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Top Martinique Tourist Attractions

Fort-de-France courthouse
Statue of Victor Schoelcher in front of former Fort-de-France courthouse.© 2017 Scott S. Bateman

Martinique tourist attractions include the capital city of Fort-de-France, Mont Pelée, Fort Saint Louis and the remarkable Schoelcher Library.

It also is know for the former city of St. Pierre, where 30,000 residents were killed in 1902 by the volcanic eruption of Mont Pelee.

Cruise and resort visitors alike can find plenty to see in Fort-de-France on a walking tour starting at the waterfront. The city has many historical and architectural tourist attractions that are photographic and educational.

Although English-speaking visitors can tour the city on their own, a French-speaking guide may be worth the price because English is not commonly spoken by locals. Guided walking tours cost about $45 to $50 depending on the time of year and other factors.

1) Schoelcher Library

One of the top sightseeing attractions of Fort-de-France is the Bibliotheque Schoelcher (Schoelcher Library).

The Romanesque-Byzantine building was constructed more than 100 years ago for the Paris Exposition of 1889, after which it was dismantled and shipped to Martinique. The library’s unique design is a popular photo opportunity.

The library is named for Victor Schoelcher, a French abolitionist who helped end slavery on the island in 1848. The building is located by La Savane, the city’s central park.

2) Fort Saint Louis

The massive fort on a rocky peninsula just to the east of Fort-de-France is hard to miss for cruise visitors.

They can walk off the docks and go right several hundred yards to reach the fort, which has origins dating back to the 17th century. It is still in use as a naval base today. Visitors can tour the fort but not the base.

3) La Savane

Schoelcher library
Schoelcher library. © 2017 Scott S. Bateman

La Savane is a 12-acre public park right in between the Schoelcher Library and Fort Saint Louis. It is most known for a statue of Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, because vandals chopped off the statue’s head.

The park also has statues of Pierre Belain d’Esnambuc, the French nobleman who claimed the island for France in 1635, and another one of Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, who was born in Trois Ilets across the bay and became Napoleon’s Empress Josephine.

Also nearby are the Cathedral of Saint-Louis, the Palais de Justice with a statue of Victor Schoelcher and the Musee Departemental with archaeological exhibits from early Martinique.

4) Mont Pelée

Martinique has several popular tourist attractions outside of Fort-de-France that require some transportation to reach them. One of them is Mont Pelée.

Mont Peléeis a renowned volcano and the highest peak on the island at 4,500 feet. The site is a National Biological Reserve with views of both the Atlantic ocean and the Caribbean sea on clear days. A summit trail is available for experienced hikers.

5) St. Pierre

St-Pierre, located north on the Caribbean coast, was the “Paris of the West Indies” until 1902 when the Mont Pelée volcano erupted and destroyed the city. A museum located there has details and displays about the disaster.

One-hour tours on weekdays and half-hour tours during weekends cost about $6 Euro for adults and $3 Euro for children. The fee includes train fare via the Cyparis Express and the tour.

6) Beaches

Popular beaches include Anse Dufour, Grande Anse d’Arlet, Plage des Salines and Le Diamant. Black sand beaches include Le Carbet and St Pierre. Grande Anse is the most famous of the bunch.

Because the island is a French overseas territory, topless sunbathing is legal and common.

7) Larouche’s Creek Garden

Habitation Latouche was built in 1643 and is one of the oldest plantation estates of Martinique. The eruption of Mont Pelée destroyed it in 1902, but many ruins remain.

Jean Philippe Thoze, founder of the Balata Botanical Garden, has turned the grounds of Habitation Latouche into a garden where history and nature are intertwined.

The garden is located in Carbet, Paul Gauguin’s favorite village on the Caribbean coast. Open from 10 am to 5 p.m.

8) Sea Gardens

Mont Pelée
Mont Pelée plays a major role in Martinique history. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Les Jardins de la Mer is an aquatic park where the island’s main ecosystems are presented. Visitors will learn about the six water biotopes: the river, the swamp, the laguna, the mangrove, the reef and the coral reef laguna through a combination of learning, interacting and exploring.

A picnic area and kayaking are available. The park is open from Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

9) Scuba Diving

A medical certificate is required to go scuba diving. In general, initiation lessons are provided at hotel pools. Experienced divers only need to present their license. Suggested dive locations: shipwrecks off the coast of Saint-Pierre or the coral reefs off the Caribbean coast. Shipwrecks include those sunk by the eruption of Mont Pelée in 1902.

10) Le Precheur

Le Prêcheur offers the Anse Céron beach beneath the ruins of Habitation Céron. It also is the starting point of a six-hour hike that goes to Grand-Rivière on the Atlantic coast, at the northernmost point of the island.

11) Rum Distilleries

Martinique attractions include many rum distilleries because of sugar cane that grows on the island.

The rums have been awarded the prestigious French label “appellation d’origine contrôlée,” previously reserved only for French cheeses and wines. Tours are available at many of the distilleries.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the America.

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February 11, 2021