Pirate's Bay – Charlotteville's hidden treasure

An aerial view of Pirate's Bay. - Photo by David Reid
An aerial view of Pirate's Bay. - Photo by David Reid

ONCE a haven for pirates in the 17th century, as the name suggests, this scenic and secluded bay in Tobago now provides a relaxing and enjoyable haven for more law-abiding visitors.

Epitomising the tourism motto of “untouched, unspoilt and undiscovered,” Pirate's Bay is still something of a well-kept Charlotteville secret – despite rumours that there is treasure to be found on the seabed there.

Two pirate flags along Pirate's Bay, Charlotteville, Tobago. - Photo by David Reid

Historian Dr Rita Pemberton told Newsday pirates had frequented the bay because of its "easy access and protective shelter." She said it was notorious for pirates "particularly during 17th century, with the pulling and tugging among the French, Dutch and Courlanders for occupation of Tobago."

But she poured cold water on the prospect of riches on the ocean floor, saying most of the Spanish ships carrying gold and other treasures “did not really pass there.”

But although tangible riches may be hard to find, Pirate's Bay remains a diamond in the rough among Tobago's attractions.

The secluded beach is not as easy to access as some of the others on the island – a blessing, some might say.

The stairway, carpeted by leaves and moss, leading to Pirate's Bay. - Photo by David Reid

For fitness enthusiasts, there are ample spots to park in the quiet fishing village before making a trek up and around the mountain to reach the bay. The breathtaking view of the Caribbean Sea along the winding dirt trail is a sight to behold. The trail is wide enough for a vehicle to pass, but the descent to Pirate's Bay can only be made on foot.

The next phase of the trail is like a stairway to another world. It’s around 150 steps through lush greenery, made even more beautiful when the sun peeks through the canopy. The journey back up will test the endurance and the legs of visitors – a minor sacrifice for a visit to Pirate's Bay to swim in the calm waters, snorkel, or just relax on the sand.

Trees line the 150-odd steps leading to Pirate's Bay. - Photo by David Reid

For those who would rather skip the 20-minute hike, for approximately $40, fishermen/tour operators in Charlotteville will make the short trip to Pirate's Bay in their boats.

Newsday spoke to one of the fishermen, Kunta, who said he has been transporting visitors for over a year. His boat can carry about ten passengers. He usually gives his clients his number and they will arrange a pick-up time.

What do people like most about Pirate's Bay?

Pirate's Bay on a cloudy day. - Photo by David Reid

"Mostly, the water – the clearness of the water. Every ten customers would say yuh could see yuh toes. I doh know if yuh cyah see yuh water in other beaches," he said.

Kunta said Pirate's Bay even rivals Lover's Bay. with its stunning pink sand. He said public holidays, Easter and July/August are the popular times for the beach.

He is hoping Pirate's Bay will be provided with a beach facility with changing rooms and a bar, as visitors usually have to come back to the village if they want to get something to eat or drink.

A tyre swing at Pirate's Bay, Charlotteville, Tobago. - Photo by David Reid

Leaton Eastman Tobago Tours has filled that gap with its special tours. Eastman, who has been doing the Pirate's Bay tour for 16 years, provides an all-inclusive package of food (chicken, fish and pork), drinks (rum punch and beers) and chairs to Pirate's Bay and Lover's Bay (Pink Sand) for $300. Without food and drinks the trip can be made for $100.

He said his clients love Pirate's Bay as "it has a good snorkelling reef, and is quiet and safe. It has a history behind it."

His tour company can be found on Facebook.

One recent first-time visitor to Pirate's Bay told Newsday she and her friends walked to the bay from the village.

She said she was initially sceptical about the location, but realised it was very safe. Asked how she found out about the beach, she said a friend told her about it 15 years ago.

Pirate's Bay - Photo by David Reid

It was an all-day road trip for her friends, who had stopped by the famous Jemma's Tree House Restaurant in Speyside for some nourishment before the short hike.

She enjoyed "the calm waters and the privacy – it's not crowded."


"Pirate’s Bay – Charlotteville’s hidden treasure"

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