The Windward Islands are a group of islands that stretch for more than 300 miles (483 km) around the southeastern end of the Caribbean Sea. This island group includes four independent countries: Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It also includes Martinique, an island governed by France. During the early 1600s, Europeans in sailing vessels arrived in the Windward Islands. (The name “Windward Islands” refers to the direction of prevailing winds encountered by ships sailing from Europe.) These Europeans eventually killed or enslaved the indigenous people they found there and established colonies to exploit the island’s resources. Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines were British colonies until they gained independence during the 1970s; Martinique remains an overseas department of France. Today the Windward Islands are best known for their modern resort communities and warm, sunny beaches. There’s a lot to discover about the Windward Islands!