Introducing Windward Highway
The windward (east) coast of St Vincent is a mix of wave-lashed shoreline, quiet bays and small towns. As it’s away from the tourism that dominates the southern coast of the island, it’s a fine place to visit for those wanting to experience a more sedate version of St Vincent. The black-sand beaches meld into the banana plantations and the lush vegetation grows up into the hilly interior. Humble villages pop up from time to time, filled with down-to-earth locals and ramshackle buildings.
Buses from Kingstown to Georgetown are fairly regular (except on Sunday) and cost EC$4. Buses driving north from Georgetown are irregular, so get information from the Kingstown bus station before heading off. Note also that the beaches along the entire east coast are generally not safe for surfing.
As you head further north along the east coast, you really start to get off the beaten track. The jungle gets a bit thicker, the road a bit narrower, and towering La Soufrière volcano (4048ft) begins to dominate the skyline. Still active and slightly ominous, this striking feature is the hallmark of the northern end of St Vincent. About a mile north of Georgetown the road passes over an old lava flow from the 1902 eruption – a solemn reminder of the power of the volcano.
Heading yet further north the rough track turns inland near Orange Hill and, amid the coconut palms and the banana plantations, the hiking trail to La Soufrière’s crater begins. This 3.5-mile hike will take you up to the crater, where you can see the lake and, on a clear day, spectacular views of the island and the Grenadines.
Getting to the hike is a bit of mission in itself. The trailhead is 2 miles off the main road and bus access this far north is a bit sporadic. If you don’t have your own wheels you can either arrange for a taxi, which will cost you over US$100 from Kingstown, or join a guided tour, especially those by HazEco Tours.
Also at Orange Hill, look for the Youroumei Heritage Village, a somewhat restored old sugar plantation that still stands thanks to its stout stone construction.
Continuing north you will hit Sandy Bay, a sizable village that has the island’s largest concentration of Black Caribs. North of Sandy Bay is Owia Bay and the village of Owia, where you’ll find the Salt Pond, a group of tidal pools protected from the crashing Atlantic by a massive stone shield. This is a popular swimming hole with crystal-clear waters and a view of St Lucia to the north. There are thatched shelters, picnic tables and restrooms here.