Portsmouth, Dominica Home to the Pirates of the Caribbean
Hiking, river cruising, birding and Pirates of the Caribbean location spotting are just some of the adventures in store for you in Portsmouth, Dominica. If you are looking for miles of white sandy beaches you’ve picked the wrong Caribbean island. Dominica is dominated by volcanic mountains, waterfalls and spectacularly lush flora and fauna. While the island nation is recovering and rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Maria there is an adventure to be found in Portsmouth you just can’t get on any other island. Plus you can spend a night or two in cabins that hosted the cast and crew of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Oh, and did I say the sunsets are EPIC!
Where to Stay
Where to stay when you visit Portsmouth? If you are a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean then you will want to stay at the Picard Beach Cottages where the cast and crew of Dead Man’s Chest called home during their shooting. Located a short walk from the nursing school, restaurants and local shops the big draw is its prime location right on the water. The ocean is just steps from your room where you will witness some of the most vibrant sunsets you’ll ever see. Just look at the photo above.
The resort has a main building with standard hotel rooms, but you want to book one of the cottages if they are available. Take a tour of the one I stayed in. Complete with a small kitchenette and a mosquito net over the bed if the bugs bother you.
At the time of my stay, the onsite restaurant had a reduced menu offering as a result of the hurricane devasting the farming on the island. They did an amazing job with the supplies they had and with an expectation adjustment, I’m positive you’ll be happy with what is on offer.
As they were in the midst of rebuilding not all of the amenities were available to us, however, by now I am sure everything is back to 100%. Including the vast array of attractions and tours, you can book directly from the resort office. Especially the whale watching, scuba diving, and snorkelling.
If you are not wanting to be on the water, but instead would like to have a view overlooking the town of Portsmouth check out the Hotel the Champs. The views are AMAZING and the hotel only has five rooms so it is very intimate.
The main structure survived the hurricane quite well but the pool deck, outside restaurant and a few other amenities were destroyed. Every challenge is an opportunity when looked at from another perspective and the owners have done just that. Rebuilding and improving what was already there they are creating one of the most intimate and relaxing boutique hotels in Portsmouth.
At the time of my visit, all the rooms were occupied so no pics, but we did get to enjoy lunch on the outdoor deck with Dominica’s signature beer, Kabuli. Again that view. Hats off to the Chef as the food was delish.
Things to Do
Cobra Tours offer many opportunities to explore the Portsmouth area including a cruise up the Indian River. Not only does the cruise take you up a beautiful and important waterway, there are so many birds and interesting flora for you to spot that you won’t know where to look.
The Indian River was also a popular location for filming by the Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest. Many that work for Cobra Tours actually worked on the film so they are a wealth of knowledge if you are interested. I’m more into the plants and wildlife we spot while cruising up the river.
As we reach the point in the river where we can’t go any further there is a surprise, a rum bar! A perfect place to chill and relax while you sip on a rum punch. Tip the bartender as he mixed a stiff drink. Bring cash for this portion of the tour if you’d like to sample a libation.
It is time to head back downriver with our guide Andrew. Big thanks as he does all the paddling.
You may notice a lot of debris and roots in the photos above. Hurricane Maria swept over the Indian River with massive destructive power. It is thanks to Cobra Tours and other tour companies that work on the river along with volunteers that have cleared the debris making the river accessible again. There is an opportunity here for those interested in some Voluntourism. Help Andrew and his team at Cobra Tours and have yourself a vacation at a fraction of the cost. Cost is $80 a day and includes meals and accommodations in exchange for your sweat equity.
Fort Shirley is a UNESCO Heritage site and is one of the most important historical locations on the island. It was here in 1802 that the West African Regiment, made up of slaves, took over control of the fort for 3 days. The result of this lead to the abolishment of slavery in all British colonies in 1807, and it started here.
Fort Shirley is part of the 1000+ acre Cabrits National Park. This is a great place to hike as the West Cabrits trail ends or starts here, depending on where you begin. This trail links up with the Waitukubuli Trail which is my next adventure recommendation.
The Waitubukubuli Trail is the Caribbean’s first long distance walking trail and incorporates routes walked by the indigenous peoples of Dominica for hundreds of years. The trail itself is made up of 14 segments and it is highly advised to book a guide if you are planning to hike the entire 184 km (115 miles) trail.
Our guide is none other than Dr Birdy. He has forgotten more about birds than I will ever know and we join him on the Syndicate Trail portion of the Waitukubuli Trail that is near Portsmouth.
This portion of the trail is very easy for us to walk. There is some debris as a result of the hurricane but most of it has been cleared and only those with advanced mobility issues would have any difficulties.
Along with spotting some of the amazing flora to be found in Dominica, Dr Birdy is on the lookout for the rare Sisserou parrot and the more abundant Jaco parrot. The Sisserou is Dominica’s national bird so a sighting would be amazing. Dr Birdy spotted one, but too far away to capture with my camera.
Still, there is plenty to see including some amazing trees. Some that are so huge the roots are bigger than I am.
You can’t come to Dominica without hiking at least one part of the Waitukubuli Trail. Make sure to check out the official site for rates, segment descriptions and the latest on trail accessibility. There are also accommodation recommendations if you are adventurous to hike the entire 184 km.
Where to Eat
Normally I would have a long list of restaurant recommendations for you, but at the time of my visit, many of the local restaurants in Portsmouth weren’t open due to hurricane damage and the lack of enough supplies to be able to serve a full menu. Those that are open are doing their best with what they have.
The one place I can recommend is called Strawberry Restaurant and it is a very short walk from Picard Beach Cottages. Look for the bright pink and blue walls. Lunch consisted of Stewed Chicken, rice, beans, mashed potato, mac & cheese and coleslaw. This is the large and it was $15 and had plenty of flavour.
Is Portsmouth ready to welcome visitors back after the devastation of Hurrican Maria? Absolutely, just come with your expectations reasonably adjusted. The people are friendly, hospitable and want you to have a great time. Just remember that a huge portion of the island and their crops were devastated so until they are back at 100% have a bit more patience and tolerance for what they are not able to supply you with.