Driving Tour 1: George Town to Rum Point
Start: George Town.
Finish: Rum Point.
Time: 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Best Time: Daylight hours from 9am to 5pm.
Worst Time: When rains have been, or are, heavy.
Leaving George Town heading along the coast, on South Church Street (A5), you will follow this route until you see Grand Old House, a landmark and one of Grand Cayman's leading restaurants. To begin your tour swimmingly, and to take in a scenic view, stop off at Smith Cove, signposted directly south of Grand Old House.
1. Smith Cove
This is one of the best spots for snorkeling among rainbow-hued fish and for swimming in calm waters. Local weddings on the beach often take place here. On one occasion, we glimpsed a couple getting married in their bathing suits. The beach is a bit rock-strewn. There is a parking lot, and bathrooms are available on-site.
After a stopover, continue south along South Church Street as it becomes South Sound Road (still the A5). This road runs along the south coast of Grand Cayman and is perhaps the most scenic on the island. Eventually at Red Bay, the A5 merges into the A2, also called Red Bay Road. Follow it directly east into the:
2. Village of Prospect
You are now passing through what is thought to be the site of the first settlement on Grand Cayman, although there is little to see today. Settlers established a fort and an outpost here sometime in the latter half of the 1700s -- "ancient history" in Caymanian terms. You can see a little monument marking the site of Prospect Fort, the oldest fort on the island. The village, which lies to the immediate east of Red Bay Road along Prospect Point Road, has been mostly abandoned since 1932. The village's church, opening onto the coast, was left to decay. Nearby, the Watler Family Cemetery dates from the 1800s and is under the protection of the National Trust. The cemetery is open to the public and you can still see the gravestones -- some curiously shaped like small homes. Caymanians called these family plots "Gardens of Memories." Of interest to most visitors is the good sandy beach lying just around the point at Prospect. Both divers and snorkelers are drawn to the beach and sea here. Beach shelters and public toilets are available.
Red Bay Road turns into Jack Road at the Village of Prospect. As you continue east along Jack Road (A2), you'll pass through the:
3. Village of Spotts
Like Prospect, Spotts is a historic village. It is currently a private residential area, although the government has plans to turn the coast into a public seaside park and to develop the area as a cruise ship docking space should the waters at George Town be too rough for smooth landings. A sandy public beach is nestled between the rocks and is good for swimming. You can also visit an old cemetery, with 18th-century grave markers painted white.
From Spotts, you can take a short detour to the north along Governor Spotts Newlands Road to reach the:
4. Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary
This bird sanctuary is open all day and is particularly interesting to visit from April to June, when it is at its most beautiful and shelters the most birds. At various times of the year, more than 60 species -- both land and water birds -- inhabit the sanctuary. It is a birder's delight. At least a quarter of the native birds of the Caymans can be seen here, and many of them use the freshwater pool at the center of the .8-hectare (2-acre) refuge. Birds can be viewed from an observation platform and from the walkways that lace the sanctuary. Admission is free.
Double back to the main road (A2) and continue east to the:
5. Village of Savannah
This village contains a 1940s schoolhouse that was restored by the National Trust. It's open to the public only by reservation, so call tel. 345/949-0121 if you're interested. Frankly, we don't think it's worth the bother. We recommend you simply drive through the village, as there is little of interest here. After you've left town, a crossroads to the left, called Hirst Road, takes you to the Sunrise Family Golf Centre, a 9-hole, par-3 course that's open to the public.
At the golf course, turn right onto Pedro Castle Road, which leads to the historic 18th-century plantation great house:
6. Pedro St. James National Historic Site
This national historic site is one of the major attractions of Grand Cayman. For a detailed review, You can either visit Pedro St. James now or return at some point later if you don't want to get out of the car.
Back on the main road, A2 continues east and is called Poinciana Road before becoming Shamrock Drive. Shamrock Drive leads to:
7. Bodden Town
This is more of a village than a town, where single-story homes with corrugated-iron roofs and wooden verandas evoke British colonial architecture. Once called "South Side," Bodden Town was the first capital of Grand Cayman. "Respectable settlers" (or so the history books tell us) made the town their home back in the 1700s. Over time, Bodden Town's power and prestige were transferred to George Town in the west.
Because it doesn't have the commercial interest of George Town or the tourist frenzy of Seven Mile Beach, Bodden Town still retains some of its traditional aura.
Bodden Town is named for Gov. William Bodden, who was chief magistrate (which is virtually the same title as governor) of the island from 1776 to 1823. Because he did much to improve the life of the islanders, Governor Bodden is known today as "the Grand Old Man of Grand Cayman."
