ALL ABOUT ANTIGUA
They say the beaches are just the beginning and they’re right. Yes, there are all kinds of amazing beaches to discover in Antigua but that’s not all. This upmarket twin-island is steeped in history and there’s plenty to see and do if you want to. Idyllic hideaway accommodations, amazing restaurants and those breath-taking beaches: some more remote and isolated, others fun with more activities and everything in between. Antigua is the heart of the Caribbean.
With 365 beaches to choose from you’re definitely spoilt for choice. Most are on the Westerly Caribbean side of the island and all beaches are public but rarely crowded. Some are quite remote and easier to access by sea. However you get there, you’re sure to find a beach that’s perfect for you!
Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay are the busier beaches on the island and have everything you could possibly need; sunbeds and umbrellas for rent, beach bars, restaurants and water sports for hire. Fort James is very popular with the locals for picnics at the week-ends and public holidays. Galley Bay is known as a good spot for a bit of surfing in the winter. Hawksbill boasts a set of four crescent beaches; the third one is the island’s only nudist beach. Jolly Beach is almost entirely taken up by the resort of the same name; there is public access to the beach and also to Jolly Harbour Marina.
South West & South Coast
This corner of Antigua is hillier and the beaches in this area take a bit more effort to reach by land or sea. They are less developed because of their isolation. Ffryes Bay, Darkwood Beach and Turners Beach by Johnson’s Point are some of the easier to discover as they are close to the coastal road. Ffryes Bay is off the main road between Jolly Harbour and Darkwood Beach and is popular with locals and tourists alike and has a beach bar. Darkwood Beach takes your breath away as you turn the corner and it comes into view. It is a long white sandy beach right by the roadside. On a clear day you can see the island of Montserrat and its infamous volcano. Popular at the week-ends it has a couple of beach bar/restaurants serving fresh local food. Turners Beach at Johnson’s Point is at the tip of the South West coast and has a couple of great beach bars serving fresh fish & lobster. The sunset views are superb.
Rendezvous Bay boasts a pristine beach and is more isolated but worth the challenge of getting there. You can walk along a path from the rain forest for an hour and a half or go by 4 x 4 from the Spring Hill Riding Club. The other option here is to arrive by sea. Pigeon Point is a sheltered cove with plenty of trees offering shade. It’s not far from English Harbour and the historic Nelson’s Dockyard.
East Coast & North Coast
Half Moon Bay lives up to its name: a long, sweeping white sand crescent that is now a National Park. This makes it a superb location for a family outing. One side of the bay is great for body-surfing whilst the other side is more protected and has calmer waters suitable for snorkelling. Explore further along the East coast is Long Bay, protected by its own reef and offers sheltered swimming on what is the Atlantic side of the island. Heading round to the North now to the quiet, secluded beach of Dutchman’s Bay, opposite Long Island home of the famous Jumby Bay Resort. It also has two excellent beach restaurants right on the water’s edge. Jabberwock Beach is a long white sandy beach, part of the National Park and where all the water sports enthusiasts gather for windsurfing and kite-surfing. It’s popular with the locals too for morning or evening strolls.
When the sun has set and stars begin to twinkle, the curtain can rise on the evening’s entertainment. The nightlife is more eclectic during the winter months when the island is at its busiest.
Shirley Heights Lookout, the 18th century English guard post overlooking English Harbour. Everyone heads here on Sundays. The party begins as the sun sets and the steel-band sound fills the air, followed by the exciting energy of Reggae and Soca live music. BBQ food is available to soak up some of those rum punches. The Steel band also plays on Thursday night at sunset from 4pm.
Abracadabra, English Harbour transforms from an elegant Italian restaurant in the early evening to a pulsating outdoor nightclub later on. A variety of DJs lead the crowd to dance under the stars. Famous for monthly costume parties, joint venture with the “Ministry of Sound” network holding 3 official events per season. A CD is available on their website or on iTunes. This is a busy bar during the winter with fair priced drinks and friendly staff. Occasional live performances by worldwide known artists are the cherry on the cake.
