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Escape to Antigua


CHERYL HAREWOOD, [email protected]

Escape to Antigua

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I HAD VISITED Antigua and Barbuda several times as an intransit passenger and only once as a day visitor attending a Press conference at the luxurious Sandals Grande Antiguan Resort.

Back then, I was quickly hustled from the airport to the hotel and had no time to sample any aspect of life in this gem of an island.

You can imagine, then, how upbeat I was when Ventura cruise ship dropped anchor in the capital St John’s.

As I walked directly into the city, a mere few minutes’ walk, and viewed the boutique type shops, the duty free shops, listened to the gospel music which emanated from a nearby vendor who was selling gospel CDs and watched as Antiguans welcomed cruise ship passengers, I knew there and then that I wanted to return to Antigua and Barbuda for a much longer visit.

I was totally impressed with this island’s offerings, the clean streets which first confronted me, the friendly people and the shopping experiences.

Antigua is heavily dependent on tourism, with the agricultural sector serving the domestic market, and one can clearly see that Antiguans understand tourism’s contribution to the island and each citizen makes tourism their business.

Heritage Quay Tax and Duty Free haven in the capital of St John’s. 

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As you can imagine, I made my way to the city shops and discovered bargain after bargain. I then did that all familiar things I love to do as a cruise ship passenger. I found my way to the bus terminal and boarded a minivan, which took me to the south of the island.

Life in Antigua, the architecture, houses, the little villages with their schools placed alongside homes and lots of open spaces reminded me of home.

I travelled to residential districts and watched how the residents lived and was even given a bonus when the driver drove down one of Antigua’s beautiful beaches. I watched as cattle strolled the countryside and paid attention to the large, split-level homes in which the more affluent Antiguans live.

St John’s is the mecca with two duty free shopping areas, vendor’s malls and markets with local handiwork and stores carrying clothing, accessories and household.

There was lots of entertainment for cruise ship passengers, including this Shaggy Bear who engages the attention of these two cruise passengers.

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Just outside the city, on Friar’s Hill Road, you will find a bustling strip of malls with unique and exciting shops, restaurants and businesses. There are also shopping opportunities in English/Falmouth Harbour as well as Jolly Harbour.

Boasting 365 beaches – one for each day – Antigua is ideal for sea-bathing and all forms of water sports. While the island boasts great attractions, it seems that nothing beats its beautiful beaches, where relaxation and rest are assured.

Among the top beaches (and there are many) is Turner’s Beach, which welcomes its visitors with inviting, cool breezes, offers calm, blue waters and the chance to unwind and recharge.

Another great beach is Fort Bay, located closer to St John’s. This is usually a constant hive of activity for locals and visitors. You are almost certain to encounter a game of volleyball or beach cricket to keep you occupied in between dips in the milky warm sea. Watersports are rife as well, with all equipment readily available from the beachfront.

Half Moon Bay Beach is a picture of serenity, especially during the week. As you descend from the hilltop down to white sands and translucent waters you are transported into another world.

On weekends Half Moon can get busier but you can still enjoy the tranquil, reef enclosed and tropical foliage that lends itself to providing ideal shady spots.

It is impossible to talk about Antigua and not mention Hawksbill Beach. Said to be the jewel in the crown of all the stunning beaches in Antigua, Hawksbill has five separate “sunning areas” encompassed in one beach. The beach is both expressive and extensive. Other beaches include Runaway Beach, which is perfect for picnicking, swimming and sunbathing.

It is accompanied by a healthy serving of bars and restaurants. You won’t have to travel far for refreshments.

Carlisle Beach is perfect for snorkellers and is also one of the less crowded beaches. There is also Darkwood Beach; Fryers Beach, which offers a view of Montserrat, 30 miles away; Galleon Beach; Jabberwock Beach; and many others too numerous to mention.

Antigua is ideal for snorkelling, filled with mangroves, offers sunset cruises, fishing excursions, and ferry trips to Barbuda as well as boat trips to offshore islands. Listed among the island’s top five activities are the South Horizon Coast Tour, the Caribbean Helicopter Tour and a visit to Dickenson Bay in the northwest, which is a favourite for its wide strip of powder-soft sand and tranquil turquoise waters.

Food wise and for a bit of old-fashioned British charm, complete with an atmospheric dark-wood bar, try the lobster or pumpkin soup at the 17th-century hotel Admiral’s Inn, in English Harbour.

Splurge at East, in St John’s, the most gastronomically sophisticated restaurant on Antigua, with a menu inspired by the best of Asian cuisine or visit the popular Sticky Wicket in Coolidge. There you will be served stick-to-your-ribs West Indian fare (including ribs) while you watch a match next door at the Stanford Cricket Ground.

One of the scenic mangroves of Antigua.

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