Winnifred Beach (also known as Fairy Hill Beach) is one of the most appealing beaches in all Jamaica; to get there, turn left and then immediately right just east of the Jamaica Crest Hotel at the start of Fairy Hill village, following the road for a kilometre through a neat housing scheme before descending through the forest. You can drive right down onto the beach if it hasn’t been raining; if it has, park where the tarmac ends and continue on foot.
Used as the setting for the Robin Williams movie Club Paradise, the wide, golden crescent of sand is supremely laid-back and justly popular with Jamaicans. The small reef just offshore is perfect for snorkelling (you’ll need to bring your own gear) and protects the bay from the waves, ensuring clear, calm, bright-blue water that shelves gently from the sand. At weekends, local operator Scotty offers children’s horse rides along the sands, and fishermen will provide boat trips to nearby Monkey Island. At the western end, a small mineral spring offers a freshwater rinse (the changing facilities are best avoided).
Given Winnifred Beach’s secluded beauty it’s perhaps no surprise that the government attempted to authorize a private villa development here, threatening the beach’s public access like so many others on the north coast. Local resident Cynthia, co-proprietor of much-loved lunch spot Cynthia and Painter’s, has spearheaded the campaign to keep it public (wfree-winnifred.com). At the time of writing, six years since the dispute first arose, a court case was still under way to ensure public right of access. Unpaid locals currently manage and clean the beach, so you may be asked to pay a small unofficial “fee”. You’re under no obligation to pay (most Jamaicans refuse) – but there’s no harm in tipping people you see genuinely tidying up the place. Seek out Cynthia if you’d like to contribute to the campaign.