Several other bars within walking distance in English Harbour also have great night-time vibes in the yachting season, such as Mad Mongoose, Life on the Corner, Cloggy’s and the Rasta Shack.
For nights out on the west coast there’s plenty to enjoy at Jolly Harbour, including the contrasting Castaways and Dogwatch Tavern. The former is a breezy setting where you can soak up the sun set, the latter is a British style pub, complete with beer on tap, pool table and darts.
In town, the centre of attention is on Redcliffe Quay where Pizzas in paradise have good DJs and occasional live music. Nextdoor is C & C Wine Bar specialising in South African wines. King’s Casino in Heritage Quay is where blackjack, roulette and Caribbean Stud poker compete with the 300 slot machines and big screens of sporting events.
North of St. John’s Pepperz n Lime is a laid-back eatery and bar right on the beach at Dickenson Bay and has regular DJs and Sunday parties.
Rush is the island’s trendiest nightclub just beyond Runaway Bay in the Madison’s complex which includes a restaurant with piano bar, a casino and a sports bar.
There are two cinemas complexes on the island. The Megaplex Caribbean Cinemas are very good at securing the latest movie blockbusters, sometimes even before they have been released in Europe. www.caribbeancinemas.com
There’s a melting pot of options when it comes to choosing where to dine in Antigua. There are gourmet venues showcasing French haute cuisine to casual beachfront bars and restaurants offering the island’s freshly caught seafood and mouth-watering Antiguan and West Indian dishes; enough to satisfy the most refined palate. Many have spectacular locations and be it day or night, they will please even the most discerning eye. Treat yourselves and try as many as possible!
ST. JOHN'S & THE NORTH
Hemingway’s Caribbean Café & Restaurant, in the heart of bustling St. John’s. A great lunch time stop after shopping or try the creole cuisine for dinner Tel: 462 2763 www.hemingwayantigua.com
Roti King on St. Mary’s Street in St. John’s is a very popular local eatery serving Trinidadian cuisine such as roti, a choice of curries wrapped in a chapatti and ‘doubles’ made with curried chickpeas. Tel: 462 2328
Big Banana in the historic Redcliffe Quay is a popular Antiguan institution for pizzas for over 25 years. Tel: 480 6985/6967 www.bigbanana-antigua.com
The Larder, Royal Palms Place in Friars Hill Road in St. John’s offers gourmet prepared foods on the go as well as a sushi bar. Tel: 562 7880 www.thelarderantigua.com
One Stone Ital Shack, Independence Avenue, opp Country Pond. Also at Cobbs cross, English Harbour. People come from all over the island to taste this food. 100% vegetarian, 100% ital. Tel: 785 6065 or 770 3786 or 722 8661
La Bussola serves traditional Italian dishes with a modern touch; with a beachfront garden leading onto Runaway Bay. Tel: 562 1545 www.labussolarestaurant.net
Coconut Grove Restaurant & Beach Bar, Dickenson Bay is renowned for its Happy Hours between 4pm – 7pm as well as the poetic flavour of its cuisine. Tel: 462 1538 www.coconutgrove-antigua.com
Chippy Antigua found on the road to Runaway Bay, this is a traditional English fish and chip van offering fish, lobster bites, meat pies, curries, sausages and mushy peas. Wednesdays and Fridays only. Can be hired for private functions. Tel: 724 1166, 721 2343, 734 8945 E: email@example.com
Bay House Restaurant, Tradewinds Hotel, overlooking Dickenson Bay. A hilltop haven – Antigua’s little secret “top-table”. Fine dining at affordable prices. Tel: 462 1223 www.twhantigua.com
Le Bistro, Hodges Bay is the most famous restaurant on the island and offers a combination of Caribbean and French haute cuisine. Tel: 462 3881 www.antigualebistro.com
