Tumbling willy-nilly down a hillside to a horseshoe bay of calm Caribbean waters, where frigate birds swoop over the fishing boats, the absurdly pretty CHARLOTTEVILLE looks its very best as you approach the village on the Windward Road. Snugly situated under the protective cover of Man O’ War Bay, Charlotteville is one of Tobago’s foremost fishing communities – more than sixty percent of the island’s total catch is brought in by local fishermen. Bordered on each side by steep forested hills, the village has an isolated feel, although this is in fact one of Tobago’s biggest communities with around 5000 inhabitants. It is also one of its oldest, first settled by Caribs and then by the Dutch in 1633 – for many years the bay was known as Jan De Moor Bay after an early Frisian occupant. During the plantation era, the area was divided into two successful estates, Pirate’s Bay and Charlotteville; sugar shipments made regular departures from the bay, and the village prospered. In 1865, both estates were purchased by the Turpin family, who still own much of the surrounding land. Today, tourism plays its part – albeit as second fiddle to fishing – in sustaining the local economy, and the village is increasingly popular with independent types who come for the quiet beaches and laidback charm. If you’re seeking peace, quiet and great beaches, it’s hard not to become utterly besotted with Charlotteville.
The hole-in-the-wall shops and sprinkling of restaurants that make up Charlotteville’s centre line the road along the beach, while the streets that stretch inland and uphill, spreading back from a central playing field, are mostly residential. Slap in the centre of the village is the Fishermen’s Co-Operative, where the day’s catch is weighed, scaled and sold (and in the midst of an upgrade at the time of writing); adjacent to it is the proposed site for the controversial new Charlotteville Beachfront Mall. Beyond the site, the bay view opens up, the sea wall dotted with benches and the beach mostly taken up with fishing boats and nets drying on the sand. The long concrete pier offers a lovely perspective back over the village, and is a great spot from which to watch the sun set.