With the fifth swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean film set to hit our big screens in 2017, Georgina Wilson-Powell sets sail for St Vincent and the Grenadines – and discovers there’s still plenty of rum left.
Thirteen years ago Pirates of the Caribbean cannonballed itself onto our screens, closely followed by a rum-soaked, staggering Johnny Depp as Cap’n Jack Sparrow. Aside from the hearty pirate myths it resurrected, its Caribbean backdrop brought the sleepy archipelago of St Vincent and the Grenadines to life for millions across the world.
The largest island and star attraction in the Grenadines, St Vincent plays the part of the fictional Port Royal in the Pirate films. Wallibou Bay is awash with memorabilia from the franchise and many of the locals were used as extras. The island’s stunning green harbour, Kingstown, has seen it all – it has ping-ponged between being French and British and is where infamous real pirate, Blackbeard, started out. You can hire your own wooden schooner (just like they used in the films) to tour the Grenadines with Scaramouche.
Away from the high seas there are plenty of adventures still to be had. You can hike up to the crater rim of the island’s volcano, La Soufriere; take in the majestic double waterfall, Dark View Falls or potter along various nature trails that crisscross the lush, lava-formed island.
Whichever way you turn in St Vincent you’ll be reminded of the Caribbean sea, with sandy beaches, hidden cays and even a Blue Lagoon. Diving and snorkelling here is some of the best in the world; the shallow reefs around Chateaubelair on the west coast attract a more diverse number of fish than much deeper reefs elsewhere in the world.
Rustic, laidback Bequia, just an hour’s ferry ride from St Vincent, is the alter ego of island playground Mustique. This thin zigzag of an island can be toured in a few hours but really you’d be missing the point. From the tiny harbour town of Port Elizabeth, you can stroll down the leeward side of the island to Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay – pristine paradises of white sand and azure clear sea, with driftwood bars dotted behind the tree line. It’s possible to hire the original wooden schooner, the Friendship Rose, and drift around the neighbouring Grenadines. You might not find any real treasure, but the islands are gold in their own right. Bob Dylan loved this boat so much that he had an exact replica commissioned.
Elsewhere on Bequia you can learn about the island’s other seafaring folk - the former whaling community - at a tiny museum at La Pompe. Today the island’s fishermen go out as they did in the time of the pirates: their brightly coloured boats adorned with religious sentiments, a net and a fishing rod and just a pair of oars. When there’s fish to be bought at the market in Port Elizabeth, a conch shell is blown, just as it was in times of pirates.
Nine miles southeast of Bequia sits the island of Mustique. Where Bequia is a little ramshackle and old fashioned, the chic private paradise of Mustique is often celebrated as the A-listers’ favourite winter getaway. With 100 villas and two hotels, exclusivity and privacy here are key – it’s the Jaggers’ home-from-home, David Bowie owned a house here and the Middletons are in town every year. Boaters can anchor off the coast and tender in for drinks at Basil’s Bar, the island’s most buzzing beachside hangout, known for its blues festival and electric New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The smaller Grenadine islands shouldn’t be overlooked. If you were a pirate looking to bury treasure, you’d pick one of these. In fact Petit Tabac in the Tobago Cays Marine Park is the deserted isle where Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann were abandoned in the first film. The whole of the Tobago Cays feels like real pirate territory. Shallow lagoons and small clutches of palms are perfect for hiding the odd casket or two of pirate bounty. Yacht tours offer day-long snorkelling and diving trips (or you can anchor your own boat at certain points), and the famous Horseshoe Reef and Baradel Turtle Sanctuary are both must-dos.
Young Island, just off the coast of St Vincent, is where Johnny Depp made his home when he was not being a pirate years ago. But it’s not the most remote resort in the Grenadines. Book into the private island of Petit St Vincent where there are no roads, phones or TV, and where you alert a member of staff by hoisting a flag. Palm Island also offers an amazing private island experience, where you can lounge with a cocktail in-hand just steps from the turquoise waters.
• A 7 night holiday to St Vincent and the Grenadines costs from £1,425 per person including flights, transfers and accommodation.