Our 20 favourite sites to visit in Tobago
Tobago may be tiny, but between the historical landmarks that tell of the island’s complex colonial history (it changed hands some 31 times in colonial days) and its stunning natural attractions, there is a lot to experience. To explore, you can book a tour with a registered tour operator, or rent a vehicle and go exploring on your own. If you limit your stops, you can tour the entire island in a day. Here are 20 of our favourites when you’re ready to go sightseeing (in no particular order!).
Buccoo Reef & Nylon Pool
A must on any visit to Tobago. Stretching from Pigeon Point to Buccoo Bay, an arc of five reef flats is home to some 40 species of coral. It is rich in marine life, from tiny jewelfish to reef sharks and barracuda. The Nylon Pool is a warm, metre-deep sandbar in the lagoon. It’s said swimming here will make you feel ten years younger, and lovers who kiss underwater are destined to remain together forever. Glass-bottom boat tours depart Pigeon Point and Store Bay twice daily.
Pigeon Point Heritage Park
This beach with its distinctive jetty and carat-thatched cabana is a busy and vibrant spot, and a prime party location. Good food, shopping, and watersports opportunities. Some glass-bottom boat tours depart here for Buccoo Reef.
Tobago’s premier waterfall and a highlight of the Windward coast drive. A 15-minute forest walk brings you to the stunning three-tiered waterfall. A guide, available at the visitor centre, is recommended. Entrance fee, www.argylewaterfall.com
Fort King George & Tobago Museum
Tobago’s main fort, perched at 140m (460ft) above sea level, with magnificent views of Scarborough, Bacolet, up the Windward coast, and south over Lowlands. The site, perhaps Tobago’s best preserved, includes a military cemetery, old chapel and cell block. The Tobago Museum displays the history of Tobago’s early Amerindian era and colonial days.
Arnos Vale River Estate & Waterwheel*
Beautiful and rustic, featuring one of the best-preserved colonial-era waterwheels (1857) on the islands, great bird watching opportunities, and several nature trails, one to an Amerindian site and old slave village.
*NB: It saddens us to report that the Estate and Waterwheel have been almost totally destroyed by fire in mid-2015. There is hope that the site may be restored.
Main Ridge Forest Reserve
Rising to 576m (1,890ft), this spinal ridge runs down two-thirds of the island. Declared a protected forest reserve in 1776, it is the oldest in the western hemisphere. A favourite trail is Gilpin Trace, an easy 45-minute hike to a waterfall. A certified guide is strongly recommended.
Known for its fantastic diving. There are magnificent views from the Speyside Lookout. The village has remained charmingly subdued despite its diving mecca status. There’s a Tourist office, good dive shops, watersports operators and good restaurants.
The Courlander Monument is a striking sculpture commemorating 17th-century settlers from Courland (now part of Latvia). Also visit Fort James and the Mystery Tombstone with its cryptic inscription: “She was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it, except by her kind indulgences to him.”
Scarborough Botanical Gardens
Its vast grounds with majestic trees and captivating views provide the chance to relax among brilliant flambouyants, silk cotton trees, and avenues of royal palms.
Kimme Museum (“The Castle”)
Workshop and gallery of the late German-born sculptor Luise Kimme, who carved three-metre-high Tobago dancers and folklore characters from solid slabs of wood. Now managed by fellow sculptor Dunieski Lora Pileta. Open Sundays 10am–2pm by appointment, small entrance fee: 639-0257, www.luisekimme.com.
Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Sanctuary
A former cocoa estate which, following 1963’s Hurricane Flora, evolved into a bird sanctuary. Offers nature trails and scenic hiking.
Legendary for its peace and beauty, it is an excellent dive centre with its own dive shops.
One of Tobago’s most popular beaches, great for swimming and snorkelling. Great craft shopping and restaurant on site, and glass-bottom boat tours leave from here.
A perfect spot for enjoying a Tobago sunset overlooking the Leeward coast, this fort was built in 1777 by the British. Only a few cannon and walls remain.
A beautiful lookout point over Stonehaven Bay, complete with a little pavilion and small garden.
Bon Accord Lagoon
A popular spot for birdwatchers; some boatmen take visitors to a small coral white-sand beach inside the lagoon called No Man’s Land for barbecues.
Adventure Farm & Nature Reserve
Relaxing stop-off point on your way up the windward coast. A beachfront area and playground lie below the fort.
Just 2km2 (1.2 sq miles), a trekkers’ and bird watcher’s idyll. Once a haven for imported Birds of Paradise from New Guinea which were wiped out by hurricanes, the island is now a bird sanctuary. Glass-bottom boat tours (TT$150) depart Blue Waters Inn, Speyside, twice daily.
At the northern tip of Tobago, reached via an unpaved road from the crest of the hill before descending into Charlotteville. It was the site of an American military lookout and radio tower during World War II. The view is panoramic, encompassing St Giles Islands and the village of Charlotteville.
Tips & Tricks
If you decide to drive yourself around in Tobago, here are a few important things to remember:
- Gas stations are concentrated around the Scarborough and Crown Point areas, so when driving up the coasts, make sure you top up your tank first. The Discover maps show where the major gas stations are
- Tobago is mountainous, so if you plan to drive into the mountains or off-road, consider a 4WD vehicle
- Take extreme care while driving at night outside of the southwest, as street lighting is not always installed.
Featured tour operators
Frankie’s Tours & Rentals
with nearly 25 years’ experience, Michael Frank’s strong team and fleet of boats and buses can provide tours for bird watching, hiking, island tours, snorkelling, even dolphin watching. Frank’s evening cruise offers unlimited cocktails, a buffet, the chance to watch roosting birds flying in over tranquil lagoons, and a dip in the Nylon Pool. He also operates an extensive fleet of rental cars and vans.
Plantation Beach Watersports/Sail Tobago
Here, you can book an all-inclusive boat cruise on the Island Girl, a 43-foot catamaran that sails up Tobago’s Caribbean coastline. Enjoy a day of great sailing with friendly and professional crew and some fantastic snorkelling (equipment is supplied) plus an open bar and buffet lunch. NB: The Island Girl is no longer in operation locally
Sherman’s boasts top-notch customer service including: accommodation arrangements; airport transfers; vehicle exchange and maintenance; collision damage waiver; free eighth day with seven days’ rental; free weekly maintenance and a 24-hour emergency service.