A very wide range of options await you during your stay at Norse Hill. These are only some of them.
Indulge Yourself at Norse Hill with:
Garden tours, bird and butterfly watching, massage therapy, personal training: weights, aerobics, yoga, swimming, hiking, tennis (courts at nearby Goblin Hill Hotel), volleyball or badminton …and just relaxing in the sun with a book, sipping the famous Blue Mountain coffee of Jamaica, or one of those deceptive cocktails.
Also Close By:
Snorkeling or scuba diving, river and sea rafting (with raft pilot), kayaking, horseback riding, boat tours, deep-sea fishing (arrange in advance), craft market shopping, bike tours (including the downhill Blue Mountain Bike Tour), historic tours (including Port Antonio and the Maroon Country/Nannytown), visits to fishing villages such as Manchineal, still full of atmosphere. See section on waterfalls below – don’t miss Reach Falls or rafting on the Rio Grande.
Ready for the Beach?
Jamaica has 200 miles of beaches. Some of the best of them are just minutes from Norse Hill Estate. These white sands and crystal-clear aquamarine waters are some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Closest to Norse Hill are the private San San Beach and world-renowned Frenchman’s Cove. There is a small charge for admission to these beaches, which does help ensure more privacy and good maintenance. Frenchman’s Cove has been filmed for many movies, including Tom Cruise movie Knight and Day. There is a restaurant and bar for beach guests.
Don’t overlook Long Bay Beach, a place for glorious seclusion and rated one of Jamaica’s 10 best beaches by this international photographer and traveler.
Winifred Beach is another public beach and is very good for snorkeling. Bring your own fins; Norse Hill provides masks and snorkels for your use. It is only a short drive east of Norse Hill along the coastal road.
Boston Beach is a small cove-like beach with waves that are good for surfing. Norse Hill can arrange lessons in surfing. Boston Beach is also next door to many stands serving jerk chicken, fish or pork, each one claiming to have the original jerk recipe which is said to have originated in this area of Jamaica.
The Blue Lagoon
Considered to be one of the Caribbean’s greatest natural attractions, Blue Lagoon is just minutes from Norse Hill. Originally called “Blue Hole,” the name changed in response to Blue Lagoon books and movies, especially the one starring Brooke Shields. The small bay is a water hole fed by freshwater streams. The colors of the lagoon’s waters shift through an amazing palette of blues and greens throughout the day. According to legend, the lagoon is bottomless (in fact it’s about 200 feet deep). Locals like to tell adult tourists that the “mannish waters” will boost a man’s virility. Swimmers love the mix of cool freshwater and warm ocean saltwater. Boat and raft tours are available. The adventurous can kayak from Blue Lagoon around the western point to Pellew Island (Monkee Island).
Also known as Monkee Island and Princess Nina’s Island, this scenic spot near San San Beach sits across from Norse Point and some other seaside estates. Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan married Nina Dyer in 1957, and reputedly bought this island for her as a wedding gift. An Anglo-Indian fashion model, Nina was the former wife of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. You can swim and snorkel around the island, and explore it. The boatmen who guide bamboo rafts around Blue Lagoon can also take you for a Pellew Island tour.
The Port Antonio area is home to some of the most scenic and remote waterfalls in the Caribbean, and all are a short jaunt from Norse Hill. Reach Falls (also known as Reich Falls) is, like Pellew Island, commonly photographed for Jamaica tourism promotion – and for good reason. Reach Falls is a “must” day trip for waterfall lovers. The drive east along the coastal road takes you through Boston Bay, Long Bay and Manchineal fishing village. Other popular waterfalls near Port Antonio include Somerset Falls and Scatter Falls & Fox Caves.
Rio Grande River Rafting
Transporting bananas and other goods on rafts down the shallow rapids of the Rio Grande River became a leisure activity for visitors in the early days of the United Fruit Company. Credit Errol Flynn for reviving these fun excursions, often touted by visitors as a “must” adventure. The leisurely cruise down the Rio Grande on long bamboo rafts with padded seats, guided by skilled boatmen using poles, takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. You must include a stop at the famed Belinda’s restaurant for some of the best authentic Jamaica food you will find on the island. Check out her reviews on line.
