Touring Tobago: Crown Point & the southwest

Explore Tobago‘s southwestern tip — the tourist hub around Crown Point — and the island’s capital, Scarborough

Exploring Tobago’s southwestern tip:

Crown Point—Store Bay—Buccoo—Scarborough

Southwestern Tobago is the island’s tourism centre. It’s where you’ll find the accommodation and restaurants, tour operators and car rental agencies, and the best shopping, all within a few miles of ANR Robinson International Airport (formerly Crown Point airport), and within walking distance of several beautiful beaches.

Store Bay
, for example, with its intimate stretch of powder-fine white sand and crystal clear water, is barely five minutes’ walk from the airport. The bay is calm for most of the year and ideal for swimming and snorkelling; there’s a bar and restaurant, and a craft market with souvenirs and local craft. Vendors on the beach and nearby will try to rent you an umbrella, beach chair or some other amenity. The most famous purveyors of Tobago’s favourite curry-crab-and-dumpling are behind the beach. There’s a lifeguard on duty from 10am-6pm.

Off Milford Road, at the entrance to near the airport, Pigeon Point Road takes you to Pigeon Point’s ever-popular mile-long stretch of white sand. From November to April the far end is a haunt for jet-skiers, parasailors and windsurfers. Equipment is available for rent. There is an entry fee to the beach area.

Buccoo Reef is the largest coral reef in Tobago, stretching from Pigeon Point to Buccoo Bay, and has been a protected marine park since 1973. From Store Bay and Pigeon Point, you can book a tour in a glass-bottomed boat, allowing you see the rich reef and fish life; snorkelling and swimming stops are included. Fares TT$50–150 depending on the operator and type of tour. At one time visitors were allowed to walk on the reef, but not any more. The Buccoo Reef Trust is working to help the reef recover from that and from over-fishing and pollution. W: or T: 635-2000.

From Crown Point, the Milford Road sets out towards Scarborough, through Bon Accord and Canaan, shortly widening out into the four-lane Claude Noel Highway. On the right a turn-off leads to the quiet Canoe Bay (and the nearby site of Tobago’s first industrial estate). The massive Tobago Plantations development, also on the right, includes accommodation and a fine 18-hole championship golf course.

Fort King George. Photo by Chris Anderson

Fort King George. Photo by Chris Anderson

The Capital: Scarborough

Scarborough curls around the sheltered Rockly Bay, with the Claude Noel Highway skirting its northern edge. It’s a small market town of about 25,000—nearly half Tobago’s population—and has been the capital since 1769. You’ll find all the basic services here; this is where you’ll disembark if you take the ferry across from Trinidad, and where you’ll need to head if you need medical attention or have business matters to tackle.

Lower Scarborough, the area around the port and waterfront, has been settled for more than three centuries. Part of it is still called Dutch Fort, recalling the days in the 1670s when Holland controlled Tobago and fought epic battles with the French in Rockly Bay.

Opposite the cruise ship mall are the market on one side and the bus station on the other. The pleasant Botanical Gardens climb up the hillside towards the Highway, seventeen acres of tropical trees and shrubs; there are entrances on the highway and opposite the bus station.

From Lower Scarborough, a short steep climb up Castries Street leads to Upper Scarborough’s Main Street with its handful of shops. Burnett Street, climbing parallel to Castries Street, brings you into James Park, named after Tobago’s pioneering political hero APT “Fargo” James. Overlooking the park is the old Court House (1825).

From Main Street, Bacolet Street branches off to the right, over Gun Bridge (decorated with colonial military rifle barrels), to join the Claude Noel Highway and the Windward Road to Speyside and Charlotteville.

Further up Main Street, Fort Street leads up the steep hillside, through the grounds of the Scarborough Hospital (which is due to be relocated) to Fort King George , which commands the hilltop over the town and a huge stretch of coast and ocean approaches.

Fort King George, Tobago. Photo by Chris Anderson

Fort King George, Tobago. Photo by Chris Anderson

Fort King George

The remains of several eighteenth-century fortifications can be found around Tobago’s coast, but Fort King George is by far the most extensive. The old officers’ mess survives (it houses a craft shop), as do the powder magazine, the military cemetery, the old cell block and water tank. The former military hospital is occupied by the National Fine Arts Centre, which displays Tobago art and sculpture. The Tobago Museum (T: 639-3970, admission fee) occupies the barrack guardhouse, and has a rich display of early Tobago history. Generations of Tobagonians and visitors have enjoyed this hilltop site and its magnificent views.

The British built a barracks and parade ground up here in 1777, but weren’t smart enough to save Tobago falling to the French in 1781. The French started a more serious fort in 1784, calling it Fort Castries, then Fort République and Fort Liberté as the revolution in Paris proceeded. The British won Tobago back in 1793 (except for a brief reverse in 1801–3), and renamed the building Fort Scarborough and (in 1804) Fort King George. They finally abandoned it in 1854.

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