One of the most unique islands in the Caribbean Sea, Antigua is known for its outgoing personality as much as it is for its beautiful sandy beaches. With a reputation for glamour established by the many superyachts that descend annually for the renowned sailing regatta, Antigua is an island that has a little of everything. Lively at times but with plenty of peaceful spots to soak up some solitude, this is perhaps one of those gold dust destinations that truly caters to all.
Initially named Wadadli by the original Amerindian inhabitants, Antigua was first mapped on Europe’s radar by Christopher Columbus in 1493. A British colony was subsequently set up here, which became known as Europe’s gateway to the Caribbean and the base of Horatio Nelson’s navy. Sugar plantations were the main source of income, and the island was only granted its independence in 1981, leading to an incredible history for such a small island.
British influences can still be spotted, particularly in the love of cricket and the adoration of the local sporting legend, Viv Richards, as well as in the popularity of boat racing. Despite this, Antigua is still undeniably Caribbean at heart, and there is no better example of this than when the island gets into carnival swing. Steel bands, calypso and soca music and colourful costumes are traditions that go back to the abolition of slavery on the island, and partying is taken very seriously by the residents.
The capital of St John’s is the best place to get a taste of local life. Here, the people aren’t fans of high brow culture, but have a natural talent for telling intriguing stories, with surprising twists and turns bordering on the unbelievable. They have a unique style, a mish-mash of western, island and African influences, making for an eclectic visual that ensures a day spend here is never boring – just go with the flow and you’ll feel like a part of the island in no time.
Sailing is possibly the biggest draw, though. Home to one of the world’s best international regattas, the coastline is a magnet for luxurious superyachts. The sea breezes caught by the coves make ideal conditions for watersports, which are provided for at most of our five-star luxury hotels, where you can enjoy the authentic Caribbean atmosphere of the island of Antigua, with the finest comforts and best in hospitality.
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All passengers must ensure they have valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country (for example, South Africa) or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Sailing and Watersports
Antigua has become almost synonymous with sailing. With a coastline characterised by deeply indented bays and coves that catch the sea breeze, Antigua Sailing Week has become the world’s premier regatta. Over six days at the end of April, impressive gleaming ocean-going yachts gather at English Harbour for a series of challenging races, while back at the dock, a fabulous array of parties, events and ceremonies create an infectious carnival atmosphere. A tip for those planning on staying for a fortnight – be sure to arrive the week before the main event. This way, you can also catch the Classic Yacht Regatta, a must-do for those who would also like the chance to admire some of the most elegant yachts from yesteryear.
Sailing doesn’t come to a halt when the festivities end though. Private yacht charters can be arranged from most of the top hotels on the island, offering exclusive luxury cruises out on the waters. Guests staying at Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort can charter the resort’s 45-foot-long custom-built catamaran, ‘Yennecot’, for a personalised circumnavigation charter or trip out to the reef. For those who are too tempted to dive into those unbelievably clear waters, there are also plenty of watersports on offer. PADI-qualified diving courses are available at many of our featured Antigua hotels, including Hermitage Bay and Carlisle Bay, and there are a range of non-motorised watersports available – Blue Waters is the perfect spot for this and caters brilliantly for families.
English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard
First inhabited by Amerindians, it is the following period of colonial British rule that has left the biggest stamp on the culture of Antigua. While today it is a delightful mix of African Caribbean and European influences that make up the eclectic personality of the island, the remains of the 18th Century occupation, led by Horatio Nelson, stand as some of the best-preserved example of colonial architecture in the Caribbean, and is only a two-minute drive for guests staying at The Inn at English Harbour.
A must-see for any history enthusiast, English Harbour is where you will find Nelson’s Dockyard, once the home base of Britain’s Leeward Islands naval fleet, and now the world’s only Georgian era dockyard still in use. The surrounding fortress buildings have been carefully restored to their original design, though colonial remnants can be found at other locations across the island, including Betty’s Hope, a rustic 17th century sugar mill, and the Museum of Barbuda and Antigua. housed in an 18th century courthouse at the capital, St John’s.
