Fort Charles

sights / Military

Fort Charles information

Port Royal , Jamaica
+1 876 967 8438
adult/child J$200/100
Opening hours
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Jamaica’s latitude and longitude are measured from the flagstaff of Fort Charles, a weathered redoubt originally laid in 1655. Among Port Royal’s five original forts, only Fort Charles withstood the 1692 earthquake, though it sank 1m. Originally washed by the sea on three sides, the fort is now firmly landlocked due to the gradual silt build-up.

At its peak, 104 guns protected the fort. Many cannons still point out from their embrasures along the restored battlements.

In the center of the courtyard stands the small, well-presented Maritime Museum , containing a miscellany of objects – from glassware and pottery to weaponry – retrieved from the sunken city, plus a fabulous model of the Jamaica Producer cargo ship. Horatio Nelson, who later became one of Britain’s greatest naval heroes, lived in the small ‘cockpit’ while stationed here for 30 months.

Behind the museum is the restored raised platform known as Nelson’s Quarterdeck . It was here that the young Nelson was said to keep watch for enemy ships when put in charge of the fort amid fears of a French invasion. Once you climb to the top you’ll agree that it does offer a splendid vantage point. A plaque on the wall of the King’s Battery, to the right of the main entrance of the museum, commemorates his time here.

A small red-brick artillery store, the 1888 Giddy House (so known because it produces a sense of disorientation to people who enter), sits alone amid scrub-covered, wind-blown sand just behind Fort Charles. The 1907 earthquake, however, briefly turned the spit to quicksand and one end of the building sank, leaving the store at a lopsided angle.

Next to the Giddy House is a massive gun emplacement and one of two equally mammoth cannons – part of the easternmost casement of the Victoria & Albert Battery that lined the shore, linked by tunnels. The cannon keeled over in the 1907 earthquake and the second one disappeared.

Museum entry includes a guided tour.