Winnifred Beach in Jamaica’s Portland Parish (northeast) has a very special vibe to it, unlike any other beach we’ve ever visited. It was lively, had ample shade and was filled with welcoming locals.
After we scraped the car once, we decided it was best to park our small rental car and walk the rest of the way down the rocky dirt road. We passed local homes and received a few “hello’s” from locals also walking to the beach. We were invited to various food shacks and even given information about a shortcut down to the water.
We walked down the path and a gorgeous beach scene unfolded in front of us. The water was the perfect aqua-marine color you see in magazines, the many palm trees were swaying in the breeze and the people were laughing and having such a good time. A man in a lawn chair called out to us and asked for a tip to help keep the beach clean and for the upkeep of the bathrooms and change rooms. We had read about this ahead of time, as well as the fight the locals had been involved with in order to keep this beach public, so we happily handed over 100 Jamaican dollars.
Winnifred Beach’s Legal Battle
Winnifred Beach had been in the news for several years as a lengthy legal battle was underway. Plans to privatize the beach, turning it into yet another luxury hotel, struck a chord with the locals who began fighting to keep the beach open to the public. At the lowest part of the fight, someone set fire to locally-owned Like ‘Em Finger restaurant, burning it to the ground. This is also where many of the local artists kept their wares to sell on the beach so you can imagine what a devastating blow this was to the community. Their determination, however, was stronger than ever and in the end they won the battle and Winnifred Beach is free to everyone, locals and visitors alike. We felt lucky to be there.
Activities on the Beach
We went on a Sunday and got there midday. The beach was already very lively with people (kids and adults) jumping rope, enjoying the water and playing dominoes on wooden tables.
You could also rent snorkel gear (500 Jamaican dollars), play soccer, peruse local artists wares and if you are brave you can join some of the local children in climbing a perfectly placed tree and jumping into the water.
As for me, I could not wait to get into the water, which turned out to be the softest water I have ever felt on my skin. As I floated on my back I could feel the hot sun warming me, and the coolness of the waves wash over me – it was a perfect way to enjoy the Caribbean Sea. I got to speak with some of the locals and it turned out that some had traveled for several hours just to be there – I was starting to realize just how special Winnifred Beach was!
Mindy and I played paddle ball on the beach and a young boy asked if he could try and so we each took turns playing paddle ball with him before we decided to go for a short walk to the other side of the beach. After passing many vendors and crossing the small stream emptying fresh water into the ocean, we followed the path around the edge of the shore and came to some beautiful large rocks that were fun to climb on.
There were several vendors at and on the beach, including local artists selling their crafts, places to buy fresh coconuts and several food stalls. Vegan food was really not an option on the beach, that was dominated mostly by seafood. But not far back down the road (about 5 minutes past the Blue Lagoon) was Woody’s on the right where we enjoyed their fantastic vegan burgers (just ask for them without the cheese). We confirmed that there was no egg in the veggie burger and we highly recommend the burger with plantain.
How to get there
Winnifred Beach is off of highway A1, which runs across the north of Jamaica, although you won’t feel like you are on a highway for much of the time, especially just after Port Antonio when the road narrows. Keep an eye out for a wooden sign on your left and prepare to make a sharp turn (almost a U-turn) onto the road.
If you have an SUV you can drive all the way down to the beach, but if you don’t we recommend parking at the top of the gravel road to avoid all the potholes and simply walk the short distance down. When the road veers off to the right at the big mango tree (this is how locals there will give you directions), continue straight for a short cut through the woods.