The juxtaposition of verdant mountains against the remnants of deadly, barren pyroclastic flows is striking when you tour Montserrat by land or see it from the air. As a visitor, it’s impossible to talk about this beautiful island without discussing the devastation and ongoing threat caused by the Soufrière Hills volcano. Montserrat is an active furnace, from the 1997 eruption that burned and buried the capital of Plymouth to the ongoing, smaller volcanic releases that continue to threaten the southern half of the island.
Due to safety concerns, more than half the island is an exclusion zone where travel is restricted or not permitted at all. Entering parts of the exclusion zone is occasionally allowed, though only by a license from the Royal Montserrat Police Force. Fortunately, we were able to go inside.
In addition to the fascinating tour of the exclusion zone, our guide drove us to see most of the unaffected parts of the island. We visited the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, drank from a roadside stream purported to have the magical power to make you return to the island, and sampled the national dish: goat water. It’s better than it sounds. It’s a thick, dark goat stew bursting with flavors and aromas of local spices.
We spent the rest of our brief time in Montserrat relaxing. We played on the beach, flew drones with our friends on s/v Jennie B, and sampled a few of the beachfront eateries and watering holes until the weather calmed enough for our passage to Guadeloupe. We were delighted that we did not skip this island like we did last year. Many cruisers do not visit Montserrat because it’s a bit out of the way and lacks cruiser amenities like fuel, water, and easily accessible stores; but if you’re in the area, we highly recommend adding it to your itinerary.