Come visit Jamestown on the small Island of St. Helena and discover a unique and genuine world.
By Maria Myers
The island of St. Helena has a surface area of around forty-six cubic miles, with a population estimated to be around 4,300 at the end of June 2018.
You’d think there wouldn’t be much to do here in such a small stretch – but you’d be pleasantly surprised.
Since the Portuguese Admiral sighted the lands rugged coastline on the 21st of May in 1502, the island has seen much action, with the likes of Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Charles Darwin and James cook gracing its’ shores, just to name a few.
Will you be added to the list?
History 500 Years in the Making
With all the activity St. Helena has seen since the early 1500s there is no shortage of history distilled into most every man-made structure on the island.
Especially in Jamestown, the island’s capital.
One of these structures is the war memorial The Cenotaph, a war memorial resting at the Jamestown seafront etched with the names of islanders killed in WWII, as well as the 41 individuals who lost their lives on the RFA Darkdale; a Dale-class fleet tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, torpedoed off Jamestown by a German Submarine.
For more general St. Helena history, make sure to visit the museum of St. Helena. The museum is housed in an 18th-century building restored in 2002 to mark the islands 500th anniversary.
The two-story building includes exhibitions on local crafts, maritime and (of course) the East India Company.
As mentioned above, Napoleon was one of the characters to see the island in its early days; he was exiled to St. Helena from 1815 until his death in 1821. Contrary to popular mythology, Napoleon did not die on Elba, he died here.
You can walk in his footsteps when you visit The Briars Pavilion, where he spent his first two and a half months on the island. Finish your day as he finished the rest of his five and a half years of life at Longwood.
A Visit to the Plantation House
A visit to the Plantation House blends history with the current. Take a tour of the governors’ house; the grounds and the first floor only (as it’s the officials current home).
Hopefully, you’ll be lucky enough to bump into Jonathan, the oldest vertebrae in the world, clocking in at 186 years old. What is Jonathan? Who knows? Hint, he doesn’t talk.
If you don’t take the tour, maybe you can figure that out when you take a visit to the island’s archives will allow the detail-oriented visitor to truly delve into the countries history.
Established in 1972, documents as far back as the early days of the East India Company, along with more current council and government records, newspapers, and a tracing service (for a fee) for those interested in discovering any long lost familial roots.
Jacob’s Ladder provides a moveable piece of history, not stuck in books or papers.
This inclined plane was built in 1829 and used to move manure from the capital to St Helena’s’ higher elevations, and bring useful goods back down.
At 600 ft high with 699 steps, this historical attraction is definitely not recommended for the acrophobics of the world.
St Helena’s Natural Beauty
If you are so inclined towards heights, let me suggest one of the many Post Box Walks.
With over 20 hikes to choose from, ranging from an hour-and-a-half to six hours thrill seekers along with the less ambitious hiker will be able to find a walk that suits them.
Each walk ends with a ‘Post Box’ where you can write down your experience and use a stamp to memorialize the experience. The Heart Shaped Waterfall is a popular route, as well as Great Stone Top, Dian’s Peak, Blue Point, and Manati Bay.
The Millennium Forest is another noteworthy eco-attraction; around 5000 gumwood trees, planted to mark the
millennium and as a conservation initiative. Connect with the National Trust and you too can add to the conservation effort and plant a gumwood tree.
For a more varied flora experience, visit The Diana’s Peak National Park. St. Helena’s wildlife is as unique as it’s people; 45 of the 60 known native species of plant can only be found here. The same goes for the islands invertebrates, with 400 of the 1100 varieties.
So Many Tours
The many tours St. Helena has to offer will provide you with the above information, and much more. Learn about everything from the island’s wildlife to a full-blown history of the last 500 years compiled into 4 to 5 hours.
If you do lean towards the historical, Harry Leg tours offer a Napoleonic vantage point; visiting areas such as Briars Pavilion and Napoleon’s tomb and Long Wood house.
No Limits Travels and Tours allows you to design your own adventure. As the company so aptly puts it,”with all the best choices that you want to do and everything tailored around your special interests.”
St. Helena being an island and all, you’d be a fool not to make use of its maritime tours and excursions. The Pink Lady company provides an experience with wild dolphins at arm’s length.
