Okay, so you’re in paradise. Now what? Well of course the sun, sea and sands are calling your name, but believe us, there’s more to this heavenly island than its 365 white sand beaches and azure waters (although that alone was enough to make us fall in love with this destination. A beach for every day of the year? Yes please…). Anyway, if you get the chance to explore a little, we’ve handpicked our top 5 Antiguan experiences just for you. Go on, put aside the cocktail, rise from that sun lounger and discover what else Antigua has to offer…
BETTY’S HOPE SUGAR PLANTATION
Betty’s Hope was Antigua’s first sugar plantation and dates all the way back to 1674. Named after the daughter of its 17th century owner Christopher Codrington, the plantation was hugely successful and ensured sugar production dominated Antigua’s industry for hundreds of years.
It’s a great place to go to for a sense of Antigua’s past and close ties to British Colonialism. With a collection of stone ruins, as well as a beautifully restored mill and an informative visitor’s centre, witness the plantation’s history come to life as you are given an insightful tour by your enthusiastic expert guide.
There’s only one way to experience the best views over this incredible island, its stunning bays and coral reefs, and it involves hopping on board a private helicopter to fly you around the island for some panoramic views of paradise and the chance to make the most of some mesmerising photo opportunities. With the surrounding clear blue seas that are dotted with expansive coral reefs and the verdant greenery that carpets the island; bird’s eye views over this sprawling beauty are an aesthetic delight.
Oh, and if you’re feeling brave, helicopter tours also offer the chance to embark upon a Montserrat volcano tour, where you’ll witness a live volcano in action (from a safe distance of course).
So, we’ve given you options for discovering Antigua by land and by air, but how about delving under the surface of this exclusive destination…literally…
We think anywhere that’s lucky enough to be surrounded by vibrant, well preserved reefs and astounding shipwrecks deserves to be explored, so it’s time to get your hair wet.
The conditions in Antigua are perfect for diving and snorkelling and as a result, there’s an abundance of diving schools and snorkelling trips that you can book on to, so there’s no excuse not to give it a go. Whether you’re discovering the wreck of The Andes merchant ship that sank in 1905, heading out to the famous Cades Reef to swim amongst the colourful marine life or taking a trip of a lifetime to swim and interact with friendly stingrays, you’ll probably want to grab an underwater camera so you can capture these moments forever.
Once a military base and lookout, Shirley Heights has since been transformed into a sumptuous bar and restaurant. True to its name, Shirley Heights holds a prime position high atop a hillside and has astounding views over English Harbour.
If you’re around on a Sunday, head up to the heights to watch the sun set over the harbour (you might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the ‘green flash’ of light that occurs just as the sun disappears behind the sea) before partying the night away to the sounds of Caribbean music and the taste of delicious cocktails at Shirley Heights’ infamous Sunday night party.
Can’t get to the party? Don’t worry, there’s plenty more to see and do, including touring the beautiful buildings of this historic military complex and settling down to dine at the gourmet Lookout restaurant.
OUR FAVOURITE BEACHES
We’d be lying if we didn’t say one of our favourite things to do in Antigua is to simply kick back on a paradisiacal beach and listen to waves lapping softly against the white sands. As we mentioned above, there’s around 365 beaches to choose from, so you’re undoubtedly spoilt for choice.
One of our favourites has to be Half Moon Bay, a mile long stretch of paradise along Antigua’s south eastern coast. There’s also Dickenson Bay in the north west of the island, whose powder soft sands and alluringly calm waters epitomise what Antigua does best. Oh, let’s not forget Carlisle Bay or Turner’s Beach either. Okay, we’ll stop. You get the picture. This is the island to go to for ultimate beach relaxation.