East of Ocho Rios, the in-your-face tourism glitz recedes and the coast road glides through some of the most beautiful scenery on the north coast. Following Boscobel, location of the region’s aerodrome, the main settlements are Oracabessa and Port Maria – slow, close-knit communities where tourism has taken hold in a more sensitive manner, and the small guesthouses and restaurants that pepper the roadsides are generally overlooked by those who prefer sports bars and jet skis to quiet exclusivity. Low-key glamour has a lengthy history here, however, having long been a haunt of the rich and famous. Noel Coward and James Bond creator Ian Fleming both lived here and their old homes, Firefly and Goldeneye, are still standing. Firefly has been transformed into a prime tourist site, with Coward’s former guesthouse Blue Harbour an ideal spot from which to explore the area, while Goldeneye is the centrepiece of the most exclusive villa complex in Jamaica. Beyond Port Maria, the road swings inland and the coastline extends in an unbroken series of forested outcrops interspersed by deserted, volcanic-sand beaches and beautiful waterfalls reachable only on foot or by boat. Hiking uncovers breathtaking vistas – best undertaken from Robins Bay, where eco-minded accommodations offer reasonably priced guides and tours. Further inland and you are firmly off the tourist trail in the gorgeous scenery of the St Mary interior. Market communities like Dressikie and Gayle have numerous local swimming spots; ask around for directions if you’re feeling adventurous.

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