by Rosie Burr
Mayreau is a tiny island that is part of the country of St. Vincent & the Grenadines. It has one road, one small village, no police or doctors and has only recently (2002) installed a generator for electricity. Instead of advanced infrastructure you will find picture-perfect beaches and amazing views of the Tobago Cays on perhaps one of the few remaining “untouched” islands in the Caribbean.
Early settlers were the Ciboney people and then the Caribs. In the 1700s the French settled on the island, and despite the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 in which the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines were given up to the British, the privately owned Mayreau remained in French hands. At the end of the 18th century, the export of cotton provided an income to six European residents and their 66 slaves. Following the abolition of slavery in the 1800s, the slaves’ descendants were given land on which to build homes and they cultivated cotton and other crops. With the exception of the village on the hill, Mayreau has remained privately owned ever since.
Salt Whistle Bay is a stunning anchorage with its curving beach and gently lapping shores. The cool breezes of the Atlantic sweep across a small spit of land just a stone’s throw wide with palm trees punctuating the view. The unobtrusive Salt Whistle Bay Resort is quietly nestled in a corner. Up the only road, the small village of Old Wall is located on the top of the hill. With a population of around 250, the people are friendly and welcoming, making their living now more and more from tourism, the few remaining fishermen selling to the local restaurants and visiting boats. One day while a small group of us visiting sailors were trying to find a place to watch the World Cup football, Dennis from Dennis’ Hideaway invited all eight of us into his home and supplied ice-cold beer while we invaded his living room. If that’s not hospitality at its best, I don’t know what is. The small picturesque Catholic Church standing on the crest of the hill where the goats roam freely is not only enchanting but affords some of the best panoramic views of the Tobago Cays.
Walking down the hill on the other side towards Saline Bay is Robert’s ‘Righteous and the Youths’ restaurant. His quirky restaurant is a funky place to hang out and have a cold beer while nibbling on delicious curried conch.
Saline Bay is a wonderful wide anchorage with yet another gorgeous, palm-lined beach. On cruise ship days locals come down to the beach and sell T-shirts and sarongs, and picnic tables set amongst the trees are used by the cruise ship passengers by day, but in the evening the beach is deserted and a perfect place to hold a cruisers’ potluck. Snorkeling is good both to the north and the south of the bay with large boulders, vase coral and sea fans making for an interesting snorkel with colorful reef fish. Off the beach by the long dock is a path that leads across the salt pond (from which both Salt Whistle Bay and Saline Bay got their names) to a long stretch of beach on the windward side. Here you can comb the beach for sea beans or in settled conditions bring your own boat around and anchor in Windward Bay. The seabed is covered with starfish and good snorkeling can be found at the entrance to the bay and to the east. Windward Bay is part of the Tobago Cays National Park so fishing here is prohibited.
Mayreau, as yet relatively unaffected by development, is one of the few islands that still hold their original Caribbean charm. If you are looking for lazy days on the beach, a good place to swim and snorkel, and friendly people on an island with a truly Caribbean feel, then visit Mayreau, but don’t tell everyone about it or you will spoil its magic.
Rosie Burr and Sim Hoggarth are cruising the Caribbean aboard their Corbin 39, Alianna. They have traveled through 23 countries and more than 12,000 miles in six years. Visit their blog at www.yacht.alianna.co.uk.
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