Five Places to Visit on the Jamaican South Coast
You have seen Kingston and Lover's Leap. You have enjoyed fish at Fort Clarence, and toured the monuments of Spanish Town. The tour company insisted that you went on the Appleton Estate Rum Tour, and you escaped from their clutches long enough to get up close and personal with the fisher folk at Treasure Beach.
Now you are wondering what else the island in the sun has to offer on the south coast.
I do not presume to tell you the expert tourism route and spots. I am not a tour guide nor am I tourism employee, at least not at the time of writing this article in the year 2009. But I have lived in Jamaica for most of my life.
So..the following places are my own choice. My criteria are my own. Yes. You see I’m not a party popper, not a dance hall man, not a club man. Just another preacher with a love for outdoors, sports, art, music, and people in the many textured layers of culture. So I’m subjective, esoteric, idiosyncratic, and human. But when I travel, just like anyone else I want to have a good time. Enjoy!
1. Little Ochie, Alligator Pond
My wife has a way of saying that wherever food is good the crowds will come. That’s the main problem with Little Ochie; the place is so popular that you will have to wait and wait and wait to be served your choice of jerk fish, roast fish, fry fish, steam fish, or brown stew fish. I imagine they serve other seafood but I don’t eat shell food so my family and I usually have jerk fish or brown stew fish. Enjoy the wait, soak up the culture.
Enjoy the entire visit. Immerse yourself in the experience.
When you arrive you enter the cold storage areas and choose the fish which is then weighed. You advise the staff on the order such as festival, steam bammy, soup. You pay at the cashier and go out to one of several thatched roof huts, some of them with boast seating from retired fishing canoes. The wait can be a bit lengthy but you won’t be bored.
Music is thumping from boxes placed near the entrance. Being the incurable romantic, I usually try to sit facing the sea. The restaurant occupies the western portion of the Alligator Pond fishing Village which geographically sits in Manchester but is usually regarded as St. Elizabeth. In the distance is the bauxite shipping pier of Port Kaiser which is brightly illuminated at nights. The hills to the northeast are dotted with the windmills of Wigton. And spread out before you to the south the gently lapping Caribbean Sea. There is much to see and hear. You sit with you family, or take a walk by the sea, not ideal for bathing but you could wet you feet and splash your hands. And every so often a fishing boat arrives and is soon surrounded by eager customers. You observe the activities, even buy fish for your kitchen, would have been helpful if you had brought a cooler along.
When your waiter arrives everything is wrapped with cling wrap, wonder if it’s an effort to deal with sand in the wind. Tasty is an understatement. They have mastered the art of fish. Never overdone, with enough seasoning, and dripping with juice.
Just in case you are in the town of Mandeville and can't make it to Alligator Pond, I have good news for you, the people at Little Ochie have done so well that the concept has gone 2000 ft in altitude to the bauxite and college town, sans seascape, almost, the marine motif in the ropes and general décor of the Mandeville outpost at Leader’s Plaza evokes the salty winds of Alligator Pond. Yes Little Ochie Mandeville is tucked in at leaders Plaza right beside the NWC office.
2. Black River Safari
Black River Safari
Residents of this seaside town will proudly tell you that the historic capital of the parish of St Elizabeth was the first place in the western hemisphere to get electricity. The longest river in Jamaica empties into the sea at this old port town. Here you may board the small boat which will take you upriver and get you up close and personal with some friendly crocodiles.
You guessed it. As the name suggest this famous fish stop sits at the border between Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth where the main road winds parallel to a little fishing cove. This is really the name of the village but you stop is hard by the roadway where about a score of vendors ply their trade. Look out for the traffic. And remember to bargain.
The vendors attack you with their hard sell tactics as they vie for your attention; touting bammy, fried fish, soup, and boiled corn. If like me you can’t manage the hot pepper, say it early before the sauce is added, or you will be calling for water soon.
4. Milk River
Try to visit this world famous spa during the dry season because southern Clarendon has one of the most unpredictable flood plains in Jamaica. The warm water trickles out form under limestone rocks with minerals and active enough to warrant no more than half hour for your health sake.
The journey to and from the hotel and spa by any route is bumpy but the experience is well worth the visit.
5. Port Royal
Give yourself two full days for the ancient buccaneer haven; one day for the tour of the old city with its English monuments and history of the 1692 earthquake that punctuated the notorious pirate’s capital.
Then take a second day just to lime the time away and soak up the atmosphere before you dine at the restaurant facing the ferry stop. Except the ferry does not stop here anymore, you take a scenic drive along the Palisadoes past Norman Manley International Airport. On the way you could take a dip at Rockfort Mineral Springs if it is open.