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GoldenEye: Pirate Radio Chic

I’ve always wanted to visit Jamaica, but was weary of its reputation. It’s as if tourism here developed a model where both sides—tourists and locals—put their worst foot forward. For too long I avoided it like the plague, but in GoldenEye, and the Island Outpost story, I found the Jamaica I’ve always longed to meet.

Located on the north coast of Jamaica, next to the fishing village of Oracabessa, GoldenEye is a 90-minute drive from Montego Bay or a seven-minute drive from Ian Fleming International Airport. Once a vibrant and wealthy banana port, this area became a sleepy backwater after WWII—a kind of time capsule rich in history and eccentricity.

It was here that Ian Fleming penned 12 of the 14 Bond novels. Noel Coward regularly entertained society’s A-list in the nearby hills. Then came along Chris Blackwell—the ultimate Trufflepig—the man who founded Island Records and brought Bob Marley to the world. Under Mr. Blackwell’s impeccable vision and stewardship, GoldenEye has come to embody the playful perfection of a Wes Anderson film set, and delivers an equally immersive experience.

Approached from the sea, GoldenEye has the look of a secret pirate den, with honey-coloured stone fortifications giving way to a scallop of beach, and a suspension bridge over the entrance to a secret lagoon. On land, simple pathways wind through a lush jungle of fig trees, their massive root systems resembling bowls of spaghetti spilled from up high.

There is a real barefoot vibe to the place, and both Mr. Fleming and Mr. Blackwell share a passion for blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor space. The faded blue tin roof of the Bizot Bar pairs beautifully with driftwood chandeliers and walls plastered in album covers, magazine prints and music posters (Chaka Khan, Fela Kuti, Eartha Kitt, Mick Jagger, etc).

The dusty pastel-coloured beach villas and lagoon cottages are well spaced out, each with their own charms, and choosing between them is no easy task. I personally loved my lagoon cottage with its jungle soundtrack and French doors opening straight onto the lagoon—perfect for a morning plunge to shake off last night’s rum and reggae hangover. Then there is the legendary Fleming Villa itself—with six bedrooms, massive picture windows, outdoor garden bathrooms and its own private grotto. Very special indeed.

Ya mon. GoldenEye is my new favourite place in the Caribbean. I’m not sure if I found it or it found me.

There is a real barefoot vibe to Greg Sacks himself—there’s a strong likelihood he was born a Jamaican in another life. His feud with shoes continues as he plans trips from Toronto.

In GoldenEye, and the Island Outpost story, I found the Jamaica I’ve always longed to meet.