Port Antonio, to most people who have visited, is considered to be the most charming and unspoilt natural area of Jamaica. It's location on the north eastern tip of the island, positions it on the windward side of the Blue Mountains, the highest mountain range in Jamaica, resulting is a much wetter climate, lush vegetations and rain forests.
Port Antonio is the capital of the Parish of Portland, which offer visitors unparalleled natural beauty, rugged exciting coastlines, romantic beaches, hidden coves, caves, rivers, and waterfalls with the Blue Mountain range providing a spectacular backdrop. Port Antonio, has retained its charm as a quiet rural township and is home to one of the most beautiful harbours in the Caribbean.
Port Antonio is the capital of the parish of Portland, which was officially formed in 1723 after the Crown offered major incentives such as land grants and tax exemptions. The Maroons of Jamaica were notorious because of their long struggle with the British colonial authorities who had to pass more than 40 laws in a desperate attempt to control them. Peace was made with the Maroons in 1739.
Sugar dominated Portland's economy with large estates scattered across the parish. The fertile soil and wet climate was ideally suited to bananas, which replaced sugar after the collapse of that industry in the 19th century. It was bananas and an enterprising American who first put Port Antonio on the map.
In 1871, Lorenzo Dow Baker, an American sea captain, sailed into Port Antonio and took on a cargo of coconuts and 1,450 bunches of bananas. The profit that he cleared in Boston quickly made him realize the potential for the area and soon built a thriving export business, The Boston Fruit Company. It owned 40 banana plantations and shipped three million bunches annually at its peak.
Baker also saw the potential for tourism and established the first cruise ship to and from Port Antonio. Not only did Baker import bananas, now he also ferried visitors from the wintry New England states to the sunny island paradise of Port Antonio in his empty banana boats. In 1905 the town's first hotel was built on the Titchfield Peninsula and curious tourists were soon rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Titchfield High School was eventually bult around the ruins of the hotel and old Fort George. The administrative buildings occuply the old barracks.
By the 1940s and 50s, Jamaica and Port Antonio had been discovered by the rich and famous of Hollywood and had become a preferred vacation spot for the stars.
During the 1960s Port Antonio was a jet-set Mecca. Billionaire Garfield Weston built Frenchman's Cove, at the time said to be the most expensive hotel in the world and the first all-inclusive resort. Guests included Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh as well as Prince Saluddin Kahn. The hotel is today a simple Bed and Breakfast and the beautiful beach is open to the public. These days, celebrities such as Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Billy Baldwin, and Shakira regularly visit the area.
"The most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes upon", was the way Errol Flynn described Port Antonio, when a storm blew his yacht Zaca, a 118ft schooner, off course to its shores. He purchased property and a nearby island, Navy Island, put down roots and made it his home, where his widow Patrice Wymore Flynn, still lives. The new Marina, built in 2002, in named after him.