Chartering a yacht in the Leeward Islands – The small northern Antilles, an archipelago of islands gems:
In the Leeward Islands you can experience a Caribbean Yacht Charter in its full diversity. The north of Martinique has a special charm that the more conventional cruises in the south simply can’t match. Large distances between the islands, and the fact that many bays are hard to reach, makes the area more suitable for advanced sailors. Sailors will also enjoy the islands from St. Martin to Antigua, in the northern Leewards with shorter hops, but scenically very different. There are also wonderfully contrasting colours, styles, vegetation, architecture and lifestyles.
Idyllic beaches and untouched nature can be found if you the start in Guadeloupe, and head towards Îles des Saintes and Dominica. Or you can sail amongst others to Antigua, St. Barths, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius, Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis. The flat island of Anguilla in the north has endless sandy beaches and – in stark contrast – a rugged volcanic island rising out of the sea. St. Martin: The northern part of the small island is French speaking, while the southern part is Dutch. Most islands belong politically to France, the UK or the Netherlands; a few of them are independent. The area is really only recommended for experienced sailors. The main centres for a sailing cruise are Guadeloupe, Antigua and St. Martin which all offer large yacht sailing fleets and a wide selection of catamarans.
The Leeward Islands
Guadeloupe, meaning ‘river of love’ is the largest of the Leeward Islands. Point-a-Pitre is the capital and home to a large airport with daily flights from Paris. Other attractions which shouldn’t be missed – on the western side, on Basse-Terre – are the cave paintings of the Arawak and also Sainte Anne, the old sugar town in the north.
La Soufriere is an impressive – and inactive – 1,467 metre high volcano, on the edge of which lies Basse-Terre built in colonial style. In the tropical heat this place with its old houses radiates peaceful charm and nostalgia. Basse-Terre is the administrative centre of the island and, while it makes every effort to look into the future, it is often overtaken by the past. This is characterized by a combination of American, African and European elements. Here you should visit the Fort Louis Delgrès with its fantastic view of the old cathedral, as well as the market right on the shore.
The Iles des Saintes / Saintes are a small archipelago about 15 km southeast of Guadeloupe, however, only two of the nine islands are inhabited. With its idyllic hidden coves and secluded beautiful beaches, Les Saintes offers a true paradise on earth and is an ideal place for water sports enthusiasts and those seeking relaxation. This small archipelago consists of two main islands, the Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas are surrounded by a number of uninhabited rocks. Terre-de-Haut with its unique natural harbour takes on centre stage. It’s famous for its beautiful beaches with turquoise water and is classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Terre-de-Haut, the liveliest of the Les Saintes islands offers many bars, cafes and boutiques, picturesque hills and exquisite beaches. The numerous mountain peaks are of volcanic origin.
Marie Galante: Here there once stood nearly 100 windmills which were used to press sugar cane. This earned the nickname l’ile aux Cent Moulins or the island of 100 mills. Hotels and mass tourism have passed almost without trace on the island and you will still see carts pulled by oxen everywhere. The coasts are lined with gorgeous white beaches and lapped by clear water. Be sure to take one of the free visits to a rum distillery, and check out the Chateau Murat where there is a beautiful botanical garden and a museum. With its plethora of sugar cane fields, peaceful peasant hamlets and sleepy towns and cities, Marie Galante is truly the pearl of the Guadeloupe archipelago.
The island of La Désirade is shaped like a ship’s hull. The northern coast is for the most part rocky and inhospitable. On the southern coast, with its tropical vegetation and beautiful sandy beaches, the coast is largely protected by coral reefs. It’s very tranquil and unspoilt, and there’s plenty of nature alongside quaint, little fishing villages just waiting to be explored. La Désirade, Les Saints and Marie Galante should definitely be visited as part of any Caribbean cruise.
The island of Saint Barthelemy / St Barths is approximately 200 km north-west of Guadeloupe and 25 km south-east from Saint Martin. The island is a mountainous island with only 25 square miles and was under Swedish rule for centuries. Strict construction rules and price controls have prevented mass tourism, meaning the island has become a billionaire’s paradise. The city of Gustavia – and a dozen other places – make up population of St Barths with a mixture of immigrants from France and other countries.
