Jamaica is not only an island of sun, sea, and beaches, but is also one that is steeped in rich heritage. In Jamaica, one can find little-known stories of black wealth to victorious slave revolts during the colonial era. There are many historical sites in Jamaica that offer an insightful look into its past and how these events helped to shape present-day Jamaica. So during your next visit to Jamaica, here are six historical sites to visit.
1. Devon House
Address: 26 Hope Rd, Kingston, Jamaica
Built in 1891, the majestic Devon House is the former home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel. In those times, the Georgian-style great house and 19th-century antique furnishings were a rare symbol of black wealth. Today, the property spans 11 acres and is the home of the world famous Devon House ice cream, which was named by the National Geographic as among the top ten ice creams in the world.
2. Firefly Estate
Address: Firefly Estate, Port Maria, Jamaica
Once the vacation home of the late playwright Noel Coward, Firefly Estate is the place where he entertained many noted aristocrats. The impressive guest list included Queen Elizabeth II, Laurence Olivier, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Guinness, Peter O’Toole, and Richard Burton. A National Heritage Site, the Firefly Estate is well maintained to reflect the state of the house and grounds when it welcomed the Queen’s Mother for lunch in 1965. The Firefly house is also Noel Coward’s final resting place.
3. Seville Heritage Park
Address: Seville Heritage Park, St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica
The Seville Heritage Park holds an important spot in Jamaican history, as the place where Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus first encountered the indigenous Taino Indians in 1494. Today, the former plantation’s Great House offers an insightful look into different periods of history when the Taino Indians, Spanish, English, and Africans inhabited the area. The Seville Heritage Park is also the site of an annual culture party held on Emancipation Day, observed on August 1st, which features many traditional foods and activities.
4. The Blue and Johncrow Mountains
Address: Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, County of Surrey, Eastern Jamaica
The Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site spanning about 200,000 acres of tropical rain-forest. Located in the island’s hilly interior, the area stretches through the mountain slopes of four parishes – St. Andrew, Portland, St. Thomas and St. Mary. These mountains are home to more than 800 species of endemic plants, the world’s second largest butterfly and 200 species of resident and migrant birds.
5. Port Royal
Address: Port Royal, Palisadoes, Kingston, Jamaica
Once a haven for swashbuckling pirates, much of Port Royal has been buried beneath the sea since 1692 when a massive earthquake and tidal wave engulfed the city. Infamous buccaneers Henry Morgan and Calico Jack are said to have lived in Port Royal at the time when it was known as the “wickedest city on earth”.
Now a National Heritage Site, Port Royal still has the old Fort Charles with the canons that pirates used to guard the city and plunder passing ships. Visitors can also see the Giddy House, a former artillery store for the fort which was shifted to a precarious slant during another powerful earthquake in 1907. The water off the coast of Port Royal is believed to host an archaeological minefield, including a sunken pirate ship yet to be explored.
6. Nine Mile
Address: Nine Mile, St. Ann
Nine Mile is the birthplace and final resting place of Robert Nesta Marley, more commonly known as Bob Marley. Bob Marley was born in a small cottage in the rural village of Nine Mile and lived here until he was 13 years old. His house and community gave Bob the inspiration for many of his well-known songs.
A visit to Bob Marley's home at Nine Mile includes a tour of the property from Rastafarian guides, which usually includes a rendition of one of Bob's songs, memorabilia, his famous "rock pillow" where he rested his head for inspiration and the Marley mausoleum. There are two tombs in the mausoleum, one where Bob Marley is buried along with his half-brother, Anthony Booker. The second tomb is that of Cedella Booker, Bob Marley's mother or "Mamma Marley" as she was sometimes called.
The village of Nine Mile is located deep in the St. Ann countryside and is reached through a series of scenic winding rural roads. Nine Mile is a very small village consisting of several modest homes. Bob Marley's birthplace is easily recognisable from the flags bearing Rastafarian colours and the compound wall surrounding the property. Outside of the compound walls there are many members of the local community attempting to sell various goods and services, including tours of some interesting herb farms!
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