Martinique

Martinique is a wonderful blend of the French culture on a tropical island in the Caribbean. Enjoy its historic capital city, Fort-de-France, and then explore their beautiful southern coast. There is plenty of sun and beaches along the way.

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1 Skyline of Fort-de-France from Fort-de-France Bay, Martinique

Your first glance at Martinique might surprise you because high-rises are a rarity in the Caribbean islands. However, since 2012, the 21 floor, glass tower called Tour Pointe Simon has become the centerpiece of Fort-de-France Bay and the capital city. In front of it are a condominium and the cruise ship terminal. Although these modern complexes seem out of place, I assure you that most of the other 436 square miles of this Lesser Antilles’ island has maintained its historic and scenic charms.

3 Avenue Loulou Boilaville, Fort-de-France, Martinique
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2 Fort Saint Louis from Bay in Fort-de-France, Martinique

This view from Fort-de-France Bay shows the remnants of an enormous defensive wall that surrounds Fort Saint Louis. It took ten years during the 17th century to build this stone structure around the peninsula. It is 13 feet high and a very impressive 1,600 feet long.

Boulevard Alfassa & D42 Fort-de-France, Martinique
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3 Fort Saint Louis in Fort-de-France, Martinique

The first governor of Martinique ordered the building of a fortress in 1638 to protect the island. It was rebuilt in 1669 and then suffered numerous attacks by the Dutch and British for nearly 150 years. During its history, it has been called Fort Edward, Fort Royal and Fort de la Republique. Today, Fort Saint Louis is an active base for the French National Navy although portions of the historic fort can be toured.

Boulevard Alfassa & D42 Fort-de-France, Martinique
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4 Schoelcher Library in Fort-de-France, Martinique

This colorful, elaborate building was first constructed in France for the 1889 Paris Exposition. It was then dismantled, shipped and reassembled in downtown Fort-de-France. When it opened in 1893, it contained 10,000 books donated by Victor Schoelcher, the library’s namesake. He was a French political leader of the abolitionist movement during the 19th century. The collection now contains over 300,000 volumes.

Rue Victor Sévère & Rue Gouverneur-Général Félix Eboué, Fort-de-France, Martinique
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5 Saint Louis Cathedral’s Steeple in Fort-de-France, Martinique

Since 1657, six Catholic churches have existed on this site in downtown Fort-de-France but all were destroyed, usually by a natural disaster. The St. Louis Cathedral was built in 1895, restored in 1978 and was being refurbished in 2015. It is nicknamed the “Iron Cathedral” because of its iron beams designed to survive hurricanes and earthquakes. This steeple rises 187 feet.

Rue Victor Schoelcher & Rue Blenac, Fort-de-France, Martinique
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6 Statue of Beheaded Empress Joséphine in Fort-de-France, Martinique

Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie was born in Martinique in 1763 and, after her husband was guillotined, she became the wife of Napoléon Bonaparte and the Empress of the French. In her honor, this statue was erected in 1859 at the La Savane Park. Notice she is holding a rose, the name she preferred as a girl while living on a nearby sugar plantation. Also notice she is headless. This vandalism occurred in 1991 because of a bitter resentment for her encouraging the reinstatement of slavery in 1802. The red paint “blood” stains were added later.

Rue de la liberté & Avenue des Caraibes, Fort-de-France, Martinique
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7 Prefecture Government House in Fort-de-France, Martinique

Inscribed over the portico of Martinique’s Government House are the French words for “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” Although the island was first populated by the Arawaks and then the Caribs before being discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, it has been predominately French since they first arrived in 1635. Today it is an overseas department of France. As a result, it is part of the European Union, its currency is the euro and its population of about 400,000 people speak primarily French but also Creole.

Blanc BP 647/648 97262, Rue Louis, Fort-de-France, Martinique
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8 Îlet Duquesnay in Marin Bay near Le Marin, Martinique

While driving west along N5, I passed many sugar cane fields and rolling green hills before I got my first view of Cul-du-Sac du Marin. Just beyond these red-roofed buildings was a dock for small fishing boats and dinghies. In the middle of this tranquil water is an islet called Îlet Duquesnay.

