Story & Photos by Stan Bishop
On the northern tip of Saint Lucia, you will find Gros Islet, which includes many communities, and is one of Saint Lucia’s most populous constituencies. Despite fishing still being the mainstay for many of its residents, Gros Islet has over the years earned the reputation of being one of the island’s most popular tourism destinations.
Gros Islet, first identified on a French map in 1717, was settled by the Caribs long before that. The first priests to arrive in Saint Lucia settled in Gros Islet in 1749. When the Anglo-French War between Britain and France started in 1778, the British Royal Navy captured Saint Lucia and built a naval base at Gros Islet Bay, temporarily changing its name to Fort Rodney.
In 1972, the stand-alone Pigeon Island was joined to the western coast mainland by a man-made causeway (known as Pigeon Island Causeway) constructed from dirt excavated to form nearby Rodney Bay Marina.
Pigeon Island National Landmark, which opened in 1979, is administered by the Saint Lucia National Trust, and offers breathtaking views from its elevated terrain, including nearby Martinique. The Landmark is replete with remnants and stories of the island’s turbulent war years, including rusty ship anchors, bunkers and cannons. These amenities add to the ambience for Main Stage Jazz held there as part of the annual Saint Lucia Jazz Festival.
In Beausejour, Gros Islet, you’ll find the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, named after its namesake who is from Saint Lucia and captained the West Indies Team to victories in the ICC Cricket World Twenty20 in 2012 and 2016. The venue hosts international and regional cricket matches.
Gros Islet, which became a town in 1985, is also home to the popular Friday Night Street Party in the heart of the town as street-side vendors, restaurants and bars offer a wide variety of Saint Lucian cuisine that feature chicken, pork, conch, lobster, and several fish species caught in the coastal waters nearby.
The Friday Night Street Party also features other local delicacies – dhals, roasted and fried bakes, green fig salad, to name a delicious few – and various alcoholic beverages to keep you hydrated as you jam the night away to loud music blasted by the lively deejay. Words of advice: don’t ever leave Saint Lucia without catching the vibe at a Gros Islet Friday Night Street Party!
In Gros Islet, you’ll find some of Saint Lucia’s best hotels: Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort, Royalton Saint Lucia Resort & Spa, The Landings, Bay Gardens Inn, Bay Gardens Hotel, Bay Gardens Marina Haven, Bay Gardens Beach Resort, Harbor Club, Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, and Royal St. Lucian Hotel. Many other small hotels and guest houses also add to the mix for your comfort.
Baywalk Shopping Mall, located in the heart of Rodney Bay, features a supermarket, several clothing and gift stores, a bank, restaurants, electronic stores, liquor store, casino, and telecoms provider. Since opening its doors in late 2010, the mall has become a popular location for shoppers.
Just across from Baywalk Shopping Mall is the J.Q. Charles Rodney Bay Mall, which features a supermarket, restaurants, clothing and gift stores, a bank, a post office, among other services.
Along the Rodney Bay Strip which divides the two shopping malls, you will find several restaurants and bars, including Spice of India, Domino’s Pizza, Subway, Dr. Freezer’s, Matthews Restaurant, Buzz, and Big Chef Steak House, Q Lounge, Verve, Keebee’s and Ultra Lounge.
In Reduit, there’s still a sign for the U.S. Naval Base that was established there in the early 1940s. In fact, former U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, anchored at Reduit Bay on December 8, 1940, aboard the cruiser, US Tuscaloosa, to discuss the progress of such said establishment.
Among the other popular attractions in Gros Islet is the IGY Rodney Bay Marina, once a mosquito-infested swamped that was dredged to form the final destination of many yachting events, including the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), World ARC and ARC Plus.
Don’t forget to experience the lengthy stretches of enticingly beautiful beaches found in Gros Islet. From Pigeon Island right down to Marisule, you have a wide range of choices from which to soak up some sun, sea and sand. These coastal waters leave you rejuvenated and the cool tropical winds are a plus.
In 2011, Lenard “Spider” Montoute, the current Member of Parliament for the area, noted that should expansion plans for the area be implemented, Gros Islet would become Saint Lucia’s second city.
Given the urban drift towards Gros Islet by people from other communities flocking to Gros Islet for work and to take up residence, Gros Islet might well become the island’s second city pretty soon.