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Tobago Sightseeing: So Much to Explore

Fort Granby on the Windward Coast. Photographer: Oswin Browne

Fort Granby on the Windward Coast. Photographer: Oswin Browne

Tobago Sightseeing: Our Favourite Island Sights & Tours

The ideal Tobago tour would probably include a little history and lots of magnificent scenery.

Tobago offers the visitor a wide range of touring options. It’s possible to drive around the island in a single day, but for the best experience, take it slow. History buffs will revel in the island’s historic sites, legacy of the 31 separate occasions Tobago was lost and conquered over the centuries. And even if you just stick to the well-known beaches and tourist sites, there’s still lots to see.

Tobago’s roads are less busy than Trinidad’s (though Scarborough can be a very busy, bustling town) — but do remember that we drive on the left. Access to certain destinations may also involve precipitous roads. If you intend driving into more remote areas, it may be a good idea to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

For overseas visitors, a valid international permit, or a valid permit issued in the UK, US, Canada, France or Germany is required for cars and motorcycles, and can be used for 90 days.

Here are some of the top places to visit.

Crown Point & the Southwest

At Crown Point, Tobago’s tourism hub, you’ll find many hotels, guest houses and beaches. The airport and car rental companies are also located in this area. The capital, Scarborough – with a charm all its own º is a 15-minute drive from Crown Point. From Scarborough to Crown Point, there are miles of serene palm-fringed beaches.

Store Bay:

Amere walk from the airport. Situated between Coco Reef Hotel and Crown Point Beach Hotel, this beach is one of Tobago’s most popular. Under the coral cliffs at the southern end, a snorkelling trip will lead you to an underwater world of brain coral, parrot fish, angelfish, trunkfish, garfish, and shoals of small fish and baby squid. Glass-bottomed boats leave from Store Bay for tours to the famous Nylon Pool and Buccoo Reef. A bar, local food and a range of handicraft can be found at the rear of the beach.

Fort Milford:

A perfect spot for enjoying a Tobago sunset, this fort was established in 1777 by the British. The French used it from 1781 until 1793, when the British recaptured it. Only a few cannons and some crumbling walls remain, but its location allows for tranquil sunset-watching at the day’s end.

Pigeon Point:

Postcards paint a picture of serenity with shady almond trees, crystal-clear waters, brilliant white sand, and the hallmark thatched-roof jetty; but seclusion you won’t find here. Protected by the Buccoo Reef, the sea is calm and perfect for children and makes for a well-populated beach, with a party atmosphere. Here you’ll find jetskis, windsurfers, dive shops, clothes shops, bar, and food, not to mention soca and reggae music.

Buccoo Reef & Nylon Pool:

Declared a marine park in the 70s, Tobago’s most accessible reef stretches from Pigeon Point to Buccoo Bay. It’s home to several species of hard and soft coral, and is rich in marine life, from tiny jewel fish to reef sharks and barracuda. Visitors are asked not to compromise the reef’s longevity by walking on or touching living coral. In fact, if possible, take your own snorkelling gear and keep off the sea bed altogether. You’ll see more this way, too. Guests can snorkel on the Reef and get an up-close look at several species of hard and soft coral, as well as reef sharks, jewel fish and other denizens of the deep. Also, avoid buying coral trinkets, no matter how beautiful. The Nylon Pool is part of the glass-bottomed boat tours. It’s a shallow sandspit in the lagoon, warm and pleasant for swimming. A Nylon Pool swim is said to make you feel ten years younger! Glass-bottomed boats leave daily from Store Bay and Pigeon Point

Little Rockly Bay:

Bordered by the old coast road, which follows a rocky stretch of coast that becomes sandy smooth, backed by a vast stretch of coconut trees.

Tobago Plantations:

Tobago’s biggest resort project at Lowlands, which includes the Magdalena Grand hotel (formerly the Tobago Hilton) and a championship golf course. Its 750 acres are set around the beautiful Petit Trou Lagoon. The following phases include plans for a 120-berth marina and yacht club, a commercial centre complete with shopping and entertainment facilities, and a medical centre.

Canoe Bay Beach Resort:

Coconut-thatched pavilions offering shade on a near-deserted sandy beach. The water is like Pigeon Point, but without the people: calm, shallow, perfect for children. There’s a bar, but no food.

Buccoo:

Small village known for action at Easter when the goat and crab races are held there. It also comes alive religiously on Sunday nights for the weekly Sunday School. No bible study here – only dancing, liming, and drinking at this lively street party.

Mount Irvine:

A scenic area known for its championship golf course. Owned by the Mount Irvine Hotel, this 18-hole course boasts sweeping fairways, punctuated by coconut palms and breathtaking views of Mount Irvine Bay, which, during the winter months, offers the ideal venue for surfers trying to catch the perfect wave.

