Photo Credit: Aqua Montserrat
Why Montserrat Should Be On Your Post-Pandemic Travel List
Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory and part of the Lesser Antilles chain. The mountainous Caribbean island is also well known to many around the world for the Soufrière Hills Volcano eruption that devastated the southern part of the island in the 1990s.
Ever since then, the island has been shrouded in some mystery. But there’s still so much more beauty left in the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean and many activities to keep nature lovers busy like hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, and mountain biking.
“Montserrat is one of those rare unspoiled gems that many intrepid travelers are looking for, especially in these times,” Warren Solomon, Director of Tourism (Montserrat Tourism Division), told Travel Noire. “A place not to just simply visit but truly immerse and be part of our small island family. Once here, visitors will quickly discover that while the Soufrière Hills Volcano is our main attraction, there is so much more to do, people to meet, and foods to try — all at their own pace.”
Here are some of the coolest places to visit during your trip.
The Montserrat Volcano Observatory
The Montserrat Volcano Observatory was created after the 1995 volcanic eruption to help scientists continue to monitor and observe activity in the Soufrière Hills Volcano. Now, visitors can also take advantage of this treasure trove of seismological information and learn more about the scientists’ work through multiple videos and exhibits.
Hikers discovered a series of petroglyphs as recently as 2016, obscured by vegetation in Soldier Ghaut (pronounced ‘gut’). According to The Montserrat National Trust, these drawings, carved or engraved into rock, are believed to be the work of the Amerindians who were the first known people on the island close to 2000 years ago.
Jack Boy Hill
Jack Boy Hill is the place to be to take in some of the best views that Montserrat has to offer. This small park draws lots of visitors for its unfettered views of the island’s exclusion zone, juxtaposed against the Atlantic Ocean and the Soufrière Hills Volcano. A telescope allows for an even closer look at the town of Trants and the island’s old airport —both destroyed by pyroclastic flows.
The Bat Cave
Make your way from Little Bay to the only white sand beach in Montserrat via a swim or hike. Once there, a tour guide will introduce you to a cave that houses the island’s colony of thousands of Antillean fruit-eating bats.
The People’s Place at Hilltop
You can’t visit Montserrat without sampling some of the island’s delicacies. And there is no more important dish than Goat Water, the national dish. As the name suggests, it is a rich, hearty stew consisting of goat meat and a host of spices including onions, herbs and chible (local name for scallions/spring onions and thyme), ketchup, hot green pepper, salt and pepper to taste, garlic, cloves, oil, water, marjoram, ground mace, and flour. The dish is often served with rice or a crusty roll. Come to The People’s Place at Hilltop for arguably the best goat water on the island and stay for the incredible views of the long and winding S Corner.
Music buffs will love this piece of history. The Beatles’ legendary, Grammy award-winning producer and Oscar-nominated composer, Sir George Martin, fell in love with Montserrat during a visit in 1977. He decided to build a fully equipped studio to mimic its London counterpart. In 1979, the Montserrat extension of AIR Studios opened and immediately became a mini getaway for some of music’s most iconic performers: Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Ultravox, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath, and Eric Clapton. The list reads like a Who’s Who of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Over 70 albums were recorded during the studio’s heyday including Hot Hot Hot by Montserrat’s own Arrow, Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms, Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity by The Police, Elton John’s Too Low for Zero, and Steel Wheels by the Rolling Stones. Unfortunately, AIR Studios was one of the casualties of Hurricane Hugo when it hit in 1989. The studio never recovered, but visitors can now tour the remains of the building in the island’s exclusion zone, where some remnants of the once creative hub still remain visible. Martin’s fundraising efforts went a long way to rebuilding the island after the eruption and his legacy lives on at Olveston House, the guest home he once owned that is now a bed and breakfast. There, visitors can view photos taken by Linda McCartney and other memorabilia from Martin’s music production days.
Hilltop Coffee House
Speaking of memorabilia, Hilltop Coffee House is another great place to take a trip down memory lane. David Lea and his family have created a chill spot where you can experience a bit of everything. Start with some of the pastries accompanied by coffee or tea. Or if savory is more of your vibe, Mexican pie is on the menu.
Cool off from a day of sightseeing with one of the tropical juices or indulge in some pure frozen fruit ice cream. It’s both dairy-free and sugarless and made onsite for guests. All of this can be enjoyed on the verandah with a sea view. Lovers of 80s music will get a kick out of the largest local collection of 80s music keepsakes on the island. There is also an art gallery featuring local artists, hand-made jewelry, crafts, gifts, and souvenirs, and a display dedicated to pre-volcanic times.