Pigeon Island National Park is one of Saint Lucia’s most historic landmarks, not to mention one of her most alluring spots. It’s the place to be for complete recreation (or if you woke up on the adventurous side of the bed!) Whether lounging on one of the beaches, strolling through natural paradise or climbing the peaks, this place has you covered for an intriguing excursion. Whatever you decide, don’t forget your camera as the island offers spots for spectacular photographs.
The Amerindians, predominantly the Caribs, were the first settlers to occupy the island. In the 16th century pirates led by Francois Le Clerc were based there. Le Clerc was from Normandy, France and reputedly had a wooden leg, hence his nickname ‘Jambe de Bois’, which now happens to be the name of the charming restaurant situated on the waterfront.
For years the British and the French battled over Pigeon Island due to its strategic location. On a clear day, it offers views of Martinique so troops could monitor shipping movements between the islands. It was the armies who undertook construction on Pigeon Island in order to live and work there. Today one can walk around the ruins of the officers’ quarters, soldiers’ barracks, the kilns where the limestone bricks were made, the bakery, cooperage, gun battery, powder magazine and even the latrines! By the way, you will be relieved to know that modern and clean restroom facilities are now on site.
The military hauled cannon to the top of Fort Rodney, which was no mean feat given that these were the days before electricity, when men and horses provided the power. We recommend the climb up the steps to the fort to see the cannon and enjoy the panoramic views of Martinique, Rodney Bay and our island’s peaks.
Equally impressive is the view of Pigeon Island from Rodney Bay: it looks like a supine cat! (Like a small version of Egypt’s Sphinx.)
In 1937 Pigeon Island was leased to Josset Legh, a retired singer and member of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company in England. She built a home there but willingly left in 1940 so that the Americans, who had founded a Naval Base in Rodney Bay, could establish a signal station. She returned in 1947 and inaugurated a booming local yachting industry, captivating countless visitors who branded the landmark ‘Paradise Island’.
The structure of Josset’s house has been worn away by time and weather but the basics remain, evoking memories of her adventurous life. Some older residents here still recall, with fondness, Sunday jaunts to visit Josset. Indeed my own great grandfather, William Hackshaw, would ferry Josset’s friends and their entourages in a boat laden with sumptuous supplies. Oh, those were the days!
Nowadays Pigeon Island is linked to the mainland by a causeway built in 1972 when Rodney Bay marina was dredged and the silt was used as landfill.
The quaint island is home to forty-four acres of inclined grasslands, a variety of trees, and two exquisite white sand beaches. The lush grounds and array of tropical flora make it a beautiful venue for weddings. (See our feature on page 10 about Kate and Simon who married on Pigeon Island in December.)
Pigeon Island is operated by the Saint Lucia National Trust as a National Landmark. There is a fee for non-members of the local National Trust that applies by day; entry is free in the evening.
Please note that regular buses do not go as far as Pigeon Island but it is only a short ride away from Rodney Bay so visitors should travel by car or taxi or even the water taxi from Rodney Bay.
Jambe de Bois restaurant on Pigeon Island is accessible by road and boat and is open for lunch and dinner. If you drop by, ask the owner, Barbara, about the intricate wood carvings.