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5 Reasons to Visit St. Thomas, Jamaica

I never made it to St. Thomas, located on Jamaica’s southeastern coast, until I was in high school. As part of our graduation celebration, our teacher organized a day trip around the island that brought us not to Morant Bay, its historic capital, but to Prospect Pen to view the Jamintel Earth Station* that had opened some years earlier. I still have the grainy photo of us posing primly in our navy school uniforms with part of the satellite station in the background.

St. Thomas, the 9th largest parish on the island, is bordered on its northern end by the Blue Mountains. Its diverse landscape includes mountains and wetland areas. The island’s only east-west river, the Plantation Garden, is located in the parish.

Bath Fountain plaque, St. Thomas Jamaica

Plaque at Bath Fountain

St. Thomas was established in 1662 and named for Thomas, Lord Windsor, who was governor of Jamaica at that time. It was known then as St. Thomas in the East. The name it was shortened to St. Thomas around 1866 when the number of parishes was reduced from 22 to 14.

St. Thomas has been home to the indigenous Taino Indians, Spanish, British and Maroon communities. Archeologists have found remnants of Taino settlements, dating to 650AD, in several locations in the parish.

No other event in the long history of St. Thomas has captured hearts and minds as the Morant Bay Rebellion. In 1865, Paul Bogle, a Baptist deacon, led a delegation of residents to petition the governor who were dissatisfied with their land tenure arrangements and the injustices they suffered.

Although slavery had been abolished, the majority of the population were unable to vote as they did not own land, neither could they read.

Mountains near St. Thomas Jamaica

View of the mountains

Following their unsuccessful attempt to get the ear of the governor and the arrest of some of the delegates, Bogle headed a peaceful march to the Morant Bay Courthouse a few days later. Sadly, a riot broke out. By the time order was restored, nearly 1,000 people were killed by troops, executed or sent to prison. Bogle and George William Gordon, a politician, who was not even in the parish at the time, were hanged.

Duckenfield sugar estate, St. Thomas Jamaica

Duckenfield sugar estate

The rebellion had a huge impact on the island, as well as in Britain. The governor was charged with murder (but was never tried), the Assembly was dissolved and the island came under colonial administration.

Paul Bogle, St. Thomas’ most famous resident, and George William Gordon were both later named a National Hero. The rebellion of 1865 still stirs powerful emotions and is the subject of poems and songs.

5 Reasons to Visit St. Thomas

Bath Botanical GardensEstablished in 1779 by the Government of Jamaica, these gardens are the second oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Many of the plants first brought to Jamaica were introduced here, including the croton, the jacaranda, cinnamon, mango, jackfruit and breadfruit.

Bath Fountain – According to local lore, a runaway slave discovered the mineral spring in the 1690s. The spa was opened in 1747 and is a popular location for Jamaicans.

Cunha Cunha Pass Maroon Trail – A very popular 8 km trail in the Blue and John Crow Mountain National Park that was first used by the Maroons to travel between St. Thomas and Portland. Guides are needed for this hike.

Morant Bay Court House and Memorial Garden – Although partially destroyed by fire, the courthouse is the location of the 1865 rebellion that ended with the execution of national heroes, Paul Bogle and George William Gordon. A statue of Bogle, which stood in front of the courthouse, will be returned when the court house is restored.

The Memorial Garden across the street is dedicated to Jamaicans who died in World War I.

Morant Bay Lighthouse – The oldest lighthouse on the island, it was built, in 1841, by indentured workers who came to the island from Sierra Leone.

St. Thomas has several great beaches, including the popular Holland Bay Beach.

My favorite sight in St. Thomas is the whitecap on the waves that crash to the shore, and the roadside waterfall near Whitehorses.

If you’re in Kingston, St. Thomas is less than 30 miles away. It is a little over 4 hours’ drive from Montego Bay.

*

The Jamintel Earth Station, part of Cable and Wireless, was installed in 1971. It was linked to an INTELSAT satellite to provide telephone, telegraph and television connection. It’s no longer in operation.

Comments

  1. These are really good reasons to visit St. Thomas in Jamaica. I will include this place in my travel destination list.
    Dylann Andre recently posted..Help with Setting up a BusinessMy Profile

  2. Thanks, Dylann. Hope you make it there one of these days.

  3. I am definitely already looking forward to another vacation, thanks for these photos and tips!

  4. Hi Marcia, St. Thomas looks very bucolic and with such incredilble history. It seems like off the tourist path and my kind of place. I’d like to do that hike on the Maroon trail.

    P.S. Did you get the email I sent you in your ymail account?
    Marisol recently posted..Jordan: Along the Highway of Great HistoryMy Profile

  5. What a bloody history there has been. And yet today the countryside looks so peaceful. You’ve given me plenty of reasons to visit St. Thomas; I’d love to see the botanical gardens and the hike would be lovely.
    Leigh recently posted..Extreme Silence: A Solo Backpacking Trip in Cape Chignecto ParkMy Profile

  6. I think hiking Cunha Cunha Pass Trail alone is a good enough reason to visit St. Thomas. I really like the mountain photo.
    Salika Jay recently posted..Top Hotels In Dubai To Pamper YourselfMy Profile

  7. Me and the rest of my team would be planning to go to Jamaica to experience the Reach Falls. The natural waterfall located near the Blue Lagoon and Blue Mountains of St. Thomas and Portland. As far as i know, we can plunge into the 30-foot aqua pool and explore the forest and trails around the falls to enjoy scenic views of the region. We are very excited next year! Hope our plan would be realize.
    Landscaping Grosse Pointe recently posted..Hello world!My Profile

  8. Hope you get to Reach Falls. There’s a lot to do in Portland and St. Thomas so enjoy it to the fullest.

  9. You’re welcome. Glad to hear that my post is making you think of your next vacation!

  10. St. Thomas is definitely off the tourist path, Marisol.
    Yes, thanks, I got your email and have replied.

  11. Agreed, Salika. The mountains are beautiful there.

  12. A lot of blood has soaked St. Thomas, unfortunately, but today most of it is lush and beautiful.
    The botanical garden is still on my list.

  13. Yah.. we’re very excited there. Thank you.