Vieux Fort is the second largest town in Saint Lucia and lies at the southern-most end. Thick in history that even the locals find fascinating, the area has a large span of gentle slopes with a constant sea breeze that cools during the hottest of months. Vieux Fort was once the centre of the island’s sugar industry and later a base for American troops during the Second World War. Today, the town serves as one of the island’s major industrial hubs.
Driving past the commercial centre and into the heart – known as The Old Town or The Ghost Town to ex-residents returning to visit family – historic colonial houses are plentiful. Residents may deny it but an assortment of fables tell of an underground tunnel used to store army supplies that was also a quick route to St. Jude’s Hospital (which was devastated by fire in 2009). The tunnel is said to run from Clarke Street to the site of the former hospital in the nearby village of Augier.
One of Vieux Fort’s most famous landmarks is the Hewanorra International Airport, Hewanorra being the name bestowed upon Saint Lucia by the Amerindians, meaning “land of the iguanas”. It was established as a military airfield during the Second World War and was later converted to a commercial airport with assistance from the Canadian government.
At Vieux Fort’s tip lies the Moule-à-Chique promontory with a lighthouse near the peak. It boasts one of the most picturesque viewing spots on the island. Our neighbour, Saint Vincent, can be seen across the channel.
Anse de Sables, the long strip of beach along the east coast of Vieux Fort, is a favourite spot for sun-worshipers, windsurfers and kitesurfers.
Black Bay, a popular residential area for expatriates, reputedly earned its name through a legend – the infamous pirate, Blackbeard, who used that part of the island to stash his ill-gotten gains. Others say that the name is attributed to the black volcanic sand found nearby.
About a mile off Vieux Fort’s coast, and worth a day trip, are two turtle-shaped islands called the Maria Islands, which are both protected nature reserves serving as refuge for two perilously endangered reptiles: the Zandoli Te, a colourful ground lizard with the males displaying a brilliant blue tail; and the harmless Kouwes snake, the rarest snake in the world. The islands are also nesting grounds for leatherback turtles and numerous species of sea birds. The Maria Islands Nature Reserve is managed by the Saint Lucia National Trust.
Every Friday and Saturday are Vieux Fort’s market days when local goods such as spices, ground provisions and fruits are sold. The locals are friendly and very proud to be the face of Saint Lucia’s biggest fish market. Be sure to give Vieux Fort a day in your holiday diary!
For more information on the Maria Islands Nature Reserve, call the Saint Lucia National Trust at 454 5014.