Discover the allure of the GoldenEye Resort, James Bond author Ian Fleming’s Jamaican bolt hole-turned-luxury Caribbean idyll

By Polly Jean Harrison | 06 Nov 2020 | Travel, Property

You’re sure to be shaken and stirred by this Caribbean island retreat

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* Lagoon Cottage: positioned to face the lagoon and Santa Maria Island, the small, uninhabited piece of land at the lagoon’s centre

In a stunning oasis on the north coast of Jamaica, the GoldenEye estate is an extraordinary island getaway. Originally owned by Ian Fleming, the estate is now known as a private retreat for the likes of Jay-Z, Grace Jones and Kate Moss. Made up of island buildings, beautiful gardens and beaches, all nestled in stunning Oracabessa Bay, this sun-soaked escape is suitable for spy novel enthusiasts and beach hoppers alike.

Fleming first visited Jamaica in 1942 but it was only after the Second World War, when he was working as a journalist for The Sunday Times, that he began to visit regularly, buying 15 acres of land upon which he built his house overlooking a sandy private beach. Fleming dubbed his annual getaway GoldenEye after Carson McCullers’ novel Reflections in a Golden Eye, and Operation Goldeneye – a strategy to monitor potential alliance between Spain’s Francisco Franco and the Axis powers that Fleming had developed in his role as a wartime Naval Intelligence Commander.

In 1977, 13 years after Fleming’s death, the property was sold to Chris Blackwell, owner of Island Records and the son of Blanche Blackwell – known as a ‘friend, mistress and muse’ to Fleming – who lived nearby. He began expanding the property, realising the original Fleming building didn’t have enough rooms for its popularity, and set about introducing new huts and villas and increasing the land to 40 acres. In the ’80s, GoldenEye officially became a hotel, and is where Blackwell lives most of the year to this day. >>

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* GoldenEye 'Sweet Spot' Cottage

While the resort is a subtle shrine to Fleming – with copies of his books dotted about, and pictures of the author with friends on the walls – it is by no means a museum to the man. The Fleming Villa is the centrepiece of the lush grounds, and remains lived in, almost exactly as he left it, but without a velvet rope in sight.

Want to stoke your imagination? Why not try penning your own novel at Fleming’s desk, flicking through his collection of books. After all, regardless of being a perfect spot for an island getaway, the site has attracted creative people of all types for decades. Artists, writers and musicians have visited GoldenEye for inspiration, with Fleming himself writing all 14 of 007’s adventures on the site.

The Bond books have always shared Fleming’s love affair with the Caribbean – the character is named for an American ornithologist and expert on Caribbean birds, James Bond. Even a nearby beach has been named after the character, and resort guests can visit the crystal-clear water and popular two storey Moonraker Bar. Make no mistake, however; this is no tacky pop culture shrine, but rather features very subtle nods to the books and movies. >>

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* Fleming Villa - situated inside the GoldenEye resort - on Oracabessa Bay, in a secluded, private compound

Fleming created GoldenEye as a far-flung escape, and that ethos remains. Each of the 46 accommodations on site is its own private world. Every villa and hut has its own cosy tropical charm, surrounded by luscious greenery and with access to the crystal clear lagoon. Privacy and discretion are key here, with even the entrance to the property so low key you’d miss the gate if you weren’t looking hard enough.

Though keen for their guests to visit the community and break out of “all-inclusivity”, GoldenEye has a variety of dining options, in addition self-catering kitchens in many of the buildings, and prides itself on fresh and authentic Jamaican ingredients and cuisine. With several bars and restaurants, as well as room service, there are many places to kick back with delicious food and famous Jamaican rum – including Blackwell’s own label.

If you don’t quite feel up to writing your own classic spy novel, there are plenty more activities to pass the time during your stay. From swimming to snorkelling and a whole host of water sports, there’s something for everyone to do, backdropped by the perfect island views. 

Whether you’re looking for a Bond pilgrimage to tide you over until the belated release of No Time To Die, or just want to bask in the Caribbean sun, this stunning getaway is designed for true escape. And, should you soon find yourself lounging at the tropical resort, do be sure to order a drink for us – shaken, not stirred. 

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* GoldenEye beach