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Quirky historical sites complement European flair and Caribbean beauty on this French outpost.Visit Official Website
With croissants and palm trees, all perched near a live volcano, Martinique is the definition of a refined French-Caribbean island – fashionable and elegant, with an abundance of flora. Filled with ruins and monuments, Martinique has been French, with a few interruptions, since 1635, and as an overseas department of France (since 1946), it revels in French history and savoir-faire. A leading destination for European vacationers, it offers gorgeous beaches, great food and a variety of accommodations - small, medium and resort.
Tourism is important, but so are banana farming, cane raising, and the rum business. With two world-class monarchs among its progeny - Napoleon's empress Josephine, and Aimé Dubuc de Rivery, who was kidnapped at sea and made Sultana Validá, mother of Turkey's Sultan Mahmoud II - the island delights in historical oddities. Its many small museums focus on curiosities such as banana farming and ancient island civilizations. (View More)
The outdoorsy - especially hikers and horseback riders - will find plenty of guided adventures among the steep, lush hillsides. Novice boaters are warned off the choppy Atlantic side; windsurfers and board surfers will welcome the challenges.
The capital, Fort-de-France, displays colonial charm along with its yacht-filled harbor and offers lots to see in its narrow galleried streets, including chic shops, the flowered Savane Park and the Bibliothèque Schoelcher, a Romanesque peculiarity built for the Paris Exposition of 1889 and rebuilt here. The towering Saint-Louis Cathedral, built in 1895, has a Roman-style bell tower and massive pipe organs. Several late governors are buried in the chancel. Busy fish and produce markets give local flavor.
Seafood With Panache
Restaurants are among the best in the islands. Local seafood offerings include balaou (ballyhoo, a kind of fish), soudons (clams), cribiches (freshwater crayfish) and langouste (Caribbean lobster). Tropical produce such as breadfruit, cassava and christophine are common local ingredients. Chez Carole at the covered market offers a delicious creole cuisine, La Cave á Vin features southwestern French dishes and Le Foyaal is also a great place to eat while in Fort-de-France.
Pointe du Bout, across the Baie de Fort de France, is the island's main resort area, offering hotels, golf, shopping and casino nightlife.
North along the coast about an hour's drive from Fort-de-France is St. Pierre. Until 1902, it was known as the Paris of the West Indies. Then Mont Pelée erupted and destroyed the city and its 30,000 residents in three minutes. The Museum of Vulcanology there displays chilling lava-coated mementoes such as molten nails and petrified rice that were transformed by the terrific heat.
Along the way from Fort-de-France are picturesque fishing villages like Carbet, where French painter Paul Gauguin briefly lived.
Whichever route you choose to return to the south (where most of the hotels are located), be sure to make a stop at one of Martinique's fine rum distilleries. There are 10 in all, and the island boasts France's official appellation for producing agricultural Rhum (a label like Cognac or Champagne).
Just as wine lovers regularly visit France to savor the best of French wine while traveling along La Route des Vins, rum connoisseurs are increasingly making their way to Martinique to experience some of the world’s finest and most distinctive rums by traveling La Route des Rhums. The self-guided tour directs visitors to 10 distilleries located throughout the island, each welcoming visitors with insightful tours and free tastings that together affirm Martinique’s position as "The Rum Capital of the World."
This winter, Norwegian Air offers 7 weekly non-stop flights from the Northeastern United States:
- Departure from New York (JFK) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
- Departure from Baltimore/Washington DC on Mondays and Fridays
- Departure from Boston on Wednesday and Sundays
Entertainment available includes:
Martinique’s two casinos, Casino de la Batelière Plaza located just north of Fort-de-France and Casino des Trois Ilets, offer slots, blackjack, roulette and more. Patrons must be 18; dress is casual. Whether you experience a Creole-inspired dance performance or an upbeat nightclub with techno beats, a visit to Martinique almost always includes a little – or a lot of – partying :
Discos. Nightclubs. Cabarets. Dinner/dances. Theaters. Casinos at Trois Ilets and at Bateliere Plazza. Cinemas. Live Music.
Year-round flights out of Miami (MIA) with American Airlines
Weekly flights during the Winter season out of New York (JFK), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Providence-Boston (PRV) with Norwegian
Year-round flights out of Montreal (YUL) with Air Canada
Bi-weekly flights during the Winter season out of Montreal (YUL) and Bagotville, Quebec (YVG) with Air Transat
By Boat: 3 times a week Ferry service is available between Martinique (Fort de France) and Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Dominica aboard sleek catamarans operated by:
- Express des Iles (leaving from Fort-de-France)
Tel: 011 596 596 63 05 45
- Jeans for Freedom (leaving from Saint-Pierre)
Tel: 1-767 255 1200
Additional Ferry service is available between Martinique (le Marin) and St Lucia with
Compagnie Maritime West Indies
Tel. 011 596 596 74 93 38
All US citizens traveling by air to and from Bermuda and the Caribbean are required to have a valid passport to enter the United States.
For stays of up to three months, Canadian citizens traveling as tourists must have proof of citizenship in the form of a valid passport or a passport that expired not more than 5 years ago, or other proof of citizenship in the form of a birth certificate (original or official), or a voter's registration card, which must be accompanied by a government-authorized identification with photo, such as a driver's license. For stays over 3 months, or for non-tourist visits, a valid passport is necessary. Resident aliens of the US & Canada must have a valid passport and visa. A return or onward ticket is also required of all visitors. No vaccination papers required unless arriving from an endemic area.
Fort-de-France, the capital city. La Pagerie, birthplace of Martinique's most famous daughter: Josephine, Napoleon's Empress. Diamond Rock. Botanical Gardens where you can admire over a thousand varieties of tropical & local plants. St Pierre & the ruins from eruption of Mt. Pelee, the Pompeii of the New World. Volcanological museum. Castle DuBuc. Mont Pelée.
Family Attractions – From sightseeing trains to the Butterfly Gardens and Mangofil, Martinique has much to offer families. There’s even a U.S.-style water park called Aqualand featuring water slides, wave pool, and young kids play area complete with its own pirate ship.
Ecotourism – Martinique’s natural wonders, headlined by majestic Mount Pelée, inspire awe and wonder among eco-travel enthusiasts. Two-thirds of the island is designated as protected parkland, affording visitors a wide range of nature-themed vacation adventures – hiking the island’s 27 well-marked trails, kayaking, canyoning, horseback riding, enjoying a 4x4 tour, and more.
Cultural Heritage – Birthplace of the famed poet, Aimé Césaire, Zouk and Napoleon’s bride, Empress Josephine, Martinique boasts a rich cultural heritage kept alive in the island’s 25+ museums and exciting annual festivals.
Rhum – The Rum Capital of the World, Martinique is home to 12 brands, each produced utilizing a unique rhum agricole method yielding blends comparable to fine cognacs. Martinique rhums are the only rums to carry the exalted Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) designation formerly reserved for the finest wines. Free tasting is available at all of the island’s distilleries.
Scuba Diving – The best-kept secret in Caribbean diving, Martinique offers abundant marine life, historic shipwrecks and healthy reefs. The highlight is Diamond Rock, an offshore island with a deep undersea cavern.
Documents needed for foreigners to wed:
• Birth certificate (or a copy with raised seal)
• Certificate of good conduct (including certification of 'single status')
• Residency card (one of the couple must have resided on the island at least one month)
• Medical certificate (including blood test) issued within three months of marriage
• French translation of English language documents.
A 'Bulletin de Marriage' & 'Livret de Famille' are delivered at the ceremony. No fee is involved.