Marie-Galante is a popular day trip from Grande-Terre (regularly scheduled ferry and air service is available). It's different enough from the main islands in the archipelago, though, that it's worth an overnight stay. Marie-Galant is agricultural and rural, with a charm unspoiled by mass tourism. Most of the island is made up of sugarcane fields. Only one sugar mill is still active (at Grande Anse), but three rum distilleries are operating (you can visit both Bielle and Poisson and sample the wares). Many of the island residents are boatbuilders and fishermen.
A road circles the island and connects the three towns of Capesterre (pop. 6,000), St. Louis (pop. 4,000) and Grand-Bourg (the largest, pop. 10,000). As you explore the island, you'll find golden-sand beaches rimmed by profusions of hibiscus, alamanda and bougainvillea. Charming little houses with colorful gardens and bright red roofs are terraced up the hillsides—there are even a few rare wattle houses still standing. You might even see traditional oxcarts transporting sugarcane for the production of rum. The ruins of windmills—72 in all—are everywhere.
In Grand-Bourg, see the Trianon and Roussel houses and the baroque 18th-century church. Also stop by the studio/gallery of Armand Baptiste, a young sculptor whose works are in the collections of several French presidents and noted galleries throughout the world.
The Gueule du Grand Gouffre (Mouth of the Great Abyss) is a grotto on the northern coast formed by ocean waves. Other natural wonders include La Grande Barre (a high green ridge dividing the island) and the Trou au Diable (Devil's Hole), a sea-level grotto with stalactites. Hikers will enjoy relatively easy forays along the coast, as well as along the plateaus of the interior. Especially rewarding is a climb to the top of the highest point on the island, 670-ft/204-m Morne Constant, or just motoring along empty roads, discovering the tiny haunts and eccentricities of this timeless place. The local people are very friendly and love to chat with visitors. 15 mi/24 km south of Grande-Terre.
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