Nonesuch Caves are situated 4.5 miles to the east/southeast of Port Antonio on property known as The Seven Hills of Athenry, which includes the Athenry Gardens.
The Folly Estate includes the lighthouse, built in 1888, just east of Port Antonio’s East Harbor. The grand but decaying mansion gets its name from the legend that it was built from mortar using seawater. It was begun in the 1920s by a retired mining engineer who had married into New York’s Tiffany family; he wanted to build her a special place. He did achieve this, but probably in a way he did not anticipate.
For people interested in history and especially the “maroon” revolts against British occupation, check into day-trip tours. These excursions take you into the beauty of the Blue Mountain and John Crow Mountain ranges and can be combined with other sightseeing, such as coffee or banana plantations. Moore Town, in the Rio Grande River valley, is reputedly the resting place of Queen Nanny, a Maroon leader who is the only female officially recognized as a Jamaica National Hero.
Port Antonio Tours, Destinations
Walking tours of the town might include the Port Antonio Courthouse, built in the 1890s, and Christ Church, a Romanesque structure dating to 1840.
On Titchfield Peninsula, which splits the east and west harbors of Port Antonio, one can see the remaining walls and cannons of the fort that once guarded the east and west harbors of Port Antonio. The Titchfield Hotel in Port Antonio, with some 400 rooms, was considered the most fashionable lodging in the West Indies during its peak in the early 1900s. Guests included Rudyard Kipling and William Randolph Hearst. As it declined along with the banana trade, Errol Flynn bought the property, but it was destroyed by fire in the 1960s.
Shoppers check out Estatege of St. George Shopping Mall and Port Antonio Market (also called Musgrave Farmer’s Market), which is the place for produce, seafood and local crafts.
Errol Flynn Marina, opened in 2002, was a huge redevelopment project for Port Antonio. This is the home of the Port Antonio Blue Marlin Tournament and a popular spot for major yacht races. It’s also the place for the annual Jazz on the Pier, the Portland Parish segment of the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival. The marina, which is not open to the general public, offers a pleasant location for strolling the west harbor, with views of Navy Island and a beach that reaches to the tip of Titchfield Peninsula. Near Norma’s at the Marina café bar you will find good changing rooms, an info center and a gift shop featuring quality items.
Dining and Nightlife
Most Norse Hill guests take advantage of the estate’s variety of dining options prepared by your own chef, ranging from casual snacks to elegant dinners. But, when guests want to venture out, they have many options. Closest is a stroll down the hill to the restaurant at GeeJam Hotel, perhaps with a stop at the Bush Bar first where you may catch a performance by the Jolly Boys, who sing there regularly.
Woody’s Low Bridge Place in Draper’s on the coastal road between Port Antonio and San San, takes pride in burgers made from organic beef supplied by local farms. Say hi to Woody and Cheri, the delightful proprietors. They might show you how to play Ludo, a favorite board game that is a form of Parcheesi and is part of the island’s British heritage.
Mille Fleurs restaurant at Hotel Mockingbird Hill, situated just west of San San heading toward town, has a deservedly high reputation for creative dishes using local ingredients, accompanied by French wines.
They rank high for excellent cuisine, as a quick online search will confirm.
Norma’s at the Marina in Port Antonio overlooks the Errol Flynn Marina and Navy Island. It’s a great place for a beach stroll, gift shopping, good food and drinks. Other casual dining options include Dicky’s Best Kept Secret at Bryan’s Bay (west of Port Antonio) and Anna Banana’s on the east side of town.
Port Antonio Nightclubs
These are not resort cafes with mild Bob Marley tunes playing in the background, but authentic Jamaican dancehall clubs where “grind” dancing is the norm. The Roof Club one of the more famous and popular clubs.
Did You Know?
Located on the same hill road as Norse Hill, Geejam is a luxury hotel with a recording studio that draws musicians from around the world, such as Amy Winehouse, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and many others.
This September 2014 Vanity Fair article by Tom Freston gives a very interesting summary of the political, economic and social aspects of the history of Port Antonio and the surrounding area. It includes fascinating snippets of information: Ian Fleming wrote a James Bond book every winter from his wonderful home, Goldeneye, overlooking the turquoise and emerald waters of the north shore ocean and at least three of the James Bond movies were filmed there too.