Baron Bliss Light / Belize City lighthouse
On the seafront is one of Belize's national icons, a lighthouse dedicated to the British adventurer Baron Bliss. The lighthouse, which can be seen on the labels of the local Lighthouse beer, is slim but eyecatching, especially against the azure sky. It is also one of the landmarks most noticeable on the shoreline as you speed to or from Belize City on one of the speedboats serving the northern Cayes. What you may not see until up a bit closer is Baron Bliss' granite tomb.
Baron Bliss is one of those eccentric European figures often crops up in the history of the colonial tropics. He was a British citizen, but the baronetcy was given by Portugal and he was a world-travelling trader primarily.
The strange story of Baron Bliss and Belize is that, after falling ill elsewhere in the Caribbean in early 1926, his ship anchored off Belize City so he could recuperate. This didn't happen and he eventually died without ever stepping onto Belizean soil. However, this was not before he had bequested a fortune to the people of Belize. That fortune is still being used for the arts in Belize, and the legacy continues. There is even a national holiday in his name, Baron Bliss Day, on the 9th of March.
St. John's Cathedral
Built in 1812, this Anglican cathedral was the first church built in Belize. The church is still in use today and is popular for weddings and funerals and has the oldest cemetery in the country. The building is open free of charge when not in use.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Oldest Anglican Church in Central America
St. John's Cathedral was built about 1812 in Belize City by slaves carried on European ships. The church took approximately eight years to complete entirely. Today's visitors can still find many original architectural features which remain including intricate stained glass windows, ornate mahogany pews and an antique organ. The "plantation-style" shutters are as practical as they are attractive. To me, the cathedral feels slightly unfinished as it has no campanile but only a relatively short, flat tower though for its day, it must have been quite ornate.
The church is also notable for three main reasons:
1) It was built from red brick brought aboard English sailing ships as ballast. (Maybe you have seen the blue stones used in the construction of the cobblestone streets in Old Town in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which were also ship ballast!)
2) St. John's is the oldest Anglican church in Central America. The 160th Anniversary of the cathedral was celebrated in 1972.
3) Between 1812 and 1824, St. John's was the site of the crowning of 4 Mosquito Kings of the Mosquito Coast. The term "Mosquito" does not refer to the often disease-carrying, flying insect. "Mosquitos" were indigenous indians of the Miskito tribe. The ultimate Mosquito leader was referred to as the "Mosquito King." This particular tribe lived along the coast between Honduras and Nicaragua but during colonization apparently favored the English over the Spanish colonists and hence the coronations are thought to be a short-lived attempt by them to secure English interests in timber extraction in the area.
It seems the cathedral has had some very memorable and important visitors over the years: the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Wales in 1969 (to name but two), who delivered the sermon at the installation of Dean Gareth Lewis on December 15, 1969; and the Archbishop of York in 1958. Royal visitors have included H.R.H. The Princess Royal (now Queen Elizabeth II); H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh (husband of Queen Elizabeth II) and H.R.H. the Princess Margaret (now deceased).
Near the cathedral lies the oldest cemetery in the country, "Yarborough Cemetery," which was built by the British and was dedicated as the resting place for members of the colonial Anglican Church. It was in use from 1787 until 1896 and took its name from the magistrate who owned the land.
Open Daily (6:00 a:m-6:00p:m)
Admission is free.
A Great Ride on the Old Belize River
A boat ride on the Old Belize River is something that many people, especially those interested in wildlife, would love when visiting Belize -- it gives you a different look at this especially beautiful part of the country and the possibility of seeing many types of Belizean wildlife.
I am glad that the boat ride was included as part of our excursion especially as we were here for only one day -- it turned out to be my favorite part of the day!
Our tour guide had, of course, come along, but it was our boat captain who made the trip especially amazing due to his ability to spot wildlife at a distance and point it out for us; he expertly guided the boat in such a way as to give us the best view possible. In that one ride we saw dolphins, a manatee, iguanas, crocs, howler monkeys, bats, and the ingenious, hanging sock-like nests of birds (can't remember the name now) which drooped from the trees along the milky green river. It was fantastic!
Our ride concluded with a spine-tingling mini race with another boat as the river spilled out into the open blue Caribbean Sea. See my tips on out of the way places for additional pictures and details.
