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Exploring the Island - Indian Chief Travel
DOMINICA  |  Dominica, Dominica Travel Guide
Monday, August 19, 2019
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3 Of 7

Exploring the Island

Roseau

The capital city is a busy, pastel-colored oasis set down beside the Roseau River on a rare stretch of flat land at the foot of Morne Bruce, near the southern end of the west coast.

Old Market Square

Now called Dawbiney Market Plaza by those who can remember the new name, this is the center of activity. Tourist Information is dispensed from the original Market House here, which was built in 1810.

Bayfront

Hurricane David damaged much of the waterfront in 1979, and provided an ideal opportunity for the city to clean up and update. A new seawall now reduces the chance of future storm damage, and land in front of it has been reclaimed, beautified, and given a snappy name – Bayfront. In addition, a new jetty provides facilities for small boats and ferries.
Old Market, New Market

Beyond the seawall, a new cruise-ship dock allows passengers to step directly from the ship into the bustle of the city. A noisy, jostling crowd cheerfully browses through crafts, T-shirts and island-made products at the Old Market across from the dock. The New Market, at the north end of Bayfront near the river, is a swarm of brightly dressed vendors and buyers hovering over produce spread on mats under multi-colored umbrellas. There are also some permanent, covered stalls.

Dominica Museum

The old post office, near Old Market Square, has been turned into the Dominica Museum, which tells the island’s story through photographs, exhibits of Arawak pottery and tools, and a replica of a Carib hut. There’s a good view of the town from the second-floor balcony. The museum is open weekdays, 9 am-4 pm and Saturday, 9 am-noon. Admission is EC$2.   448-8923.

Fort Young

At the south end of Bayfront, Victoria Street climbs past Peebles Park to Fort Young and Saint George Anglican Church. Fort Young was built in 1770 by Sir William Young, the island’s first British governor, and enlarged by the French between 1778 and 1783. Since 1964, it has been a hotel, and ongoing construction has repaired hurricane damage and added new rooms and facilities.

Saint George Anglican Church

Across the street from Fort Young, the Regency-style Saint George Anglican Church has suffered major damage from hurricanes since it was built in 1820. Hurricane David gutted the structure and it lost some of its architectural style when it was restored, but the gray-stone church is still worth seeing. If you can get inside, notice the wooden ceiling, stone floor and stained glass on the altar.

Next door, State House (called Government House on older maps) is surrounded by a garden. Before Dominica became an independent nation, the house was the residence and offices of the governor and is now used for state receptions and community affairs. The official-looking building to the south is the House of Assembly, constructed in 1811 in Georgiancolonial style on land where the island legislature has met since 1765.

Botanical Gardens

King George V Street, the major east/west road through town, is lined with balconied restaurants and shops. Find it off Bayfront, between the tourist office and Royal Bank of Canada, and follow it up toward Morne Bruce Hill to the Botanical Gardens.

This 40-acre garden planted on a former sugarcane field thrives on approximately 85 inches of rain each year. While some of the oldest vegetation has been destroyed by hurricanes, there are still 500 species of trees and plants to see. Take time to visit the aviary to view endangered jaco and sisserou parrots (they are bred in a research area behind the exhibition cages, but the lab is not open to the public), and get a reality check at the monument to Hurricane David – a crushed school bus trapped under a giant baobab tree that was uprooted by the 1979 storm. There’s no admission charge.

Churches

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Fair Haven is built on a hill next to the Methodist Church on Virgin Lane. The two churches are not particularly interesting unless you’re a history or architecture buff, but the story that surrounds them is. In 1766, after the British took Dominica from the French, King George III granted the Catholics a 99-year lease on 10 acres of land on the hill above Roseau. A thatched hut church was built immediately, but it took more than 100 years for the Catholics to complete a cathedral constructed of cut volcanic stone in the Gothic- Romanesque Revival style.

When the 99-year lease ended, the Catholics asked for a freehold grant for the land on which their cathedral was built. The British readily approved the grant, but there was a complication. Two sections of the 10 acres had been sublet to parishioners who had converted to Methodism, and they had given the Wesleyan Methodist Mission permission to build on their two lots. For years, there was ecumenical unrest, but the two churches and their congregations are now friendly neighbors.

Of the two, the Catholic Cathedral is the most interesting. The windows are Gothic, with stained glass in the pointed upper arcs (one dedicated to Christopher Colombus). The pulpit was built by prisoners confined on Devil’s Island, and there are Victorian murals behind the side altars. The structure was built in segments by islanders who worked on it at night after their day jobs ended.

Morne Bruce Hill

You can get a panoramic view of the town and the coast, all the way to Scotts Head, from Morne Bruce Hill. If you have a car, drive south on Bath Road, which is the western boundary of the Botanical Gardens; or amble up Jack’s Walk, which begins near the aviary and the east entrance to the gardens and climbs steeply. At the top, in addition to a terrific view, you’ll find a fine residential area and a couple of small inns.

Last updated December 6, 2007
Posted in   Dominica  |  Dominica
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