Travel Guide: Marie Galante
15°56' North + 61°16' West
Nestled between Dominica and Guadeloupe is the idyllic island of Marie Galante in the French West Indies. Known as the island of 100 windmills or la grande galette (‘the Big Biscuit’), Marie Galante is one of five islands in Guadeloupe’s archipelago and the perfect hideaway to unwind and recharge while absorbing panoramic views and gastronomic cuisine. With a population of just over ten thousand, Marie Galante offers pristine beaches, mangroves, and historic sites dating back to slavery and colonialism. Like the rest of the West Indies, Marie Galante was inhabited by Amerindians before being colonized by the Spanish and French who established a sugar trade that profited until slavery was abolished in 1794 before being re-established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 after the war in Guadeloupe.
This guide is a list of must visit historic sites, Creole restaurants and more.
Steps from the port is a brightly colored cafe, La Galante. Owned by muralist Jean-Paul, this is a perfect place to perch with a ti punch, a simple cocktail made with agricole rum, sugar and lime or morning coffee. If you visit during the weekend, you’ll be steps from the market where I picked up local vanilla, sapodilla — a brown fruit with a sweet-malty flavor, and green seasonings for my morning caught fish.
My go-to place for chic accommodations is Jean Galante’s estate Bitasyon Tirisyl in Capesterre. Located on five acres, the property has an atelier with a centuries-old windmill where the family produces cassava flour and its derivatives, pure castor and coconut oils. A short walk from the bungalows is an epicerie run by Jean’s mother Mrs. Bordin stocked with rhum, sweets and other beach staples. During your visit, Jean can assist with sourcing fresh caught lobster, fish and seasonal fruits like mangoes, soursop, papaya, green plantains and avocados. If you prefer a hotel perched on a hill overlooking the sea, my pick would be Le Soleil Levant.
Eat + Drink
In Marie Galante, most of the restaurants are on or near the beach. They are all extremely good to outstanding, here are a few I recently visited.
For lunch, I love La Poésie des Plats for Marie Galante’s national dish, bébélé, a hearty soup prepared with tripe, plantain and dumplings after accras de morue, a fried saltfish fritter, one of the island's delicacies. La Poésie has a living museum onsite so be sure to visit while taking in the turquoise waters and stunning gardens.
A new discovery was Kreyol Fish situated in a shipping container which serves up the freshest ceviche and local fish smoked in sugarcane which you can enjoy on the porch, swing included.
For late night music and an ice cold Carib Beer with your toes in the sand, head to Chez Henri, a popular music venue which hosts artist residences.
Visit + See
I was fortunate to visit Marie Galante during the annual sugarcane harvest where I witnessed ox-powered carts and trucks spilling with cane as they made their way to the distilleries and sugar factories. I almost always visit Rhum Bellevue which offers tours, rum tastings, and if you can climb steep steps, Bellevue offers up close views of large steel vats where the agricole rhum is cured. Their well appointed gift shop is also a great place for cookbooks, artisanal foods, a full selection of agricole rhums and local delicacies.
I also went to the UNESCO heritage site, Écomusée while Guadeloupean-Martiniquan filmmaker Janluk Stanislas was directing Patrice Hulman’s Marie Galante. A former slave plantation, the site has ruins dating back to the 17th century, a painful reminder of the island’s past as part of the Triangular Trade and the plantation economy found throughout the Americas.
Before you depart Marie Galante, be sure to visit the kiosk on the port where you can pick up local honey, artisan sea salts and a variety of liqueurs, rhums.
While traveling around the island, don’t forget to take in Caribbean Life at its finest, clothes hanging out to dry, traditional homes made from galvanized metal, and breathtaking landscapes. Marie Galante is a place for those craving remote travel and authentic island flavors with a historic bent. These are just a handful of places to get you started, but make sure you absorb everything in between.