Story & Photos by Stan Bishop
The west coast town of Soufriere is famous to movie buffs as being the location for most of the filming of the 1985 movie, Water, based on a fictional colony called Cascara, and starring acclaimed British actor, Michael Caine.
But there’s absolutely nothing fictional about the beauty and charm of not only the town’s undulating topography, but also its people, many of whom earn a living from the fishing, farming or tourism sectors.
Founded by the French in 1796, Soufriere was aptly named after the nearby sulphur springs, among the main attractions in the town for visitors and Saint Lucians alike. By the way, Soufriere means “sulphur mine” in English.
Well-known for its enchanting bay and waterfront setting, Soufriere was also the original capital of Saint Lucia until Castries was bestowed that honour in the early 1800s. The town’s warm charm might have also been the reason why Queen Elizabeth II, the official Head of State of Saint Lucia, landed in Soufriere rather than Castries during her visit to the island in 1966.
In the town centre, you’ll find a mixture of commercial and residential buildings, many of the architecture reflecting Saint Lucia’s British and French influences, including the Church of the Assumption’s French design. Adjacent to the Catholic church is the Soufriere Square, which was redesigned and reopened in July 2019 and now feature a Freedom Monument.
A few colonial estates can still be found in the town, including Rabot Estate and Fond Doux Estate. The latter, which dates back nearly two centuries, was part of the lands granted to King Louis XIV in the early 17th century, and was later sold. Its 130 acres of land feature now feature historic buildings as part of the Fond Doux Plantation and Resort. The original copra house and cocoa fermentery which produces the branded Fond Doux Chocolate.
Other attractions include the Pitons, the highest peaks on the island, which jut out from a serene rainforest and offer a captivating scenic backdrop to the south of the island, including nearby Choiseul. So powerful is the Pitons’ stature that their magnetic pull has deemed the town the Mecca of Saint Lucian tourism.
Sulphur Springs, the world’s only drive-in volcano, offer various pools of boiling mud and steaming vents releasing huge amounts of sulphuric gases that cause the yellow mineral deposits found there. While there, it’s not uncommon to take unending whiffs of the putrid scent of hydrogen sulphide which is akin to a rotten egg. Of course, there’s an entrance fee to the Sulphur Springs and proceeds to toward the general upkeep of the attraction. Be sure to purchase a few novelty items before you leave, by the way.
Be sure to also check out Diamond Estate which comprises the Diamond Botanical Gardens, a waterfall and mineral baths. There you will find a wide variety of tropical plants along a series of winding paths. If you’re a fan of the Superman franchise, you’ll definitely love the waterfall there which was featured in the 1980 sequel, Superman II. It’s actually the spot where Clark Kent picked an orchid for his love interest, Lois Lane. Dating back to 1784, the mineral baths are perched above hot springs so for King Louis XVI of France’s troops to enjoy the therapeutic benefits. There is an entrance fee to Diamond Estate and novelty items are also available for sale.
Other main features in Soufriere include rainforest trails, including Mt. Gimie (Saint Lucia’s highest point), Anse Chastanet, Jade Mountain, Sugar Beach, Volga Nature Trail, Au Poye Park, and the World Heritage Site Landmark.
While you enjoy the sights of the town from the many available elevated locations, be sure to sample some great Saint Lucian cuisine from many of the town’s restaurants and hotels. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to sip on an ice-cold Piton Beer as you relish the mesmerizing twin peaks staring right back at you.