Habitation la Duprey & N5, Le Marin, Martinique
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9 Sailboats in Cul-du-Sac du Marin in Le Marin, Martinique

These sailboats are anchored on laid moorings in Cul-du-Sac du Marin, a deep bay at the southern end of the island near the town of Le Marin. But don’t let this peaceful view deceive you because nearby this harbor is the yachting capital of Martinique. Its marina has over 600 berths.

Marina du Marin, Boulevard Allegre, Le Marin, Martinique
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10 Launching Yole Sailboats for Regatta in Le Marin, Martinique

The marina at Le Marin is an active hub for yachts and charter boats plus restaurants along the waterfront that attract the younger crowd. But it is especially busy during regattas. On this Sunday in March, local crews worked hard to hoist their colorful sails before launching their yoles. These wooden boats are modeled after traditional Martinican fishing vessels. This town also hosts two annual events in June and August that attracts top competition from around the world.

Rue de la Liberte & Rue Victor Schoelcher, Le Marin, Martinique
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11 Eglise Saint-Etienne Church in Le Marin, Martinique

Most people visit the village of Le Marin in southern Martinique for its beaches and marina but in the center of town is Église Saint-Etienne. This lovely Jesuit Church of St. Etienne was built in stone in 1766. Notice the roofline. It is shaped like the hull of an overturned boat. This is more pronounced on the vault inside. It is also unique among Martinican churches because it is the only one on the island with an adjacent bell tower.

Église Saint-Étienne du Marin 4 Rue Victor Schoelcher, Le Marin, Martinique
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12 Royal Poinciana on Island of Flowers at Le Marin, Martinique

Martinique is known as “Île aux Fleurs” meaning the “Island of Flowers.” Every spring you can see a kaleidoscope of blooming colors that justify this nickname. One example is the bright red petals of the Royal Poinciana growing along the roadside. Also called the Flamboyant, this tropical wildflower makes a perfect picture frame for the sailboats moored in Cul-du-Sac du Marin.

Marina du Marin, Boulevard Allegre, Le Marin, Martinique
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13 Boats Moored at Pointe du Marin near Sainte-Anne, Martinique

There is something so relaxing about watching tethered boats as they bob and sway on a calm bay like Pointe du Marin. Perhaps it is their promise of adventure on the Caribbean Sea. Or maybe their ability to take you fishing or scuba diving. Or the invigoration as the trade winds fills your colorful sails. Or, best of all, it is the peaceful solitude you enjoy while on vacation and thousands of miles away from reality.

Basilc Beach, Cité Pointe Marin, Sainte-Anne, Martinique
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14 Water Aerobics at Pointe Marin near Sainte-Anne, Martinique

These women at a water aerobics class in the shallow waters of Pointe Marin did not seem to be working very hard on their resistance training. But somehow their eyes could not resist staring at the buff and tanned instructor. At least their eyes were getting a good workout.

Pointe du Marin, 97227, Sainte Anne, France
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15 Shade Trees at Ponte Marin near Sainte-Anne, Martinique

Typical of the islands on the Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, Martinique has a tropical climate with a year-round temperature in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit. Most days are sunny, especially during the dry season that runs from December through May. When it does rain, it is often a quick sprinkle followed by more sun. In short, a day at the beach gets hot. Therefore, it is a welcome relief to find rows of shade trees similar to these at Ponte Marin.

Pointe du Marin, 97227, Sainte Anne, France
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16 Elevated View at Bay of Marin near Sainte-Anne, Martinique

Between Le Marin and the borough of Sainte-Anne on the southeastern coast of Martinique is the beachfront along the Bay of Marin. It tends to attract mostly tourists from nearby resorts, the closest of which is Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek. Although the beach does not have a lot of amenities like restrooms, you can rent jet skis and Hobie Cats if you are the type who can’t just sit on the sand all day.

Rue Jean Marie Tjibaou & Rue Mano Germe, Sainte-Anne, Martinique
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17 Top Rated Salines Beach near Sainte-Anne, Martinique

One look at Salines Beach and it is easy to see why it is always rated as one of the top beaches, if not the best, in Martinique. Located along the southern tip of the island near the town of Sainte-Anne, the peninsula offers a kilometer of white sand facing the Caribbean Sea. This section, called Grande Anse des Salines, is the most popular. It can get crowded mid-day, especially on weekends, but once you find a place to park you will enjoy every minute of this tropical paradise.