NOTE: Since this boat trip on the river was part of a ship excursion, I am not sure what it cost. However, I believe this ship's excursion to the "Baboon Sanctuary", including the lunch and boat ride was only about $50. I imagine a boat ride on the river by itself would be considerably less expensive!! Check for boats or boat rides that can be independently booked from owners on the dock at the Tourism Village.
(Note: my quickly fading/disintegrated photos don't do the river justice, nor was I able to get the photos I would have liked to due to the boat bumping along the river.)Related to:
Baron Bliss Memorial & Lighthouse - Part I
The story of Baron Bliss and what he did for Belize is a fascinating one. Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss was born in England in 1869, and inherited the title of "Fourth Baron of the Former Kingdom of Portugal" as a young adult. His love of seafaring & fishing lead to his early retirement and a journey to the Caribbean aboard his yacht, Sea King II.
In Trinidad, Baron Bliss contracted an extremely severe case of food poisoning whereupon he set sail for Belize after a brief stop in Jamaica. Although his health rallied briefly, Baron Bliss died on March 9, 1926, in Belize City Harbor. He had never set foot upon Belize. The impression of Belizeans, however, must have been considerable because Baron Bliss left a sizable fortune, said to be about $2 million in trust, to this tiny country in thanks for the kindness shown to him during his illness. Apparently the Baron was a very smart man, and his will was very specific and binding.
However, being that the country at the time of the Baron's death was still the British Honduras, even though the Baron tried his best to have the country exempt from British taxation by his will specifically stating (in the first line of his will) that Baron Bliss considered himself domiciled in Belize, and furthermore, he even wrote a letter to his brother to that effect, nevertheless the British government contested the matter of the will's stipulation in court. On March 11th, 1929, the decision was handed down by Justice Rowlatt of the King’s Bench which read, “I must find that it is not made out that this gentleman acquired a British Honduras domicile.” As a result of the decision, at least a quarter of the original amount given to the country now known as Belize by Baron Bliss was taken for British taxes. Quite a disappointing ending to the story.
Baron Bliss requested to be buried here and that a memorial built. The Baron's tomb lies under the lighthouse overlooking the harbor's entrance to the city.
Baron Bliss, Benefactor of Belize - Part II
Before he died, Baron Bliss quickly came to love the waters around Belize, and he had been kindly treated by the local fisherman and people who cared for him during his final days. During this time, he executed a new will, bequeathing the bulk of his estate to the country of Belize!! Leaving explicit instructions for use of the money, he also requested that he be permanently interred in a granite tomb near the sea, and surrounded by an iron fence and an obelisk or lighthouse to be built nearby. As noted in the previous tip, from a trust fund of almost $2 million dollars minus British taxes, the government of Belize has constructed health centers, libraries, a school of nursing, museums, and a culture center. Of course, there were also specific restrictions on the will.
Imagine what further kindnesses and generosity Baron Bliss might have bestowed on Belize had he lived!
The Baron Bliss Lighthouse is located in the Fort George District and it is dedicated to a British traveller, Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss (1869 –1926), who left upon his death rougly two million U.S. dollars to a trust fund for the benefit of the citizens of Belize – well, the colony of British Honduras as it was then called. The Baron, who happened to be a fake nobleman, is buried in Belize city and on the 9th of March, the day he died, is celebrated as a public holiday and wreaths are placed by his tomb, which is located right at the foot of the lighthouse.
Belize Supreme Court
Like the cathedral, the Belize Supreme Court building with its four clocks is another fine example of Britsh colonial asrchitecture. This is now, however, the very first supreme courthouse building, as it dates back to the 20th century; and not even the second, as this is the third attempt of a courthouse. 1926 was the date of construction.
St John's Cathedral
St John's Cathedral, from the little I saw of Belize City, is a quaint church that dates back to the times it was under British rule - having been built in 1812. It is charming but not opulent, made of bricks outside and with plenty of mahogany (the national tree) inside. It is possibly the most charming building in town.
Right beside it you can find the oldest cemetery all over Belize, Yarborough Cemetery.
