St. Thomas is often described as the ‘forgotten parish.’ One of the poorest on the island, it is perceived by many Jamaicans as under-developed. The parish has certainly endured its share of trials, seemingly falling into obscurity following the closure of the Goodyear tyre factory in 1997, along with the more recent downsizing of sugar and banana production locally. Lately, St. Thomas only seems to make the news whenever there is a hurricane and the roads fall apart – again.
However, this is not a full picture of the beautiful, storied parish. This Travel Tuesday, let’s take a look at some of the ‘good’ sides of St. Thomas.
- On your way into the parish, via the Yallahs fording, you will come across the salt ponds – two huge, shallow basins separated from the sea by narrow spits of land. The water is said to be up to 10 times more salty than the nearby sea. According to legend, two brothers quarrelled so fiercely over their inheritance that the land sank below sea level. Of course, the scientific explanation is that the ponds were formed by a landslide which occurred during the 1692 earthquake.
- St. Thomas is probably best known as the birthplace of National Hero Paul Bogle and the site of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion. Bogle’s statue stands before the historic Morant Bay Courthouse, which was recently reopened after being destroyed by an early morning fire in 2007. Behind the courthouse ruins, overlooking the harbour is the Morant Bay Fort. The fort was built of brick and cut stone and accommodated nine cannons.
- Pay a visit to the Morant Point Lighthouse, which stands at the extreme west of the parish, below Holland Bay. The landmark structure was fashioned in London in 1841 from a cast iron tube 100 feet high. The lighthouse overlooks a small group of islands on a coral reef off the coast, known as the Morant Cays.
- Feeling down? Head to Bath Fountain and Mineral Spa for a pick-me-up. The healing waters are said to cure a variety of ailments and a spa day is the perfect remedy for a tired body and mind.
- While in the area, check out the Bath Botanical Gardens, the first of its kind established in Jamaica in 1779. The first plant of several imported species including breadfruit, otaheite apple, cinnamon and croton were said to have come from one of its nurseries.
- Surf’s up! Sign up for a class and ‘hang ten’ with the surfers at the Jamnesia Surf Club in Eight Miles, Bull Bay or take on the waves at Makka surfing beach in Southhaven, Yallahs.
- The most famous bathing beaches might be in Negril and along the North Coast, but St. Thomas also offers its share of sun, sea and sand. Take your pick from the Lyssons, Prospect, Holland Bay, Rocky Point, Mezzgar’s Run, Retreat and Rozelle beaches. Rozelle Beach is also good for surfing.
- Up for a trek in the mountains? Hike the Cunha Cunha Pass, an eight-kilometre mountain trail that links Hayfield and other parts of St. Thomas with Bowden Pen and the Rio Grande Valley in Portland. The trail, first used by the Maroons as an escape route during battles with the British forces, will soon be declared a national monument.
- Speaking of hiking, you can also take a trek into the famed Blue Mountains. The mountain range spans the parishes of St. Thomas, Portland and St. Andrew, but the peak is located on the St. Thomas-Portland border.
- The 1692 earthquake that destroyed most of Port Royal also sunk a huge chunk of one mountainside in Llandewy, St. Thomas, burying an entire plantation and the owner who, according to legend, was an evil man. No wonder the geographical wonder is called Judgement Cliff! It is easily visible from the road mid-way between Easington and Richmond Vale.
Have you visited St. Thomas lately? Share your travel stories with us or tell us about any attractions we might have missed.