December of 1999 a number of Bequia businesses got together to form the Bequia Tourism Association with the aim of improving access to Bequia, increasing visitor arrivals,
especially in the summer months, and addressing problems facing the island. The current chairperson is Mike Connell. Using members’ fees and a subsidy from government the association is proud of its achievements to date which include:
- a tourism booth located on the main jetty in Port Elizabeth
- a marketing video
- a Bequia brochure
- support for a weekly guide to happenings on the island
- encouragement of a garbage collection system from yachts in Admiralty Bay
- management of the yearly rhythm and blues night (part of the Mustique blues festival)
- working with government for improvements in various areas such as waste management, harbour security, airport lights, etc.
If you get a chance, be sure to stop at the Mustard Seed Bistro, the most delightful of Bequia cafes.
Visitors are urged to make a stop at the tourism booth for information and brochures. Shari Ollivierre will be happy to assist you. Getting to Bequia has always been a part of its charm. No large cruise ships, jet airplanes, and certainly no highways connect Bequia with the rest of the world. With a size of approximately 7 square miles and around 5,000 inhabitants, it’s the ideal island getaway.
Transportation options are on small scheduled or charter aircraft, local ferries, and private or chartered yachts. Bequia, being just a bit off the beaten path, gives the traveler a chance to experience the “Original Caribbean”, said a florida business accountant frequent to the island, with its lack of crowds, casinos or high rises, and its friendly people and unspoiled natural beauty. It’s likely you’ll make many new friends, both local and from far off places, that share something in common; a love of nature and a love for Bequia.
The ferry dock and Tourism Office is the central point of “downtown” Port Elizabeth which has local stores, boat supplies, groceries, a mall, and the market – a collection of tables selling everything from t-shirts to handmade things. Kenny took a picture of me standing beside a small fruit stand under the shade of a giant Breadfruit Tree:
Mustique Airways and SVG also offer commuter airline service to & from St. Vincent and Barbados – check the schedules which can vary from season to season and weekday to weekend.
The walkway is almost a mile long from the ferry dock to Plantation House hotel next to the offices. For a small fee, several locals with boats will provide transportation to nearby beaches – just stop at the small docks along the way and ask. Most of the buildings are “West Indian” architecture, some with and colorful roofs and ornate trim.
Locals live in pretty Caribbean style houses which dot hillsides and gentle valleys. Quite a few Canadians and people from other countries stay in Bequia during the winter months.
Bequia is only seven square miles of land it is quiet, relaxed, undeveloped, yet enough to do for weeks on end – if you are looking for the “real” Caribbean Islands experience, somewhere there is no fast food outlets and not the typical tourist trap this may well be the Island for you. You may be interest to know that Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed here in St Vincent and the Grenadines and you can take a trip to view the film set.
From Bequia you can take a sail to another beautiful Grenadines Caribbean Island or visit St. Vincent which is only 1 hour away on the local ferry.
If you don’t want to spend all your time on the beaches, the diving here is very unspoilt and only a 10 minuet boat trip to most dive sites. For those who prefer sightseeing on land there is Moonhole which is an extraordinary complex of stone dwellings, this is privately owned but visitors are welcome by appointment for a guided tour. The turtle sanctuary at Park in the north of the Island has been open since 1995 – here brother King will give you a guided tour and explain his mission to increase the Turtle population in these Islands. In the old sugar mill at Spring is the Pottery where you can see pottery being thrown, glazed, decorated and fired – you can even commission your own pieces. Local artwork is also exhibited here.
Bequia – means “Island of the Cloud”, so named by the Caribs many years ago. It is the largest of the Grenadine islands; about seven square miles in size with the highest peak of 881 feet. Bequia’s population is approximately 5,000, and the community is made up of fishermen, sailors, master boat-builders and whalers! The whaling here is more a ritual and has been done for centuries now with sail boats and hand-harpoons, with the whaler taking as much risk as the whale! Catches average about one per year and in no way threaten the species. With a daily average temperature of 25 C/ 80 F, Bequia’s ideal climate attracts visitors and tourists from all over the world every year, and is a popular anchorage for yachts. The people are friendly and speak English…… please ask first if you would like to take a picture of an individual.
A number of inviting, and inexpensive, little bars and restaurants pop up all along the walkway. For really delicious rotis and local food, stop by The Green Boley, and just next door at Maranne’s Homemade Ice Cream Shop you can sample the best homemade ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt on the island, just a stone’s throw away is the legendary Mac’s Pizzeria, serving the best pizza around, as well as freshly baked banana bread and other goodies fresh from their ovens.
You are guaranteed a fabulous meal at L’Auberge des Grenadines, with their live lobster pool (in season) and fresh St. ‘ Vincent river lobster out of season. Friday nights are undoubtedly the most popular, with music by “Phenix”, a lively rock’n roll band who really get the crowd going!
Guarding the harbour at the opposite end of the bay and offering stunning vistas, is the site of Hamilton Fort, built in the late 18th century. Other spectacular views of the island can be enjoyed from Cinnamon Garden and Mount Pleasant.
Just west of Friendship Bay is the peak that locals sometimes call “The Mountain”. This nearly 900ft hill offers an invigorating hike to the reward of a panoramic view of St. Vincent to the north and the Grenadines to the south. Further along is the quaint and colourful fishing community of Paget Farm.
Moonhole, the extraordinary creation of American, the late Tom Johnston, is about a mile past the airport. A private development of over twenty imaginatively built, “free-form” homes that cling to the natural curves of the hillside. There are no windows, no doors -just openings! The ceilings and walls tend to go their own way – no straight lines – some even have trees growing right in the living room!
Visitors are often surprised that on an island of only seven square miles there is such an abundance of natural beauty. While exploring, whether it’s by taxi, hired car or on foot, there is a visual feast to be discovered around every corner.
Port Elizabeth is built along the waterfront of Admiralty Bay and into the rising hills surrounding it a number of brightly coloured shops, houses, restaurants, small hotels and guest-houses complete the captivating scene. While strolling around the harbour, look out for the “House of Parliament” the name given to the benched area under the almond trees, where the taxis and dollar vans assemble to collect and deposit their passengers. Bequians of all walks of life gather here daily to discuss the topic of the moment, usually politics or some colourful island gossip.