Les 97227, Pnt des Salines, Sainte-Anne, Martinique
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18 Crooked Coconut Tree at Salines Beach near Sainte-Anne, Martinique

Visiting a beach in Martinique is like spending a day on the French Riviera. The sand is flawless and stretches forever. The water is calm, warm and a beautiful shade of aquamarine. Families play together, couples go for a romantic stroll, seniors sit in the shade while young adults bask in the sun. And the sounds of the beautiful French language are everywhere.

Les 97227, Pnt des Salines, Sainte-Anne, Martinique
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19 Women Playing Paddleball at Salines Beach near Sainte-Anne, Martinique

It is not uncommon to see people playing games on a beach but rarely have I ever seen anyone who was as professional and competitive as these two women playing paddleball at Salines Beach. Their volleys seemed endless. The French woman in the foreground would physically do anything to make a shot and each of her nearly impossible movements seemed effortless.

Les 97227, Pnt des Salines, Sainte-Anne, Martinique
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20 Reading Book in Hammock at Salines Beach near Sainte-Anne, Martinique

Picture this. You are on vacation at a Caribbean Island. You have left behind your computer, cell phone and worries. You have found a gorgeous beach where it is warm and sunny with only a few puffy clouds floating by. Beneath a grove of coconut trees is this hammock. You crawl in, lay back and begin to sway while reading a great book. Any questions?

Les 97227, Pnt des Salines, Sainte-Anne, Martinique
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21 Grande Terre des Salines Beach near Sainte-Anne, Martinique

The main section of Salines Beach tends to be crowded. If you prefer more solitude, then head towards Grande Terre des Salines. It is a bit more rugged, the sand is not as well-groomed and there is lots more wild vegetation. But I guarantee you will find the perfect spot to watch the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline and to stare at the Cabrit Islet that sits off shore.

Pnt des Salines, Sainte-Anne, Martinique
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22 Girl Playing in the Sand at Anse Corps de Garde near Sainte Luce , Martinique

Anse Corps de Garde, a beach along the southern coast of Martinique near the town of Sainte Luce, is designed for families. Both tourists and locals not only enjoy the long stretch of shore along the gentle Caribbean Sea, but also the amenities such as restrooms, lifeguards and restaurants. Children especially love the nautical center and water toys like this giant inflated pier. But sometimes just digging in the sand with your bucket is the perfect way to spend your time.

Base Nautique sur la plage de Corps de Garde, Sainte-Luce 97228, Martinique
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23 Shade Trees at Anse Corps de Garde near Sainte Luce , Martinique

The beach at Anse Corps de Garde near Sainte Luce is typically busy so if you were looking for a little solitude then this might not be your best bet. But if you are there, and your family is busy playing at the nautical center, then take a stroll towards the western end. There you will find a grove of seagrape trees that offer plenty of shade while you quietly watch the rolling surf.

Base Nautique sur la plage de Corps de Garde, Sainte-Luce 97228, Martinique
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24 Isolated Rocky Beach near La Cherry, Martinique

If you are looking for isolation while in southern Martinique, then try to find the twin beaches near the village of La Cherry and the Pointe du Marigot. You’ll need to walk down a deserted road, up to the barrier of a closed and crumbling resort and then along a dirt path covered with shrubs. But the views along this rocky shore are worth every step. I guarantee you’ll enjoy every minute of your total seclusion.

Pnt du Marigot, Le Diamant, Martinique
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25 Diamond Rock and Morne Larcher from Beach near La Cherry, Martinique

From this vantage point at a beach near La Cherry at the far eastern end of Grande Anse du Diamant is where you can get your first look at the twin landmarks along the southern coast of Martinique. On the left is Le Rocher du Diamant which is better known as Diamond Rock. On the right is Le Morne Larcher, a mountain that peaks at 1,568 feet. Both were formed by volcanoes.

