St. George’s is the capital of Grenada, and French settlers founded St. George’s as a settlement in 1650. St. George’s surrounds a horseshoe-shaped harbor called the Carenage, which sits in the caldera of an ancient volcano.
Like all of the islands in the Eastern Caribbean chain, Grenada was created by volcanic forces produced by the collision of the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate. Grenada is composed of five volcanos, the youngest of which is Mount Saint Catherine on the northern end of the island. The most recent volcanic activity occurred at Kick ‘Em Jenny, an underwater volcano 5 miles north of Grenada; during June 5-8, 1384 earthquakes with magnitudes as high as 1.8 were recorded. Needless to say, Kick ‘Em Jenny is a marine hazard that is carefully avoided when sailing in the area!
Our marina sits in a lagoon directly south of the Carenage, so it is also in the caldera. It is only a 15-minute walk or five-minute bus ride to the heart of the Carenage action.
The Carenage used to serve the point of arrival for both cruise ships and container ships, and I honestly can’t imagine how cruise ships managed to maneuver in such a confined space. The harbor is about 600 feet wide and carries surprising depths almost all the way to the bank. However, a new cruise ship terminal was built on the western coast of St. George’s, so now cruise ships dock there, and the Carenage serves solely as a shipping port.
The harbor itself is full of all kinds of working boats, including colorful skiffs, rugged fishing boats, inter-island ferries (for both people and goods), and small container ships.
The larger boats pull alongside the stone harbor walls and tie off to bollards or rings, and the smaller boats anchor or moor a little farther out. Fishing boats will raft together, sometimes three-deep.
Fishermen come right up to the harbor walls, lay down a piece of plywood, and chop up fish to sell to passers-by.
Because it is a working port, the shops immediately surrounding the Carenage reflect that practicality. If you want to sip a latte and watch the beautiful people stroll by, you are in the wrong place.
Ringing the harbor are hardware stores, a lumber store, a tackle shop, a paint store, a Pizza Hut (really?), a grocery store, a pharmacy, and other small shops. Cars and delivery trucks park haphazardly and wherever they can, which can include the sidewalk. There is a constant buzz of traffic and commerce.
To find the “fun” shops and restaurants, you have to venture away from the Carenage and onto bustling streets like Young Street and Melville Street, which essentially run perpendicularly to the road around the Carenage. The streets leading away from the Carenage are very steep, hilly, and narrow. Young Street gets so steep near the top that the sidewalk converts to stairs. As you walk up the streets surrounding the Carenage, you are essentially climbing out of the volcano’s mouth.
The sidewalks are frequently brick or stone, and there is an ankle-breakingly steep gutter that runs between the sidewalk and the road; sometimes this has a grate over it, and sometimes it doesn’t. Woe to any car or pedestrian that veers off course and into the ditch.
Traffic wardens are stationed at each intersection and make sure traffic is flowing smoothly and pedestrians have a fighting chance. Because these streets are closer to the cruise ship terminal and the vegetable and spice market, they are bustling with activity and full of shops that cater to visitors.
While a lot of the smaller shops and restaurants in St. George’s are open for business, virus restrictions are fundamentally impacting large attractions like the cruise ship terminal (and its many mall-type stores) and the vegetable and spice market. It’s a shame to see them shuttered, and we’re hoping that soon they will reopen.