Antigua presents all the elements of the proverbial island escape: fine sand beaches (365 of them!), cerulean waters, intimate coves ringed with coral reefs, and lush tropical foliage. What makes it so unique? Its rich history and culture.
The largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands, Antigua (and its sister island Barbuda) is located in the Eastern Caribbean. With gentle trade winds, low humidity, and an average rainfall of only 45 inches, it’s the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands. With a brand new airport, (V.C. Bird International), and many non-stop flights from Europe and North America, it’s easily accessible.
Antigua offers natural wonders (Devil’s Bridge natural rock arch, ancient rainforests, and Mount Obama, the island’s highest peak), plenty of land tours (kayaking, ATV and Jeep safaris), and sea activities (sailing, scuba diving, and snorkeling). With a range of accommodations, luxury hotels, all-inclusives, cottages, and villas, there are lodgings to suit every need. As they say on the island, “The beach is just the beginning.”
SOME OF OUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES:
Bird Island: Part of the country’s National Park system, this petite, uninhabited island just off Antigua’s coast, is fringed by a calm, protected bay, excellent for snorkelers of all levels. Climb the path to the top of the hill for sprawling views of both the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
Stingray City: Take a journey by speedboat to this sand bar and natural home to dozens of Southern Rays. Safely interact with these graceful animals in the shallow waters inside the Barrier Reef and snorkel amongst corals and tropical fish.
Zip Line & Canopy Tour: This eco-tour, located on the southwest coast of the island, gives you a bird’s eye view of the rainforest and all of its floral and fauna. Enjoy zip lining, aerial walkway bridges, and a specialty challenge course.
Town of St. John: The island’s capital and bustling cruise ship port provides plenty of retail therapy: visit Heritage Quay, a wide boulevard of duty-free shops; Historic Redcliff Quay with its independent boutiques and cafes; and the Public Market stocked with Caribbean fruits and vegetables. Browse Gingerlilly for beautiful beach cover-ups and Sunseakers for flip-flops and bathing suits.
Shirley Heights: This former military complex offers panoramic views of English Harbor, which are especially dramatic at sunset. The lookout’s Guard House is now a rustic restaurant with a breezy outdoor terrace. Enjoy heaping plates of barbeque chicken and rice and wash it down with rum punch!
English Harbour: Long known as a hurricane haven for ships, this port was used by the British in the 18th century. The harbour’s Georgian Naval Dockyard is now part of Antigua’s National Parks Authority.
Nelson’s Dockyard: This UNESCO site in English Harbour was named for Captain Nelson, Commander of the Leeward Islands Station in 1784. Stroll among restored buildings, tour the Admiral’s House & Museum, and stop for a bite at The Admiral’s Inn. Take time to survey the impressive tall sailing ships as they ready themselves for their ocean voyages. (Visit in April through May to witness the annual Antigua Sailing Week and Classic Yacht Regatta.)
Dow’s Hill: Perched on a bluff in the National Park is this museum and educational center. Don’t miss the 15-minute multi-media presentation that takes you through Antigua’s history from its indigenous Amerindian roots, to its British military period, the struggle against slavery, and its path to independence and the modern Antiguan way of life.
Catherine’s Café Plage: On your way out of English Harbor, stop at this bistro and bar located on Pigeon Beach. This open-air Caribbean-style beach house, just steps from the sand, offers an authentic, French-inspired Caribbean menu.
Jumby Bay: We were fortunate to stay at this understated yet exceptional Rosewood Hotels property located on a 300-acre private island that can only be reached by a six-minute ferry ride. The island was purchased by a small group of homeowners in 1998, and now consists of 56 private houses (many which can be rented) and 40 rooms and villas within the resort community. Its ranking as one of the “best resorts in the Caribbean” is well deserved.
The island has a rich biodiversity, which is carefully preserved. Snowy egrets, blue herons, Persian black-headed sheep, and hawksbill sea turtles all call Jumby Bay their home. There are no cars on the island—eco-sensitive transportation is by foot, golf cart or bike via the resort’s numerous winding paths.
A stay at Jumby Bay includes all food and beverages at its three restaurants – their menus brimming with locally sourced ingredients. Also included are daily resort activities, snorkel excursions to Bird Island and Stingray City, sunset cocktail cruises, beach barbeques, and circumnavigation tours by motorboat. My sons made good use of the complimentary watersports: Hobie cats, paddle boards, waterskiing, and tubing, while my husband and I spent time on silky, white-sand Jumby Beach under one of the many thatched bohios (huts) that dot the shore and protect you from the mid-day Antiguan sun.
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