Although primarily known as the island where Napoleon was exiled after his defeat at Waterloo, the fascination with St. Helena goes back many more centuries. Its main attraction may very well be its remoteness, which enabled the Portuguese to keep their discovery of the island in 1502 a secret for the next 80 years. It was this isolated location that the British thought perfect to keep the defeated Napoleon.
St. Helena, a "green gem set in a ring of bronze," as a poet once called it, is surrounded by a magnificent coastline, with 1,000-foot-high cliffs dropping down to rocks pounded by the Atlantic surf. The countryside offers astonishing contrasts, ranging from wind-eroded desert with multicolored ridges and valleys to flax and tree covered hillsides, soft pastures and vegetation-filled valleys.
Jamestown is the island's tiny capital and only town, boasting a number of 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Other attractions include Jacob's Ladder, 699 steps leading from the valley floor to the top of Ladder Hill. Exploring Jamestown is like a delightful treasure hunt.
The garden of Plantation House, the governor's residence, is a favorite with visitors because of the giant tortoises that live on the grounds (one of which is reputedly 200 years old). Equally popular is Longwood House, where Napoleon spent the final six years of his life in exile.
Because of the island's remoteness, even in today's jet age the only way to get there is by sea. Visiting St. Helena is rather like going back in time. Despite electricity, paved roads and cars, the island has retained a way of life reminiscent of bygone days. The 5,500 islanders are British and proud of it.
Tuna and wahoo fishing add much to the island's economy and serves as a recreational sport to the resident. Soccer is the most popular game followed by cricket and tennis. The golf course at Longwood is pleasant, but not championship material.
The island is visited approximately six times a year by a shipping service en route from England to South Africa. On these calls and the occasional call of a cruise vessel, the old wharf and tiny Jamestown come to life and both residents and visitors thoroughly enjoy this exciting event.
The ship is scheduled to anchor in James' Bay. Guests will be taken ashore via the ship's tenders. Jamestown is within easy walking distance from the tender landing. Local transport offered by the residents for hire may be available in limited numbers. From the tender pier there are about ten steps to climb to the parking area.
Locally made lace, embroidery, baskets and items decorated with inlaid wood make attractive souvenirs. St. Helena has its own currency, which is on par with the British pound. U.S. dollars are generally accepted.
Seafood is a good choice here, but eating facilities are limited. In addition to a few small cafés, the Consulate Hotel and the historic Wellington House are the only two hotels in Jamestown.
Take a stroll through delightful Jamestown with its 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Many feature such decorative details as heavy brass doorknockers and iron railings. Walking along Main Street, note Essex House built in 1739 and the massive Malabar, a Victorian warehouse. The St. Helena Canister building stands in the shade of two fig trees under which slaves were once sold; the iron spikes, to which their chains were attached, are still embedded in the gnarled wood.
One of the most impressive attractions are the 699 steps, known as Jacob's Ladder. Originally, the steps formed part of a tramway system for hauling military stores up the 700-foot-high cliff and sending farm produce down to Jamestown. Today, only the school children along with a few energetic islanders and some very agile tourists make use of the stairs.One of the most impressive attractions are the 699 steps, known as Jacob's Ladder. Originally, the steps formed part of a tramway system for hauling military stores up the 700-foot-high cliff and sending farm produce down to Jamestown. Today, only the school children along with a few energetic islanders and some very agile tourists make use of the stairs.
Concierge Arrangements are not possible in this port.