An Overnight in Port Antonio (April 2010)

As you may recall, we left Robins Bay to spend the night in Port Antonio.  My friend Nene had never been, and frankly Port Antonio is probably the most beautiful part of Jamaica I have ever seen.  I hadn’t been for almost an entire year, and was ready to show it to my friend.

We drove from Robins Bay through Annotto Bay and Buff Bay and Margaret’s Bay and all the other bays you go through on the main road to Port Antonio.  The new road is SWEET…smooth and pothole free with lines on the sides and reflectors and everything – we made good time.

As we pulled into Port Antonio proper, I decided to stop at the Errol Flynn marina. I spent a lot of time here last year when I was staying nearby at Ivanhoes, it’s an interesting place and you drive within feet of the gate on the main road.  Today we parked at the marina/pool bar as Norma’s beach bar and restaurant was not open (this was a Monday, I believe). As always, the crowd at the pool bar was a mix of travelers who arrived by sailboat or yacht, locals and I suppose, tourists passing through by car like us.

Here’s Nene on the phone….

It was happy hour and i was ready for a drink after the long day, but I’m a stickler for not drinking and driving so we had Tings and just people-watched for awhile.  The marina has great views of the west harbor and has a park with Devon House ice cream that seems to be popular with local kids after school.  I considered where we might spend the night and decided to go up to Fern Hill Club, a place I enjoyed very much in 2003 and hadn’t been back to. It’s a wonderful spot if you have a car, not as easy to reach if you don’t, and last time I was here, I didn’t.

Driving out of Porty on the new road, I reached Boston Bay in about 10 minutes – MUCH faster than I remembered, and, I realized, too far for Fern Hill. I’d passed it.  I wanted to make it up there before dark and the sun was going to set very soon, so we turned around back towards town. Aha…the big sign I remembered on the main road is really only visible when you are going west.

We made the turn and drove the mile-long road up the mountainside and finally reached the entrance…

Whew…we were both ready to settle in for the evening…starving, tired, hot. I walked into the office where I was offered a lovely walk-in rate and even after that, instantly upgraded from a standard suite to a deluxe suite. We were shown to our suite and dropped our stuff, took showers, changed and headed to the restaurant for drinks and dinner.

Fern Hill has acres and acres of grounds, some facing the Blue Mountains and some facing the sea. ALL views are stunning.  If you go to Portland and never get up on the hillside, you missing something special.

Still looking at Fern Hill here, there are 2-3 swimming pools on the property.

Our suite was one of these upper ones.

Freshly showered and changed, we walked to the restaurant for dinner.

These might have been the best rum punches EVER.  We were so road weary and felt so relaxed now that we were settled for the evening.

My steam fish was great too 🙂

We basically went to bed after we ate, we had a big day the next day.

The following morning we ate breakfast at Fern Hill….

…and drove on down the hill and across the road to Frenchman’s Beach.  I’d only been here once, and never to the beach. Back in 2003 we looked at a room here, considering a stay, and hated it. In fact that is how we found Fern Hill – when we left Frenchman’s in ’03, we drove right up the hill, loved Fern Hill, and stayed there.

But the beach is open to the public for a fee ($400J), and it is the only relatively developed beach in Portland that I hadn’t been to. So, something new 🙂

I have to say it is now one of my favorite beaches in Portland. Boston has the jerk, Winnifred the vibes, Long Bay the long expanse of sand…but this is different.  The beach itself is lovely – a cove with calm water, waves breaking out at the mouth of the bay by high cliffs, white sand, nice facilities for drinks  and snacks and chairs and such.

But what got me was the river.  There is a crystal clear, cool river that flows to the sea right here.  When you are on the white sand, you can walk into the sea or walk into the river or walk into an area where they mix…which is really something else. The sea is warm, the river is cool, and having both swirl around you is a feeling that is difficult to describe.

And if you know me at all, you know I don’t like to be salty for a long time. Taking a sea dip and then going right into fresh water is heaven for me.

This is about where they mix…you can see the white sand beach at the river in the back here.

I’d never seen a river without rocks or grassy stuff or mud on the edge…just perfect white sand, right in.

Nene LOVED it too.
I was in heaven.

We could have stayed all day (and that is my thought for next April), but we had plans back in Robin’s Bay/Strawberry Fields today, so we reluctantly left the beach.

Up at Fern Hill we stopped by the upper swimming pool for a dip before packing up to leave.

We bid the staff at Fern Hill goodbye and drove off to the west to resume our adventure at Strawberry Fields.


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