortune, southeast of town. It played a role in the fighting between the French and English over control of St. Lucia. The island changed hands 14 times before the English prevailed. Today, the fort is the best of lookout points for viewing land and sea.

However, when all is said and done, the main reason vacationers turn up in Castries is for the beaches and a chance to play on or in the water, with choices ranging from boating and swimming to kayaking and scuba diving. (Castries is on the west-facing Caribbean side of St. Lucia; kite surfing, windsurfing and the like are more suited to the windier east-facing Atlantic side.)

Because mountains cover so much of St. Lucia, atypical of Caribbean islands, visitors also have an unusual range of choices for land-based activities, including mountain biking, vigorous hiking and ziplining.

Things to do for Venturers

  • If your trip coincides with the event, sample local foods at the August Market Vendors feast when Castries Market vendors stage a festival and serve their specialties.
  • Walk the Union Nature Trail north of Castries, which has a small zoo at its starting point. The zoo houses iguanas and boa constrictors. Go farther afield in the mountainous St. Lucia for more challenging trails.
  • Get out of town, in a Jeep or ATV, to explore the island’s varied terrain.
  • Scuba dive at Tapion Reef in the waters near Castries, or expand your reach with dives elsewhere on the island.
  • Take up the challenge of the Adrena Line zipline tour. It involves hiking in the rain forest, flying — on the zipline — from platform to platform in the treetops, then rappelling to the ground.
  • Join a kayak tour of St. Lucia’s west coast, with Marigot Bay a few miles to the south of Castries as your staging area. Follow up with lunch and beach time at Marigot Bay.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Visit in May and attend Jazz on the Square, entertainment in Derek Walcott Square that is part of the island’s annual jazz festival.
  • Buy a few souvenirs at the Castries Vendors’ Arcade, on Jeremie Street, which is full of craft items.
  • Go deep-sea fishing, with departure from the Castries port or your hotel.
  • Come for Carnival in July; watch the colorfully costumed musicians as they parade through the city.
  • Head to Morne Fortune (Hill of Good Fortune) and get a look at the great views of the city and the sea from the top of Fort Charlotte. Take a look at the 18th century fort, as well, with its barracks, cannons, stables and tombstones.
  • Watch the hot-wax process for making batik at Caribelle Batik, then buy batik products if they suit your fancy.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Choose a Caribbean cruise that will let you make your first visit to St. Lucia’s capital.
  • Look for good buys at La Place, an air-conditioned mall with duty-free shopping.
  • Walk through the garden in Derek Walcott Square, and look for the busts of St. Lucia’s two Nobel laureates, Derek Walcott and Sir Arthur Lewis.
  • Spend quality time on any of several beaches in or close to Castries.
  • Take the tour at Roseau Sugar Factory, home of the St. Lucia Distillers Group of Companies, and sample the product.
  • Join a guided Castries Heritage Walk, which helps make the architecture and story of the city come to life for you.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the St. Lucia Tourist Board at www.stlucia.org