Port Royal, Jamaica

Once the richest and wickedest cities in the modern world, Port Royal, Jamaica has endured numerous disasters, including all consuming fires, cataclysmic hurricanes and earthquakes. While the Earthquake of 1692 is the most notable (three increasingly large shocks over the course of two minutes), each shaped the town where all the famous pirates once plied their trade – Sir Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, Anne Bonny and Mary Read and Calico Jack Rackham, just to name a few.

I'll start off by telling you that the Port Royal of today bears little resemblance to the town we've all learned about in history books and movies. The only original buildings from the original city is Fort Charles and related fortifications and the Old Gaol. They were the only buildings that could survive nature's wrath over the last 300+ years. So you won't be able to revel in the town as made famous by Hollywood such as Pirates of the Caribbean or Cutthroat Island. It doesn't exist. That's really the good news. Port Royal and its citizens remain unspoiled by time and progress. They enjoy life as life has always been enjoyed there - eating in small restaurants serving the catch of the day, downing a beer at the local tavern, enjoying an evening of gambling on a side street and celebrating life as it should be.

If your idea of going out on a limb on vacation is getting off a cruise ship and getting onto a tour bus, Port Royal isn't for you. There is a decided lack of American conveniences here - no fast food restaurants, no supermarkets, no tacky t-shirt or souvenir shops. Here, kids still play in the streets, everyone knows one another, dogs are everywhere running loose and the food is whatever arrives by sea or the bus that day.

But the rewards are worth it. If you have any interest in pirates, you must go to Port Royal. I don't think you can be a good re-enactor or pirate historian without going there. The books only cover so much territory. During your visit I can guarantee that you'll absorb history at every turn, marvel at the stories locals have to tell, meet some really great people, dance under the stars and find out that Jamaica is nothing like you were ever told it was.

So, let's start our tour of Port Royal, including Fort Charles, Lime Cay, the Naval Hospital and Morgan's Harbour Resort and Marina.

Where are We?

We'll start off by acclimating you to where Port Royal is. It's really a wonder why anyone ever settled here at first glance. Port Royal is located on a spit, across the harbor from modern day Kingston. But on closer inspection, the location has obvious advantages. The harbor provided deep water anchorage for hundreds of ships, a single fort could provide protection to a large part of the city, including the port area. Ships could even tie up right to the fort in Chocolata Hole, which led out to the harbor. Small wonder why the population eventually soared to more than 6,000 at the height of the city's prosperity.

To see where you are, click on the links to these maps: Map 1 - Satellite view showing Port Royal in relation to Kingston and the airport.

The map pictured on this page is a close-up of the first one. It shows a closer image - much of the spit shown here didn't exist pre-1692. The earthquake sank a large part of the city and sand has subsequently extensively rebuilt the area. The fort is now far inland where it used to be on water's edge. But more on that later. Click on the image to see an enlarged version.

Finally, a close-up of the city today, marked up with some of the historically significant sites to see while visiting.