Sampling the fresh catch of the day at one of the outposts in the fishing village situated along Folly Road is the perfect union of food meets folklore. There’s also a Craft Market, Art Gallery, Supermarkets and Commercial Center offering a variety of shopping alternatives. A sunset promenade past the Musgrave Market or along Harbour Street is a great introduction, where local vendors sell cold coconut jellies while schoolers flex their skills in pick-up football matches set against a striking coastal vista. Another good local spot is Craft Village located on the seaside where dining or take-away food is available.
Errol Flynn Marina
This beautifully situated Marina was named in memory of the iconic film star who called Port Antonio home during the town’s fashionable Hollywood heyday. A stroll down the boardwalk is an exercise in leisure as much as it is a trip back in time to an era when cargo ships used to unload bananas on the wharves during Port Antonio’s boomtown years. There is also the refurbished pier where some of the first international luxury cruise liners once docked. These days, an encampment of yachts and sailboats line the piers while the mythologized Navy Island provides a verdant backdrop. Visitors can enjoy delicious homemade ice cream (better known as iscream) from Devon House or indulge in a refreshing cocktail at Marybelle’s Pub on the Pier that features a private swimming pool, candlelit terrace and gallery of local artwork. There is also Bikini Beach with a welcoming beachfront, bar and restaurant, and of course a jelly man selling fresh coconuts during the day.
This architectural focal point was built by the original owners of the Jamaica Palace Hotel and is one of the main shopping attractions in Port Antonio. A range of goods and services, including barber shops, clothing boutiques, bookstores and cafés offering tasty Jamaican, Continental and Middle Eastern fare are all housed within. There is also a fully equipped rooftop gym (Robert’s Fitness) where guests can arrange workout sessions with experienced personal trainers. The mall’s open-air interior is an impressive spectacle of its own, a kind of small-scale coliseum with a commercial wonderland built in.
Port Antonio’s teeming Marketplace, located on West Street, has an extravaganza of offerings. Locally harvested fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and spices provide a rich tapestry of some of Portland’s finest produce, not to mention a butcher shop selling fresh farm-to-table meats. There are also stalls specializing in dressmaking, shoe repair and beautifully carved woodworks from traditional artisans, and visitors will find all the latest CDs and DVDs to enhance their respective libraries. The Market is truly a feast for the senses, in all senses.
The impressive steeple of Port Antonio’s oldest Anglican church hovers over the harbor like a protective beacon. Designed in neo-Romanesque style by English architect Annesley Voysey, construction of the church was not completed until 1840, well after Voysey’s passing. Although it was severely damaged in the 1903 hurricane, Christ Church was restored to its former apex in 1911. It is said that the solid façade and graceful largesse evoke “the stability and permanence of Christian values.” The crowning feature is the view overlooking the East Harbor, with Folly Lighthouse providing a nostalgic backdrop.
Birthplace of Jerk
Jerk seasoning is one of Jamaica’s most prized culinary inventions, and an extremely delicious one at that. As the cradle of jerk, Portland offers some of the best tasting recipes hands-down. The tradition of jerk is believed to have started with the Maroons, as part of their survival strategy while resisting British invaders. During their battles, salt was often in short supply so they invented other ways to preserve and flavor meat by using herbs and spices, including crushed pimento, scotch bonnet pepper and dozens of ingredients such as garlic, thyme, scallion and nutmeg. As the story goes, the Maroons first learned how to cure meat from the Tainos, Jamaica’s sole inhabitants prior to Christopher Columbus’s arrival in 1494, whose barbacoa, or barbecue as it is commonly called, required seasoning the meat and drying it in the sun or smoking it over open wood fires. Today, jerk is more than a Jamaican staple; it’s an international mainstay and a mouthwatering delight. Some of the best local jerk can be found at Boston Jerk Centre, just a thirty-minute drive from Port Antonio.
They say it’s not a proper Rum bar if you can’t play dominoes and order a glass of fiery overproof white rum, a classic Jamaican staple. There are several open-air bars in the area where visitors can take in the local scene while imbibing a delicious blend of rum punch and mixed drinks or in keeping with the true spirit, drinking the rum straight with no chaser. Located just along Drapers road, places like Red Rose, Mitzy’s Paradise Bar and Wet Dreams are great stopovers for a sunset toast, an end-of-evening nightcap, or just to profile and hang out among friends. Closer to the town center are Willow Wind, Great Expectations and Folly Bar, three of the best spots for a late night game of dominoes rounded out by back-to-the-classics Jamaican selections.