Antigua: It is said that Antigua has 365 beaches, one for every day of the year! The crystal clear sea is bathtub warm and changes from shimmering turquoise green to dark blue. Black pelicans soar above the waves and every now and then a hawker will pass by offering hats, scarves or coconut flesh. Especially idyllic are the coves in the south of the island. Small bars sell simple fish dishes and cool drinks. On clear days you can see the outline of the neighbouring island of Montserrat, complete with smoking volcano. Exotic names such as Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Clarence Town or the nature reserve IndianTown, provide an exclusive island with flair. In the north of the island is the bizarre rock formation ‘Devils Bridge’, which has been created by strong surf. Don’t miss Greencastle Hill on the way to the west coast, where there are great megaliths that were probably erected in honour of an indigenous sun goddess. On the Caribbean side, you’ll find the beautiful beaches of Runaway Bay and Dickenson Bay which stand out as the most popular and are where most of the upmarket hotels are located. The Bay of English Harbour in the extreme south of the island is very nice, and has so far survived every hurricane, thanks to its favorable location. It’s used by the international jet-set as a marina. Antigua is one of the major sailing centres of the Caribbean. The international sailing regatta Antigua Race Week, with participants of 300 boats from around the world, takes place in April every year. Charter crews can also join in.
The island of Barbuda is part of Antigua and has beautifully secluded sandy beaches and lush green forests in the middle of the island. To the northwest is a mangrove-covered lagoon with a bird sanctuary. The main town is Codrington and the whole island has only about 1500 inhabitants. There are long, sandy beaches and offshore reefs that were once feared by pirates but are now are a diver’s paradise.
The independent Nevis is a true ‘Caribbean Queen’ and a very classy destination that’s favoured by the international jet set. From the island’s capital, you can admire the wooden houses with beautiful ornaments. Many of the old plantation houses are now luxury hotels. Visiting the Bath House, one of the oldest in the Leeward Islands, is like going back in time.
Anyone visiting St. Eustatius, is transported back to the past. St. Eustatius was one of the most prosperous islands in the Western hemisphere in the eighteenth century. Thousands of ships were moored in the harbour of Oranjestad, the main trading centre between the emerging trade routes. Today this golden age is commemorated by a handful of interesting sights that include a fort and cannons. Stroll over the narrow bridge, past the remains of the old warehouses and the still remaining walls of defense works, where history comes alive. For divers, the area is perfect – a veritable underwater paradise.
St. Martin and St. Maarten: These two island colonies span 96 square kilometers and feature an interesting combination of cultural elements from the Caribbean, France and the Netherlands. The island is both urban and untamed, with rain forest-like landscapes, white beaches, and impressive caves and wildlife. Much of the architecture in Philipsburg, the capital of San Martin, has a strong Dutch influence. The main streets are full of pastel coloured houses decorated with ornate carvings and wrought iron balconies. The historic attractions of the island include a series of fortresses. The most famous is Fort Amsterdam in the Great Bay of Philipsburg. The small island in the northern part of the Caribbean boasts over 35 idyllic, white, sandy beaches against a background of lush, green, hills. The larger, but less populated French part of Saint Martin in the north of the island has an abundance of nature and a distinctly tropical feel, but also features well-attended beaches with cozy beach bars and excellent restaurants. There are numerous beach coves with plenty on offer for snorkellers, divers, windsurfers and kitesurfers. The highest elevation of the island is the Pic Paradis, which you can climb and which hosts the Heineken Regatta.
The island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles is often called the nature island. This is thanks to the lush vegetation and 160 different species of birds. The capital, Roseau, doesn’t have a single high-rise building. What you will find are colourful wooden huts on the roadside. The capital is the economic and commercial centre of the island and there is plenty of nature on offer: as a diver you can experience the spectacular underwater world and as a rambler, you can enjoy the landscape of the island with all its flora, fauna, waterfalls and lakes.
Chartering a yacht in the Windward Islands – the southern islands of the Lesser Antilles:
The southern Lesser Antilles consist of Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, the Grenadines, Barbados and Tobago. This perfect sailing area is characterized by short distances, clear turquoise waters and dreamy landscapes. The local cuisine is a must and there’s a wonderful blend of diverse cultures and influences to soak up.
St. Lucia, Martinique and Grenada are the main chartering centres here with huge selections of yachts to offer. More marinas can be found on St. Vincent, Canouan or Union Island. More information about the main islands of the Windward Islands and area properties can be found below.
