Dominica's capital, Roseau, 20 mi/32 km south of Portsmouth, is a relatively good-sized town in the southwestern section of the island, though it's still small enough to be seen in an hour or two. You may still hear residents talk about the damage that was done to Roseau by Hurricane David in 1979 or by the more recent beast, Hurricane Maria in 2017.
If any good came of the 1979 storm, it was that some of the town was rebuilt in a charming vintage-Caribbean style. It's more attractive now than it was before David struck, with many West Indian wooden buildings with gingerbread trim and balconies. (The balconies provide much-needed shelter from frequent rain showers.)
Several historic buildings can be seen in the historic center of town. Fort Young, built in 1770, is now a hotel. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Fair Haven was built in the mid-1800s, and its original stained-glass windows are still intact. The Public Library was built in 1905 with funds from American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Unfortunately, both the cathedral and the library are closed indefinitely due to damage from Hurricane Maria.
The Dominica Museum contains exhibits on a wide array of subjects related to the island, from geology to history to anthropology. There are vintage photographs, engravings and sketches, Arawak pottery and a replica of a Kalinago hut at the museum, which is closed Sunday.
Roseau's historic city center is also home to the Old Market, which is great for local crafts and souvenirs, and some traditional, eclectic architecture along King George V Street.
Take some time to snoop in the shops and stop at the handicraft centers. The vegetable market (sometimes called the New Market) on the north end of Bay Street is authentic, not just a show put on for tourist photographers. The best times to go are on Friday night and Saturday morning.
Just east of town at the foot of Morne Bruce Hill, you'll find the beautiful Botanical Gardens that date to the 1800s. The gardens provide a good introduction to the flora of the island, though some greenery and rare tree species were permanently lost due to Hurricane Maria. There's also a small aviary and breeding facility for the island's two endangered native species of parrots.
The National Park Office is located at the Botanical Gardens: It can help you with tour guides and sells booklets about the island parks.
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