As the nights are drawing in and temperatures drop, thoughts of swaying palm trees, turquoise seas and a cocktail in hand can seem like a distant dream. But with daily direct flights from the UK, those dreams could easily become a reality. With a flight time of less than 8 hours, and with only a four hour time difference, you could be combing one of the 365 beaches that Antigua is famous for, enjoying the crystal, clear sea, and pristine golden sands sooner than you think.
Fortunate to have come away unscathed from the recent spurt of hurricanes, Antigua has something to offer everyone. There is a vast range of accommodation to choose from. You could be sipping a cocktail from your own secluded beach villa, at anchor on a private yacht, or with the waves lapping at your feet at one of the numerous top-class hotels.
Having spent a week on a private motor yacht charter, I can definitely say that Antigua is a boating paradise. With numerous sheltered bays to anchored in, to either sojourn for lunch, or to spend the night, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
We started our yacht charter at Jolly Harbour Marina, which offers an array of restaurants, bars, and shopping experiences. If you enjoy a good Indian then meander down to Castaways, on South beach, where their authentic Indian chefs will whip you up a culinary feast. The entrance to the marina is well protected and offers an alternative place for those who prefer to be out of the hustle and bustle of a marina.
Heading north, passing by Five Islands, Deep Bay makes an excellent overnight stopover. For those who enjoy snorkeling, they can indulge in exploring the shipwreck of the Andes, which is positioned at the entrance. Or, step ashore and take the short hike up to Fort Barrington to experience some truly breath- taking views of the island. We continued, passing by the capital, St Johns, and dropped anchor at the idyllic Dickenson’s Bay. There are a variety of beach front restaurants to choose from, we opted for Coconut Grove, and enjoyed some delicious traditional Caribbean fare.
Picking up a mooring buoy at the picturesque Green Island is essential. We explored the uninhabited island, finding hermit crabs galore, before disappearing below the sea to encounter some of the best snorkeling on the island. Losing yourself as you glide through the serene warm waters and swimming alongside turtles, puffer fish, yellow tailed snappers, and stingrays, makes a truly unforgettable experience.
Under Captains command, the yacht sailed south to the picturesque English Harbour. As the only working Georgian dockyard in the world it has recently been given UNESCO title, to protect and preserve the remarkable site. It is full of history and charming buildings, and has a selection of appealing shops, restaurants, and bars. We anchored at Freemans Bay, with Galleon beach at our bow and the delightful views over English Harbour to our stern, we couldn’t have hoped for a more enchanting setting. We decided to have lunch ashore at Boom, which is situated just by the gunpowder room. With hammocks and sunbeds to laze in, and an infinity pool overlooking Nelson’s Dockyard for cooling off, the location was faultless. We had a delicious lunch at the poolside restaurant and indulged in some pampering at the spa. A truly relaxing day.
View from Boom over to Pillars restaurant, at the Admirals Inn
For dinner we treated ourselves at Pillars, the a la carte restaurant at the Admirals Inn, which is delightfully positioned next to the water. The food and service are great, a place I’d definitely recommend. To walk off our indulgences we woke early the following morning, the best time of the day in the Caribbean, and hiked up from the beach to Shirley Heights, following the Lookout Trail. Roughly about a mile and a half and mostly up hill, we arrived slightly out of breath at Shirley Heights, famous for its Sunday night sunset parties. At this time of the morning we enjoyed the peace and tranquility of having it to ourselves and took in the breath- taking views across English and Falmouth Harbour, and as it was a clear day, Montserrat and Guadeloupe. The journey back down is much easier and is only about ½ mile, depositing us back on Galleon beach where we cooled off in the sea. There is a great place to snorkel just off Freeman’s Bay, on the inside of the red marking buoy. If you snorkel around the rocks to Hercules Pillars, you will see an array of multi-coloured fish and turtles.
The view from Shirley Heights down to our boat at anchor at Freeman’s Bay
Catch my next blog, where we cruise the rest of Antigua.
By Laura Barber