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Sandy Bay

Let’s go to the beach!

The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.{q}

Seaside beaches are in short supply on St Helena but Sandy Bay has one…‍‍

About Sandy Bay

SEE ALSO: For the other districts of St Helena see the map (below) or our page Districts of St Helena.

Sandy Bay is a valley in the south of the island, leading south-east from the heights of the Diana’s Peak range to the sea. Although you might expect its exposure to the Trade Winds would make it an uncomfortable place, the angle of the valley seems to give Sandy Bay a calm and gentle climate. The upper reaches are lush and farmed - much of the island’s coffee is grown here, as are bananas. The lower extent is arid. Many fish from the rocks either side of Sandy Bay Beach.

Only 4% of the island’s population live in Sandy Bay{1}, making it the second least populous district (after Blue Hill).

Geological features in Sandy Bay include the phonolitic rock promontory Lot and also along the cost Lot’s Wife and the Asses Ears. A short (but not particularly easy) walk along the coast leads to Lot’s Wife’s Ponds, where it is normally safe to swim.

Sandy Bay is the home of S.H.A.P.E., which is housed in the old school buildings{2}. Apart from that and the tiny Baptist Chapel, the main reason for visiting Sandy Bay is to go to the beach.

Sandy Bay is one of the original five districts, created soon after the Crown took over St Helena from The East India Company in 1834.

Sandy Bay Beach

Beaches are in short supply on St Helena; mostly the land meets the sea in a vertical cliff. Jamestown has an area known as The Seaside, but there is no sand, only rocks, and most of the area is taken up with The Wharf. Ruperts also has a small beach but because of the industrial nature of the valley is used mostly as a barbecue venue. Sandy bay has a large sandy beach - albeit with black volcanic sand - which is ideal for beach activities such as a family picnic, though there is a dangerous undercurrent which makes swimming inadvisable.

Also to explore in the immediate area are the old fortifications{3}, mostly restored, and a restored Lime Kiln.

Sandy Bay Beach may be black volcanic sand, but there are some golden sandy beaches here too. Can you spot them in the photographs on this page? If not, have a look at our page Myths Debunked!

Development Plans

In September 2000, Honourable Members were informed that Mr Colin Reed of High Point Rendel would be undertaking a consultancy in order to investigate the feasibility of changing the beach profile at Sandy Bay with a view to developing the beach area as a tourist amenity.{s}

Sandy Bay Beach is being transformed into a tourist attraction site. While the beach will not end up being covered with white sand and the sea is not safe for swimming, the area has many interesting features to offer. These include fortifications, interesting walks, geological aspects and spectacular scenery. Now, trees are to be planted at the back to create shade and to help beautify the area. This is part of the Sandy Bay Beach Development Project, which is an ongoing work in progress.

The Director of Tourism said that jacaranda, evergreen, bougainvillea, hibiscus and other shrubbery will be planted in the area. Already holes have been dug and filled with topsoil in readiness for planting. About 25 trees are to be grown in total and since they will be in a rather dry spot they will have to be watered on a regular basis.


years later you can amuse yourself looking for the transformation these initiatives have brought about!

Sandy Bay in pictures

Baptist Chapel

The tiny Baptist Chapel, opened in December 1867 and still in use, is very photogenic:


Below: Road‘The Lines’Lime KilnHistory pictures

The Road

Although there was a battery in Sandy Bay from the 1690s there was no road from Jamestown and the only way to re-supply the battery was by boat around the coast; a hazardous journey given that Sandy Bay is on the south-eastern side of the island so fully exposed to the Trade Winds and resultant seas. It wasn’t until Governor Robert Jenkins built himself a house in Sandy Bay (in 1741) that a road was pushed through. Although somewhat upgraded since (the current road was improved in the 1970s) our current road follows the original route.

‘The Lines’

There was a battery in Sandy Bay from the 1690s, even though there was no road from Jamestown and the only way to re-supply the battery was by boat around the coast.

In the Records for 1734 the structure is described thus:

‍Sandy Bay Lines‍: The old Battery in Sandy Bay was built so near the water that in bad weather it was washed away and the four guns and their carriages. Some of the guns in calm weather are still to be seen under water but we think that as they have lain in the sea 25 years among rocks it is not worth the charge of getting them up.

Originally the defences covered both the beach area and the river valley, but the structures on the beach have long since disappeared (either washed away or robbed to build houses in the area). In recent years the much-decayed defences across the river valley have been substantially restored.

The Lime Kiln

From the Records:

It is not certain if the structure recently restored, just up from Sandy Bay Beach, is actually this original kiln, or a later model, but it remains and interesting structure and well worth exploring. It is best reached by following the stream up from the old Sandy Bay fortifications.

