ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO DISCOVER ST HELENA | Sharon Henry
Swimming with whale sharks, meeting a 188-year-old tortoise and hiking precarious trails are just a fraction of fun things to do on St Helena and with the airport open for business, the island will be popping up on people’s travel radar who’ll be looking for such things to fill their itinerary.
We have Jacob’s Ladder, the Napoleon connection and St Helena fishcakes. There are military fortifications, a Georgian town and a cloud forest to explore. We have plenty of breath-taking views and history coming out of our ears. And to top it all, we have friendly people, nicknamed ‘Saints’ who will help to make a visit a memorable one.
We’ve mentioned all of the above on previous lists of things to do on St Helena, and here is a new slightly alternative one, chosen to appeal to nature, adventure and culture lovers alike.
Here are 11 more awesome ideas of What To Do When Visiting St Helena.
Make A Flax Flower with Wanda
The countryside is covered in tall, swishy flax, a living element of the island’s history as flax once bolstered St Helena’s fibre industry. Now considered a conservation pest, a new use has been found for this ready commodity albeit on a smaller scale; flax weaving crafts, as practised by local artisan Wanda Isaac. Wanda offers flax weaving classes and within an hour students can produce their own authentic souvenir. It’s good fun and suits all abilities.
Details: To book a flax weaving class contact Wanda Isaac at Abiwans, Forester’s Hall, Jamestown. Tel: (+290) 22082 Email: email@example.com
Have A Peek At ‘Saint Windows’ A Photography Exhibition
Come and have a browse of ‘Saint Windows’ a permanent photographic exhibition installed by yours truly, What The Saints Did Next in the foyer of Broadway House. The windows concept is a loose interpretation of Jamestown’s Georgian façade, framing the people and culture of St Helena. The photos were taken over the last 12 years’ and captures the different faces of island personalities.
Details: A free informal, exhibition open during normal office hours at The National Trust, Broadway House, Jamestown near the Public Gardens.
Hike The Painter’s Palette at Horse Point
The geology of St Helena is fascinating and the colourful marls of the locally named ‘Painter’s Palette’ is a stunning example. It is a set of eroded gullies with exposed layers of multi-coloured earth. It brightens an otherwise arid landscape. A visit in the late afternoon sun will reward a sight that is quite simply – dazzling.
Details: Located near the Met Station found just of the road to the airport, before the turning to the Millennium Forest and Horse Point dump.
What To Do When Visiting St Helena
St James Church and Time Machine
The door to St James’ church is always open. St James’ is believed to be the oldest Anglian church in the southern hemisphere, built in 1774. The church welcomes visitors for a browse or quiet reflection. Up inside the belfry lives a 232-year-old clock commissioned by the English East India Company in 1786. Listen for the chimes of the 146-year-old bell. It is a cousin of London’s original ‘Big Ben’ (the one that cracked.) Both bells were cast by the foundry of John Warner & Sons. St James’ bell remains intact and still rings true!
Details: Access to the belfry is not permitted. There is a donation box near the main entrance.
Take a tour of Rosemary Gate Coffee Estate
Made fashionable by Napoleon in the 1800’s, St Helena coffee is one of the world’s rarest and most expensive coffees. Take a tour of the estate at Rosemary Gate and learn the meticulous process of producing this coveted drink, it’ll make an interesting excursion for all coffee fans. Introduced in 1732 from the Yemen, the island grows the green-tipped Bourbon Arabica which is mild in flavour and high in caffeine.
Details: The estate is located near Rosemary Plain, St Pauls and is privately owned by Jill and Bill Bolton. Tour bookings are by appointment only.
Eat A St Helena Tungi (tune-chie)
This is something for the adventurous. Prickly pears, known on St Helena as tungis, bear fruit around February to June and can be found on the hillsides of the lower, drier areas of the island. The fruit has quite a distinct taste, a cross between melon and kiwi. Tungis are covered with fibreglass-like spines so do not pick with bare hands. For an easy method of how to safely pick tungi fruit click here, or watch this video. They are quite delicious and well worth the trouble!
Details: If your arrival misses the tungi season, there are other fruits that grow wildly and can be easily picked on St Helena throughout the year. Loquats, Sep-Dec mainly found at Thompson’s Hill, St Pauls. Please wash fruit before eating. Tamerinds, Dec-Mar found near the Library in the Public Gardens, Jamestown.
Sundowners & Dinner at Rosie’s
Sip a cocktail or an ice cold beer and watch out for the green flash as the sun goes down at Rosie’s Lounge Bar & Restaurant. Enjoy the spectacular view overlooking the vast Atlantic Ocean and top-off the experience with a delicious 3-course meal.
Details: Rosie’s is located at the top of Ladder Hill on the way to Half Tree Hollow. The drop-in restaurant is open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 11am to 9pm, the bar 11am-11pm. Fridays and Saturdays 8.30am to 9pm and 11am to 1pm respectively. Open on Sundays from 8.30am to 2pm. Tel: 255007 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Make A Pit-Stop At A Country Shop
When you’re out and about and in need of refreshment, pop into one of the country shops dotted around the island. Besides being grocers, these shops are a good place to meet and chat to locals. Some still operate over-the-counter and even use old-fashioned balance scales. But what is most significant is the intrinsic value these family-run businesses add to St Helena’s cultural heritage. Your custom would be welcomed.
Details: Many of the island’s country shops trade from home premises and are not always signposted. New Ground shop is around 100 years old and is situated on the hill at the bottom of Sapper Way overlooking Half Tree Hollow.
Play a round of golf at the Longwood Golf Club
For a unique golfing experience play a round at the Longwood Golf Club where course hazards include tethered goats and a main road. They have a 9-hole course that is able to squeeze out an extra 9 holes via a second set of tee boxes, therefore, enabling a full 18-hole round of golf. And like all respectable golf clubs, there is a 19th hole!
Details: Second-hand golf clubs are available free of charge. Greens fees are £7.50 for 9 holes, £15 for 18 holes. £30 for 3-month membership including competitions. Contact: Dorothy Thomas on tel 24312 or Helena Stevens at email email@example.com
Hike to Heart Shaped Waterfall
The Heart Shaped Waterfall is a natural rock formation perfectly cut into the shape of a heart that streams excess water from the Harpers reservoirs. It is best seen from Side Path Road above the Briars. The waterfall’s close proximity to Jamestown makes a hike to the base one of the island’s most accessible Post Box walks aided by wooden bridges and stairways. The path follows a ribbon of thick vegetation and a running stream.
Details: A torrent of water is usually only seen falling during heavy rainy periods. The start of the walk is located at Barnes Road which is signposted just off Constitution Road at the top of Jamestown.
St Helena’s Dark Skies Are Perfect For Stargazing
On a clear night go outdoors and look up – St Helena’s night sky is chock-full of stars. Marvel at the beauty of the natural world and the vastness of the universe – nothing else will make you feel smaller! The island’s lack of light pollution provides dark skies making stargazing a magical and glittering experience. You don’t need a fancy telescope, just a jumper, blanket and a glass of wine (optional) as you gaze up at the Milky Way and pick out constellations.
Details: In 1676 astronomer, Edmund Halley stayed on St Helena for a year to catalogue the stars of the Southern Hemisphere. The remains of his observatory can be found at Halley’s Mount near St Matthew’s church.