Saint Thomas Parish:
What to Do, What to See
What to Do, What to See
With such a lengthy history in this parish, there are some nice historical and cultural sites to look for. There are also great beaches and a therapeutic mineral spa! Here are some options:
- Albion Aqueduct and Sugar Mill: Albion was a large sugar estate located on the delta of the Yallahs River which in the 18th century gave its name to a light-colored sugar known as 'Brown Albion'. The aqueduct which brought water from the Yallahs River for the sugar works survives as do the ruins of the mill-house. This ruin is about a quarter mile off the Kingston to Morant Bay main road, on the road to Easington, which was the capital of the parish of Saint David from 1836 - 1867.
- Bath Botanical Garden: In 1779, the government established this garden which is the second oldest botanical garden in the Western hemisphere (the oldest is on the island of St. Vincent dating from 1765). Many of the exotic plants introduced to Jamaica were first planted here; plants like the jacaranda, bougainvillea, mango, cinnamon and the breadfruit brought by Captain Bligh. The garden is much smaller today than when it was first established and bears little trace of its former glory. Plans are in the works to give the garden a badly needed facelift. The hills above Bath are the natural habitat of Homerus Papillio, the giant Swallowtail Butterfly, indigenous to Jamaica and now threatened with extinction.
- Bath Fountain: The Bath of Saint Thomas the Apostle is the official name of the Bath Mineral Spring (known locally as Bath Fountain). There are a few variations on the story, but a runaway slave discovered the hot mineral springs in the 1690s. The warm waters healed chronic ulcers on his legs so he returned to tell his master about his discovery. In 1699, the government bought 1,130 acres which included the spring and built the Bath of St Thomas the Apostle, then formed a corporation to found the town of Bath and administer a hospital. Thirty slaves built the road and the hospital that offered free treatment to the sick. Soon afterwards people started flocking to the Bath of St Thomas the Apostle, seeking relief from numerous ailments and it became a popular resort. The waters contain sulfur, magnesium, lime and other minerals and have therapeutic value for treating skin problems and rheumatism. The water flows from two rocks, producing both hot and cold water. The water is mixed before being fed to the guest bathhouses. Over the years the place fell into disrepair, but the tiled baths (big enough for two) have been renovated and are quite relaxing. The small old hotel upstairs is clean and spacious. The baths are open to hotel guests 24 hours and to the public during the day for a fee. Bath Fountain is well worth a visit. I love this place and go often, but I prefer the short hike upstream to the open air mineral springs. The hot water gushes from a rock and from bamboo poles. There are rasta "masseurs" there who give a pretty mean massage for not being professionals! You can say no to the hustlers and walk to the stream on your own. But, if you decide to go for the "treatment", be sure to tip them for their efforts. Note: When last there in January 2010, some restrictions had been placed on the hustlers, so you should not be overwhelmed.
- Fort Lindsay was built opposite to Fort William, near Old Pera. It had nine openings in the walls designed for eighteen 24 pounder guns. The masonry platform and the vault of the fort's magazine are now in ruin and covered by bushes.
- Fort William - As early as 1675, Port Morant had a platform with five guns to defend its harbor. The gun emplacement located at what was called Battery Point in 1694 was named Fort William in honour of King William. The fort fell into disrepair and was extensively repaired in 1710. By 1752, the fort had eighteen 24 pounders all mounted on carriages. By 1770, it was felt that the fort was inadequate to defend the town so a neighboring fort was built.
- Holland Bay Beach - To the west of the Morant Point lighthouse you will find this lovely white-sand beach along Holland Bay. It is secluded, good for swimming, and you may find you are the only ones there on any given day. The road to the lighthouse and beach is not, however, easily accessible. During cane-cutting season it gets quite chewed up by big trucks and can be very muddy. While you don’t need a 4-wheel drive vehicle, be very careful driving here. And the road is not well-marked so ask anyone you see to point you in the right direction through the cane fields. It is definitely worth the trip! Entrance is free and take your own drinks and food.
