Caribbean Tourism

Union Island

The most southerly of the islands, Union Island is 40 miles from St Vincent and only three miles long by one mile wide with two dramatic peaks, Mount Olympus and Mount Parnassus. Arrival by air is spectacular as the planes fly over the hill and descend steeply to the landing strip.


The road from the airport to Clifton passes a mangrove swamp which is being used as a dump prior to filling it in to get rid of mosquitoes and enable building to take place. A walk around the interior of the island (about two hours Clifton-Ashton-Richmond Bay-Clifton) is worth the effort, with fine views of the sea, neighbouring islands, pelicans and Union itself. It has two settlements, Clifton and Ashton (minibus between the two, EC$2), and the former serves as the south point of entry clearance for yachts. The immigration office and customs are at the airport, so if you arrive by boat you check in at the Yacht Club and the airport. For visiting yachts there are anchorages at Clifton, Frigate Island and Chatham Bay, while the Anchorage Yacht Club marina has some moorings. The Anchorage Yacht Club seems to be full of French people. The barmen are slow and sometimes rude.

A good reason to visit Union Island is to arrange day trips to other islands or to find a ride on a yacht to Venezuela towards the end of the season (May-June). Fishing boats make the one-hour trip to Hillsborough on Carriacou (EC$15, leave Ashton at about 0730, ask locally for days as they vary, MV Jaspar twice a week, Monday and Thursday 1200 form Hillsborough, return from Union Island Tuesday and Friday around 0600, captain takes you through immigration procedures, which can take an hour), which can be a bumpy ride. Expect to have your bags thoroughly searched on arrival at Customs and Immigration at Hillsborough. Day trip boats to other islands leave from Clifton around 1000 and are all about the same price, EC$120, including lunch. Yannis Tours at the Clifton Beach Hotel arranges tours to the nearby Tobago Cays, Palm Island, Petit St Vincent and other small islands. You may be able to join a group flying in from Barbados. They have a comfortable catamaran, which is recommended if the sea is a bit rough. Alternatively, you can hire a local such as Carlos (his name is painted on the side of his boat) to take you in a smaller boat wherever you want to go. This is recommended if the sea is calm so that you can spend the maximum time snorkelling at the Tobago Cays. Boats come and go, but there should be plenty of choice.

The beach at Chatham Bay is beautiful and deserted, but not particularly good for swimming as there is a coral ledge just off the beach. Snorkelling and diving are good though. It is one of the last undeveloped anchorages in the Grenadines. An area at the north end of the bay has been allocated for a hotel development and a road is planned over the mountain from Ashton to Chatham Bay, but at the moment you still have to walk 30 minutes along a footpath through the bush from the end of the road just above Ashton down to the bay. A large tourist development is planned for Union Island, with a luxury hotel, 300-berth marina, golf course and villas but is stalled because of financial difficulties.


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