Destination: Carriacou – Step Back in Time

the Amerindians who first inhabited the island nearly a millennia ago called it ‘Kayryouacou’ meaning ‘land surrounded by reef’

Carriacou, the largest and southernmost of the Grenadine islands and part of Grenada, certainly lives up to its nickname: ‘Isle of Reefs’. This 13-square mile island is rimmed by some of the most remarkable coral reefs in the region. What’s more, even Carriacou’s offshore islands such as Mabouya, Sister Rock, White, Saline, Jackadan and Frigate, boast their own beautiful submarine atolls. It’s no wonder that the Amerindians who first inhabited the island nearly a millennia ago called it ‘Kayryouacou’ meaning ‘land surrounded by reef’. It’s from this ancient word that Carriacou derives its name. Today, the island is certainly a beacon for SCUBA divers.

However, Carriacou offers so much more to see and do, especially for those visiting by boat.

Free to wonder. Grenada Tourism Authority
Free to wonder. Grenada Tourism Authority

“Carriacou is a great place to visit because of its natural beauty, out islands, beautiful beaches, friendly people and rich cultural heritage,” says Carolyn Alexander, owner of Carriacou Real Estate Ltd., who with husband and fellow UK native, Gordon, first visited the island on a sailing holiday in 1991 and have since made Carriacou their home. 

Hillsborough located centrally on the island’s Caribbean Sea side, is the capital of Carriacou. 

“The anchorage is located just in front of the city,” says Tony McQuilkin, of the new Tyrell Bay Marina Carriacou (TBMC), situated south of Hillsborough. “It is sometimes a little bit of a roller but is not lacking in interest. This town remains in its original charming state! The main street extends along the bay and offers its visitors many shops, including banks, hardware stores, fish market, delicatessen, etc., in many different colors.”

Snorkeling on Sandy Island. Grenada Tourism Authority
Snorkeling on Sandy Island. Grenada Tourism Authority

The Carriacou Museum, overlooking the bay from Paterson Street, presents a step back in time to what life was like on the island hundreds of years ago. Be sure to view the work of noted local painter and author Canute Calliste.

Tyrell Bay is likely the most popular, protected and preferred anchorage on Carriacou. There are two marine facilities here. Carriacou Marine Ltd., on the southern end of the bay, provides a small boatyard with 40-ton lift, repair services, a chandlery, convenience store, restaurant, a few moorings and accommodations on site. To the north of the bay, the new TBMC, currently offers a total of around 2000 line feet of waterside dock frontage, water and electricity, a 150-ton lift, 30-ton shore crane for engine and mast lifts, and a yard for long and short term storage of over 200 boats.. Budget Marine will open a full-service chandlery at the end of January, with more retail outlets opening within the marina compound later in 2020.

Carriacou Regatta 2017. Grenada Tourism Authority
Carriacou Regatta 2017. Grenada Tourism Authority

“Tyrell Bay is an excellent base for yachts and well protected. The largest supermarket on the island, Alexis Food Stores, is located two steps from our Marina and offers a diversity of American and European products. Many local and international-themed restaurants offer delicious cuisine and some of them provide live entertainment by local and/or foreign artists. The Osprey ferry docks next door at Carriacou’s new main port and has daily service to and from Grenada. There are also commercial ferries that can accept vehicles, heavy cargo and passengers. Customs and Immigration are all in Tyrell Bay, as a port of entry. Renting a scooter or a vehicle is an excellent way to visit the interior of the island, which has an excellent road network,” says TYBC’s McQuilkin.

From either Hillsborough or Tyrell Bay, take a guided island tour.

“A tour is a good way to see the treasures that Carriacou has to offer including the old Sugar cane mill and Ningo Well. On this trip you can also learn about the traditions of the people including a stop at Windward to witness the building of an authentic Carriacou wooden sloop; an ode to the island’s Scottish heritage,” recommends Ria Murray, communications officer for the Grenada Tourism Authority.

Tyrell Bay. Photo: J Pickering
Tyrell Bay. Photo: J Pickering

Carriacou’s beaches are a must-visit.

“The beach of Anse La Roche is world famous. Don’t go if there is a ground sea running as it makes it difficult to get ashore. If you go to White Island beware of the strong currents which run between the mainland and the island. Sandy Island is another good short term anchorage with beautiful swimming and snorkeling,” says Alexander.

Sandy Island, just three miles from Tyrell Bay, is the location of many movie and commercial shoots. The island is a protected Marine Park and boats are obligated to pay for the mooring as anchoring is prohibited. Right across from Sandy Island is Carriacou’s signature Paradise Beach.

“There are several restaurants along Paradise Beach, a pretty souvenir shop and a hotel that offers rooms and apartments with waterfront facilities. Our customers like to take a break after a hard day’s work. Yachts with little draught can anchor in front of the beach,” says TBMC’s McQuilkin.

Finally, anytime is a great time to cruise into Carriacou. However, four times of the year are extra special. There’s the Carriacou Carnival (February 24-25), Maroon and String Band Music Festival (April 24-26), the famous Carriacou Regatta Festival (July 31-August 3) and Carriacou Parang Festival (December 11-13). This ‘Isle of Reefs’ definitely offers something for everyone whether on sea or shore.

Sandy Island, Carriacou. Grenada Tourism Authority
Sandy Island, Carriacou. Grenada Tourism Authority
Carol_Bareuther
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.