- Jamintel Earth Station - At Prospect Pen, just beyond the small pond and on the mountain side of the main road, is the Jamintel Earth Station which is linked to the Intelsat satellite and, through it, to the rest of the world. The large dish antenna has been operating since 1971. It is a standard A type Intelsat station, is 98 feet in diameter, weighs 326 tons, and can function in winds up to 55 miles per hour. In the event of hurricanes it can be pointed to Zenith and locked and is designed to withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour in this position. It provides telephone/fax, telex, telegraph and television links and has the capacity for 960 circuits. The smaller dish, 40 feet in diameter, now serves as a standby. The station also has its own standby power plant. The road up to the earth station provides a panoramic view of the coast and Salt ponds. You will pass a tower of stone, an 18th Century kiln in which limestone was burnt to produce lime for building.
- Jamnesia Surf Club & Camp - If you want to check out the surfing scene in Jamaica, check out this club and camp located just beyond the western end of Saint Thomas parish in Bull Bay. Click here to read our listing in Saint Andrew parish.
- Judgement Cliff - Just north of the town of Yallahs lies Easington, which houses one of the most interesting geological formations in this part of the island – a sheer cliff that rises over 1,000 feet high. This is the most visible reminder of the 1692 earthquake that destroyed Port Royal. The cliff was created by a landslide that happened when the earth moved. The mountain fell into the river burying an entire plantation and the owner who, legend has it, was extraordinarily wicked to his slaves (and earned his fate).
- Lyssons Beach - Lyssons public beach provides good swimming and is one of the best in Saint Thomas (and the South Coast for that matter). Once in disrepair with trash strewn about, it is now kept clean and lovely. Beside it is a beach cottage owned by the University of the West Indies. This tranquil beach is sign-posted, slightly east of Morant Bay, and is near the Golden Shore Beach Hotel.
- Morant Bay Court House: The original building was destroyed in the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865 but was rebuilt shortly afterwards in limestone and red brick. It was unfortunately destroyed again in 2007 by fire. In front of the building is a symbolic statue of Paul Bogle created by the late famous sculptor Edna Manley to commemorate the Morant Bay Rebellion. Nearby is a plaque remembering those who died in the struggle. Excavations in 1975 revealed 79 skeletons in a mass grave. They were re-interred below a small fort nearby. A memorial in the small park records that they did not die in vain.
- Morant Bay Fort - Situated behind the Morant Bay Court House overlooking the harbor is the Morant Bay Fort. The fort which was built in 1758 was designed for nine guns. It is built of brick and cut stone approximately four inches thick. The guns were mounted on elaborate cast iron carriages. There is a small nicely kept park here..
- Morant Point Lighthouse: This is the oldest lighthouse in Jamaica and is a National Monument. It stands between Quaco and South East point on a 300-ton concrete foundation at Jamaica’s easternmost point. It is 18 feet wide and 115 feet high with 7 stories and was erected by George Grove, after whom Golden Grove was named. It was built by Africans from Sierra Leone who were part of group of 11,400 Free Africans brought to Jamaica after slavery was abolished. It is believed to be the only cast iron lighthouse in the world and was designed by Alex Gordon a civil engineer in London from a 100-foot high cast iron tube. The road is very bad and the area is swampy, so be very careful if you decide to visit.
- Prospect Beach - If driving east from Morant Bay, you will pass Golden Shore first and, a little further east, will find Prospect Beach. (The turn-off is the road for the VIP Lounge.) This is another of Saint Thomas’ beautiful public beaches which you may have all to yourselves many days.
- Rozelle Beach – Another nice beach, in Rozelle near White Horses, and one that is also popular with surfers.
- Saint Thomas Parish Church in Morant Bay is brick and was built in 1865 when the original Church situated at Church Corner was abandoned because of dilapidation.