Cecilia’s High Point Café, Dutchman’s Bay exudes island sophistication within a dainty Caribbean chattel house with front row ocean views. It offers a much-loved bistro menu and an imaginative drinks list. Tel: 562 7070 www.highpointantigua.com
The Tides, Dutchman’s Bay. An elegant beachfront West Indian style restaurant offering a varied International & seafood menu. Tel: 462 8433 www.thetidesantigua.com
Chefs 2 U. A dining in experience. Ideal for one off stress-free villa entertaining. Tel: 484 2762 www.chef2ueventsltd.com
SOUTH WEST COAST
Al Porto, Jolly Harbour Marina. Freshly prepared pizzas and homemade pastas in a stylish surrounding. Boats can sail up for dinner! Tel: 562 7848
Dennis Bar & Restaurant, Fryes Bay. This traditional Caribbean beach bar is keeping the Antiguan spirit alive. Great views and now has a new beach bar with tepee tents. Tel: 462 6740 or 728 5086 www.dennis.ipage.ag
Darkwood Beach Bar, Darkwood Beach. An institution in its own rights, having weathered many a storm. Serving lobster salads and more traditional fayre. Tel: 462 8240 or 728 4301 E: Shelmore0414@hotmail.com
OJ’s Bar & Restaurant, Crabbe Hill Beach. Grab a huge bite of the authentic taste of Antigua. Lobster, red snapper, juicy steaks are beloved island favourites. The rum punch has a kick to it too! Tel: 460 0184
Jackie O Beach House, Crabbe Hill Beach. A beach, a bar, the best menu. Add in the sunsets, safe boat mooring and views of Montserrat and it’s got it all. Tel: 562 2218 E:firstname.lastname@example.org
Turners Beach Restaurant, Johnson’s Point. Recently re-styled, they have a classy new look and a classic Antiguan menu of conch, curries, snapper or ribs. Tel: 462 9133
SOUTH & EAST COAST
Harmony Hall, Brown’s Bay. Overlooking Nonsuch Bay in a historic plantation style house and sugar mill. Italian influenced dining with Caribbean highlights. Tel: 460 4120 www.harmonyhallantigua.com
Admiral’s Inn, Nelson’s Dockyard. A suave alfresco restaurant with an historic charm and Caribbean influenced menu featuring seafood predominately. Tel: 460 1027 or 460 1153 www.admiralsantigua.com
Hamilton’s Wine Bar & Bistro, Nelson’s Dockyard. An exciting bistro menu of fresh dishes with a modern allure. Fine wines can be enjoyed in the wine bar lounge. Tel: 562 7151 E:email@example.com
Catherine’s Café, Antigua Slipway, English Harbour. In a fabulous location, offering French cuisine with daily specials and an extensive French wine list. Tel: 460 5050
Seabreeze Café Bar Gelateria, Antigua Yacht Club Marina, Falmouth Harbour. An authentic Italian Gelateria serving superb ice-cream, coffees and light lunches on their terrace overlooking the marina. Tel: 562 3739
Rumbaba, Falmouth Harbour. Mediterranean influenced open kitchen-restaurant bistro. The homemade sorrel cordial with ginger beer is a great thirst-quencher. Tel: 562 8126
The Reef Bar & Restaurant, The Inn, English Harbour. Open for breakfast and lunch only. Situated on the seashore with a fantastic view of the entrance to English Harbour. Tel: 460 1014 www.theinnantigua.com
The Terrace Restaurant at The Inn, English Harbour. Dinner only. Probably the most romantic setting of all. International & Caribbean cuisine with an extensive wine list. Tel: 460 1014 www.theinnantigua.com
Abracadabra, Dockyard Drive, English Harbour. Popular with residents, visitors and the international yachting world due to its varied menu of Italian, Steaks and suckling pig. Tel: 460 2701 www.theabracadabra.com
Antigua’s climate makes it very favourable for many sports. Field sports such as cricket are not only played in stadiums but also on village playgrounds. Antigua is not known for its football team but did you know that their National football team, known as the Benna Boys reached Round 3 in the World Cup qualifiers in 2011.