Kimme Museum:

The workshop and gallery of late German sculptor Luise Kimme, who carved out three-metre-high Tobago dancers and folklore characters from solid slabs of wood. Open Sundays 10am–2pm. Small entrance fee. Now managed by fellow sculptor Dunieski Lora Pileta.

Stonehaven Bay:

Magnificent beach with sometimes powerful waves, close to upmarket resorts like Plantation Beach Villas, Grafton Beach Resort, Le Gran Courland, StoneHaven Villas and Sanctuary Villas.

Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Sanctuary:

Offers nature trails and scenic hiking in woodlands where birds like the motmot and cocrico can be seen. It is a former cocoa estate which, following 1963’s Hurricane Flora, evolved into a bird sanctuary. The birds are still fed at the Copra House around 4pm.

Fort Bennett:

A beautiful lookout point, complete with a little pavilion and small garden. This battery was built in 1778 by the British to protect the coast against US privateers.

Turtle Beach:

This is one spot where leatherback turtles nest during March to August. Situated on Great Courland Bay, it is overlooked by the Turtle Beach Hotel.

Plymouth:

The Courland Monument is a striking sculpture (unveiled by Pat Chu Foon, 1976) commemorating 17th-century settlers from Courland. Fort James stands on the headland beyond the village; the Mystery Tombstone (the grave of Betty Stivens and her baby) has an inscription which has puzzled generations; it reads in part: “She was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it, except by her kind indulgences to him.”

Scarborough

Shops; a central market, mall and cinema; fast food; bars; loud music and busy roads define Scarborough. Tobago’s capital is quite lively. The inter-island ferry docks in lower Scarborough where you’ll also find the bus terminal, food outlets, the main market, the island’s only mall and an occasional speaker’s corner. This small capital, in which almost half of Tobago’s 50,000 people live, is divided into Lower and Upper Scarborough, the latter overlooking Rockly Bay. It is also the island’s administrative centre and port of call for the cruise ships and Trinidad-Tobago ferry. A casual walk at the coolest time of day is the ideal way to get acquainted.

Botanical Gardens:

Vast grounds with majestic trees and captivating views provide a quiet escape from the bustle of Scarborough. Adjoins the Scarborough Mall. A peaceful point in the midst of the bustling town where you can chill out among brilliant flamboyants, silk cotton trees, and avenues of royal palms.

Court House:

Upper Scarborough. Built in 1825, it’s used today as the meeting place for the Tobago House of Assembly, which handles Tobago’s local governmental affairs.

Fort King George:

Named after King George III in 1804, this is Tobago’s main fort. From this magnificent vantage point, not only can you look down upon Scarborough, but you can see over Bacolet, up the Windward coast, and south over Lowlands. The site includes a military cemetery, an old chapel and a cell block – an extensive restoration is schedule for completion in March. A Craft Market runs Monday to Saturday. The Tobago Museum, located in the Barrack Guard House, displays the history of Tobago’s early Amerindian era and colonial days

Tobago Museum:

In the Barrack Guard House at Fort King George. Showcases artefacts from Tobago’s early Amerindian era and colonial days.

Leeward Coast

The Leeward Coast, north of Plymouth, is refreshingly isolated, with only a few fishing villages, and is known for some of the most magnificent views and ravishing beaches. Accommodation and restaurants are few and far between. Many just visit for the day to spend time on the beaches or to hike.

Adventure Farm and Nature Reserve:

Guided tours of this 12-acre organic estate are available. It grows citrus, mangoes, bananas, papaya, guavas and West Indian cherries. A variety of birdlife can be seen here, including herons, egrets, motmots, hummingbirds, chachalaca, woodpeckers and jacamar. There’s also a butterfly garden and a shelter for endangered species. Two fully-equipped, self-contained eco villas are available for birdwatchers and nature lovers.

Arnos Vale*:

This former sugar estate is rich with birdlife, and, at the beach at the Arnos Vale Hotel, the snorkelling is exceptional. A little further up the road, the 1857 Arnos Vale Waterwheel that powered the estate’s mill is still intact. It’s been made the centrepiece of a nature park which includes a restaurant, museum, gift shop, and a small theatre. There are a number of nature trails, one Amerindian site and an 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.

Pleasant Prospect:

This quaint green located between Grafton and Mt. Irvine is a hive of activity worth stopping at. Grab fresh ice-cold fruit juices in exotic flavours like tamarind, pommerac, guava and papaya from Family Farms.

Mason Falls:

50ft waterfall on the outskirts of Mason Hall.

Castara:

Memorable snorkelling and fascinating views are part of the Castara experience. The beach is a delightful stretch of palm-lined sand with clear, calm water. Two beachside bars provide food and drink.

Englishman’s Bay:

Here the water’s deep and clear, with snorkelling. Because of the lush vegetation of coconut and bamboo trees, the beach is nicely secluded.

