Cape Coast is a Must-See Stop
on any West African Tour
Cape Coast is a rare example of a destination with a triad of seemingly exclusive features. Its location precisely on the edge of the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, combined with its incredibly rich history and landmarks, as well as its settlement within the social and cultural context of Africa, make it a truly remarkable spot.
With a population of roughly one hundred fifty thousand inhabitants, the city is a mid-sized city in comparison with Ghana’s other metropolitan areas, yet it remains one of the most popular and important cities for tourists, adventurers, and history buffs alike.
Its strategically excellent and naturally beautiful location that accounted for much of its activity over the course of several hundred years of history. Unfortunately, this history was often riddled with hardship and humanitarian injustices, but today the city is able to serve as one of the world’s most relevant and powerful reminders of the cruelty and greed of slavery.
Cape Coast Castle, which sits at the edge of sea and sand, is the primary landmark, and accounts for a significant portion of the area’s tourism. Today, it’s largely intact, and is carefully protected and showcased as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The castle was built by Portuguese explorers in the fifteenth century, with the aim of providing a convenient base for trade and shipping. The lucrative riches of the Ghanaian interior, including cocoa, gold, ivory, and slaves (most of whom were inland tribes people captured and turned over by rival populations), were stored, sold, and sent off to destinations around the world from this point. Over multiple centuries, the castle was controlled by various European powers, all of whom lusted after the wealth of the country’s exports.
Great Britain took control of the castle in the seventeenth century, and was in charge during the subsequent colonization and operation of Ghana as the Gold Coast Colony. Cape Coast served as a base for the British until they established their proceedings East and made Accra the capital city.
Visitors to the castle are often awed by the stark interior surroundings and the sense of the vastness of the awaiting ocean passage. Also dotted along the shore in Cape Coast are Fort Victoria and the lighthouse at Fort William, both of which showcase the activities and ideals of early European explorers and tradesmen.
This fine city offers an incredible range of experiences at these historic sites, yet remains a fun and relaxing coastal destination with miles of quiet beaches, exciting and vibrant cultural festivals, and eccentric local customs and ideas. A statue of a crab, its official symbol and an important figure in local fishing, can be found in the town centre, and a wide variety of schools and universities (the city is famous for its quality of educational establishments – since colonial days) are scattered throughout the city streets.
One of Ghana’s most remarkable cities — and indeed, one of the most remarkable cities in the whole of West Africa –, Cape Coast is a thriving testament to the pain endured by many, and to their perseverance in the quest to create the city’s peaceful present.