This barren and not yet inhabited island was discovered and named by the Portuguese in 1501. The British garrisoned the island in 1815 to prevent a rescue of Napoleon from Saint Helena and it served as a provisioning station for the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron on anti-slavery patrol. The island remained under Admiralty control until 1922, when it became a dependency of Saint Helena. During World War II, the UK permitted the US to construct Wideawake airfield on Ascension in support of trans-Atlantic flights to Africa and anti-submarine operations in the South Atlantic. In the 1960s the island became an important space tracking station for the US. In 1982, Ascension was an essential staging area for British forces during the Falklands War, and for a short period prior was one of the busiest airfields in the world, with over 400 take-offs and landings each day. It remains a critical refuelling point in the air-bridge from the UK to the South Atlantic.
The climate on Ascension Island is subtropical. It is arid and lacking in vegetation until the elevation increases where lush forest and fertile soil exists.
The main settlement is Georgetown where the tourist information office is in the Obsidian Hotel (see Sleep).
Get in edit
Visitors can apply for an E-visa, which must be applied for no less than 14 days before arrival. Applying later than this may result in the visa being refused, even if you meet the requirements. Tourist visas cost £20 for adults, and £5 for under 12s.
By plane edit
- 1 RAF Ascension Island (ASI IATA). Ascension Island has monthly service from Johannesburg by way of Saint Helena, operated by Airlink.
By boat edit
- The Royal Mail Ship Saint Helena retired from passenger service and its site states that flights are available.
Get around edit
There is no public transport (not even taxis) on Ascension. Obsidian offers car rentals for £15/day.
- Fort Hayes, Georgetown (there are signs pointing to it near the port). M 5–7PM, Sa 10AM-noon, or by special arrangement if possible (call 2326(W) or 2455(H)).
- Fort Thornton, Georgetown (across the port from Fort Hayes).
- St Mary's Anglican Church, Georgetown. It's part of Diocese of Cape Town along with its counterpart in St Helena. Built in mid-19th century as the Naval Church. Has much history laid on the Wall Tablets inside.
- , Green Mountain National Park. Built in 18th century in a subtropical forest which covers the Green Mountain, and have a very nice clock-tower. Starting point for many trails and "letterbox" walks (which are special because the climate on the mountain is noticeably cooler than on other desert parts of the island).
- The Dew Pond, at the Peak of Green Mountain, Green Mountain National Park. A destination of a notable "letterbox" walk. See how climate zones change during your short 1-mile trip to the 2817-ft peak.
- Exiles Club (Marine Barracks). Historical building, dates back to 1830. There are some shops in it as of 2021.
Sport fishing is the main attraction for visitors to Ascension Island. There are also some beaches and ocean swimming in certain coves, such as Comfortless Cove and English Bay. Long Beach, as inviting as it looks, has a very hazardous undertow and is not suitable for sea bathing. However, it is a sheer delight for wildlife fans as this is where sea turtles go to nest. There are a few paths (such as Rupert's Path) suitable for hiking into the more lush highlands, as well as mountainside lava tubes to explore. The pastime of letterboxing, hiking to a destination that contains a "letterbox" containing a log book and a rubber stamp pad, is possible here.
Ascension Island features what was at one time reputed to be the world's worst golf course. Located between the settlements of Two Boats village and Georgetown, the course has 18 holes and the greens are better described as 'browns' due to the sand and oil mix used to make them. The rest of the course is made up of volcanic ash and rock, which makes for some interesting rounds.
There is some terrific scuba diving in the waters surrounding Ascension Island. There are only local enthusiasts, however, and no recognized diving operation. Some of locals are often willing to take experienced visitors with them
There are fumaroles and lava tunnels to explore (at Command Hill, near the Catholic Grotto).
Exchange rates for British pounds
As of Jan 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from xe.com
Ascension Island uses the Saint Helena pound (₤) as its currency, which is fixed to the British pound at a value of 1:1. Saint Helena pound can't be obtained outside Saint Helena or Ascension so bring British pounds in cash.
The grocery store and almost every other business on the island have odd hours of operation (for example, the petrol station on Tuesdays is open 14:00-15:00), so make sure you note the times on the first day.
The Obsidian Hotel has a nice gift shop with some good books and their T-shirts are renowned.
Because everything is imported, prices for food are very high on the island. If you get the chance to go out fishing with the locals, you may walk away with a bag of tuna. Sometimes the community hosts a fish fry that is open to everyone.
There are very few places to eat, with odd opening hours
- The Restaurant, in the Obsidian Hotel, Georgetown. Breakfast 7:30-9AM; dinner 7–8:30PM. For dinners bookings are required.
- Snack Bar, at Volcano Club at the US base. Tu-F 5–9PM, Sa 4–9PM (last orders at 8:50PM). American-style fast food.
- The Anchor Inn, in the Obsidian Hotel, Georgetown. 18:30-23:00 daily.
- The Saints' Club, Georgetown. The bar opens in evenings.
- Two Boats Club, Two Boats village. The bar is open from 19:30.
- Volcano Club, at the US base. From 17:00. Seems to be the most crowded venue on the island and has the best selection of alcohol.
The only hotel, Obsidian, with restaurant and car hire, closed September 2017.
Stay healthy edit
Tap water is drinkable.
The country code for Ascension is 247 and the population is too small to need area or trunk STD codes.
The International Prefix is 00.
Subscriber numbers are typically 4 digits long and start with a 2 for the US Base, 3 for Travellers Hill or Airhead, 4 for Two Boats and a 6 or 7 for Georgetown.
Numbers starting with 0 or 5 have been reserved for future Mobile service.
There is a Wi-Fi hotspot in Obsidian Hotel's lobby and patio for £10/day. The Post Office in Georgetown offers a vast array of philatelic items for sale from the three islands of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. Airmail is possible, thanks to the airfield.
Go next edit
Saint Helena is the only reasonable destination you can visit from Ascension Island. See Get in/By sea