A Brief History of Goldeneye, James Bond Creator Ian Fleming's Idyllic Jamaican Refuge

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Photo credit: Getty/Goldeneye/Michael Stillwell
Photo credit: Getty/Goldeneye/Michael Stillwell

"Never say 'no' to adventures. Always say 'yes,' otherwise you'll lead a very dull life," Ian Fleming wrote in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a 1964 children's book he dedicated to his son. It was sound advice, more so coming from the man who created James Bond, England's most dangerous and dashing secret agent, a character who—68 years after he was introduced in Fleming's first novel (1953's Casino Royale)—still remains a cultural juggernaut. (We probably don't need to remind you that the new No Time to Die, Daniel Craig's final turn as the brooding spy and the 25th film in the franchise, finally had its theatrical release last week.)

Photo credit: Mara Vivat - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mara Vivat - Getty Images

Fleming didn't just vicariously embark on adventures through the fictional exploits of 007—many of his own experiences as a naval intelligence officer during World War II inspired his Bond storylines. In 1943, he went to Jamaica for an Anglo-American summit and fell in love. "I swore that if I survived the contest I would go back to Jamaica, buy a piece of land, build a house and live in it as much as my job would allow," Fleming later wrote. And that's what he did, returning as soon as the war ended to break ground on his beachfront idyll, which he named Goldeneye. It would serve as his winter retreat for nearly 20 years, until his death in 1964—and it was where he penned all 14 of his Bond works. Naturally, his real life paradise often factored into the 007 narrative, both on page and onscreen (see: Dr. No, Live and Let Die, even No Time to Die).

Photo credit: Archive Photos - Getty Images
Photo credit: Archive Photos - Getty Images

What Patrick Leigh Fermor found in Greece's Peloponnese, Fleming discovered on the northern coast of Jamaica, in a little town called Oracabessa. "He just loved the feel of the island and particularly the land at Goldeneye, right off the ocean and with its own beach," says Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who bought the villa in the '70s and gradually built a 52-acre, 45-key resort around it. "He would wake up, swim, and then write in the bedroom, with windows closed, until another swim in the afternoon."

More than six decades later, Fleming's beloved Goldeneye still very much feels like an authentic, unpretentious, unspoiled refuge, a remarkable thing in an era of mass tourism and indistinguishable mega-resorts. It was Blackwell's mother Blanche, a longtime friend of Fleming, who persuaded her son to purchase the home when it came on the market. "She used to swim there all the time," he says. "She rang me and asked me if I would buy it–and as a dutiful son, I did." Eventually he bought more land and built accommodations to host friends. By 2010, GoldenEye, the resort, opened to the public. Today the property, which remains hidden from the road and devoid of any signage, includes villas, cottages, and beach huts nestled in and around charming nooks, coves, a lagoon, and the sea.

Photo credit: Christian Horan Photography
Photo credit: Christian Horan Photography

But of course the crown jewel of GoldenEye is the original Fleming Villa, a three-bedroom hideaway set apart from the rest of the resort, with an open-air layout sans windows—only louvers to let in that delightful Jamaican breeze, just as its namesake liked it—plus a private beach, pool, and two new cottages for larger groups of up to 10 guests (rates for the entire 5-bedroom property start at $7,640). For aspiring—and well-heeled—novelists, the biggest draw may be Fleming's writing desk in the corner of the master bedroom, where Bond was born.

"The intention was and still is to have a place with a home-away-from-home atmosphere, with unobtrusive service and the freshest locally-sourced food," Blackwell says. "This is exactly the way Ian Fleming felt about his home in Jamaica and why he escaped here to write and relax."

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