Belize City tourist Attractions
Belize City limits reach out to Mile 8 on the Western Highway and Mile 14 on the Northern Highway, at the Haulover Bridge that spans the mouth of the old Belize River where it disgorges into the Caribbean Sea. The city proper is split into two areas: North side Belize City, bounded by the Haulover Creek and ending in the east at the Fort George area, and Belize City South side, extending to the outskirts of the city.
The Belize City north side is considered the safest and most prosperous area of this population center. Good hotels, a casino and the Museum of Belize – featured in our Top Ten Things To In Belize – are located in that zone as are the cruise ship and marine terminals. The southside has a couple of tourist attractions, namely historic St. John’s Cathedral and the House of Culture.
Three bridges starting from the westernmost BelCan (Belize-Canada), BelChina (Belize-China) and the original Belize City Swing bridge (the only functioning manually operated bridge in the world) join both sides of Belize City. Belize City’s coordinates are 17°15′ North longitude and 88°45′ West latitude. This city is the largest population center in the country with well over eighty thousand inhabitants sprawling over the delta formed by the Haulover Creek which branches off the Belize River. Belize City itself is no longer the nation’s capital, but remains the commercial capital and home to the largest sea port and airport in the country and location of the Belize Tourism Village where cruise ships dock. The city offers the visitor an eclectic combination of rustic, old-fashioned Caribbean charm and bustling modernity.
As a seaport the city built itself from the East inwards so most of the older colonial structures are near the coast. Efforts are underway to preserve several of these buildings such as the Supreme Court., The Government House formerly the home of the British governor, and the oldest Anglican church in Central America St. John’s Cathedral. These impressive structures have survived hurricanes and other challenges such as city fires.
Driving in Belize City is an adventure on to itself as the streets were designed by the British colonizers for bicycles and mule and carts – a once popular mode of transport for passengers and goods. Belize City unfortunately is emblematic of the crumbling infrastructure that peeps out from most of what is the Belize welcome mat. Potholes that can swallow small cars, poor or no drainage, missing or unreadable street signs and crime that has cops and paramilitary riding around on ATV’s chasing gangs is a common and accepted everyday part of city life.
Small as it is the city is the country’s most populated municipality. Just as Belize City built up around the port, the rest of the Belize has built itself along the highways. The Western and the Northern highways might appear well populated from a driver’s point of view, but a flyover reveals extensive savannah and broad leaf forests and wetlands in the interior. During the cool and dry months of November, December, January and February, thousands of migrating birds from North America descend on the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and other areas. The black, white and red colors of the impressive Jabiru Stork stand out in the search of feathers. No matter what part of the Belize district the traveler chooses to explore it promises to be a beautiful part of a travel adventure.
The country’s most popular tourist resort town, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, is located in the Belize District as is the famous Mayan ruin of Altun Ha, the Belize Zoo and well-known wildlife sanctuaries. The Phillip Goldson International Airport is located ten miles from downtown in the neighboring village of Ladyville and several international airlines provide daily flights. The country’s largest municipal airport and water taxi connections to all major cayes are located downtown . Bus transportation is available hourly and half hourly during peak times to all districts.
Origins Of Belize City
The city itself originated as a logging camp and export center for mahogany in the 1600’s. After the Maya who were the original inhabitants, came British and Scottish Pirates who used the area’s many creeks and mangrove swamps as natural hiding out areas and a base from which to loot passing Spanish ships laden with treasure. Naturally, because it is the country’s largest urban area, one finds all cultural types and mixtures in the city – Creole, Garifuna, Latino, Chinese, Lebanese, Hindu and the original East Indian descendants and Maya.
One traveler had this to say as a first impression: “Belize is an amazing place. You cross the border into the first town Corozal and you see Creoles, Chinese, Latinos and Caucasians all speaking at least two languages, one usually Creole. I could pick up phrases and words here and there but it is far enough from standard English to be an entirely distinct language. Verb conjugations are non-existent, everything is abbreviated and accented very heavily and vernacular expressions are standard. “They even use words that we would consider diminutive in every day speech, like addressing each other as “boy”. And when they want to be polite and they want something from you, you are called “boss”. “Baad” means good, and “haaht” means “hard”. They abbreviate “And then I said.” to “An nen I seh”.
From its history as a pirate town and logging port, Belize City maintains much of its past architecture, narrow streets and rundown appearance. Dirty creeks and canals with mud walls criss-cross much of the city. Visitors may want to consider ahead of time that Belize City is by no means a Caribbean Paradise in terms of Cancun in Mexico or Freeport in the Bahamas. Although the city is perched on a delta that juts out into the magnificent Caribbean Sea – there are no beaches. See Belize City History.