A sun-drenched island fringed with white sandy beaches, surrounded by lapping crystal blue waters and hosted by friendly locals with a slow pace of life – just another Caribbean island?
Not quite. Antigua has a hearty English accent attached to its Caribbean paradise, steeped in colonial history and dotted with historic sights. The island continues to maintain its long committed relationship to sailing – dating back to when Nelson was stationed here to hosting modern day regattas and today, a key hub for the superyacht industry.
Our time was spent on the southern coast of the island, based at Nelsons Dockyard (English Harbour), which involved long lunches, scuba diving and free flowing espresso martinis – not always in that order. The dockyard is a quaint area of the island, home to buildings that can be traced back to the 18th century when Britain ruled the island.
English harbour and Falmouth provide Antigua with a yachting epicentre. Our stay here coincided with the Atlantic rowing challenge – with the Dockyard as the finish line. This meant a great vibe and yachts blowing horns every other day welcoming a crazy team of rowers into their finish. It certainly made my daily run up the goat trail surrounding the dockyard a lot easier knowing that if they had the sheer determination to row across the Atlantic I could finish my easy 5km.
From rowing the second largest ocean to extremely relaxing and long lunches, Antigua knows how to host lunching in the sun. A highlight has to be at Catherine’s beach café, a French style café serving great food in a chilled atmosphere – visit on a Saturday when the band play into early evening. Another hotspot is Boom, the old gunpowder store, a top find with an infinity pool overlooking the Dockyard.
After all the calories consumed it only seemed right to burn them off, surrounded by reefs and with great diving sites it was rude not to try them out. Between lunching and working we managed to fit in two dives, both at the Pinnacles of Hercules, conveniently located just outside of the Dockyard. I was more than excited as I heard that there was a resident turtle that hanged out there – with promise of a turtle, there was no such luck however it was some good (and warm) diving. Back above water, Antigua boasts a beach for everyday of the year, luring in cruise shippers, holidaymakers and yachtsman. Pigeon beach was our main go to, close to the dockyard and great for paddle boarding.
Antigua doesn’t fall short when it comes to the island party lifestyle. Falmouth town is lined with bars and restaurants. The rolling hills of the island are also dotted with luxurious resorts all hosting various parties throughout the season. On Sundays, there is the well-known Shirley heights lookout to head to – hosting their famous BBQ party complete with sundowners and tourists. Very touristy but was good to experience at least once whilst on the island.
February, 2016 (Antigua)