Honeymoon in Antigua and Barbuda for an unforgettable taste of authentic Caribbean hospitality
It’s no surprise this sun-drenched, candy-bright Caribbean paradise is renowned as a classic honeymoon haven: with palm-fringed, peaceful bays and warm turquoise seas, this place is bliss for beach lovers. However with a huge array of luxe hotels, a melting pot of colour culture, incredible food and historic sites, there’s so much more to these super cool Caribbean isles.
After an easy seven-and-a-half hour flight from the UK you land in the twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda. The captivating thing about the vibrant island of Antigua is that it heaves with intriguing things to see and do at every turn. Wind your way along the roads and wonder at the luscious tropical flora spilling out onto the twisty lanes. The sweet-hued houses that dot the hillside come in every shade from pretty pastel pink to zingy yellow — all a perfect contrast to the brilliant green landscape. Native and unique to the island, are the fields of miniature Antigua black pineapples — if you’re lucky you’ll pass a friendly local selling them roadside.
Make sure you try some — they are totally scrumptious. Through jungly palms and banana trees laden with fruit, you’ll chance upon a 19th-century grey stone church, turn the next corner and find a tumbledown 17th-century sugar mill — this place is steeped in fascinating history.
A visit to English Harbour (within the UNESCO World Heritage Site area) is a must: a naval yard for warships in the 18th century and home to Nelson’s Dockyard (named after the infamous Horatio Nelson who was stationed here in 1784) — it’s an enthralling snapshot into Georgian navy life and the heritage of the island. On Friday night, the Fish Fry is obligatory — foodies will love the crab cakes, coconut shrimp and conch fritters.
Food really is epic here: be sure to pop to Turners Bar for a toes-in-sand picnic feast of curried lobster and whole red snapper. For a jolly steel-drum-spectacle, head to Shirley Heights on Sunday evenings. From 4pm, on a little ridge high above English Harbour the Lookout Bar hosts a fun-filled evening of steelpan and reggae bands with a barbeque serving all sorts of delicious jerk marinated meat, washed down with oodles of local rum and coconut water. The atmosphere’s electric, views are magical and the impossibly clear night sky twinkles with a zillion stars.
Antigua offers some of the best sailing in the Caribbean. Come April, the world’s mega yachts descend upon English Harbour for the Caribbean’s famous Sailing Week and boat lovers should charter a yacht to “chase the race” for a fully-loaded must-see sailing marvel. It’s a big year for anniversaries in 2017 with the 30th Classic Yacht Regatta in July and the 50th Anniversary Sailing Week in April — May plus back on the island, the much anticipated Antigua Carnival in July — August will celebrate 60 years.
And there’s so much to do on dry land: hike the trail to Boggy Point and gape at the awe-inspiring views. Shoppers will love Heritage Quay’s arcade at St John’s — the island’s capital. Redcliffe Quay complete with restored townhouses, brightly painted shutters and a myriad of local cafes is worth a visit too.
Yes, Antigua is charmingly laid back, but there’s also luxury in abundance and heaps of fabulous places to stay. Sitting alongside a peaceful cove, you’ll find the seriously stylish Carlisle Bay —the suites are gorgeous and the food fantastic. Hermitage Bay a collection of 17 cute wooden cottages set amid sweet-scented tropical blooms and jaw-dropping views over the butter-soft beach is the perfect spot for romance. Located on its own little island, a seven-minute boat ride from Antigua, you’ll find the fancy Jumby Bay: a dreamy little place surrounded by a glittery turquoise lagoon.
The beaches are something special and with a whopping 365 — one for each day of the year — you are quite literally spoilt for choice. From the prettiest hidden bays with water so perfectly clear and shallow, to wild beaches nestled among jagged rocks and roaring oceans; there really is a beach for your every whim.
Dickenson Bay a mile-long stretch of oyster-white sand and delightfully warm water, is wonderfully lively with all sorts of buzzy beach bars and hip hangouts.
For sensational sunset views and dazzling white sand, go to the remote south-west corner of the island where you’ll stumble across Ffrye’s Bay —a hidden gem. But for true seclusion, sister-island Barbuda, fringed with pristine sands is sleepier and well worth a pit-stop.
Bottom: Hobie Cats at Jolly Beach.
This page clockwise from top left: Shirley Heights;
Hummingbird in the trees;
St John’s Downtown the white sands and turquoise waters of Antiguan beaches; a cottage at Cocobay. Centre;