Port Mathurin, on the stunning tropical island of Rodrigues, is often the first place visitors come to when they visit this slice of paradise.
With over three centuries of history, Port Mathurin is not just the little capital of one of the most beautiful islands in the Indian Ocean, it’s also a town decked in colorfully painted buildings and steeped in history.
And if you’re reading this you are either lucky enough to be visiting Rodrigues and Port Mathurin, or you are thinking about it – if it’s the latter, pack your bags and book your flights to Rodrigues, because this is a bucket list destination!
So why should you visit Port Mathurin and what is there to do here? And what about restaurants or public transport on Rodrigues?
Well you’ve come to the right place! As we’ve put together the ultimate guide to Port Mathurin.
A guide to Port Mathurin
As the capital of Rodrigues, Port Mathurin is a hub of activity – although only during certain times of the day.
Mornings here are bustling and energetic – with people going about their business before the heat of the day hits.
But as soon as mid-afternoon comes around, everything begins to shut down. In fact try and find food after 4pm in Port Mathurin and you will struggle. We’ve only ever found one place that is consistently open after this time – a small restaurant called ‘Nillas Snack’ which is on the same road as Rodrigues College (Senior Department).
On a Sunday, expect almost everything to be shut throughout the day – but do expect to hear the noise of enthusiastically sung hymns from the town’s main church throughout the morning.
But that’s just island life in Rodrigues, and when you’re here it’s best to embrace it and enjoy the relaxed pace of life.
Another thing you should embrace is the food…..
Creole cuisine: A special food experience in Rodrigues and Port Mathurin
If you like seafood, then you’ve come to the right place – because food in Rodrigues is special, and Port Mathurin is one of the best places for trying out local delicacies. Most of which, as you’ve probably guessed, revolves around the bounty of the sea.
Throughout Rodrigues you will see the day’s catch of octopus drying out in the sun – an absolute must try at restaurants in Port Mathurin where the seafood is always fresh.
However other seafood such as prawns, crabs, wahoo, and tuna, are all caught locally, and available at restaurants in Port Mathurin and nearby English Bay – where you can find Le Marlin Bleu open and serving into the evening. It’s a must visit restaurant when on the island.
Whether out for lunch or dinner, try a creole favourite like ourites (Octopus salad) which is available in many restaurants, or steamed crab.
If you want to avoid seafood, then sample the tasty sausages with kreolinės, or classic rougaille (a tomato-based dish typically with chicken or beef).
And what about something to wash everything down?
Well you could go down the tropical paradise route and have fresh coconut water – buy a coconut from a vendor at some of the popular beaches on Rodrigues and watch as they machete the husk so you can get at the refreshing water inside.
Or, if you want something more alcoholic, try Mauritius’ very own beer, Phoenix, or the slightly more alcoholic petit rum punch.
Rodrigues: An island of culture and tradition
The most isolated of the Mascarene Islands, it’s not surprising Rodrigues has held strongly on to traditions.
In particular, traditional music continues to thrive, and with it so does the traditional dancing of the island (and Mauritius), called Sega.
Sega dancing is colourful and usually accompanied with Creole singing. Starting slow, Sega eventually builds up into a quick and exhilarating rhythmic beat – it’s a fun cultural bedrock of the island.
Ask your hotel, guest house or a friendly taxi driver about where to see Sega when you arrive – there’s usually something happening at the weekend.
And of course if you do find yourself watching Sega being performed, feel free to join in!
For locally made handicrafts, head along to Port Mathurin Market on a Saturday morning. This little bustling market is full of locally produced food, friendly vendors, and an array of handicrafts, gifts, and trinkets – it’s also refreshingly clear of the usual souvenir garbage you find on holiday.
Why not pick up a colourful handmade bag. The bag making business in Rodrigues has seen a resurgence since 2014, after the island banned plastic bags in an effort to help reduce plastic pollution.
Feeling active? You’ve come to the right place!
The awesome thing about Rodrigues is that it can cater to two different holiday makers – both the laid back tourists that want to enjoy the beach with a cocktail in their hand, but also the active types that want to be adventurous and explore!
Port Mathurin is a great base for the active holidaymaker, and kitesurfing, mountain-biking, and hiking are all activities that are becoming more popular on the island.
Rodrigues has two of the best kitesurfing spots in the Indian Ocean – Le Morne and Bella Mare. Never tried the sport before? Don’t worry, you can learn to kitesurf at one of the kitesurfing schools on Rodrigues – you can be a complete beginner but still be on the waves the first day.
With the highest point on the island just under 400m, Rodrigues is also fantastic for hiking, with a network of roads and paths criss-crossing the length and breadth of this Indian Ocean paradise.
In recent years mountain bike trails have also begun to be created, with 2019 seeing Rodrigues’ first race with international competitors.
There’s also two gyms in Rodrigues for anyone that is looking to keep their fitness regime going whilst on holiday. The most popular gym in Rodrigues appears to be Morpho Gym – it’s small, but has decent equipment.
Getting the bus in Rodrigues
With the main bus station based in Port Mathurin (beside the market), the town is a great base for visiting the island.
You can get the colourful buses across the island for around 30-40 rupees depending on your destination, and the system works very similarly to the bus system in Mauritius – which you can read about by clicking here.
The buses run slowly and there isn’t really a timetable – they run on island time. So if you need to get somewhere by a certain time, consider a taxi, or hiring a car.
For taxi prices, expect to pay between 500–800 rupees from the Airport to Port Mathurin. From Port Mathurin to English Bay, expect 150-200 rupees.