Located on Jamaica’s North Coast, 60 miles from Kingston, Port Antonio is just a short drive from the capital, but a world apart. Thoughts of this sleepy town stir memories of banana exports, river rafting and glamorous Hollywood movie stars from the 1940s. In its former life, it was an exclusive retreat for such personalities as Errol Flynn — who once declared that Port Antonio was more beautiful than any woman he had ever known — and his entourage of Hollywood elites, as well as royal family members and industry leaders. Those seeking an authentically Jamaican experience can get that and more in Port Antonio.
There is something magical about waterfalls, and Port Antonio has two of Jamaica’s most breathtaking waterfalls. Reach Falls is located on Driver’s River and flows from the John Crow Mountains to form crystal-clear rock pools on its journey to the bottom. Its main pool was the location of that unforgettable waterfall scene in the movie Cocktail with Tom Cruise. Somerset Falls is steeped in history. The 97-acre property encompasses lush gardens and “hidden falls” only accessible by boat. Visitors traverse a windy path through a rich tropical landscape — which leads to deep rock pools and natural caves — before witnessing the Daniel River cascading into a 20-foot-deep pool. For boat lovers, Errol Flynn Marina is the island’s premier dock for yachts and boats. Equipped to welcome the world’s largest yachts, it is the only marina in the Caribbean able to do this. It is also the home of the Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament, which attracts those looking to hook deep-water fish.
A departure from the traditional tourist diversions, Port Antonio is ideal for those in search of reconnecting with nature. Surrounded by legends and myths, Blue Lagoon is the island’s largest spring-fed lagoon, plunging to a depth of nearly 180 feet. And as ice-cold mountain spring water collides with the warm tidal currents, bathing in its depths is a mystical experience. From Blue Lagoon, you can entrust the services of a knowledgeable river rafting captain for another Portie experience: rafting on the Rio Grande. Originally used as a method of transport for produce, especially bananas, Errol Flynn was the first to promote rafting for fun. Passengers aboard these bamboo rafts garner a unique view of the island, navigating through bamboo and banana groves. Tie up a couple bottles of wine or a case of beer to kick back and take in a river bath. Back on shore at the iconic Frenchman’s Cove, enjoy the unique merging of fresh river mineral spring water and the temperate ocean. For those looking for a “wilder” sea experience, head to Winnifred Beach and explore the reef just off shore, perfect for snorkelling. Shady trees, white sand and charismatic food vendors make this the perfect place to lounge away during the day. Heading east, Long Bay Beach off ers one of the island’s longest uninterrupted stretches of breathtaking coastline, as well as rolling surf, perfect for surfers.
Once you’ve dried off from your aquatic adventures, try some culinary delights. European- and Caribbean-inspired gourmet delights that draw from the island’s bountiful local produce are on show at Mille Fleurs Restaurant. Located at Hotel Mockingbird Hill, the talented team has created a menu of seasonal, sustainable and organic produce — a favorite includes fish fillet with crayfish ravioli, sweet pea purée and orange carrots — offering an exceptional yet understated dining experience. For some Calypso-inspired jazz and a fusion of Japanese and Jamaican flavors, Mike’s Supper Club at the Trident Hotel is the stylish and elegant place to be. Or head to Geejam’s BushBar for dinner. The food is great, the ambiance is perfect and the mento band, Jolly Boys, perform there every Friday night.
Shopping in Port Antonio can be extremely rewarding, as fine jewellery and other high-quality fashion items can often be found at a much lower price point than in other parts of the island. The Royal Mall is a double-decker structure designed in a hodge-podge of architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Art Deco. Here you’ll find a variety of boutiques and shops selling stylish beachwear, Blue Mountain coffee, premium rum, cigars, jewellery and Jamaican handicrafts. Market Square is at the heart of town, where you’ll find Musgrave Market. Here you’ll come across a fi ne selection of Jamaican products, from woodcarvings to handwoven straw items. Also, keep an eye out for members of the Rio Grande Valley Craft coop, an organisation of Port Antonio’s local artisans who make and sell their handcrafted goods throughout the area.