- Stokes Hall Great House: This impressive ruin may be the oldest structure in Jamaica and was built around 1710 by a descendant of Luke Stokes, Governor of Nevis who along with 1,600 persons from that island, came to settle in 1656 in Jamaica after it was captured from the Spaniards. Within a few months, two-thirds of them got sick and died but three of Stokes’ young sons survived and prospered. One of them built Stokes Hall. It was as much a fort as a dwelling; it had towers about 30 feet high at the four corners and the thick walls had loopholes through which shotguns could be fired. The ruin is set on the crest of a hill and would have a commanding view across the plain to the cane fields and factory of Duckenfield if not obscured by dense foliage. It was badly damaged by the 1907 earthquake but was in fairly good shape until as late as the 1920s. Today it is a ruin. It is owned by the government and taken care of by the Jamaica Heritage Trust.
- Stony Gut, a small village in Saint Thomas parish, is the birth place of Jamaica's National Hero, Paul Bogle. He was a deacon of the Baptist Church in the same village. It was in this village that the Morant Bay Rebellion began. The rebellion brought about many changes in the poor social and economic condiditions of the peasants in Saint Thomas and throughout the island. Bogle Memorial Garden is the place where the house and chapel of Paul Bogle once stood. They were destroyed by soldiers in the vicious reprisals after the riot. The site has been developed as a garden by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. A stone carving with a plaque has been erected on the site.
- Sun Coast Adventure Park - Located in Twelve Miles, just east of Bull Bay and about 15 minutes east of the Harbour View Roundabout, is Jamaica’s first, largest and best brand-new paintball facility! They also have hiking trails, rope and maze challenges, basketball, and volleyball on the beach located a 5-minute walk away. Birthday party packages are now available for kids 11 and under - sounds like great fun! Coming attractions include a water feature, zip-lining, miniature golf and much more. They are open Saturday and Sunday and public holidays from 9am-5pm. Food (burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers) and beverages (no alcohol) are available on-site. Open by reservation throughout the year for groups of 10 and more playing paintball. Relax in the sun with a good book while your kids paintball each other!! Phone: 876.485.0015.
- Yallahs - Yallahs is one of St Thomas’ primary towns with a population of over 10,000 people and growing. The name is derived from the surname of a Spanish family that settled there to raise cattle on a ranch called Hato de Ayala. At night the town changes from a congested town to a lively scene of streets lined with jerk chicken stalls and small pubs with reggae music. Next to Boston, this is my favorite place to get jerk chicken; just drive up to one of the stalls along the road and place your order. Delicious! Three miles north of Yallahs, through the green hills of the Yallahs River Valley, lies the district of Heartsease, a sleepy little community that comes alive when Revival and Kumina meetings are held on the riverside near the old bridge. These meetings are loud and energetic, as believers in flowing garments and colorful head wraps sing and dance for hours at a time, moving to heavy, hypnotic drum rhythms.
- Yallahs Ponds: Beyond the village of Yallahs are the Salt Ponds: two huge shallow pools of salty water separated from the sea by narrow spits of land. The legend is that two brothers quarreled so fiercely over their inheritance that the land in question split in two and sank below sea-level. The large pond is about 14 feet deep and 10 times saltier than the ocean next to it due to evaporation. The smaller pond is about 4 feet deep. The ponds are 4 miles long and about one mile at the widest point. The high salt content of the pond sometimes produces a thick foam that lines the coastline for a depth of about three feet. One of the most respected explanations is that during the earthquake of 1692, the land below the ponds sank, leaving pockets of seawater almost completely enclosed by land. A 17th Century owner claimed that the ponds yielded 10,000 bushels of salt annually. On occasion, they also emitted an overpowering stench. It was so bad in October 1902 that it affected Kingston and prompted investigations. It was discovered that the smell was caused by a high concentration of hydrogen sulfide in the big pond which was made by a species of bacteria that multiplies in rain water. Channels were dug to connect the large pond to the smaller one and then to the sea and the problem has not recurred. Few fish can tolerate the unusual conditions in the ponds but the water is full of micro-organisms that fascinate scientists. Among these are certain archae-bacteria which were among the first form of life on earth!
For hotels, inns, guesthouses and B&Bs in Morant Bay, Lyssons, Retreat and Bath, click here.
To find out more about the history of Saint Thomas Parish and the surrounding area, click here.