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Montego Bay
Excerpted from the book, Jamaica, by Don Philpott

Montego Bay, or Mo Bay as it is popularly known, is deservedly one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. Over the years it has attracted the rich and the famous, and been the haunt of royalty. Many of their luxury villas still grace the hills with fabulous sea views. The bay offers wonderful beaches and the town has lots to offer. The town of Montego Bay is divided into two distinct areas, the residential and the tourist. The former is largely to the south of Sam Sharpe Square and west of St. James Street until its junction with Barnett Street. The main tourist part of twon, paced with vendors, stall, higglers and hustlers, is east of Sam Sharpe Square nearer the waterfront, and most of the main resorts and hotels are to the north, between the town and the Sir Donald Sangster International Airport, or east of it.

Today, Montego Bay is Jamaica's second city with its international airport and modern cruise ship pier that make it the tourism capital of the north coast. It has four championship golf courses close by, and boasts one of the Island's most beautiful beaches at Doctors' Cave. There are more guest rooms in and around Montego Bay thatn anywhere else on teh Island, and some of the most luxurious private villas in the Caribbean. There are several all inclusive luxury resorts, plenty of nightlife and a number of special weekly events. These include the Cornwall Beach Party, an Evening on the Great River - a torchlight ride in dugout canoes followed by dinner, dancing and entertainment- and MoBay Monday Night Out, an evening of traditional folk music and dancing and island fare.

A Short Walking Tour Of Montego Bay

Sam Sharpe Square
in the heart of Montego Bay makes a good place to start a walking tour of the town. The square, formerly called Charles Square, contains a collection of bronze statues sculpted by island born Kay Sullivan that show the Bible-thumping Sam Sharpe talking to four of his followers. The stone Cage is the other main feature of the square. The Cage was built in 1806 and originally used to hold captured runaway slaves and sailors, and those out after Curfew. Since then it has been a town lock-up, latrine, a clinic and a tourist office. It now houses a small museum. The square is still used for political and other local meetings, and it and the surrounding narrow streets, are filled with vendors selling everything from fresh produce and T-shirts to arts and crafts.

Inland from the fort is the area known as Canterbury, a densely packed shantytown, and a stark contrast to the homes of the wealthy to be seen on the hills above the town. Gloucester Avenue, along the waterfront, has many of the duty-free shops.'

Head back into town and at the roundabout take Cooke Boulevard that runs along the waterfront tothe Parish Wharf. Two blocks inland from Parish Wharf is Strand Street and the Strand Theatre. The Crafts Market is in Harbour Street beside the bay with The Creek running inland just to the south of it. The mini bus terminal is alongside the craft market. The small promontory just south of the creek is Gun Point Wharf, and beyond that are the banana wharves, and across the bay is the cruise ship dock on the man-made Freeport peninsula, which is also the home of the Montego Bay Yacht Club, and the Bob Marley Performing Centre. The area was reclaimed from the sea in the 1960s, by a combination of dredging and infill.

If you follow the road by the Creek inland, you meet Barnett Street thata runs southeast out of town. The railway station is off Barnett Street in Railway Lane, and a little beyond in Fustic Street is the produce market.

Continue up Creek Street to the junction with Dome Street to visit the Dome. The structure was built in 1837 over the creek that used to supply the town with water. The Keeper of the Creek had his office and living accommodation on the first floor.

Continue along Dome Street and turn right into Prince Street, where at the end of the road there is a path to the 82-foot (25m) deep Brandon Hill Cave. Return to Dome Street and turn right to its junction with Union Street. Just before the junction on the right is the Montego Bay High School, and round the corner in Union Street, on the right just before East Street is the old Slave Ring. Originally used to sell slaves, it later became one of the island's most popular cock fight rings. Turn left into East Street then right into Church Street then left into Payne Street for the parish church, back near the square.

St. James Parish Church was started in 1775 and dedicated in 1778, and is regarded as one of the finest on the island. It was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1957 but has been faithfully restored to its original appearance. The graveyard contains several elaborate tombs of planters.

Montego Bay has several art galleries, including the Gallery of West Indian Art and the Bay Gallery. Other shopping opportunities include rum and island liquors, perfumes, glassware, English casmere and local arts and crafts. There is also shopping at Freeport.

The Burchell Memorial Church was established in 1824 by the Rev. Thomas Burchell, a Baptist missionary and outspoken abolitionist. Most of the early congregation were slaves, and Sam Sharpe was a deacon there.

Other Things To See And Do At Montego Bay

The Barnett Estate Plantation offers a range of activities, including jitney tours of the historic sugar, banana and mango plantation. There are tropical gardens featuring native flora and fauna, and fine dining at the restored Sugar Mill. The estate covers 3,000-acres (1200-hectares) and stretches from the sea to the mountains and offers great views, over Montego Bay. There are guided tours of the Great House that contains a wealth of memorabilia about the many famous people who have entertained in the house over the past three centuries. The estate has been owned and run by the Kerr-Jarretts, one of Jamaica's oldest families for 11 generations. Colonel Nicholas Jarrett came to Jamacia in 1655 with the British army to take the Island from Spain.

The Belvedere Estate offers tours of 1,000-acre (400 hecatare) working estate. The heritage tour with guides in period costumes, includes 14 delightful houses, each used for a different purpose, and explanations of bush medicine. There is also citrus and herb farming and the old sugar mill.

Blue Hole Museum is in the hills 9 miles (10km) from Montego Bay. The museum's exhibits include a reconstruction of an Arawak village, and there is a mini-zoo. There are tours of the eighteenth century Great House.

