Shopping for souvenirs in Tobago? Think local
Think local. You can find international designer clothing and fine imported wares at the island’s malls, particularly the new Gulf City Lowlands Mall. But if you’re interested in unique handcrafted items and clothing that reflect the island’s laid-back vibe, Tobago can offer quite an appealing shopping experience.
Good buys include wood carvings, jewellery made from natural products, handmade soap, sarongs, steel pans, and beachwear. There are several good craft stores, a craft market at Store Bay, and you’ll also find vendors near tourist sites and the more popular beaches. The larger hotels have in-house boutiques.
Craft items, popular keepsakes and gifts – shell jewellery, calabash art, sandals, sarongs, wooden sculptures and carvings – are sold island-wide. Among your best bets are Bambu gift shop (Crown Point hotel); the 35 kiosks at Store Bay; the early evening stalls at Buccoo’s Sunday School; and Shore Things in Lambeau.
Store Bay’s 35-booth Craft Market for is great for shell jewellery, calabash art, wooden sculptures, rasta hats, sandals and sarongs. Many of these vendors also turn up at Buccoo’s Sunday School from around 7pm to 11pm.
Scarborough Milford Road Esplanade, built in 2004, houses up to 20 shops in a “dry space” (crafts) and “wet space” (food and drink). The Historical Tourism Shop offers old maps, knick-knacks and ephemera. The Scarborough market near Carrington Street is renowned for leather goods.
Batiki Point (Batik Studio and Shop) is a permanent store on the Sunday School site, and is noted for owner Tina Louis’ vibrant batik wall hangings and hand-painted clothing and T-shirts, with many depicting local wildlife.
For quality handmade ceramics, visit Planet Ceramics, in front of the jetty at Pigeon Point, which sells handmade ceramics, from house signs to miniature turtles.
Imagine soaps made with honey, goat’s milk, bayleaf, aloes, cocoa, tumeric, cucumbers, caraili, avocado, noni and ‘wonder of the world’ – things to make your skin go mmmm! Anola Anthea Martin of Anthea’s Treasure Trove in Store Bay uses local organic ingredients to make her line of delicious soaps, body smoothies, lip balms, body spritz, bath bombs, body scrubs and body soaks. She also makes wrappers and cards from recycled paper, banana, corn and cocoa leaves, and discarded flowers and stems.
A number of locations offer art for sale, including Horizon Framing and Art Shop, Café Iguana, and D’Art Yard art gallery and café.
A premier location is The Art Gallery run by artists Martin and Rachael Superville. Here the Supervilles show their own work as well as that of local artists; there’s also a good assortment of prints and postcards, and a tea room.
Tobago Fine Art has a selection of paintings of indigenous flora and fauna.
Luise Kimme displays her dramatic, larger-than-life-sized wood sculptures depicting local characters at her atmospheric gallery/atelier in Bethel. Other Tobago artists include Jason Nedd and Earl Manswell, both of whom have small home-based galleries in L’Anse Fourmi that are interesting to visit.
Carnbee, Canaan, and Scarborough are the major shopping areas for everyday foodstuff and groceries. Scarborough’s Milford Road Esplanade also sells food items in their “wet space”.
Scarborough Market is an earthy experience that vegans and market lovers will appreciate. You can pick up fresh fruits, veggies, seasoning, ground provisions and seafood – as well as toys, slippers, swimsuits and T-shirts at really reasonable prices.
The ANR Robinson airport is the ideal place to pick up some of Tobago’s signature (calorific) munchies. Here you will find the island’s famous jaw-breaker, bene balls (and sticks), which are made from sesame seeds and molasses. A word of caution: do not attempt to bite into the bene as this could cost you a tooth or two. Try sucking it for some time so that it softens somewhat. You will also find other sugary confections like nut cake, jub jub, tamarind balls, sugar cake, pawpaw balls and red mango. Other good buys include local preserves like pepper mango, and toolum.
Around Scarborough you’ll find bookshops, small shopping malls, a fotomart and a variety of other stores including a certified organic vegetable store and a wide selection of herbal medicines and remedies. The Scarborough market is also a good place to shop for herbs and spices.
Gulf City Lowlands Mall is Tobago’s first venture into mall-style shopping. Its 35 shops offer clothing and apparel stores, bookshops, and shopping for personal items in air-conditioned comfort.
ANR Robinson International (formerly Crown Point) Airport is good for duty free shopping, escaping the islands’ 15% VAT; try Lagniappe Duty Free (639-7516).