Memorable historic sites in Tobago
Posted Apr 24, 2020
Tobago’s vibrant and colorful history has made it one of the most distinctive places in the Caribbean. One of the best ways to get a deep understanding of the island, its people and culture is to know its history.
When planning your trip, consider making a few stops to the several historic landmarks across Tobago. Not only will it give you a deeper appreciation for the island's rich culture, but you can also do so against the backdrop of lush, stunning scenery.
Fort King George (Scarborough)
In the late 18th century, British Governor General Lord George Macartney authorized the erection on “Scarborough Hill” of two barracks and double kitchen to house two companies of soldiers, together with capping the hill for a parade ground. Tobago later fell under French rule and named “Fort Castries”. After Tobago was returned to the British, it then referred to as Fort King George after King George III. Today, the sprawling fort is one of Tobago’s most well-preserved historical sites. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, it’s comprised of carefully restored remnants, including the officers’ barracks, gunpowder magazine, prison cells and a bell tank. Even the fort’s original cannons are positioned just as they were when they were active hundreds of years ago. The well-manicured grounds are a popular location for weddings, photo shoots and family picnics. Visitors can also take a tour and peruse the artefacts at the Tobago Museum.
Courland Monument (Plymouth)
Tobago and Latvia share history that dates back to the 17th century. Originally known as Courlanders, they were the first European to establish a sustained, occupying the island for 12 years until the Dutch settled in another part of the island. During their brief reign, the island was a vital hub for European trade. Today, the Courland Monument stands as a piece of modern architecture that was built to honor the first settlers of Courland (modern-day Latvia).
Mystery Tombstone (Plymouth)
A memorial to Betty Stiven, records that she was the beloved wife of Alex B Stiven, and died on 25 November 1783 at the age of 23. The mystery tombstone of Betty Stiven remains one of the oldest tales of lore on the island. Everyone has their own theory based on the cryptic message etched on her grave: “She was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting your husband know it, apart from the benevolent devotion to him”. A beautiful beach is within walking distance so this mysterious place is a nice stop for a walk.
Fort Granby (Studley Park)
Perched atop a steep cliff, Fort Granby was once a bastion built by the British to defend Tobago’s first capital of Georgetown. Today, the lone grave of a fallen soldier is the only evidence that this site ever served as a military base. While little remains in terms of historical context, visitors can take in spectacular panoramic views of the coast, capture stunning photographs, and make use of the amenities available, which include a bar and children’s play area.
Fort James (Plymouth)
Strategically positioned cannons point the way to stunning panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea at Fort James. Named after the Duke of Courland, Jacobus (James), the oldest fort in Tobago was once besieged by revolting slaves and also destroyed by the French in the 18th century. The existing infrastructure was erected in the early 1800’s. Today, it is a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike, with many using these peaceful grounds for a variety of occasions, including weddings, photoshoots and wholesome family fun.
Speyside Estate Ruins and Waterwheel (Speyside)
Sugar was a key crop and export in Tobago, dominated all aspects of island life and culture well into the early 20th century. Remnants of the sugar empire the island enjoyed still stand today including a large iron waterwheel. Located in Speyside, the waterwheel sits on a former sugar estate and was used as a power supply throughout the plantation.
Just like the Speyside Waterwheel, the ruins of sugar mills also serve as a monolithic reminder of Tobago's colonial past. Introduced to the island by the Dutch, the sugar mills were essentially a factory that processed sugar cane to produce raw sugar. Still very well preserved and easily identified by the overgrown roots that cover them, they can be seen across several locations including the Tobago Plantations Estate in Lowlands, Canoe Bay, Buccoo and Mt. Irvine Bay Resort.
Fort Milford (Crown Point)
Constructed by the English in the 18th century, Fort Milford served as a picket post for the British army until Tobago fell to the French in 1781. It was rebuilt by the British in the early 19th century but today, six cannons are the only proof that Fort Milford once helped fortify the island. With its well-manicured gardens and strategic vantage point, it is now the ideal destination for those seeking solitude, spectacular sea views and stunning sunsets.
Fort Bennett (Black Rock)
This cliff in Black Rock was selected as a strategic military post by the Courlanders in the 17th century. Manned by the Tobago Militia and trusted slaves, two cannon batteries are among the few remnants of the fort still in existence today. Fortunately, Fort Bennett delivers more than just historical appeal, and it is the perfect place to escape and unwind, with benches and a charming gazebo. It’s no wonder this site is a favorite location for weddings, photoshoots and romantic strolls.