Fort George Lighthouse
On the eastern most point of the Fort George area, this light house serves ships coming into Belize City. At the base is a memorial to Baron Bliss, an English adventurer, who donated much of his fortune to Belize civic projects.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
- Historical Travel
The Altun Ha and City Tour
There are many tour guides in Belize City- some are independent and some are controlled by some businessmen and you deal with middle men. Whether middle men or not, it is okay to haggle. Ask around for the cheapest price. The Altun Ha Tour and the Belize City tour are combo (together). Make sure to haggle. We paid $40 dollars each.
The tour is about four hours or more so make sure to consider your time. When you choose this tour, make sure to wear comfortable and wear comfortable shoes. Bring a backpack for your lunch or your snack and drinks. The food in Altun Ha is expensive and there is not a lot of choices there. Make sure to buy your food in Belize City before you head down to Altun Ha.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
My daughter wanted to have her hair braided!
For $10.00 you can have your hair braided in Belize City. There are many women here who can braid your hair fast!
These are independent women who has little tiny stalls (nor parlors) and they braid hair and do also do manicure and pedicure for a very cheap price.
My daughter Sierra, who is only 7 years old, wanted her hair braided but it takes at least an hour. To braid long hair sometimes takes a couple of hours- depending on the style of braiding.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
Cave-tubing... You won't forget it..
Floating down the river, on the best rafts they have to offer.. It puts the other companies to shame.. USE Cave-tubing.com.... It's something I've never experienced, in so many ways.. From the walk through the rainforest, to tubing through a pitch black cave.. Your adrenaline pumping.. Not knowing what to expect.. And, then comes the break in the cave wall, with sunshine beaming down on a most exquisite waterfall, surrounded by lush greenery... You can't pass this up.. It's spectacular..Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Hiking and Walking
water taxi to Ambergris to snorkel/diving
we arrived Belize city by a cruise, we did not buy snorkel tour from the cruise sine they are normally more expensive than the same tours from local tour company, and you would also support local economy if you spend your money to local business.
we wanted to snokel in Hol Chan Reseve and see nurse sharks, so we took water taxi to Ambergris Caye, and bought a snokel tour with two stops: Hol Chan and Nurse shark, from a tour company on Ambergris. the water taxi is $15 round trip per person. the ride will be 75min one way. the snorkel tour is $40 per person(including $10 Hol Chan fee).
The snorkel tour is normally $35, conducted two times per day, 9am and 2pm. since we arrived 8am in Belize, and arrived Ambergris at 10:30am, and need to go back the cruise ship by 4:30pm, we were happy to find a tour company willing to take just two of us to the reef for only $5 extra. the tour company is the first one outside of the water taxi terminal.
we saw turtles, rays, nurse sharks, and so many other fishes.
Belize City's Tourism Village
Belize has done a great job of trying to attract more tourists to its shores, particularly those who arrive by cruise ship. Tourism Village is a very good facility on the Belize City harbor front where cruise ship passengers arrive after being tendered ashore. This lively and welcoming center has attractive shops, eating establishments, rest rooms, an Internet cafe and is also the starting point for shore excursions.
If you are not booking shore excursions from your ship, this is the area where you are most likely to be able to independently book snorkeling & diving trips; catch the boat for Caulker Caye and Ambergris Caye; catch buses for other areas of the Belize countryside; book Old Belize River excursions, etc. Check with the tourist desk if someone doesn't just walk up to you with an offer.
The buildings are mostly an open air construction and they surround small plazas with benches right on the waterfront which makes it a pleasant place to linger before reboarding your ship.
One especially nice shop also does double duty as a small post office! Pick up maps here and get information from the manned tourist information desk located in Tourism Village.
On the day we were visiting there was live music by local musicians who were situated in the little plaza at the Tourism Village. I kind of thought this added a really nice touch to the whole place.
Having traveled to many islands in the Caribbean, I can say that Belize City has one of the nicest port areas I've been too as far as atmosphere and facitlites for tourists and I appreciated the effort.
Belize City Hotels
PARADISE. A true vacation. Fabulous scenery and beautiful diving. You feel taken care of by the...more
Oceanfront Street, , Belize
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Families
2 Dawson Lane, Burrell Boom Village, Belize City, Belize
Good for: Business
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