Next week I will be spending my vacation in Atlantic City, New Jersey where we have plans to spend a day at Wildwood beach. This is a beach I visited a few years ago and absolutely loved. This experience was so different from my childhood visits to beaches in Jamaica. The dolphins swam close enough to see their fins above the water and the waves were much stronger than in the Caribbean. Plans for the beach had me reminiscing about the beaches I visited as a child in Jamaica. I hope you will enjoy this trip down memory lane with me.
Growing up in Jamaica going to the beach was a favourite past time in the summer. Both my parents were teachers, summers with my family was filled with beach days and one road trip to visit my eldest brother in Runaway Bay on the northern coast of the island. As soon as the summer started my sisters and I would ask my dad to take us to the beach, all the while praying the old Ford Cortina would be in good working condition to get us there and back. Bluefields in southeast Wesomoreland was our beach of choice, it was close enough to home and we loved this destination. The beach is right next to the road and was easily accessible from the car. I remember playing for hours in the clear turquoise water, our parents had to call us several times for lunch. On the ride home I would fall asleep in the back of the car still feeling the waves of the sea against my body as I slept.
Another beach we visited was Seven Mile beach in Negril. This was long before the hotels were built, we had access to the long expanse of pristine white sand, a lovely beach that you could walk out for some distance before it got too deep. Going to Negril was a treat, this beach was further away from home so lots of preparation was required for this trip. Every beach trip was an amazing adventure. A fun part of the adventure was the food we brought, who can forget corned beef sandwiches, fried chicken, vegetable salad and rice and peas. My mom would have a sweet treat for us, sweet potato pudding or a cake baked with coconut called a Toto so delicious!
Our summer road trip took us to St Ann where we got to go to a wonderful beach called Salem Beach in Runaway Bay. It was a 20 minute walk from my bother’s house, this was definitely one of the highlights of our road trip. As soon as the dawn broke we quickly eat breakfast, don our bathing suits, throw a towel over our shoulders and took the daily walk to the beach. No concerns about our size or shape we walked to the beach in our bathing suits and maybe brought a summer dress to change for the walk home. This beach was a working one, you could see fishermen going out in their boats for their daily catch or coming back with fresh fish, lobsters and conch. They would get the catch ready to be sold at the local markets and restaurants. We enjoyed the calm waters in the early morning and caught glimpses of tourist at the nearby resorts before we took the road home. This was a special time with my cousins and I looked forward to it as often as my parents could take us.
As I got older I saw a lot more of the island by going on beach trips organised by my schools. We would visit Puerto Seco beach in Discovery Bay and Duns River Falls on the North Coast. Thinking back our teachers were brave to take a 20 or 30 kids on such an adventure, we were all well supervised with the help of parent volunteers. My eldest sister took me to a little known beach in St. Thomas called Lyssons. She had a friend who lived in the area who introduced her to the beach. It was a quiet spot back then, brown sand with gentle waves. If you ask a Jamaican which beach is the best they will give you a different response based on their experiences or where they grew up. The north coast gets a lot of recognition for the beaches however there are many beaches in eastern part of Jamaica. I started visiting these beaches as a young adult and thoroughly enjoyed the experiences.
When I left college two of my best friends managed a villa resort called Goblin Hill in Portland which is located Jamaica’s east end. My friends and I sent many weekends hanging out in her villa visiting the nearby San San beach. This beach is different because of the lush tropical greenery that surrounds the clear blue waters of the beach. This area typically gets more rainfall thus creating a tropical paradise. This area is also known for eco- tourism with a more laid back vibe. We would go to the famous French Man’s Cove where you could bathe in the cool river or swim in the warm sea. This destination gives the best of both worlds as the river flows to meet the sea. This beach is known for strong under currents so lots of caution is required when swimming there.
A few honourable mentions are the mineral baths I visited as a child, my mom loved Milk River Bath in Clarendon. This water has a high mineral content, is naturally warm from the springs in the area and is said to have healing properties. Rockfort Mineral Bath located in Kingston was a favourite because it was easy to reach and convenient when I lived in the city. Many of the beaches in Jamaica are not in the same condition from my childhood. Hurricanes and tropical storms damaged the shoreline resulting in rocks covering the sand on some beaches. New infrastructure and tourism made many of the beaches inaccessible to locals or have high admission fees to offset maintenance costs. There are still many beaches in Jamaica that I am sure kids growing up today will find their favourite and treasure the memories for a lifetime. Walk good.