Every Jamaican knows all of Jamaica’s 14 parishes are bordered by the Caribbean Sea, but tell anyone about the coast of Manchester and they look at you in puzzlement. That’s because Manchester is not known for beaches or rivers and has no major road by the coast. However, Manchester does have some gems worth going off the beaten path for.
As a child my father would take the family frequently to enjoy spots along Manchester’s coast, however, I had not been back that side as an adult. I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with that section of my beloved parish.
We were already in South Manchester, but still a long way from the coast. We took the route through Newport, Cross Keys and Plowden to go down to Alligator Pond from which we would drive the entire coast of Manchester.
From Alligator Pond, there is no way to get lost as you head east, as there is only one road – the South Coast Road. The road surface is pretty good for most of the journey. Along the drive sand dunes can be observed at Alligator Pond, plus the beautiful Caribbean Sea to the right and the hills of Manchester to the left.
The first stop was at Guts River. It was a bit rough getting there as, about two miles before arriving, the road surface deteriorated drastically and the overgrowth ensured you had to drive in the middle of the road and hope any driver coming in the opposite direction was vigilant (thankfully we encountered no other vehicles).
At Guts River the cool, clear water emerges suddenly out of the rocks at the side of the road and flows towards the sea. It was still there, but that’s all that was the same as I remembered.
It was a ghost town and all the buildings are now abandoned save for one, where we encountered a gentleman, who appears to be a caretaker, but said it was OK for us to proceed to use the beach.
We spent some time walking along the shore with our bare feet and reminiscing on trying to learn to swim in the cold water of the river, then frolicking over to jump the rough waves of the Caribbean sea, typical of the south coast.
After that we were in pursuit of Alligator Hole, a misnomer, like Alligator Pond, where there are no alligators. Alligator Hole is located in the larger Canoe Valley Protected Area. Important for its role in sustaining marine life and important breeding sites on the south coast. Alligator Hole is also the home of two manatees rescued from fishermen as well as to crocodiles and other wildlife.
Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to spot any of the manatees or crocodiles, but we still had a good time learning about the area from the resource centre at the site as well as the National Environment and Planning Agency worker there. I was told adventurous people bring their own rowboats and take a row down the river, some even risking an encounter with crocodiles to take a swim in the crystal clear water!
After leaving Alligator Hole, the road conditions improved and soon we were in Milk River, Clarendon, home to the famous Milk River Mineral Bath. We didn’t have time to stop at the mineral spa, but I would definitely recommend that as a perfect end to such a trip.
I’m also thinking the South Coast Road is a great route for biking given the almost non-existent traffic. It’s now on my to-do list.
NOTE: I would not recommend this route at night. It’s mostly deserted, almost no traffic and cellular service is virtually non-existent.