Marie-Galante, Guadaloupe

Marie-Galante is an island of the Caribbean Sea located south of Guadeloupe and north of Dominica. It is a dependency of Guadeloupe, which is an overseas department and region of France.

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Marie Galante is a small, virtually round island about 25km from the Guadeloupe mainland. It was ‘discovered’ by Columbus in 1493, on his second voyage to the Antilles. He named the island after the admiral’s flagship, the Marigalante. Its main agriculture is the cultivation of sugar cane and its only industry the manufacture of strong rum, usually 59 per cent proof (it used to be 65 per cent). Marie Galantine rum is said to be the best in the world. The island has three functioning distilleries, and a number of picturesque ruins that testify to its sugarcane past.

The best-known of these ruins is the late 18th-century Château Murat, which lies just outside the island’s capital, Grand-Bourg, on the road to Capesterre. The château is an impressive reminder of just how rich Marie Galante must once have been. A large, seriously grand house, now gutted inside, it stands at the top of a gentle incline, commanding a magnificent view of the sea. Nearby lie the ruins of the sugar factory and a windmill. There were once 100 such windmills on Marie Galante, some 70 of these are still standing. The Habitation Roussel (habitation means ‘estate house’) on the road to Saint Louis is much smaller, but pretty and very picturesque.

There are two ports on the island: the capital, Grand Bourg, and Saint Louis. Although Grand Bourg is just another dusty little Caribbean town, it is home to the pretty Notre Dame de Marie Galante church. Built in 1827, it has a splendid vaulted wooden ceiling painted a bright sky-blue and an elaborate marble altar with a bas-relief of the Last Supper.

Marie Galante has beautiful, white-sand beaches and wonderful, clear waters which it shares with Guadeloupe (the Carib name for Guadeloupe was Karukera which meant ‘Island of Beautiful Waters’). On the west coast, lovely beaches can be found at Anse Canot, Moustique, Folle Anse and Trois Ilets. The beach at Vieux Fort (see above), north of Saint Louis, offers picnic accommodations while the beach at Grand Bourg is protected by a coral reef that makes its shallow waters ideal for children. On the east coast, Petite Anse, Les Galets and Anse Feuillard all offer great beaches. The sensational Plage de la Feuillère at Capesterre is also protected by a coral reef while Anse Taliseronde offers incredible snorkelling.

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Courtesy of Conde Nast Traveller