The Insider’s Guide to Antigua

Lesser-known things to explore, including the perfect place to watch the sunset and where to party with the locals.
 

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Antiguans claim their island country has 365 beaches, one for each day of the year. It’s true that this tiny Lesser Antilles nation, comprised of the two islands of Antigua and Barbuda, is ringed with sandy beaches that could keep you sun-blessed for weeks. But there’s also plenty to explore inland, including old sugar cane plantations and abandoned fortresses from the golden years of British colonialism.

Savour the sunset

With silky sand bookended by a rocky volcanic headland and intertidal pools full of bleached coral and sea urchins, Turner’s Beach, south of Jolly Harbour, is not fronted by a resort hotel and is a prime spot for taking in one of those beautiful Antiguan sunsets. Turner’s Beach Restaurant, meanwhile, serves up delicious catch of the day and other generously portioned items.

Marvel at nature

Devil’s Bridge is a dramatic rock arch on Antigua’s east coast where the warm wind blows and the Atlantic Ocean churns against the rocks. Head to this exposed chunk of topography to truly feel the power of the ocean against a tiny Caribbean island. Every Easter Monday, the sky above Devil’s Bridge fills with colour when locals gather for an annual kite-flying festival.

Party with the locals

Sunday night is party time at Shirley Heights when a weekly barbecue brings Antiguans and tourists together to feast on jerk chicken and lobster, sip a rum cocktail or a cold Wadadli (the island’s signature lager) and dance to the rhythms of the house steel band. From here, you can also spot rocker Eric Clapton’s sprawling estate, which occupies an entire peninsula to the east.

Take a boat tour

For a special tour, choose Sea Escape, a Russian-built hydrofoil. You’ll begin with some snorkelling at Paradise Reef, then move on to Deep Bay, where you can peer through the boat’s glass bottom at the wreck of the Andes, a merchant ship that sank in 1905. Lastly, you’ll go ashore for a beach buffet and then climb up to Fort Barrington, one of the island’s oldest fortresses.

Hidden gem

Located off the beaten track in hill country near the village of Buckleys, Buba’s Hideout is a family-run eatery not to be missed. The friendly spot overlooking lush Body Pond Valley serves up Antiguan soul food like ducana and salt fish and pepperpot. Ask the host to serve you the house specialty, alcohol-free Buba’s Happy Grass, made from lemon grass, mint and other “secret” local ingredients.

 

[This story appears in the October 2015 issue of WestJet Magazine.]

 

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