Parlatuvier:

A quietish beach, stunningly picturesque with its horseshoe bay and village views. The beach shelves steeply and can generate powerful waves.

Bloody Bay:

Gets its name from the battle that occurred there during colonial times. Today, the serene scene, tropical breezes, golden sand and deep-blue sea erase memories of an ugly onslaught.

Main Ridge:

Rises some 1,890 feet, a spinal ridge running down two-thirds of the island. Declared a Crown Reserve in 1776, it is the oldest in the western hemisphere. A favourite trail is Gilpin Trace, an easy 45-minute walk to a waterfall.

Windward Coast

This area is perfect for hiking, diving, or leisurely driving to take in breathtaking coastal scenery: of fishing villages, beautifully lush mountains, and quiet beaches. Although lovely, the beaches along the Windward Coast are known for dangerous currents.

Granby Point:

A relaxing stop-off point on your way up the windward coast. This colonial fort, named after John Manners, the Marquis of Granby, a British military hero of the Seven Years’ War, offered protection to Tobago’s former capital Georgetown. Today a beachfront area and playground lie below the fort

First Historical Café & Bar:

This small, rootsy hangout is a good place to stop in for a snack, drink and snippets of information on local history and culture. The walls are lined with colourful write-ups on everything from Tobagonian dialect to superstition to the Heritage Festival. [NB: Currently closed until further notice, though there are talks of finding a way to re-open it]

Roxborough:

This is the main town along the Windward coast. Here you will find a gas station, schools, the Eastern Fire Station, a supermarket, small shops and the Tobago Hyperbaric Facility, an international-standard dive and medical recompression facility, prepared to handle diving emergencies. It is the only one of its kind on the island.

Speyside:

Known for its fantastic diving. From this fishing village, you can also visit Little Tobago, a bird sanctuary off the north-east coast. There are magnificent views from the Speyside Lookout; local fruit and souvenirs are available from wayside vendors. The lookout is at the top of the hill just before you drive down into Speyside proper. This small village, though significantly developed in recent times to facilitate the diving industry, has remained charmingly subdued. There’s a Tourist office, good dive shops, watersports operators and good restaurants.

Flagstaff Hill:

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

Charlotteville:

Legendary for its peace and beauty, Charlotteville lies at the foot of a steep hill at the end of the Windward Road, on the shore of Tobago’s finest natural harbour – Man-O’-War Bay. Like Speyside, Charlotteville is an excellent dive centre with its own dive shops. Man o’ War Bay beach is great for swimming, with beach facilities at the southern end. A visit to the lookout at Flagstaff Hill for spectacular views of Charlotteville is a must.

Hillsborough Dam:

This is the island’s source of drinking water. No swimming allowed here. Set in a rich forested area, this is a good location for birding (herons and waterfowl). Permission must be granted from the Water and Sewerage Authority. A fee is charged to enter. Can be accessed on foot or by car, but a 4-wheel drive is preferable.

Granby Point:

Fort Granby was built to protect the island’s short-lived capital of Georgetown (1768). There’s nothing left of it now but the gravestone of a young soldier on a pretty, wooded headland with nice views and benches set under the trees. There’s a pleasant beach with fishermen’s pirogues hauled onto the sand. The Dry Dock Pub is a restaurant made from a converted boat, The Marquis of Granby.

Genesis Nature Park & Art Gallery:

Located in Goodwood, this is a small nature reserve and art gallery converted from the garden and living room of Michael Spencer, who makes his local paintings and sculptures available for sale. Outside, resident wildlife includes a capuchin monkey, along with boa constrictors, turkeys, turtle, agouti, and a parrot.

Rainbow Nature Resort & Rainbow Falls:

Approximately 15 minutes from Goldsborough Bay, you’ll find this converted cocoa house that offers accommodation and a restaurant. Rainbow Falls are a 10-minute walk in and out of a pretty stream (boots are provided) with kingfishers and lizards for company.

Richmond Great House:

A quiet and charming, the Great House (1776) has been attractively restored to function as a guest house/hotel and restaurant. It also includes an extensive collection of African art.

Argyle Falls:

At 450ft above sea level, these are Tobago’s highest falls. Use official guides who can be found at the entrance road and at the parking area. Ask to see a badge. It is a 15–20 minute nature walk to the actual Falls. Entrance fee.

Louis d’Or Nurseries:

Flowering shrubs and fruit trees; weekdays.

King’s Bay:

Once a large Carib settlement. The water is calm and warm, and there are beach facilities. King’s Bay Waterfall can be reached via a trail on the opposite side of the road; however, the Falls are sometimes dry when there’s been little rain.

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.

Sherman’s Auto Rentals & Ground Tours

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.

By 

A team of of writers discovering Trinidad & Tobago for 25 years and counting!

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