The stand-out spot for many, though, is certainly Shirley Heights. An old military look-out spot and fortress situated above English Harbour at the most southerly point of the island, this is the best spot for savouring breathtaking views out across the wate,r where, for over thirty years, a weekly party and barbecue has been held on Sunday evenings. With live steel band and reggae music, watch on in awe at the beauty of the Caribbean sunset, made even more special by the warmth and hospitality of your Antiguan hosts.
Any Antigua aficionado will tell you that there are enough beaches here for every day of the year. This is true, but we know that beaches are about more than just quantity, they are about quality, something Antigua also has in bucketfuls. No beaches here are private, and part of the charm of visiting is getting a feel for the local culture, but that’s not to say you can’t find a private spot with a few exclusive touches.
Jumby Bay, a Rosewood Resort is set on its own little islet just of the north coast. Guests here will be on the doorstep of half a mile of pristine white sand, complete with cushioned chaises, hammocks strung between palm trees and dedicated beach attendants delivering treats including cocktails, frozen daiquiris and fresh fruit smoothies straight to your hand. Hermitage Bay, meanwhile, is a well-hidden little cove set in perfect seclusion. Surrounded by lush mangroves with the silhouettes of Montserrat, St Kitt’s and Nevis in the distance, this is a beautiful spot for couples looking for a little solitude. Soldiers Bay, on the west coast, is where you will find multi-award-winning resort, Blue Waters, set in an exclusive residential area, ensuring guests can enjoy the calm waters and day-long sunshine in unrivalled privacy.
For a real taste of the authentic culture of Antigua, a visit to the capital, St John’s, is a must. Identifiable by the white towers of its cathedral built in 1845, St John’s is a bustling, lively haven of everyday life and tourist activity. Everything here bursts with noise and colour – the crates full of fresh fruit, vegetables and spices brought out in the mornings for market are nothing short of a rainbow, even down to the deceptively named Antiguan Black Pneapple, said to be the sweetest in the world, while the endless chatter and laughter of the people seems to merge seamlessly with the patter of steel drums.
Behind a rainbow of shacks and shop fronts you can taste local dishes, which are often a hearty stew, fried plantain or barbecued burger accompanied by fresh homemade juice, or find exclusive duty-free shopping deals, from jewellery and diamonds, to fine wines and cigars.
The locals of St John’s are warm and friendly, and can often be found congregated at barbershops, regaling visitors with their stories of real-life exploits and local myths and legends. Most people you run into will also have a tale about local cricket legend, Viv Richards, a name that crops up in many a conversation, while at the weekends, parties pop up in the town centre as the locals let their hair down, and the Dark and Stormys flow freely.
A lot of Antigua’s main attractions are sea-based, but there is plenty to do back on land, too. Golfers are very well catered for, both advanced players and more casual players. The 18-hole championship course, Cedar Valley, was designed by Ralph Alderidge, spanning over six-thousand yards with plenty of inclines, challenges and beautiful vistas of the Caribbean Sea. For a flatter course, Jolly Harbour has a course designed by Karl Litten, with beautifully lush vegetation accommodating all levels of players.
While sailing is on the mind of many who visit Antigua, the country’s national sport is actually cricket, and there is an intense devotion to the game across the island. An echo of British heritage, some of the world’s greatest cricket players hail from Antigua, the most celebrated being Viv Richards, whose name graces the West Indies cricket team’s home ground stadium. Big, international matches take place here from January through to July, though you can find local games held throughout the year.
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Our Travel Consultants can advise on, arrange and pre-book many things to enhance your holiday. This includes everything from spa reservations and dinner reservations, to a range of special experiences available in our featured resorts that you may not know about.
Join a half or full day catamaran cruise to appreciate the true beauty of this captivating island. But beware as the waters can get a little choppy in some parts so make sure you have your sea legs! To book your catamaran cruise or to arrange any other island excursions, simply contact our Travel Concierge.