Belize City – What You Need To Know
Brief History of Belize City
Belize City came into being thanks to the lumber trade. This settlement is situated right by the harbor of Haulover Creek’s mouth; Haulover Creek happens to be a branch of the Belize River. The Belize River happens to have been the main waterway by which British lumberjacks, known as “Baymen,” would use to transfer their product. Despite this, the settlement had little of note until the Spanish occupation of St. George’s Caye in 1779; the caye was the first major settlement established by the Baymen. Since then Belize Town was made as the capital settlement for Britain’s governance of Belize, then known as British Honduras. Popular fiction claims that Belize Town began as nothing more than a handful of huts pitched in land surrounded by mosquito-infested swampland and developed atop chips of mahogany and the leftover bottles of rum enjoyed by the Baymen. Baymen would head out to the coast during the rainy months in order to sell inventory, mostly spending their earnings on rum.
It was during the 1800s that Belize Town would expand to occupy both sides of Haulover Creek, positioning the southern seafront as the side for merchants and nobility. African slaves and the descendants of those slaves would live within inland cabins found here as well. Come 1880, Belize Town had grown to 5,000 people. The bulk of these numbers belonged to Creoles, despite all power being held by British whites. Belize City saw many hallmark moments of Belize’s quest for independence, including riots in 1884, 1919 and 1950.
After suffering through two hurricanes in the 1900s, the British decided to move the capital city to Belmopan. While Belmopan was over 50 miles further inland, the relocation left Belize City and its Creole populace feeling neglected. Many Creoles emigrated to the United States to escape the poor conditions and prospects at home.
Drug rackets plague the country during the 1980s and 1990s, exacerbating the subpar conditions of the working class. Middle-class homes had developed along the northern portions of the city as the sides of Haulover Creek carried on as the center of Belize’s culture and commerce.
The largest shift of the 21st Century would be cruise tourism. Cruise lines anchored around Belize City brought an unprecedented number of 850,000 passengers in 2004. Nowadays, these tourists first see Tourism Village, positioned at Haulover Creek’s mouth, and then head off in various directions for numerous inland excursions.
Quick Overview of Belize City
For centuries the capital and still the country’s largest urban area, Belize City has a lot to offer for visitors. The commercial hub of the nation, Belize City is a thriving port with some of the best bars, restaurants, and museums. International visitors arriving by air or onboard a cruise ship disembark in Belize City, a lively town with a long history, beautiful colonial era buildings, and a sparkling waterfront.
Things To See & Do in Belize City
Definitely don’t miss the Baron Bliss Lighthouse, built to the exact specifications of Belize’s eccentric benefactor, a rich Briton who spent many months in the waters offshore of Belize but never set foot on land. Other popular attractions include St. John’s Cathedral, a still-functioning Anglican house of worship that has seen the coronation of six different kings.
Also downtown is the Museum of Belize, restored in 2002 and now dedicated to chronicling the history of the peoples of Belize, starting with the ancient Maya that once thrived here and continuing up to the present day and the nation’s rich mix of different indigenous peoples, culture, music and language. The building that houses the Museum of Belize was originally built in 1857 to serve as a prison but was shuttered after independence.
The historic center of Belize City is also a great opportunity to tour the factories where some of the country’s most popular drinks are made. Belikin Brewery, makers of the nation’s most popular beer, and Traveller’s Liquor, distillers of the famous One Barrel Rum, both offer tours and tastings.
Other nearby attractions include the Belize Zoo, a wildlife sanctuary and rescue center, Crooked Tree National Park, and the Maya ruins of Altun Ha, home of the Temple of the Masonry Altars which appears on the label of every bottle of Belikin beer.
Where to stay in Belize City
Located just 15 minutes from the Belize City International Airport, the resort of Black Orchid is a beautiful and tranquil oasis on the banks of the Old Belize River near the village of Burrell Boom.
With an onsite spa, restaurant, pool, and elegantly appointed rooms, suites and villas, the eco-friendly resort of Black Orchid is a great place to unwind and relax. Conveniently located in the heart of Belize, Black Orchid is a great place to explore attractions in Belize City, nature parks and reserves, and some of the most popular Maya ruins.