Me: "If I say ‘Caribbean’ give me 10 words, Go!"
You: "Sun, beach, rum, pirates, pina colada, honeymoon, cruise, reggae, snorkeling, islands."
You: "Johnny Depp, Bob Marley, Rastafarians, Soca, holiday, rum punch, sailing, palm trees, white sand, hotels."
Am I getting close?
Where Caribbean holidays are concerned, the little island of Antigua packs a real punch. It’s just as well too, as the island is supported primarily by tourism.
Antigua is a little rock of paradise jutting out of the ocean surrounded by ‘365 beaches, one for each day of the year’ - boasts the government -with a population majority who have descended from African slaves, brought over to work the sugar plantations and who now inhabit an island that everybody would like to visit. There is a little something for everyone to enjoy here.
Which are you?
The Beach Worshipper
There is plenty of choice here from windy and wavy beaches to fine white sandy beaches, beaches to kite surf from, beaches to drink rum on, beaches with rock pools or shells and mostly beaches just to look pretty on or just to gaze at the endlessly pretty views.
My favorite beach is Galleon Beach looking out over the entrance to English Harbor: the mega yachts cruise in and out during the day providing lots of interesting conversations about how that one is bigger than the other one. For those who get a little bored being plastered to a sun lounger all day, there are kayaks to borrow or a walking track that takes you right past the Pillars of Hercules and on to Shirley Heights if you are so inclined. There is the most gorgeous beach bar serving casual hamburgers and salads during the day accompanied by Pina Colada on tap. To top off the day, the sunset views are a glimpse at heaven.
The History Buff
From pirates to drunken sailors (are they perhaps the same?), slavery and sugar plantations, Antigua has it all covered. Nelson’s Dockyard in the south has a real feel of walking in the footsteps of the English militia, and I also expected Johnny Depp to appear around a corner at any point.
Wishful thinking? Not so much – as a playground of the rich and famous who keep their yachts here during the northern hemisphere winter, you just never know who you might bump into.
This is the only working Georgian dockyard in the world and has been well restored, with the ancient buildings now housing a hotel, bar, museum and souvenir shop.
After visiting the boats, head inland to Betty’s Hope sugar mill which has been restored and offers a real insight into life here in the 1600's. It is hot and dry, and as I looked around I darted from one point of shade to the next, imagining the hellish life of a slave toiling under the sun until you dropped.
The Rum and Reggae Lover
English Harbor Rum is the locally made rum and is served all over the island mixed up as Old Fashioned or Rum Punch. Lighter rum is made into refreshing Mojitos or Pina Coladas. Shirley Heights, offering a view from one of the highest points on the island, over Falmouth and English Harbor has a live steel band every Thursday and Sunday night, to listen to while watching the sun go down. You can eat barbecue and sample the rum punch and every time I go there I have a really good time.
The Adventure Seeker
Stingray City tours and Rainforest Canopy Ziplining spring instantly to mind. Both are fun and offer a refreshing day out from endless beach life. The Stingray City crew take you on a short 10 minute boat trip to a protected reef area where you can walk through the water (it’s about 4 ft deep) and feed the stingrays that swarm around. It may sound scary but is hugely popular, safe, fun for all the family and extremely well organized. Ziplining over the rainforest offers high wire and high speed excitement. Take the full tour to avail of the whole attraction including 12 zip lines, one of which is known appropriately as ‘The Screamer’.
While many prefer to keep both feet firmly on the sand, there are those madly keen sailors who know Antigua as the holy grail of sailing. For the finest racing yachts, the Classic Yacht Regatta and Antigua Sailing Week, in April each year, are the beginnings of the annual calendar of worldwide glamorous events. Antigua also overs sheltered harbors and pretty anchorages in addition to short trips to other major islands, such as sister island Barbuda or neighboring Montserrat and St Kitts. If you want a picnic adventure and don’t have your day sailor license, there are boats trips on offer to Green Island, Bird Island and Barbuda so that you can explore off the beaten track.
Antigua is surrounded by ocean, beach and hotels. The hotels / resorts are breath-taking with infinity pools looking over white sandy beaches, restaurants with internationally acclaimed chefs, beautifully designed spaces, sports facilities aplenty and prices in US$. Resort holidays are not cheap but if you are traveling on a budget there is a crop of B&B's offering less luxurious rooms but you know the beach is never far away and ALL beaches are public.
So who are you? Did you find something that you like?
Antigua is a small island – 14 miles long by 11 miles wide – you can easily find something to engage you here. Find a lovely place to stay, bring a good book and a hat, unwind from your busy life for a few days and then think about soaking up a little more of the island culture.
There is a reason that life is slower here – every day of the year it is hot, too hot to rush, but perfectly hot for a bikini and shorts.