When you grow up learning in school that the parish of Manchester has no rivers or beaches, this one means a lot. Relatively unknown even to my friends born and raised in this parish, Gut River runs mostly underground then emerges for a short 200m journey to the Caribbean Sea. It is found along a narrow remote coastal road and is one of the many places in Jamaica where fresh water can be enjoyed alongside saltwater. Gut River is said to get its name from the German word ‘gut’, meaning good.
In the interest of uniformity, I’ll describe this trip as if it were from Kingston but since school has me staying in another corner of Jamaica temporarily, my trip was much different (and shorter). The drive to Gut River from Kingston takes you along the Washington Boulevard and onto the Mandela Highway where you can choose to pay toll for the south coast highway (for a small car, that’s $550 each leg) or drive the longer route along the Old Harbour Main Road. Both will take you through rural St. Catherine and Clarendon, where you can take a rest stop at Juici Patties and check out Empowerment Park. Next, drive along the Winston Jones Highway into Manchester then on the Spur Tree Road and Gutters Main Road which lead to the community of Alligator Pond. This is because the road winds along the parish border of St. Elizabeth for a bit then fully becomes Manchester again when you take a left near the entrance to the Little Ochi stalls. There’s a sign which says 19km to Alligator Hole marking this road. From there, you can’t get lost really. It’s one long loooonely road that gets really bad in many parts but is still navigable by an ordinary small car.
The drive from this sign to Gut River itself took half hour because we had to be dodging potholes, but it’s really not a long distance. Take good care not to hit any creatures–the goats aren’t accustomed to vehicles coming this way much but a simple horn will clear the way. 😅 Look out for the sign below very carefully on the right near a driveway and gate/ signs of civilization. Had it not been for a family group with 3 cars parked nearby, we likely would’ve driven past it!
Besides transport costs, this estuary is truly free! Of course, that means none of the amenities we take for granted in commercialized spots such as restrooms, benches and shops are available, so you’re better off wearing your swimsuits and taking everything you may need such as food and drink.
Guts River & Beach
Initially I thought I was at the wrong place because from the road, the location looked rather small and err…. algae overgrown. Had the drive not been so long and cumbersome, I might’ve turned back. The family I mentioned earlier were running a boat* by the river so for the first time ever at an off-the-beaten-path spot, I felt like I was intruding/ had arrived at a bad time. Nonetheless, they were amicable and my friend & I got some directions to the beach from them and spent some time there first. Along the way we met this elderly gentleman too who lives there and seems to enjoy having visitors.
The beach was a huge unbroken piece of coastline stretching for an endless number of miles and dark-sand, typical of Jamaica’s south coast. Fancy having all this to ourselves! The tide was a bit rough though, stirring up the sand and making the water appear dirty.
Best thing to do after splashing around in brine for an hour? Rinse off in river water.
While that was hard for me to do given my swimming inabilities, I still had my fun. The water was the cleanest and clearest I’ve seen in a long long time. And if jumping into bottomless (err.. about 20ft. deep) water is your thing, Guts River will surely deliver! We were joined by another group at this point and after lyming together for a bit, decided to call it a day. My planning skills were lacking on this one as we had brought neither food nor water, plus who wants nightfall to catch them on this sort of road anyway? 👀
I’ve been missing in action for a bit so I’m extra happy that my latest adventure was at a place which meets the definition of off-the-beaten-path in every sense of the term. However, maybe my expectations were a bit too high and that sign’s boast of ‘Ultimate South Coast Getaway’ was a bit too ambitious. Gut River is a really beautiful place and a gem I’d be proud of if I were from these parts, but is it worth a long drive over from another corner of Jamaica? Probably not, unless you’re en route to or from another close-by destination, or if you’re like me and plan to experience every single offering of this beautiful island at least once. With that, I rate Gut River three stars, ☆☆☆ and it’s with a slightly self-satisfied smug that I can prove Manchest-onians (?) wrong.
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‘Til next time. ✌🏽
* Running a boat- Jamaican colloquial expression for cooking a big hearty meal outdoors, usually with friends or family over open fire, a BBQ/jerk pit or grill.
Note: Gut River can be approached from Clarendon via a road which connects Milk River to Alligator Pond, but I was advised that that road is worse and erred on the side of caution. If you have a 4WD though, consider it. It’s allegedly shorter.