Reason-to-Visit Grenada #3: Ferry ride to Carriacou & Petite Martinique
We discovered many reasons to vacation in the Caribbean country of Grenada: gorgeous beaches, delicious, fresh seafood, welcoming people, and spectacular tropical flowers and scenery. But our official Island Runaways “Reason to Visit Grenada #3”? It’s simple: for one plane fare, you almost get three islands for the price of one. Let me explain what I’m talking about. The country of Grenada consists of three islands: Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique. From Grenada’s capital, St. George’s, you can get a ferry to beautiful, unspoiled Carriacou, or the even more rustic (and totally untouristy) Petite Martinique, with a population of 1,000 people.
(On the ferry from Grenada's capital. Photo by Zickie Allgrove.)
So, after three nights on Grenada itself, Zickie and I drove our rental car to St. George’s, where the kindly rental car lady met us, right beside the ferry embarkation point. This was a Saturday morning, and we were anxious not to be late, since there was only one ferry a day. (There’s also a small plane service run by SVG Airlines that takes visitors to Carriacou as well.)
The Osprey Ferry service was running their larger boat that day. Carriacouans, nicknamed Kayaks or Kayacs lined up with foreign tourists like ourselves to board the boat. Many locals took large bundles and packages of goods; stores on Carriacou carry a very limited selection of everything, so a visit to Grenada entails replenishing provisions. In fact, so many barrels and packages needed to be brought onboard that we were late departing. Zickie and I just sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the sunny skies: we were on island time. No point in stressing out about a little delay.
(Leaving St. George's on the ferry. Photo by Zickie Allgrove.)
As the ferry pulled away from St. George’s harbor, many of the passengers on the upper deck stood up and watched. It was a stunning view, with the church spires, historic buildings, and fishing boats receding into the distance. Truly, this was one of the most striking island experiences I’ve ever had, in terms of scenery.
(Fellow passengers on the ferry. Photo by Zickie Allgrove.)
Then we settled in for the journey. Downstairs the ferry ran a snackbar. We bought cold sodas and sipped them on the upper deck as we watched the coast of Grenada to the east of us. The sea was roll-y, but not unbearable. We passed a sailboat and waved.
(The sailboat we passed. Photo by Zickie Allgrove.)
Since I can be plagued by seasickness, I had brought my seasickness wristbands and put them on before we left the harbor. (Ever since I fell seasick on a ferry ride from Ft. Meyers, Florida to Key West, I make sure to wear these on any boat trip. They work – for me, at any rate.) The other thing I was glad to have brought was sunscreen. Grenada is fairly close to the equator, at least compared to my native Florida, and the sun felt quite intense. I smothered myself in SPF 50, and later was very glad I did! (Poor Zickie, wearing flip flops, got a sunburn on his feet. Ouch!) On the other hand, my hat was stuffed in our luggage somewhere down in the hold. But my hat might have blown off my head, because the wind bucked up once we moved away from land.
An older group of our fellow passengers stood by the back rail and goofed off. They danced around, joked, and watched the boat toss on the increasingly large waves. Here’s my travel tip if you’re not accustomed to boats and find yourself bobbing in high seas: Don’t watch the boat itself, not even the railings, if you can possibly help it. Keep your eyes on the horizon. Take good breaths of air. For goodness sakes, DON’T lie down. Some people do better below deck where there's less movement, but I personally feel much better with fresh sea air against my face.
(Beyond Grenada's northern tip. Photo by Zickie Allgrove.)
When the ferry finally moved beyond Grenada’s northern tip, the sea kicked up in earnest. Sea water roared over the top deck once, twice, then three times, drenching people sitting on that side. The crew came around with paper bags to those who wanted them. It took me a minute to realize what they were -- seasickness bags.
Some members of the foreign group who’d been joking around at the stern became ill. Since I myself felt a little queasy, I stood up beside my chair, held on tightly, and watched the horizon as hard as I could. This began to help. I also took deep, steady breaths.
“Is this normal?” I said out loud. Out of all the information I’d read in guidebooks about the ferry to Carriacou, none of them had mentioned anything, anything about it being such a rough crossing. Zickie asked one of the crew as he strode by if this was normal. The answer? No. Apparently, seas can be somewhat rougher that time of year (early January) but the fact was that the conditions that day were unusually harsh. Lucky us!
(Massive tanker we passed at sea. Photo by Zickie Allgrove.)
At one point, an oil tanker appeared on the horizon. We were going to cross paths, and soon. The ferry slowed slightly to let the massive vessel proceed before us. The huge ship made quite an impression on all of us. Soon we began to spot rocky outcroppings, little uninhabited islets, and finally Carriacou itself! I felt like cheering. What a relief to spy land.
We also noticed that the captain had slowed down slightly, to ride with the wave lengths. That made the journey feel more bearable, too. At last we spotted Hillsborough, Carriacou’s main town, and the almost surreally blue water. Everyone on board perked up and started to gather up their belongings. I couldn’t wait to get off the boat!
(Arrival at Hillsborough. Hooray! Photo by Laura Albritton.)
We clambered off the boat and I thanked the crew members sincerely. They had all been very professional and helpful. The captain obviously was experienced at navigating these waters, and his ship was in good condition. Maybe the voyage hadn't been the smoothest, but we felt as though we were in safe hands the entire time.
Once we started to explore Carriacou, I knew that the ferry ride had been 100% worth it. And one rather cool thing to emerge from our rough crossing from Grenada to Carriacou: we foreign travelers who had rode over together developed a sense of camaraderie. At one café, we ran into the nicest English couple from the boat and had a terrific chat. Another night at dinner, we chatted with a younger couple whom we’d also seen on the ferry. (They’d been intelligent enough to wear hats and take Dramamine!)
The best part? On the way back to Grenada the seas were much easier, and Zickie and I could really enjoy the journey. In retrospect, our bouncy ferry ride over was a little adventure, the kind of experience we'll always remember, along with the beauty of both Grenada and its little sister, charming Carriacou.