Fort De France, Martinique

Fort De France, Martinique

Fort de France is the capital of Martinique, located in the Eastern Caribbean.

Two popular excursions are a tour of Forte de France and a trip to the Balata Gardens of Martinique, 7 miles away.

For that ‘South of France’ ambience, Pointe du Bout is a ferry ride away from the waterfront and offers good beaches at Anse Mitan and Anse a l’Ane. It is also home to some of the major resorts and has cafes and shops.

Galleria Shopping Mall is the largest on the island, the supermarket there is huge and stocked with a choice of French wines.

Visitors also head to Macouba, a fishing village in the north, usually stopping at the J.M. Distillery en-route.

Martinique is one of four French overseas territories in the Caribbean. (The others are St. Martin, Guadeloupe and St. Barts; collectively, they’re known as the French West Indies.) French is the first language, and most locals do not speak fluent English; you’ll find that signs and menus generally aren’t meant to accommodate anyone who isn’t French. This can make a visit challenging, especially in the quick time of a day’s call, but it’s also part of what makes this island so intriguing.

Martinique is one of the few islands that still grows sugarcane and bananas in the rolling fields of its central section, and it has an enormously respected reputation for producing unique and refined rums. Head north to Mont Pelee to experience its rainforest or see the ruins at Saint-Pierre, which are remnants of a volcanic eruption in 1902. Beaches range from the St. Tropez-style of those at the resort town of Pointe du Bout to the naturist-friendly Pointe des Salines and Sainte-Anne, on the south side of the island.

The disabled cruiser visiting Fort De France

Where You’re Docked

Ships dock at either the Passenger Terminal, which is a 5 minute ride into town or the Pointe Simon pier in the heart of the city. Occasionally, ships anchor and tender passengers ashore, the tender pier is located right in the centre of Forte de France.

Both terminals offer restroom facilities and easy access to taxis. Most ships dock at the long pier terminal at Point Simone, located in downtown Fort-de-France. Simply walk off the pier and you’ll have easy access to taxis, restaurants and shopping. A cruise village is set up on the waterfront on port days, with tented vendors selling everything from T-shirts and sarongs to local rum. Dedicated tourism representatives (easily identifiable by their red vests) are on hand to answer questions and offer directions, and the adjacent ferries can take cruisers to points more easily reached by sea than land.

Other ships dock at La Tourelles, the island’s traditional cruise port, which is a 15-minute walk from downtown. It offers two duty-free shops and Wi-Fi, but otherwise there’s not much going on in the immediate port area. Follow the walking path to reach the waterfront of Fort-de-France, or hire one of the plentiful taxis for other points.

Smaller ships may skip the larger cruise ports and anchor on a less-visited part of the island. Located on the southern tip of the island, La Marina Du Marin is the largest anchorage south of the Dominican Republic, and very popular for yacht charters and private boaters. This modern, chic facility is home to a multi-level shopping area with shops, restaurants, a wine bar, grocery store and apothecary, and free Wi-Fi.

Good to Know

Be aware that roads on Martinique — especially those that weave their way through the mountainous areas — are astoundingly winding. If you’re prone to nausea and plan to venture from the immediate port area, you’d be wise to pack your motion sickness remedy of choice.

Also note that topless bathing is common on many Martinican beaches.

Getting Around

On foot: 

By car: 

By bus:

Currency 

Euros are used on Martinique; dollars generally aren’t accepted, except by a handful of taxi drivers near the terminal who cater specifically to cruise passengers. You’ll find ATMs and an exchange bureau — Change Caribe — in Fort-de-France, just a short walk from the Pointe Simon terminal. (It’s also walkable from La Tourelles, but it’s a bit farther.) It can be difficult to find places to exchange dollars after you’ve left Fort-de-France, so if you’re headed out to explore, secure some euros before you go. 

Language

French is the primary language spoken on Martinique. You’ll find English-speakers in most major tourist areas, but otherwise, be prepared with a phrasebook.

Shopping

Take home rum or banana jam for the foodie in your life, or snag clothing, bags and housewares made from brightly colored madras fabric for authentic local gifts.

For artisan gifts, Village de la Poterie has been in operation since 1783, making it the oldest continuously operating factory in France. Today the historic factory still makes clay bricks, and multiple artisans practice crafts from soapmaking to pottery in small Creole cottages throughout the property. Make an afternoon of shopping, along with lunch at waterside or snacks at the onsite patisserie.

Traditional food on Martinique is split between Creole and French. Menus feature lots of Caribbean dishes that incorporate chicken, seafood and fresh fruits and vegetables, and you’ll also find French-inspired cuisine, including foie gras and boudin noir (blood sausage). If you try one local dish while you’re in town, make sure it’s accra (cod fritters).

Le Vieux Foyal is a charming restaurant-cum-jazz club that sits inside a century-old Creole house in downtown Fort-de-France, serving up equal parts ambiance and tasty French-Creole cuisine that is certainly worth a try.

At the back of the open-air market in Fort-de-France, you’ll find Chez Carole, a tiny stand where a local woman named Carole makes some of the best accras on the island. You can also choose from a variety of other Creole dishes here.

Points of Interest

  • Fort De France – a seven-

Fort De France Accessible Excursions

Whether your cruise ship stops in 

Fort De France Accessible Guided Tour

This 4 hour accessible