History pictures

The ‘Gorilla’s Head’

Gorilla’s Head
Gorilla’s Head

This formation (right) was previously known as the ‘Nigger’s Head’, and appears as such in some older maps, but for obvious reasons modern maps and guide books use the politically-correct name, ‘Gorilla’s Head’.

Nude Sunbathing

Apparently there is a Sandy Bay Beach in South Africa that is popular with nude sunbathers. So could you try that on our Sandy Bay Beach? We investigated…

We’re not certain that nude sunbathing is actually illegal on St Helena - it doesn’t seem to be covered explicitly by any Ordinance - but we certainly wouldn’t recommend trying it on our Sandy Bay Beach. You would most probably be prosecuted under the Summary Offences Ordinance, Cap.24, Section 4 ‘Nuisances committed in public places etc’, which makes it illegal to: item (j) use any profane, indecent or obscene language, or shall be guilty of any riotous or indecent behaviour to the annoyance of other persons;; or maybe item (k) in any manner causes any breach of the peace, other than as provided for in the foregoing provisions of this section; or possibly even item (m) in any public place exhibits any poster, badge, drawing, model, symbol or other representation which in any way is indecent or offends or may offend ordinary members of the public or which could corrupt public morals having special regard to the morals of children and young persons;.

Anyone wanting to truly get back to nature can easily find a secluded spot that nobody ever visits where they can do as they please, but it will probably involve a bit of a hike.

Stay here?

From our page Where To Stay:

The Levelwood, Sandy Bay and Blue Hill areas are relatively remote and therefore provide few accommodation opportunities, but each area has its own charm and if you do stay in one of these you can be assured of peace and quiet. To get anywhere else you will need to drive for about 15 minutes to reach the centre of the island, from where everything is available.

Population by district:{r}

Read More

Article: Treasure Island

By Adelene Thomas, published in The Independent 30th January 2015{4}

Sandy Bay views

The sun beats down on the already dried and cracked soil as my walking buddy and I brave uncomfortable temperatures in our climb out to the Sandy Bay Barn.

With sweat on our brows and a steady pull on our already aching muscles we clamber over terrain after terrain. With the various contours, come the contrast of colour and texture, a geologist’s dream location.

From the pastel pink to the camel like shades, backed by light and dark greys, mixed with the pink to create a heavy purple, the views are simply breath taking.

As we clamber along the rocky edges of The Barn with nothing but a shear drop on my right hand side, my thoughts wonder to a story about ‘Hold Fast Tom’, the British sailor who scaled the precipitous coastline in Britain’s quest to secure rule of the island once more. I loved hearing this story at school.

At the furthermost point of the barn, conversation is hampered by the howling winds which swirl around the brink of the cliff.

You would not be criticised for failing to glance over the edge as the drop below, coupled with the winds is a fairly petrifying experience. A friend compared it to the Grand Canyon without the Sea… could this experience be as remarkable as such a renowned tourist attraction that people from all over the globe pay to go and see? I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon but I reckon people (who enjoy walking and scenic holidays) would pay top dollar to come and experience what I experienced that day.

A week earlier, I had trudged the other side of the valley to Lot’s Wife’s Ponds for the first time in my life as a St Helenian and could once again only but marvel at the beauty which is our home. It made me a little sad to think that I could have gone through life without having had such a prolific experience.

Popping my head over a ledge I was met with the protective gaze of a bird I hadn’t often seen before (but I assumed it was a member of the seagulls) nesting peacefully on her egg. Yet, she didn’t make a fuss. Might this have been because she did not feel threatened? Was it because she was used to seeing curious eyes relish the sight of such a beautiful white bird set against such a stunning backdrop? Not able to disturb a glimpse of the island’s wildlife at its best.

Was this the reason the pretty fish which live in the ponds below swam closely to us as we snorkelled? Just as curious about us as we were about them. As I sat in the ponds they nipped at me playfully. It reminded me of my vacations to Antigua and Barbados but with no bustling tourists and local merchants. Simply a scrumptious reward for the toils of our journey.


{a} Copyright © South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (SAMS), used with permission.{b} Tourist Information Office{c} Laufia McDaniel{d} CKW Photography{e} Green Renaissance{f} Ed Thorpe{g} National Geographic Magazine{h} Copyright © 1962 Film Unit, used with permission{i} William John Burchell{j} John Isaac Lilley, 1861-1866{k} Henry Salt{l} The ‘Blue Book’ 1949{m} Denzil Ibbetson{n} St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society (‘SHATPS’){o} Green Renaissance{p} Szymon Kalwat{q} The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Inspirational Quotes{r} 2021 Census, taken 7th February 2021.{s} St Helena News, 12th April 2001{4}{t} Press Release, Office of the Chief Secretary, 3rd December 2003{4}


{1} 177 from a total population of 4,439{r}.{2} SHAPE also organised the annual Gravity Rush event.{3} No conceivable landing site on St Helena was left unfortified after the Dutch invasion of 1672.{4} @@RepDis@@