Residence la Canonniere, Le Diamant, Martinique
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26 Grande Anse du Diamant in Le Diamant, Martinique

This couple is having lots of romantic fun playing in the waves at Grande Anse du Diamant. Better known as Diamond Beach, it is one of the prettiest and most popular on the island. The flawless sand stretches nearly two miles so despite the occasional crowds you can always find a spot of your own. Its only downside is the strong currents. If you go for a dip in the warm water you are advised to stay close to shore.

Allée des Pommes Cannelle & Rue des Arawaks, Le Diamant, Martinique
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27 Anse Caffard Memorial near Le Diamant, Martinique

These fifteen shadowy figures at the top of a grassy, windswept hill are marching blindly towards the sea. The eight-foot concrete statues by Laurent Valére are a memorial to the 42 slaves who drowned in 1830 while chained to a cargo hall as their ship smashed into nearby Diamond Rock Mountain. The Anse Caffard Memorial, also called Cap 110, was erected near Le Diamant on the 150th anniversary of the emancipation of slavery.

Cap 110 Route de l'anse Caffard, Le Diamant, Martinique
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28 Diamond Rock Amongst Crashing Waves near Le Diamant, Martinique

Diamond Rock proudly sits in the Caribbean Sea almost two miles from the southern coastline. This old volcanic plug peaks at about 574 feet. This uninhabited islet is one of about fifty that surrounds Martinique but clearly it is the most famous one. The waters around it are a favorite among scuba divers. This photo was taken along the cliffs at the Anse Caffard Memorial.

Cap 110 Route de l'anse Caffard, Le Diamant, Martinique
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29 Military History of Diamond Rock near Le Diamant, Martinique

In 1803, the British built a garrison on this small island and then armed it with cannons as a way to defend the St. Lucia Straits. They called the stronghold Fort Diamond. During the Napoleonic Wars, French naval ships repeatedly attacked it without success. Then, according to folklore, they floated barrels of rum towards the island and waited until the 107 British soldiers were inebriated before overpowering them. It still is French territory called Le Rocher du Diamant.

Cap 110 Route de l'anse Caffard, Le Diamant, Martinique
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30 Shoreline and Morne Jacqueline in Petite Anse, Martinique

A major highlight of Martinique is to drive along the southern coast. The road weaves in and around small villages with gorgeous beaches that overlook their own bay. Each town is outlined by a mountain that fingers to a point into the Caribbean Sea. A perfect example is Petite Anse with its view of Morne Jacqueline. Its summit peaks at 495 feet.

D37 & Rue des Gommiers, Les Anses-d'Arlet, Martinique
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31 Overlooking Seaside Town of Les Anses-d’Arlet, Martinique

This quaint, seaside village is Les Anses-d’Arlet. Its historic centerpiece is the Church of Saint Henri. It is named after Henri Larcher who donated money to rebuild the original structure from 1762 after it was destroyed by the British. In 2007 it was damaged by a hurricane but it has been lovingly restored. In the background is Morne Champagne. This mount has hiking paths that provide fabulous views of the town plus Great Anse Bay and Pointe Burgos.

Church of St Henry of Les Anses-d'Arlet, 1-7 D37, Les Anses-d'Arlet, Martinique
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32 Marching Band and Dancers in Fort-de-France, Martinique

Music and dance play a vital role in Martinique, especially during the Vaval carnival festivals leading up to Ash Wednesday when you’ll see numerous marching bands accompanied by dancers in colorful costumes. Their traditional folk music has been the inspiration for several unique types of music, including chouval bwa, zouk, gwo ka and biguine. This ensemble was performing along the cruise ship dock.

3 Avenue Loulou Boilaville, Fort-de-France, Martinique
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33 Departing Cruise Ship Port at Fort-de-France, Martinique

As your cruise ship leaves port at Fort-de-France, you get one last look at the brown and beige clock tower of Saint Louis Cathedral. It has stood proudly in the center of the city’s historic district since the late 19th century. As the French say, “au revoir” which means “until we meet again.” This seems like an appropriate farewell because one of Martinique’s slogans is “Pays des revenants” or the “Land to which one returns.”

3 Avenue Loulou Boilaville, Fort-de-France, Martinique
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