Friday, May 08, 2009


Mustique - Romantic Island of the Grenadines

Mustique is one of the islands in the St. Vincent and The Grenadines chain in the southeastern portion of the Caribbean. The entire island is owned by the Mustique Company, who rent or lease its 89 private villas, of which 57 are available for weekly rentals. There are also 2 privately owned hotels. Because of its luxury and isolation, Mustique has attracted a number of celebrities, including the late Princess Margaret, Bill Gates, Mick Jagger and David Bowie.

The island, 3 miles long and 1,5 miles wide at its widest point, is hilly, with a large plain in the north and is essentially composed of seven valleys each with a white sand beach and wooded hills that rise to a height of 495 feet. The island covers 1,400 acres (5.7 km) and it has a coral reef. The population of about 500 live in the villages of Lovell, Britannia Bay and Dover.

The history of the island of Mustique goes back to the fifteenth century when Spanish sailors first sighted a group of islands naming them ‘Los Pajoros’ or ‘the birds’ as they resembled a flock of tiny birds in flight. In the seventeenth century the islands were renamed The Grenadines by pirates who used the sheltered bays to hide their ships and treasure. The Grenadines were later utilised by European planters to grow sugar. During the 1700s, Mustique was heavily defended by the British against the possibility of French invaders and remains of three forts can still be seen.

The sugar-based economy of the Grenadines prospered until the sugar beet usurped West Indian cane as the major source of sugar. A rapid decay of life in Mustique began and the seven sugar plantations were overgrown by encroaching jungle. The only survivor was the sugar mill at Endeavour and its “Cotton House”.

Mustique was eventually purchased in 1958 by Lord Glenconner under whose guidance the island began to thrive once again. His private estate began to flourish and in 1964 the new village of Lovell was created. Four years later the land supported a 250-acre plantation of Sea Island cotton. Groves of coconut palms were cultivated and limes, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and vegetables were being exported. The wild livestock was brought under control and a fishing industry, largely worked by men from Bequia, expanded. Mustique was virtually self-supporting.

The island remained relatively quiet although its reputation as an idyllic getaway was growing. HRH The Princess Margaret had accepted Lord Glenconner’s generous gift of a ten-acre plot of land as a wedding present in 1960 on which she built a magnificent residence, ‘Les Jolies Eaux.’ There followed a steady flow of visitors, many rich and famous and Mustique soon became famous as a Caribbean hideaway.

In 1968, The Mustique Company was formed and a new era began. They entered into a development agreement with the St. Vincent government which covered plans to encourage tourism and the building of no more than 140 private homes. This transformed Mustique from a family estate into a community of people dedicated to maintaining and enhancing their shares of the land for generations to come.

In 1969 the airport was opened, the first new villas were built and the old Cotton House opened as an inn. Improvements continued, including new roads, reliable electricity and communications, a desalination plant, a medical clinic and air transport services. An educational trust provides local children with schooling and a medical trust provides all islanders with medical insurance.

The best way to see the island for the energetic is on foot; however there are a few taxis available in Lovell Village and at the airport. Most visitors get around on one of the rental Mules, which is a heavy duty golf cart. There are also a few low-powered motorbikes available for rent.

With a harbour front focal point, the fishing village of Britannia Bay is the commercial heart of the island. There is a grocery store and a general store. The Sweetie Pie Bakery –French run– is a good place to stock up on baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolate. Basil’s Bar & Restaurant furnishes the night life. A visit to their Wednesday night barbecue buffet is a must, as is staying for the “jump up”! The annual Mustique Blues Festival, is held at the bar.

Macaroni Bay is one of the most popular beaches on the island’s East Coast. There is a covered picnic area here and the swimming is delightful. On the West and North Coasts there are four beaches. Endeavour Bay has good swimming and snorkeling conditions. Gelliceaux Bay is one of the ten marine conservation areas in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These areas are important marine habitats set aside for special management. The snorkeling here is sublime. L’Ansecoy Bay is a wide beach located at the north end of the island. Offshore lies the jutting hulk of the French liner Antilles, which went aground in 1971. If you follow the southward road out of the village of Britannia Bay and then the shoreline path, you will happen upon Lagoon Bay, a perfect beach with perfect swimming conditions.

Britannia Bay - Although rather roily, Britannia Bay is the only suitable anchorage in Mustique. The water is sparkling clear and is wonderful for snorkeling and swimming. Take care entering by boat as the Montezuma Shoal (just west of the bay) is quite hazardous. There is a red and black beacon on the reef, stay at least 1/4 of a mile away.

Michael Russell - EzineArticles Expert Author

Michael Russell
Your Independent guide to Travel