You can visit Guard House Park, opposite Manse Road, where an old guardhouse once stood. The guardhouse protected the western approach to town, with its cannons pointed down a rocky gorge toward the sea. The two cannons that stand here today are from the ships involved in Cayman's most famous disaster, the Wreck of the Ten Sails. In a patriotic gesture, the Caymanians sent their antique cannons to England in the darkest days of World War II to be melted down and rebuilt into modern weapons.
Another small battery of cannons once stood on Gun Square, Bodden Town's second defense point, guarding the eastern approach to the town. Two of the original cannons are still in place. Behind Gun Square is Mission House. Its first floor was constructed in the 1840s, making it one of the oldest buildings in the Caymans.
Leaving Bodden, drive along A2 1.6km (1 mile) east to:
8. Meagre Bay Pond
This small wildlife sanctuary was once frequented by hunters seeking mallard and teal ducks. Today, the government protects the area. The freshwater pond dries out in the winter months and fills up again in the summer. Early morning or late afternoon is the best time to view this waterfowl breeding area, with its various flocks of shore birds and migratory wading birds, including willets, stilts, ibis, herons, grebes, egrets, and cormorants. Though the government owns this mangrove-fringed lagoon, the land around it is private; no public footpath leads to the sanctuary. You'll have to park off the side of the road and watch the birds from a distance.
Continue following the same road to the east. The road now changes its designation from A2 to A3. Follow A3 east to the:
9. Village of Breakers
The village of Breakers would hardly merit your attention were it not for the Lighthouse Restaurant at Breakers.
Take a Break -- The Lighthouse Restaurant at Breakers (tel. 345/947-2047; www.lighthouse.ky) is the ideal luncheon spot for those traveling the southern coast. Its combination of Caribbean and Italian food, with an emphasis on the catch of the day, is delicious. The lighthouse was built with the intention of housing a restaurant, with a terrace opening onto views of the sea.
From here, continue east on A3, which winds its way to the beautiful:
10. Frank Sound
The sound can be seen to your right as you drive. You might want to stop off and go for a swim along the narrow sands that are ideal for beachcombing, swimming, or even bonefishing. Part of the beach is set against a backdrop of Australian pines. A boat-launch ramp leads into the shallow and calm waters, which are protected by a reef.
Near the boat ramp, a road turns north, cutting down considerably on the driving time. This road, Frank Sound Drive, takes you to two of the major attractions of Grand Cayman: the Mastic Trail and Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
It's also possible to continue to the East End following A3 all around the coast. This is an interesting drive, although it's devoid of specific attractions, except for the blowholes near the hamlet of High Rock, where onshore sprays of water shoot up like geysers, creating a roar like a lion.
If you want to stick to the main tour, take Frank Sound Drive immediately north until you come to:
11. The Mastic Trail
These 400 hectares (988 acres) and their beautiful walking trail are adventures unto themselves. If you want to finish the driving tour and get back to George Town in the late afternoon, you might skip the Mastic Trail for the moment and continue on your way. If you have time to negotiate the trail, you can find it just off Mastic Road, which is located to the left of Frank Sound Drive near the little fire station.
After leaving the entrance to the trail, you can continue north on Frank Sound Drive for 2.6km (1 2/3 miles) to the entrance of:
12. Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
If you're pressed for time and want to complete the driving tour, you may want to plan a leisurely visit to the park on another day.
After passing the entrance to the park, Frank Sound Drive continues north to the northern coast. Turn left on A4. With the sea on your right and the marshy interior on your left, you can drive along to the west, enjoying the fresh air and the scenery. A4 at this point is also known as Ralph Drive.
This community takes its name from the huts that were constructed in the area by early British settlers who farmed the land. This is one of the last havens for the endangered whistling duck, the only duck that breeds in the Caymans. Count yourself lucky, though, if you see one.
From Hutland, A4 runs all the way west to:
14. Rum Point
This area has a good beach and is a fine place to end your island tour. Rum Point got its name from the barrels of rum that once washed ashore here after a shipwreck. Today, it is surrounded by towering casuarina trees blowing in the trade winds. Most of these trees have hammocks suspended from their trunks. Hop into one and enjoy the surroundings in a leisurely manner. Featuring cays, reefs, mangroves, and shallows, Rum Point is a refuge that extends west and south for 11km (6 3/4 miles). It divides the two "arms" of Grand Cayman. If you get hungry, drop in to the Wreck Bar & Grill, Rum Point (tel. 345/947-9412), for a juicy burger.
After visiting Rum Point, you can head back to George Town by backtracking along the route that you took to get here.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.