If you are looking for a laid back attraction in Jamaica, or simply want to relax at an exclusive beach, then James Bond Beach in St Mary could well fit the bill…
I had the pleasure of a visitor in the way of my mum coming to Jamaica for a holiday, which kept me busy trying my best to entertain her and find things to do. As it is customary when on holiday from overseas, she was keen to visit the beach so we made a point of trying out several different ones in the near vicinity to Ochi (Ocho Rios) and we were surprised at the vast differences relating to price, size, cleanliness, facilities and general ambience.
We decided to visit James Bond Beach first as it sounded suitably glamorous for an initial dip in the ocean and it provided us with an opportunity to get a drive out of Ochi, St. Ann and eastwards towards Oracabessa, St. Mary. The drive is a pleasant one along the highway which takes in ocean views along some parts of the road, whilst the farming enterprises of coconut and banana walks (plantations) that stretch as far as the eye can see make up the majority of the scenery on the journey. There are two gas stations along the highway near to Ochi, the first of which is a large PetCom gas (petrol) station just past Irie FM (on the by-pass in Ochi), that has a Pharmacy, supermarket, ATM and W.C.’s attached to it, the second one is a Texaco and is near to White River, just before the turn off for Exchange and has which has lesser facilities and to be honest, I have never used it.
How to get to James Bond Beach – Oracabessa…
Driving along the highway leaving Ochi the road is straight with no turn offs and it takes about 25 – 30 minutes to reach the beach, driving at the legal speed of course. There is a large and hopeful road sign on the highway that depicts that James Bond Beach is 1km away, which is a vast underestimation as it was more like 5km when we checked it on the second visit.
- After passing the PetCom gas (petrol) station in Ocho Rios, drive along the highway and about 15km you will pass Ian Fleming Airport. It was previously known as Boscobel Aerodrome and had a somewhat controversial name change after the renovations that saw it re-open in January 2011; however the new name further sets the scene as we search for the elusive James Bond Beach…
- Keep driving along the same highway towards Oracabessa and you will eventually come to a deep corner about 1.5km past the aerodrome, where you will cross a bridge, continue forward. The beach is hard to find as the sign that lets you know where to turn off of the highway has blown down
- Look out for a Shell Gas Station on the right hand side of the road and shortly after the road will bend and you will see a marl (white gravel) side road on the LEFT HAND SIDE, with a wooden shop (where a Rasta sells fruits on the corner) TURN HERE; if you come to Oracabessa Crossroads you have come too far
- Once you find the side road you have to travel about another 1 – 1.5KM to reach the entrance to the beach, so be warned if you are walking! Travel up to the end of the side road until you pass Jah Willy’s and you will be forced to turn right passing the unassuming fisherman’s Beach which is much more low-key and has a little shop serving beach goers
- At the end of the road you will see the entrance which has ‘James Bond Beach’ written across the top of the gates, you found it!
What is James Bond Beach All About?
James Bond Beach has an interesting story to tell… Owned by non other than Chris Blackwell, of Island Records and Island Outpost fame, who not only had a successful music and movie company, but who also has several high-end and exclusive resorts under his mantle such as:
- GoldenEye; Ian Flemings former home
- Jake’s; Treasure Beach
- The Caves; Negril
- Strawberry Hill; Blue Mountains
Chris Blackwell’s mother Blanche was born into a powerful family that made their money and livelihood in sugar and rum in Jamaica in the 20th Century. Blanche owned several thousand acres of land near Oracabessa and later sold some of it to both Ian Fleming and Noel Coward, who made homes there. She was considered to be the love of Ian Flemings later life and who he refered to as his Jamaican wife and muse, and who was said to be the inspiration for the James Bond character ‘Pussy Galore’. James Bond Beach also has the claim to fame of being the beach in which a young Ursula Andrews cavorted in the James Bond movie ‘Dr. No’.
What Is Offered at James Bond Beach?
You can drive your vehicle inside the complex and find somewhere to park; if there isn’t an attendant at the gate to take your entrance fee they will shortly appear before you can get out of the vehicle to take the money from you; we paid about $400 per person. James Bond Beach has a nice set up with a small but clean and sandy beach which boasts crystal clear waters, and has a few complimentary wooden loungers and a couple of picnic tables scattered about. As the sandy beach area is small the seating goes quickly and you may want to bring a beach mat or extra towel to lie or sit down on if it is busy.
If the beach isn’t your thing, or it is too busy for you, there is also a winding terrace that has been constructed over the rocks surrounding the beach and which offers up a larger area in which to sun yourself; although it could do with some repairs in places, as the sea seems to want to reclaim it. On both occasions we came there were only a few other groups present, which made it feel more secluded and quiet for a beach in Jamaica.
There is no gift shop or vendors on the beach, so once you pay for your entrance fee you will be limited to splashing the cash in the bar and restaurant…
Moonraker Bar and Restaurant
The large Moonraker Bar is prettily made from wood, is open on all sides and boasts a fabulous upstairs seating area that has scenic views across the ocean and the grassy area. The bar is well stocked and they had plenty of ice; a flask of Wray & Nephew costs about $700. There is also a restaurant with lots of fish (and chicken) dishes on offer, which cost around $1,000 – $2,000 per main dish dependant on what you ordered; but we didn’t eat there on either occasion we visited. A point to note is that the restaurant doesn’t look as though it opens when there a little or few people around. A large grassy area that is surrounded by the clear blue sea on three sides affords you a change from the beach area and a stroll to look at the boats. The lawn and bar are packed full of people and really come alive and into their own when the venue plays home to the large stage shows and events that are held periodically.
The other amenities include large separate male and female changing facilities, offering a shower, communal changing areas with benches, wash basins and toilets; on both occasions we found them to be clean and with soap and tissues available. The beach normally closes at sundown, and I’m told it is busier at weekends when more of the locals and even Chris Blackwell and friends sometimes frequent it.
On the whole I would recommend James Bond Beach and feel it was worth the drive as it was clean, secluded, friendly, peaceful and with good vibes and amenities. The entry price wasn’t too expensive either and was indicative on what was on offer there. All round it was a nice experience…. I will definitely come again and will have to try the food next time though!