James Bond is Alive at Goldeneye Resort in Jamaica
On a sandy hillock overlooking Jamaica’s northern coast, is a single-story white bungalow. Through its wide open windows you can feel the warm Caribbean breeze and hear the crystal blue water lapping at the shore. It is this 15-acre waterfront property now named ‘Goldeneye’, that inspired Ian Fleming to create his famous James Bond character.
Goldeneye is nothing if not inspiring. Its secluded beaches and private villas make you feel as though you’ve stumbled upon your own private paradise. No one could possibly dampen the blissful buzz that is created by the tropical greenery, plush surroundings, incredible cuisine and friendly people.
Although the property now has several villa areas, you can also opt to stay in the “Flemming House” ($3,500. US a night), the now-plush white bungalow where Ian Fleming wrote all thirteen James Bond novels–and where, more recently, Sting wrote ‘Every Breath You Take’. It’s surrounded by dense tropical vegetation and is completely private, which is perhaps part of the reason it has become a favorite of the likes of Johnny Depp, Jim Carrey, Harrison Ford, and Pierce Brosnan, not to mention supermodels Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell.
It wasn’t always this way, though. In 1946, the consummate theatrical personality of his time, Noel Coward, was the first paying guest to stay at the property. He described it as being “a perfectly ghastly house, no hot water, pictures of snakes plastered all over the bedroom wall.” He referred to the place as “Golden eye, nose and throat”, but despite that called his stay “the happiest two months I ever spent.” Soon after, he built his own house just 10 miles away.
In the years since, Goldeneye has seen many of the most talented people of our time pass through its gates. Evelyn Waugh and Lucien Freud were frequent guests of Fleming’s wife Ann Rothermere; Donald Sutherland, Michael Caine, Katherine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Cecil Beaton, Sir John Gielgud, Mary Martin, and many other celebrities were all guests while the Flemings owned the property.
The day Truman Capote visited, Fleming exclaimed, “Can you imagine a more incongruous playmate for me?” British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden chilled here for three weeks, in the wake of the Suez crisis. He later wrote to Fleming, “I do not think that there is any other place anywhere that could have given me the rest I have to have. The bathing, the beach, the seclusion, the size of the grounds were all just perfect to enjoy and be concealed.”
Twelve years after Fleming’s death, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell talked Bob Marley into buying the property. “But then he got cold feet, said it was too posh, so the next year, when I was flush again, I bought it myself. The original for sale document said Bob Marley and we crossed that out and wrote in Chris Blackwell,” says Chris. It was Ian Fleming who recommended Chris for the job of location scout for the first James Bond movie, Dr. No in 1961, giving him his first job in the entertainment industry.
Island Records’ artist roster included U2, Bob Marley, Melissa Etheridge, Steve Winwood, Roxy Music, Robert Palmer, Grace Jones, and the Cranberries. Chris sold the label in 1989 to focus on his growing Island Outpost resort business, but the rock-star ethos is evident in all the properties, especially Goldeneye.
With outdoor showers, private media rooms stocked with James Bond boxed sets, and more premium booze than you could drink in ten vacations, each grouping of villas is the ultimate in tasteful hedonism.
Goldeneye’s main beach so private that we saw not another soul during our entire stay (and we visited the beach often). Its soft white sand and warm crystal waters are simply incomparable. If you’ve ever dreamt of the perfect beach-absolute privacy and serenity-but thought that it couldn’t exist in the real world, think again.
If the main beach is private, the villa areas are even more so. We stayed in “Villa Three” ($1,195. US a night) which is actually a grouping of five cabanas and several large patio areas. Through the open doors and windows of each cabana is a breathtaking view of a private lagoon and sandy white beach. We could sleep in any of three bedrooms, raid our fully stocked kitchen, or hang out in the privacy of our posh media room, complete with big-screen TV and DVDs. We also had the choice of several inviting indoor and outdoor tubs and showers, stocked with locally-made fruit- and coconut-scented amenities.
Villa areas are connected by a series of narrow stone walkways, lush with tropical vegetation. They’ll also lead you to the white dining hut and patio, where the dining experience is as much like having a private chef as you’re likely to experience outside a rock star’s mansion or a prime minister’s official residence. The food is wonderfully fresh and tasty-and completely customizable, no matter what your dietary habits.
The dining patio has a fully stocked bar hut which is manned by a friendly bartender, who makes amazing fruity liquor concoctions, and who sports a silver, marijuana-leaf necklace. Although dinners are scheduled around the guests so that you will likely have the entire patio to yourself, it is also a delicious treat to have a white-linen table set up in the privacy of your villa area.
The food is as plentiful as it is delicious, and I found myself slipping the occasional scrap of meat to Stripey, and adorable though skinny, Tabby kitten I bonded with during our stay at Goldeneye. Apparently, many celebrities have also taken a shine to Stripey and one or two have come close to kidnapping her and taking her home with them. I also had fun hurrying the two resident hens down the walkways–they were so amusingly un-Jamaican in their offended ill-humor.
If, while on vacation, you’ve ever felt you could spend all day in your room, you’ll surely feel it here. However, we strongly suggest that, as often as often as you can drag yourself away, you leave your villa sanctuary and explore all that Goldeneye has to offer, such as their selection of water sports and activities.
Simeon and Clifton will be happy to teach you how to sail or windsurf, or take you on a trip to any of the area’s many attractions. Simeon was kind enough to take us Sea-Dooing along the coast. The water in Jamaica is always perfectly warm, no matter how far you venture from shore.
As we jetted past several giant resorts and gazed at their crowded beaches from afar, we couldn’t help thinking how lucky we were to be guests at a fantasy get-away like Goldeneye.
The tropical greenery is balm to the chapped, northern soul, the plush surroundings are in perfect taste, the food is wonderful and the staff are friendly and accommodating. What else is there to say? It’s the kind of place 007 would have chosen for a little R&R.