Portsmouth Dominica will be a dream destination for travelers who are looking to escape other tourists. Smaller than Roseau, with only about 3,000 inhabitants, Portsmouth is a laid-back and non-touristy town with excellent opportunities to explore the nearby wilderness. Set on the shores of quiet Prince Rupert Bay, staying at a lodge or cabin in Portsmouth is a great way to enjoy some peace and quiet, as well as sample the excellent seafood fresh from the Bay. Portsmouth is also the location from which many travelers start to explore Dominica's network of rivers, including Indian River Dominica, one of the most popular river trips on the island.
Portsmouth Dominica was originally selected to be the capital of the mountainous island in 1760. Unfortunately, an outbreak of malaria caused Roseau to be chosen instead, leaving Portsmouth with the sad distinction of having been the capital for only a year. Nevertheless, the simple town is a fun place to get to know the local rhythms of the island. A market is held twice a week in the town and is the place to get fruits, seafood, and local spices. Many local lodges and cabins offer simple accommodation within view of Prince Rupert Bay, and you will have a chance to sample the flying fish, lobster, crayfish, and more, all of it fresh-caught in the Bay. You may have the chance to stay in the hotel Johnny Depp stayed at during the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: Sister Sea Lodge, just a few miles from Portsmouth, claims that he has signed their guestbook.
For those who want some adventure, a boat trip up the Indian River Dominica is one of the primary attractions at Portsmouth. Arrange for a river tour with one of the guides in Portsmouth and you will be taken on a magical journey down the slow-moving river, surrounded by tunnels of tropical forest, mangroves, majestic Bwa Mang trees, and spectacular wildlife. Your knowledgeable guide can enlighten you about the plants and animals you will encounter. You may also meet some "boat boys" on your trip. These entrepreneurial young men paddle from boat to boat offering fruit, drinks and other conveniences for sale, allowing you to enjoy your trip up the Indian River Dominica in relative comfort.
Cabrits National Park is situated on the peninsula north of Portsmouth Dominica. It is most famous for its eighteenth-century British fort, Fort Shirley, which once housed the 600 soldiers of the British garrison. Today, the partially restored stone ruins of the fort make for a fun excursion, with beautiful views of Prince Rupert Bay from the top of the fort. A small museum at the fort displays archaeological artifacts unearthed in the ruins. Cabrits National Park also has many excellent hiking trails in varying levels of difficulty, including some very easy ones, perfect for an afternoon walk. It contains the largest swamp on Dominica, and some excellent areas for snorkeling and diving along the coast and coral reef.
Cabrits National Park also contains a cruise ship terminal at the wooden pier, the only national park in the Caribbean that allows cruises to dock. If you are fortunate enough to land at the pavilion there, it is just a short walk to many good hiking trails in the park.
Image: Jukk_a (flickr)