The story of Port Royal Jamaica is fitting for any modern day movie.
Once known as the “richest and wickedest” city on earth, Port Royal is now known as a small quiet fishing village.
From pirates and wealth to earthquakes and peace, Port Royal has been transformed into perhaps the most peaceful city in Jamaica.
A visit to
Kingston is not complete without a tour of this city. This is perhaps the only
“city” in Jamaica that you can tour in its entirety in one day.
On this page we will look at my recent trip to Port Royal, as well as, what Port Royal was like before and after the massive earthquake in 1692.
It had been a while since I had visited Port Royal but one early Sunday morning I decided to take a trip with three friends to the "other side of Jamaica".
What a way things have changed even though quite a few signs of the old Port Royal still remains.
As soon as you enter Port Royal, there are early signs of how things have changed.
But things weren’t always like this. Everything changed in 1692.
Port Royal Jamaica was discovered in 1518 and because of its position, quickly became the shipping central of the Caribbean.
The Spanish were the first to settle. They came searching for wealth but found none. The Spaniards knew that the location of Port Royal was key, so they held on to it until the English defeated them in 1655.
Both the Spanish and the British wanted complete control over Port Royal because its position at the Kingston harbour meant that it was the centre of most trade routes.
The English had no plans on capturing Jamaica from the Spaniards but in so doing the English changed the culture of Port Royal.
The British wanted to ensure that Spain would never take back Port Royal so they immediately began to build forts as defences.
The Spanish were already rich but they were weak, and the British wanted a part of the Spanish’s wealth. They would attack Spanish ships that had to cross their path.
British forces needed protection, so they recruited buccaneers from all over the world to protect the base and steal the wealth of the Spanish.
Within seven years of Port Royal’s establishment, the British had acquired so much gold and silver from piracy that there was more running cash there in proportion to population, than in London.
Of all the pirates that lived in Port Royal, none was as famous as Henry Morgan. He not only raided ships, he invaded countries.
His exploits on the sea made him the most feared and celebrated pirate of the 17th century.
His most famous raid was on Panama City in 1670 when he and approximately 2,000 buccaneers raided the city’s gold and silver, even though Spain and Britain had made peace.
Henry Morgan and his men returned with many pieces of gold and silver and were hailed as the best pirates.
By this time, Britain had become a commercial force worldwide and made many friends. The pirates were getting out of control and Britain needed a way to stop this embarrassment.
King Charles knighted Henry Morgan and made him Lieutenant Governor.
But the morning of June 7th, 1692 changed everything in this city. A large earthquake on this dreadful day sank 33 acres, nearly 2/3 of the island.
Thousands were killed immediately and many more died from injuries and diseases.
People felt that the earthquake was God’s act for the wickedest city on earth. Perhaps they were right because Port Royal has never returned to the glory days.
Port Royal Jamaica is the only sunken city in the new world.
After the 1692 earthquake, some persons decided to rebuild while the majority migrated to Kingston.
Today Port Royal is known as small and quiet fishing village with not much activity besides their annual seafood festival, Gloria Restaurants and Morgan’s Harbour Hotel.
Actually, the first sign of activity when you enter Port Royal is the Morgan's Harbour hotel.
This is a nice small hotel filled with great scenery and night time activities. Don't miss the karaoke on Friday nights.
Morgan's Harbour hotel is a nice get-a-way from the busy Kingston hotels.
A few footsteps from this hotel and you are actually in the town.
Once you are in the town, you will come across a few important buildings.
St. Paul’s Methodist Church is one of the few churches still around.
Another is the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church which was built in 1975 to replace a church that was destroyed in the 1692 earthquake.
Be sure to stop by the “Ye Olde Parade Bar” for a few drinks.
I can’t stress too much how quiet this town is but it really is quiet.
Don’t mind if people stare at you when you walk by they are just checking out the new faces.
Fort Charles and the Giddy House are two more key points of interest.
Fort Charles is the only fort left standing after the 1692 earthquake and was one of the six forts that were used to guard the city. There is so much history to Fort Charles that it is worth the J$200 (US$3) entry free.
Today there is a museum that basically displays all the history of Port Royal including cannons, maps, etc
Another popular attraction is the Giddy House. It got its name when it was tipped over by an earthquake caused in 1907.
The Giddy house is so called because it is slant and once you enter you begins to feel dizzy, especially when you are moving around.
But this is nothing compared to what Port Royal experienced in the earthquake of 1692.
Majority of visitors to Port Royal Jamaica do so at night-time to have a meal, preferably steamed fish, at any of the two Gloria's Restaurant in the town.
Hands down this is one of the best places to buy steamed fish in Jamaica. People come from far as Montego Bay just to have lunch or Dinner.
For quite some time it seemed like Port Royal Jamaica was only for archaeologists but now majority of tourists to Kingston will take a trip here.
Tourists from as far as Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios take the long journey to Port Royal to learn about this part of Jamaican history.
Today there are many places besides Gloria’s and Fort Charles. Here are some
other places that you can visit.