Doctor's Cave Beach: World famous white sand and clear water beach believed to be fed by mineral springs. In 1906 the beach was donated to the town by Dr. Alexander McCatty, an advocate of the theraapeutic benefits of sea bathing. The cave was demolished during a hurricane in 1932. The area just inland from the beach was used as a burial ground. There is excellent snorkelling around the offshore reef, and glass bottom boats can be hired.

Orange River Lodge is an eighteenth century sugar estate, and a former cattle and citrus property. It is also a backpacker's paradise. The 980 acres (392 hectares) nestle in the hills about 25 miles (40km) south east of Montego Bay. The Great House overlooks the River Valley with guest rooms and hotel accommodation, as well as camping facilities. Activities offered range from walking, mountain hiking, birding and cycling to river bathing, swimming, canoeing and horseback riding.

The Rocklands Bird Sanctuary
at Anchovy, just inland to the south features Doctor bird hummingbirds, the national bird, and other species only found on the island. The sanctuary and feeding station are run by the very knowledgeable Lisa Salmon.

Along the coast there are a number of resorts and hotels between Mahoe Bay and Rose Hall, including Sandals Royal Caribbean, Caribbean Beach, Half Moon, The Palms and Wyndham Rose Hall Beach and Country Club.

Just inland from Little River is the magnificent stone Rose Hall Great House, which has been faithfully restored to its eighteenth century Georgian elegance. Its white fronted facade is illuminated at night and looks splendid from a distance.

Continue east for about 5 miles (8km from the turn off to another grand old house. Greenwood Great House is more than 200 years old and was owned by the family of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, the famous English poet. The museum contains one of Jamaica's finest collections of antique furniture, musical instruments and maps. It is open daily from 9am to 6 pm (953-1077).

The route then passes Flamingo Beach and Salt Marsh on Half Moon Bay. Visit the Half Moon Shopping Village with its world-class shopping, restaurants and galleries. It is also the home of the Bob Marley Experience and theatre which presents a 30 minute biographic documentary on teh performer every hour on the hour (953-3946). Then continue to the historic Georgian town of Falmouth.

Laid out in 1790, Falmouth is considered the best preserved Georgian town on the island, thanks largely to the efforts of the Georgian Society. Although may of the original shingle roofs have been replaced with zinc and tin, it is still easy to visualize how the town must have been in its heyday when it was the busiest port on the north coast. Today, fishermen sit on the grass blanks mending their nets, while donkeys and goats often mingle with the townsfolk and tourists in the streets.

The town's prosperity, based on sugar cane, was short lived and by the mid-nineteenth century it had lost most of its trade to the new railhead at Montego Bay and the larger port and harbor at Kingston. Named after the Cornish port, Falmouth has many interesting old buildings, especially along Main Street, around Water Square and in Market Street, with its stone and wooden homes with elegant wrought iron balconies and adam style doorways and fiezes. Main Street was used for the location of several of the scenes in the film Papillon, which satrred Steve McQueen. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are market days, Wednesday for fabrics, clothing and crafts, and Friday and Saturday for produce.

St. Peter's Church, built in 1795, in Duke Street is the second oldest church in Jamaica and noted for its stained glass windows, and there are usually craftsmen's stalls in the church car park and nearby road. The old Courthouse dates from 1815, although it was burnt down about 10 years later.

Barrett House
was built by sugar millionaire Edward Barrett. It was one of the many homes owned on the island by the Barrett famiy, whose most famous member was writer Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Things to do in the area include a visit to the nearby Jamaica Safari Village, a crocodile exhibition and farm with Leah the lioness, snakes, mongoose, petting zoo and bird sanctuary.

Martha Brae used to be a Spanish Settlement called Melila, and was teh largest town in the area before Falmouth was established. Its main claim to fame, is the massive wooden waterwheel, the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. The wheel was used to pump fresh water to Falmouth, long before New York was receiving piped drinking water.

Martha Brae, accordingto legend, was the daughter of an Arawak Chief. She was forced by the Spanish to lead them to a cave where they believed they would find gold. Having led them into the cave, she is said to have used her magical powers to divert the river into the cavern so that all the Spanish drowned. More likely, the town was named after the wife of a local estate owner, but even she was reputed to have been a witch. Martha Brae Rafting (952-0889), ofers a 75 minutes river trip aboard 30 foot (9m) bamboo rafts that begins at Rafter's Village 4 miles from Falmouth. The river trip passes the Good Hope Estate, which can be visited from Falmouth by taking the Good Hope Road. The elegant Great House on the Good Hope Estate was built i 1755 and has been carefully restored and refurbished and has 10 guest rooms, all with four poster beds. Facilities include swimming pool, tennis courts, riding stables and trails, and bird sanctuary. The 2,000 acre (hectare) grounds have a number of historic buildings and contain a water wheel and plantation equipment. Formerly a sugar plantation, the main crops are now papaya, ackee, citrus and anthuriums.

Visit Luminous Lagoon at Oyster Bay, just east of Falmouth, which gets its name because of the high concentration of bio-luminous micro-organisms in the water which glow at night when disturbed by a swimmer or a boat. There are nightly guided tours with Glistening Waters, 954-3229.

From Falmouth you can also take either the Good Hope or Perth Town roads inland to visit the Windsor Caves, which are easily accessible and huge. The coast road runs past Trelawny Beach, White Bay, Coral Spring and Silver Sand to Duncans, where you can take inland road B10 to Clark's Town on the eastern edge of Cockpit Country.

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