A taste of France in the tropics is a great way to describe an idyllic week-long charter around Martinique. Located in the Lesser Antilles and one of the Windward Islands, this third largest Caribbean Island at 435 square miles sits north of St. Lucia, south of Dominica, and northwest of Barbados. Like Guadeloupe, Martinique is an official French overseas department. French is the official language; currency is the Euro, and a delightful French flavor is everywhere.
“Martinique offers an altogether unique Caribbean experience, with one attraction being the Instagram-worthy ‘bragging rights’ – as relatively few U.S. travelers have had the privilege of vacationing here,” says Carol Hansen, head of marketing in the Americas for Dream Yacht Charter, which offers over 60 sailing yachts, catamarans, and power catamarans, plus five floating villas, out of its base in Le Marin.
Travel in Martinique is much more low-key than other Caribbean destinations, adds Ian Pedersen, senior marketing manager for The Moorings and Sunsail, with a Sunsail base also located in Le Marin. “There is a noticeable lack of large all-inclusive hotels and private beaches. Instead, there are miles of coastline dotted with quaint towns and villages and accessible public beaches, making it a perfect destination for a charter vacation.”
Beyond a lovely vibe and scenic cruising, there is top-notch infrastructure for boaters too, including full-service marinas, fuel, Wi-Fi, restrooms, shops, restaurants, and more, says Géraldine Rome, communication and press relations coordinator for the Martinique Tourism Authority. “The largest port complex is in Le Marin, in one of the most beautiful, protected bays in the Caribbean. Catamaran, sailboat, and motorboat rentals are available, as are crewed sightseeing excursions with food and drink provided. You can also charter a yacht, with or without a skipper, and sail in luxury for days or weeks at a time.”
Here is a sample 7-day itinerary for Martinique:
Day 1: Le Marin. This south coast town, located 22 miles from Martinique’s Aimé Césaire International Airport, is the yachting capital of Martinique. The Marina du Marin offers over 800 slips for vessels up to 200 feet LOA. The area is home to Dream Yacht, Sunsail, and other crewed and bareboat charter companies. “Le Marin is buzzing with marina activity and has everything you need to start your charter with plentiful restaurants, shopping, and a well-stocked supermarket. Be sure to stock up with local produce, fresh-baked French bread, and enjoy good prices on French wine, cheeses, and charcuterie,” recommends Dream Yachts’ Hansen.
Day 2: Sainte-Anne & the Baie des Anglais. Some of the most beautiful beaches on the island are only a half-hour sail from Le Marin in Sainte-Anne. Go ashore and walk the stretch of beach in Plage des Salines. Sample from among the many local eateries and explore the varied souvenir and craft shops. Next, head into the trade winds for the east coast of Martinique and moor at an attractive cove called the Baie des Anglais, a 2-hour sail away. This out-of-the-way bay is sheltered by a coral reef and designated a nature preserve. Local fishermen are often happy to set up a special lobster barbecue on the beach for visitors; just ask.
Day 3: Ilets du François. Sail in the shelter of the coral reef while heading north along Martinique’s eastern coastline. The scenery here is magnificent. Sandy beaches and coconut palms line the seashore. The Ilets du François is a collection of 8 protected islands ideal for day-tripping by kayak, paddleboard, or dinghy. There is an underwater snorkel trail from Ilet Thierry to the François Islet. It’s marked with 6 white educational buoys. The famous Baignoire de Joséphine – a sandy shoal surrounded by turquoise waters and a biodiverse coral reef – is between Ilet Thierry and Ilet Oscar, and a must-stop for a quick dip.
Day 4: Havre du Robert & Baie du Robert. “Set sail for the Havre du Robert and cruise past the little island of the Loup-Garou, a picture-postcard desert island with its 3 palm trees and coral-pink sand. The next stop is the Baie du Robert, where you will have your choice of lovely anchorages,” says Dream Yacht’s Hansen.
Day 5: Baie aux Trésors & Tartane. An hour’s sail takes you to Baie aux Trésors, a nature reserve located at the point of La Caravelle. This is a sheltered, magical spot. Nearby are the ruins of the Dubuc Castle, where local legend tells that the 17th-century colony of settlers here hid their treasures. Next, head to Tartane for a calm mooring for the night. It’s a small fishing village yet has a lively ambiance.
Day 6: Saint Pierre. Take a truly eye-catching sail along the lush Martinique coastline. “Cruise along the passage that separates Martinique from Dominica, with its splendid views and landscapes, culminating at the bay of Saint Pierre with its wide sandy beach and a village at the foot of Mount Pelée,” recommends Dream Yacht’s Hansen. “Sugar cane plantations and rum distilleries are a huge part of the island’s history. Visiting a distillery makes for a fun excursion. We love Distillerie Depaz on the volcanic hillsides of Saint Pierre for learning about the history and mechanics of distilling. And the grounds feature lush, well-maintained gardens and cane fields – beautiful for a walk.”
Day 7: Les Anses d’Arlet. Enjoy a 4-hour sail in the calm seas of the leeward side, heading for Les Anses d’Arlet. This charming fishing village is wonderful for a walk around. The underwater scenery is spectacular here too, with turtles and schools of colorful tropical fish. A 2- to 3-hour sail takes you back to La Marin. If you have an extra day, stop in Fort de France before arriving in Les Anses d’Arlet and explore Martinique’s capital with its many historic sights and fine dining opportunities. us.martinique.org, www.dreamyachtcharter.com, www.sunsail.com