Situated at the end of the Palisadoes strip in Kingston, Port Royal is a historical seaside town with a fascinating and tumultuous past. Once known as the “Wickedest City on Earth” for its notorious reputation as a pirate haven, Port Royal’s history is as colorful as it is intriguing.

Port Royal was founded by the Spanish in the first half of the 16th century but truly rose to prominence in the late 17th century when the English captured Jamaica. Due to its strategic location in the Caribbean and its deep, natural harbour, Port Royal quickly became a thriving center for trade and a magnet for pirates and privateers. These individuals, often sanctioned by the English crown, used Port Royal as a base to launch attacks on Spanish ships, laden with gold and other treasures from the New World.

At the height of its prosperity in the late 17th century, Port Royal was one of the wealthiest and busiest ports in the world. It was renowned for its loose morals and excessive debauchery, earning it the title of the “wickedest city on earth”. The town was filled with taverns, brothels, and the loot of pirate raids.

However, Port Royal’s fortunes took a drastic turn on June 7, 1692, when a catastrophic earthquake and subsequent tsunami destroyed much of the city, submerging large sections under the sea. This event, which killed a large portion of the population and caused immense damage, was seen by some as divine retribution for the town’s sinful reputation.

In the years that followed, Port Royal was rebuilt on a smaller scale and served as a significant naval base for the British during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, it never recaptured its former glory.

Today, Port Royal is a quiet fishing village that holds significant archaeological value. The submerged section of the original city is considered a unique underwater archaeological site, providing a snapshot of life in a 17th-century English colonial port town. On land, historical landmarks like Fort Charles, the oldest fort in Jamaica, and St Peter’s Church, add to the town’s historical charm.

Visiting Port Royal today offers a unique opportunity to delve into Jamaica’s colonial history, the exploits of Caribbean pirates, and the enduring folklore of the “wickedest city”. The town is a testament to the transformative power of nature and time and stands as a fascinating counterpoint to the bustling modernity of nearby Kingston.

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