Tobago’s rugged windward coast
Tobago’s meandering Windward Road takes you into the heart of the rural Caribbean. It snakes along the Atlantic coastline, sweeping up and down through sleepy villages going about their daily business. People watch from porches and roadside parlours and rum shops. Tethered goats tear at grass on the verge, and chickens roam beneath precarious wooden homes perched on steep hillsides.
Leaving Scarborough on the Claude Noel Highway, or on Bacolet Street from Upper Scarborough, you soon pass the Dwight Yorke Stadium, a sporting and entertainment venue dedicated to Tobago’s favourite footballing son. Footballer Dwight Yorke was born in Canaan, Tobago, in 1971 and has played for several major international football teams; he led the Trinidad and Tobago team to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Passing Hillsborough Bay and Hope Village you cross over the Hillsborough River as it meets the Atlantic. There might just be caiman (freshwater crocodile) lounging on the river bank. Five hundred yards further on, in Mount St George, a left fork leads up to Hillsborough Dam (about a mile and a half), popular with walkers and birdwatchers.
Back on the coastal road, there is nothing to show that Barbados Bay once housed Tobago’s first British capital, Georgetown. A fresh fish market operates here every evening except Sunday. After Studley Park Quarry (site of an old Carib Indian settlement), Fort Granby appears on the right. No fort remains, but a park with gazebos makes for a nice picnic spot looking out to Smith’s Island.
Also along this stretch is the quirky First Historical Café and Bar, whose interior walls are covered in inscriptions detailing Tobagonian history and culture. [Currently closed until further notice]
At Goodwood, you can see local wildlife at the Genesis Nature Park & Art Gallery. After Pembroke, the eighteenth-century Richmond Great House outside Glamorgan offers a glimpse of Tobago’s cocoa plantation era. Small admission fee.
Beyond Belle Garden, a left-hand turn at Kendell Bay, just before Roxborough, brings you to Tobago’s highest waterfall, Argyle Waterfall. This popular three-tiered cascade is at the end of a fifteen-minute walk; the pool is good for swimming. Visitors must use a registered guide; admission fee.
Roxborough is the principal town along this coast, and houses the island’s Hyperbaric Facility for divers. Then onwards past Louis D’or and into Delaford, and a sweeping corner opens up a spectacular view of the coconut-tree-strewn King’s Bay.
Speyside is a diving and day-trip mecca. But before descending into the village, stop at the Lookout for a breathtaking panorama of Speyside Bay’s shifting turquoise seas, spray-covered islets, and Goat Island and Little Tobago.
Speyside has a variety of dive shops and glassbottom boat operators; trips to Little Tobago should cost around US$20. Little Tobago is a bird sanctuary famous for Sir William Ingram’s ill-fated introduction of the bird of paradise, which no longer survive. It is now noted for its red-billed tropicbirds. James Bond author Ian Fleming once owned a home on Goat Island.
If you’re hungry, local restaurants include Jemma’s Treehouse Kitchen. This family-run restaurant, built around a sea almond tree, serves hearty creole dishes, with breadfruit pie a speciality. It’s a popular spot, so if you’re in need of quick service, other nearby restaurants will do you just as well.
After Speyside the road cuts inland and climbs across to the north coast and Charlotteville. Around halfway, a well signposted right turn takes you along a bumpy road to Flagstaff Hill. Used by the Americans during the second world war, it is a magnificent vantage point with great views of St Giles and Melville Islands and London Bridge Rock.
Then comes the hairpin descent into the fishing village of Charlotteville, with homes sprawling and tumbling down the hillsides to the glistening waters of Man o’ War Bay, with its flotilla of pirogues and diving pelicans. It’s a fitting climax to a drive full of wonderful scenery.
Don’t miss out on Pirate’s Bay, though. It’s a twenty-minute walk from Charlotteville’s northern end, and well worth the effort.