Dominica is pretty much the boundary between the Leeward and the Windward Islands to the south (it is part of the Windward Islands)
- Martinique (part of France)
- St. Lucia (independent)
- St. Vincent (the main island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
- Grenadines (St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
- Grenada (independent)
- Barbados (Independent)
- Dominica (independent)
Area characteristics :
An overview of the largest islands
Martinique is a very beautiful Caribbean island with a strong French influence. The island shines with Creole cuisine, hospitable people and wonderful hiking opportunities. There’s an abundance of colourful flora and diverse fauna both on land and underwater. There are many possibilities for excursions: the huge Mont Pelee volcano or the Museum Centre d’Art Paul Gauguin in Le Carbet. This is also home to the restored plantation of Leyritz where you can still see the slave cabins. Sainte-Anne, Diamant and Anses d’Arlet are perfect for lazing around on the beach and sunbathing. Generally, you can divide the beaches into several categories: 1. the picture postcard beaches in the south with white sand, ideal for beach holidays, 2. the natural beaches in the north (west coast) with black sand, good for swimming 3. the wild beaches on the Atlantic Coast partly black and partly bright sand, more suitable for water sports. We recommend planning about 14 days for a yachting holiday.
St. Lucia is the second biggest of the Windward islands. The biodiversity in St. Lucia is simply stunning. Wild orchids, hibiscus, roses and bougainvillea are omnipresent and not only look magical but smell divine. Sail between the two volcanoes and enjoy the spectacular views of the Twin Pitons, which are the island’s emblem.
St. Vincent: Soft hills shrouded in jungle and interspersed with scattered, little huts characterise the landscape here. On the east coast you’ll find rough cliffs and lots of rocks to the sea. The west coast has sandy gold and black beaches. In the north of the island the Soufrière volcano rises 1,234 metres. Kingstown is the capital where you’ll find a large harbour and the trading centre. Fort Charlotte has an unmissable view and you should also check out the unique Baleine waterfalls which stretch up 18 metres high. In the picturesque fishing villages of Questelles, Layou, Barrouallie and Chateaubelair on the west coast, you’ll find light pastel coloured houses that stand out in wonderful contrast to the black beaches.
Young Island, is in the immediate vicinity of St. Vincent, not even 200 meters, consists of a lush verdant mountain. In springtime there is a firework of flowers that radiate in all colours. Sporting facilities include tennis courts and a swimming pool. For sightseeing go to Duvernette, the 60 metre high rocks carved in the18th century.
Bequia: This is the largest of the Grenadines and has trademark golden, glittery beaches. Old traditions such as boat building and fishing are still very apparent. In the middle of the island you’ll see picturesque green hills. Admiralty Bay is the most popular anchorage here. Slightly further south is the small Caribbean pearl of Mustique. Only 1.5 km wide and 3 km long, its lush green hills contrast perfectly with its white sandy beaches and turquoise sea. This is a popular place and many of the international jet set have luxury villas here. The famous Basil’s Bar does the best fish.
Canouan has the most beautiful beaches and the colourful coral reefs are teeming with varieties of fish. The island is very small – just 5.5 km long and 2 km wide – and so only has two hotels and a few B&Bs.
Tobago Cays are a group of four islands that are protected by the Horseshoe Reef, which protects from the Atlantic current. Petit Bateau, Jamesby, Baradel and Petit Rameau are mainly visited by sailors and divers because of the beautiful coral reefs. A small drawback are the ‘boat boys’ which unfortunately can’t be avoided.
The highest mountain on Union Island is Mount Parnassus which boats many beautiful beaches. The small private Palm Island has over 8,000 coconut trees. There are about 20 bungalows belonging to Palm Island Beach Club right on the beach. Open air restaurants and a wide range of water sports facilities can be found here.
Grenada, the nutmeg island, was discovered in 1498 by Christopher Columbus. The three-kilometer wide beach lies in a sheltered bay and is very popular with tourists and locals. The beach offers a good excuse for strolling and enjoying fabulous traditional meals. Grenada is not only a paradise for sunbathers and swimmers but also for divers, snorkelers, surfers and sailors. There’s no shortage of dolphin watching boat tours. Hikers can take in a number of extinct and active volcanoes, such as the impressive crater lake of Grand Etang, as well as many natural parks. Grenada’s waterfalls are very famous. The romantic harbour of the Carenage St. George’s is lined with lots of restaurants. There’s also a zoo, botanical gardens and Fort George to visit. The most beautiful beaches, Grand Anse and Levara Bay, are in the national park.