When most people think of Antigua, I’m sure you'll agree, they think of golden sandy beaches with swaying palms and crystalline turquoise tropical waters. And why not, this is certainly true, with its 365 beaches... a different beach to venture to every day of the year! It's no surprise that you would think this way.
But when I had the fortune to visit the island a couple of weeks ago as part of a fantastic, fun-loving group, I got to see why Antigua is not just a 'fly and flop' destination, but also an island full of fun and frolics. With a full week on the island we knew we would get the opportunity to experience a few activities, as well as, of course, the obligatory beach time…
Quite simply, Shirley Heights is a must. People travel from all over the island to join the party atmosphere at this restored garrison every Sunday afternoon. We arrived early to watch the sunset over a rum cocktail (or two), amidst an already buzzing atmosphere. The gentle rhythms of steel pan music were in full swing and the enticing smells of barbecued pork, along with spectacular views over the bay at English Harbour, provided a perfect backdrop for a selfie (or three). With a hop, skip and jump back to our hotel, The Inn at English Harbour, at the end of the night, we all left wanting more.
The Inn, with its classic colonial charm, is also the perfect base to explore Nelson’s Dockyard. We took the hotel’s water taxi a few minutes around the bay and were able to wander around this beautifully preserved historic site. You can just imagine Admiral Nelson and his men roaming the yard, preparing for their next expedition. Now you can find little cafes and restaurants dotted around the harbour, as you watch the yachting enthusiasts.
Geronimo on day 5! The thrill factor was definitely in effect as we got harnessed up for our zip lining adventure through the rainforest at Fig Tree Drive, on the south west tip of the island. The group's feeling were a mixture of anxiety and excitement, as we stood in anticipation, about to set off on a 13-line course through the scenic canopy. We started early in the day when the air was cooler, avoiding the queues at this increasingly popular attraction. A highlight for sure, but watch out for the 'screamer'… I’ll say no more.
I had tried wine tasting and even whisky tasting before, but rum tasting was a first. We were lucky enough to stay at the gorgeous Carlisle Bay, where they had arranged a Master Rum Tasting Class for us with Devon. He talked us through the history of rum, how it was produced, and more importantly the subtle, yet noticeable differences between the differently aged rums. We felt like we were on an episode of Food & Drink, but in a truly tropical location! Suffice to say that, after the class, we merrily tottered back along the beachfront to our Ocean Suites, enjoying the quiet night and crystal clear starry skies.
Before we arrived on the sunny shores of Antigua, everyone had told me that you couldn’t leave Antigua without experiencing the island from the water. It's almost like a rite of passage, to be able to say that you have properly seen, lived and breathed the island. A trip to Barbuda, Antigua’s smaller sister island, with its pristine 17 mile pink sandy beach, or a tour around the whole of Antigua, are the perfect day excursions.
We were no exceptions to this rule, hitting the idyllic waters ourselves. Carlisle Bay offers a daily snorkelling tour to Cades Reef, so we decided to join the trip. Being slightly nervous of open water myself, I was really reassured by the care and attention of the staff. Even the speedboat ride out to the reef is a pleasure, as you look back at the palms fringing the beach, but the underwater life is truly breathtaking.
Sunsets are so special, especially on holiday. I always find that I can remember every place I’ve been at that moment when the sun takes over the skies, creating that picture postcard scene, and a sunset viewed from the water is even more stunning. Many of the hotels organise sunset cruises, and on our last night, at Rosewood Jumby Bay, we boarded the resort’s private yacht for a gentle cruise, mingling with other guests over cocktails and canapés, watching the sun dip beyond the horizon. A perfect end to a perfect trip.
I discovered that Antigua has so much to offer, with every resort presenting something different and special. Each resort has its own personality, and there is something for everyone. I always say that the way to tell how memorable and enjoyable a place is, is whether it leaves you wanting more.
Antigua? More please…