Life centres on the beach – and the hedonistic pleasure of doing as much or as little as you please – at the St Lucia resort of Windjammer Landing

Words: Libby Norman

St Lucia attracts more than its fair share of superlatives thanks to its reputation as a paradise honeymoon destination. But it’s also a brilliant location for family holidays. The teardrop-shaped Windward Island nation – measuring 27 miles north to south – is a place of lush jungle, pirate-hideout bays and pristine sand beaches. The lofty pitons that dominate the island (and star in every tourist brochure) make for a slow but fascinating taxi journey of vertiginous climbs and ear-popping descents through lush banana-growing country as we make our way to Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort on the north-west coast.

Paradise found – a perfect family holiday at Windjammer Landing
The lofty pitons that dominate St Lucia are unmissable on the drive to Windjammer Landing – which has bagged one of the best spots on St Lucia

It’s more than worth the ride because Windjammer Landing bagged one of the most picturesque and sheltered spots on the island. Covering some 60 acres, and with bleached white villas dotted through the hillsides to capture ocean views and sea breezes, the resort sits on crescent shaped Labrelotte Bay – pristine white sand, obligatory swaying palms and gentle Caribbean waters.

Our villa is, we decide, one of the best. We have an uninterrupted view over the bay, a wooden deck big enough for a party, a plunge pool with space for four and suntrap terraces off both living room and main bedroom. There’s also a small roof terrace above our bedroom that we only discover on the second day. Bedrooms are deliciously cool, and we keep doors shut to maintain that air-conditioned chill, but the living areas are open to the breeze, island style, with white-painted metal grilles instead of glass windows. The children love this – so too the resident birds. We get used to encountering a pair of cheeky chattering bullfinches in the living room in the mornings checking for our crumbs.

Windjammer Landing Villa
Our villa is one of the top spots, with superb views over the ocean and space to spread out and chill

The living area is spacious, with sofas (convertible, as our villa can actually take six), a large dining table and an exceptionally well-equipped kitchen – self-catering would be a breeze. The on-resort shop and larger supermarkets in Rodney Bay offer everything from comforting British biscuits and vast bags of American snacks to beef, lobsters and langoustines. Lovely another time, but on this longed for and twice postponed holiday we’ve gone all inclusive. This gives us the luxurious pleasure of locking away our wallets in the safe for the duration and never worrying about meal planning.

“The ocean is a readymade activity centre – especially with free watersports, plus diving and sailing excursions for the more adventurous”

Food choices are indulgent and plentiful. Our day starts with the breakfast buffet – fresh fruit, pastries and muffins plus hot options ranging from waffles, bacon and beans to plantain and even deep-fried ginger (surprisingly moreish). Two chefs rustle up eggs your way, so the children are in heaven. Options for snacking and dining unfold smoothly through to dinner. With two beach restaurants and multiple bars, excellent local ice cream at the beach kiosk and sun-lounger service from attentive beach waiters, we can all fill up as and when we please. And we do. Cheesy chips, mini burgers, tacos, pizza or worthy and less worthy salads from Embers beach bar become daytime favourites. We resist the all-inclusive slippery slope of starting cocktail hour early (a surefire way to be tucked up in bed by dusk), but it’s good to know we have the option. We do succumb to the odd pina colada or daiquiri near the end of a hard day’s lounging in the shade of a palm.

A Papa Don Windjammer
Dining choices such as Papa Don are perfect for all the family

This is life lived on the beach, and that includes the entertainment. I silently bless the beach animation team daily for their discreet attention to younger guests’ amusement. They have an almost limitless supply of energy and good cheer that ensures spontaneous games of beach cricket, tug-of-war and other breakout events to keep hyperactive small children up to surly teens from boredom. The beach is vast and well stocked with beach games and toys – even a ping-pong table –  so plenty of space for action that doesn’t interfere with reading and snoozing among the sun-lounger fraternity.

There’s a children’s creche, but we don’t stray that far because the ocean is a readymade activity centre – especially with free watersports, plus diving and sailing excursions for the more adventurous. We love swimming out to the giant slide and trampoline (climb on, jump off, repeat). Meanwhile, my husband embarks on a heroic attempt to master paddle boarding in one holiday, with a few lessons from one of the watersports crew to refine his technique. We commiserate each time he returns dripping and tells us it’s not as easy as it looks.

C Beach Coconut Seller Windjammer
All life centres on the beach, a readymade activity centre where you can do as much or as little as you please

Off resort trips are plentiful, with sunset cruises, deep sea fishing, jungle zip-lines, visits to the botanic gardens, Pigeon Island and volcano tours among the most popular options organised by an on-resort team from Jammin’ Tours. For solo explorers, Rodney Bay (a US$32 round trip by taxi) is the nearest town for villa supplies and cashpoints, but the capital Castries is a better bet for souvenirs and St Lucian produce.

The bay offers calm, almost bath-temperature, water and this may help to explain why so many families are repeat visitors. It’s a truly international crowd, with guests from North America, Europe and other Caribbean islands (some are villa owners or part owners). Casual conversations happen easily on the efficient shuttle minibuses that ferry people up and down the hillside to their villas, just as they do on the beach and at the bar.

“On this longed for and twice postponed holiday we’ve gone all inclusive – this gives us the luxurious pleasure of locking away our wallets in the safe”

Dining choices cover all bases. We love the authentic Italian at Papa Don’s and the fabulous steaks at Upper Deck, and Friday Fish Night is fun, but our regular choice is Jammers – it’s easy and informal and nothing beats dining overlooking the beach. Entertainment also centres round the bar and the beach. The fire-eating limbo dancers and teen-to-adult calypso band wow the children, while we are pleasantly surprised by a nightly lineup of musicians who really can sing and play. The playlist is broad – from jazz R&B and dance to a romantic country & western singer in a dazzling white Stetson who gets the bar staff crooning along as if this were downtown Memphis.

B Entertainment A P M Windjammer
We love the barbecues on the beach and the nightly entertainment from brilliant bands and singers

Bob Marley is a St Lucian singalong staple too and his greatest and lesser hits feature somewhere on the playlist nightly – always to an enthusiastic audience. There’s even a cocktail here in his honour, carrying layered colours of the Jamaican flag and laced with a whole lot of rum. Advised and guided by the mixologists at Jammers, we do a respectable job working our way through the extensive cocktail list and settle on a favourite in the frozen, creamy and award-winning inhouse invention 14X61 – rum base (naturally), named after the latitude and longitude of this island and slipping down all too easily.

Paradise found – a perfect family holiday at Windjammer Landing
The thing we love about Windjammer is the sense of space, and the opportunity to do as much or as little as you please

Perhaps the most seductive thing about Windjammer Landing is the sense that creeps over us that this is our place. With its relaxed, do it your way vibe and so much room to spread out and find a perfect spot, it’s impossible to do anything but settle in and enjoy. We adults don’t get round to visiting the highly rated spa this time, but find that we’ve shrugged off winter blues, aching limbs and layers of stress without it. We also realise on our last day that the children’s iPads have been languishing, fully charged, in the safe since day two and the TVs in our villa have not been switched on once – surely the mark of a perfect check in and tune out family holiday.

B Beach Windjammer
The beach ice creams are a huge hit with the children

Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort

Further reading: Wave catching at Saunton Sands