Named after an 18th-century British naval officer, Rodney Bay is one of St Lucia's best-known tourist hubs. A large horseshoe bay on the island's northern tip, it's connected to the national park of Pigeon Island via a manmade causeway. I visited last December when the temperature was around 28°C, and the water was just as warm.
Golden sands at Reduit Beach
At the southern end of the Rodney Bay, a strip of hotels sits back from the shore at Reduit Beach. Here, you can step out of your hotel and sink your toes into a mile of golden sand.
Staying at the Royal by Rex Resorts , my partner Tommy and I had expansive sea views from our luxury suite. For our first couple of days, we swam in the bath-warm sea, sipped pina coladas in beach bars, and ate authentic goat curry at local food shacks. The hotel also had a free-form pool with a swim-up bar, which we checked-out during the early evening happy hour.
Escape to Pigeon Island
After two days of beach bumming, we were ready to experience more. Opposite Reduit Beach, at the northern end of Rodney Bay, is Pigeon Island. With twin peaks and a ruined fort, we'd been gazing across the water at it since we'd arrived.
Originally isolated from St Lucia, Pigeon Island was connected to the mainland in 1972. If you're staying at the northern end of Rodney Bay at Sandals Resort, you can walk to the island via the causeway but, from Reduit Beach, it's easier to take a water taxi.
A wave of tranquillity
"See you in a few hours, man."
Our taxi-boat driver said as he dropped us off on the island. Stepping ashore, I felt a wave of tranquillity wash over me. The island sees a regular trickle of day-trippers but is a far cry from busy Reduit Beach.
Protected under National Park status, guests are asked to pay an entrance fee (EC$10), so we set off down a tree-lined track to check-in at the visitor centre.
An open air museum
Originally occupied by Indigenous Americans, Pigeon Island was captured by pirates, and later by the French who, in 1778, declared war on the British during the American War of Independence.
The British won, captured the island, and used it as a Naval base. British Admiral Rodney now had a fantastic vantage point from which to monitor the French fleet in Martinique. As a result, he defeated the French in 1872 during the Battle of the Saintes.
Today, ruined barracks, forts and cannons and scattered across the island, which is small enough to tour in half a day – although I'd recommend a full day to appreciate it.
Starting near the visitor centre, Tommy and I explored the barracks which, shortly after they were built, were damaged in a hurricane. Creeping inside the ruins, we tried to imagine what life would have been like for 18th-century soldiers in the Caribbean's humid and stormy conditions.
Continuing to the island's southwest tip, we climbed a steep set of steps to reach the ruins of Fort Rodney. Panting as we climbed the final step, we were rewarded with the same panoramic view that gave Admiral Rodney his advantage over the French.
Gazing west towards the Caribbean Sea and east across the Atlantic Ocean, we picked out the yachts heading towards the bay's safe anchorage. Some of these would have sailed all the way from Europe, travelling for several days or even weeks to cross the ocean.
Looking south gave us a sweeping view of Reduit Beach, and twenty-five miles to the north was the island of Martinique, where the French were based in the late 1700s.
"...this is the post the Governor of Martinique had set his eye on..."
Wrote Admiral Rodney in 1780, continuing:
"...and if possessed by the enemy would deprive us of the best anchorage place in these islands and from which Martinique is always attackable..."
As we explored the rest of the island, winding paths led us past fragrant lemongrass, clambering vines and tropical foliage. Heading for the highest point, Signal Peak (330 feet), we passed a trail of other ruins that included the sunken Musket Redoubt – here the soldiers were hidden from view so they could protect the island's ridge from surprise attack.
After all that hiking, it was time for a break, so we headed to the Jambe De Bois restaurant for fresh milkshakes and ice-cold lemonade.
We spent our final hour snorkelling in the shallows and bathing on the sandy beach. When a "rum boat" came ashore, it took all our willpower to resist ordering a fresh coconut punch as, with our taxi-boat due to arrive, happy hour was awaiting us back at our hotel's pool bar.
An essential St Lucia day trip
Whether you're based in Rodney Bay, or are further south in St Lucia, Pigeon Island is well worth a day of your holiday. An essential insight to St Lucia's colonial history, it's one of the Caribbean's most important historic landmarks, and an easy escape from Reduit Beach.