Get Hooked on St. Helena seems to offer the broadest opportunities when it comes to fishing. Packages like “The Wahoo Experience” and, “The Big Boys Game Fishing” really stand out.
The “Wahoo” features 4 hours of trolling for one of the most popular fish to catch on St. Helena besides Tuna. This is the companies most popular package – so book early.
Swimming with the fishes is also acceptable. You’ll be in good hands with the Sub-Tropic Adventures; they’re infused with a wealth of local knowledge. This, along with PADI diving courses and tailor-made dive excursions, all skill levels can be accounted for.
Food on St Helena
This solitary and isolated island has much to offer in the way of food.
Traditional dishes include fish cakes, black puddings, pilau (a mixture of rice, spices, and meats), and coconut fingers (a traditional type of celebratory cake) to name a few.
And there is no shortage of restaurants offering these traditional dishes.
Including the Mantis St Helena. Housed in the Mantis St. Helena hotel, this fine dining experience ranges from £15.00 for a two-course meal to £25.00 for a three-course.
For a less refined experience (but just as authentic) stopover at the V2 Paradise. This restaurant wears many hats; bar, café, pub, bistro – and definitely get the steak.
Last on the list is the Orange Tree Restaurant, specializing in Chinese, Thai, Canton, Malay, and Indian. Plan ahead for big parties.
If you’d like to venture outside of Jamestown for a meal, Half Tree Hollow, Longwood, Bottom Woods and Sandy Bay also have excellent tasty options.
Eating out every day can be expensive, so if you’re on a budget, Jamestown markets have a wide variety of groceries to select from. If you’re bold enough, ask one of the vendors how to make a traditional dish. St Helena’s cultural variety is evident in these dishes, including Portuguese, British, Southeast Asian, Malagasy, Chinese and African. What kind of dish will you make?
Places to Stay
The Consulate Hotel: One of the oldest hotels in Jamestown and located in the city center, this 18th-century
building is ideal; a five-minute walk from the seaside and nearby attractions such as Jacob’s Ladder, the Museum, Archives, shops, and the Tourist Office.
Costs for these accommodations run high, ranging from £150.00 to £200.00.
Those on a budget will appreciate the Wellington House; also in the center of Jamestown but starting at an affordable £50.00.
This five-bedroom bed and breakfast will provide you with a more familial feel.
A ten-minute walk from the harbor and a two-minute walk to the popular Market Square make for stress-free sightseeing. Transportation to and from the airport and packed lunches are available by request.
Right in the pricing sweet spot is Bertrand’s Cottage (right next door to Napoleon’s house).
Starting at £88.00, all rooms are located on the first floor, overlooking the lush grounds, Deadwood Plain and nearby Flag Staff. Rooms are named after St. Helena’s volcanic formations, Stitches, Friars and Woody Ridge.
There are fireplaces in the common areas for the colder months and a fine dining restaurant named after the island’s national flower, the Ebony flower. This lodging is located in Longwood, seven miles from Jamestown, providing a more rural feel and experience.
General Island Info.
A few things worth mentioning before you plan your trip;
- Make sure you have a valid passport, return tickets, and pre-booked accommodations. You won’t be allowed on the island without them.
- Be ready to pay an entrance fee of £20 when arrive.
- Plan to have medical insurance worth at least £250,000
- If you plan on staying for more than 90 days, you must apply for a residence permit. This can last for 2 to 5 years and should be submitted through the Immigration Control Board. Tel. + 290 2470, fax. + 290 2598 and email, [email protected]
- Jamestown does have a General Hospital and Dental Surgery, both by appointment unless someone is experiencing a medical emergency, so you’re covered there.
- There are no ATM’s on the island currently, but you can get cash advances from the local bank as long as you have a verification number and a valid photo ID.
- Islanders use the St. Helena pound, but US Dollars, the South African Rand and the Euro are also accepted.
- Most roads being single-laned means driving etiquette is a must; if you’re coming downhill and someone else is going up, always move out of the way. Oh, and drive on the left-hand side of the road.
St. Helena Islands’ 500 plus year history and everything that has come since is waiting to be discovered. So, whether you be a history buff, a hiking enthusiast, fishing aficionado or anything in between, St. Helena and Jamestown will provide.
Visit http://sthelenatourism.com/ for tips, lodging, tours, and anything other Helena inquiry you can think of.
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