Antiguans are more than a little devoted to cricket. The island has historically been a very strong contributor to West Indian and international cricket. Devotees of the game can visit the Antigua and Barbuda Museum for a look at the infamous cricket bat of Vivian Richards, native Antiguan, former captain of the West Indies Cricket team and one of the greatest batsmen of all time.
The cricket season runs from January to July with a number of One-Day Internationals and Test Matches. England’s 2014 Tour of the West Indies in late February, early March promises to be a classic confrontation between two of the world’s greatest cricketing teams. Top-ranked England will face a West Indian side fresh from its World Cup T20 success. More details on this tour can be found at www.windiescricket.com
Antigua boasts a number of cricket pitches with the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground and the Antigua Recreation Ground being the most popular as they host the regional and international matches.
There are two golf courses on the Antigua: an 18-hole, 70-par course at the Cedar Valley Golf Club and another at Jolly Harbour. The K-Club on Barbuda also has its own 9-hole course.
Cedar Valley is an exciting and challenging 18-hole championship course with elevated tees and greens of varying levels to test each player’s skills. Pro shop, club and cart rentals, bar and restaurant. Tel: 462 0161. www.cedarvalleygolf.org
The Jolly Harbour Golf Club has seven lakes, making the 18 holes more challenging as well as easterly breezes along the fairways. There’s a driving range, restaurant, bar and pro shop. Tel: 562 6951. www.jollyharbourantigua.com/golf
A very popular recreation on the island. You may find some local horses for hire near where you are staying, alternatively if you wish a professional, more organised ride then there is the Antiguan Equestrian Centre at Spring Hill Riding Club in Falmouth. Tel: 773 3139 www.antiguaequestrian.com
Sailing has been a central part of Antigua's culture for centuries, ever since the British under Horatio Nelson made English Harbour their Caribbean base. Today, the stately Georgian architecture of Nelson's Dockyard hosts a more pleasure-seeking fleet - the international racing boats, recreational yachts, and classic sailboats attracted into Antigua over the winter months by the various sailing regattas and races, especially Antigua Sailing Week held annually in April.
The waters off Antigua and Barbuda are becoming more and more popular for sports fishing. There are two main annual events. The Sports Fishing Tournament takes place on the long Whit week-end (in either late May or early June). In September there is the Francis Nunes Jr Memorial One Day Fishing Tournament. Both are held from Nelson’s Dockyard where fisher-folk and spectators alike can move around easily to view the catches and enjoy the festival-like atmosphere.
Although more recently established than its sailing counterpart, Antigua's annual Tennis Week draws an impressive field of international competitors to the island in May of each year. Quite a few of the island's hotels have excellent tennis facilities.
There are several resorts and schools offering windsurfing and kite-surfing tuition and equipment rentals. Mainly on the north coast of Antigua around Jabberwock beach although you can windsurf off Dickenson Bay if the wind conditions are right. www.windsurfantigua.net
January 01 - New Year's Day
April 03 - Good Friday
April 06 - Easter Monday
May 04 - Labour Day
August 03 - Carnival Monday
August 04 - Carnival Tuesday
November 02 - Independence Day
December 09 - V.C. Bird Day (Father of the Nation)
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - Boxing Day
Bear in mind that most shops and Government offices are closed on Public Holidays. Restaurants and attractions are usually open but it's best to check first. Below is a list of how the locals like to spend these days. There are often events happening on these days around the island, but if there is nothing special planned, there is always the beach! On public holidays Antiguans like to get together with family and friends and spend the day at the beach as they typically don't get to do that on a regular basis.
NEW YEAR'S DAY - This is a day of relaxation and for family and friends to get together to wish each other well for the new year.
GOOD FRIDAY - As this is a major religious holiday, most people in Antigua will attend church.
EASTER SUNDAY - This is another church and family day.
EASTER MONDAY - Another day for relaxation often at the beach. A tradition in Antigua as well as the rest of the Caribbean is kite flying on Easter Monday, so you will often find kite flying gatherings around the island.
LABOUR DAY - The day to celebrate all our hard work! Each political party in Antigua organizes a huge bash by one of the many beaches on the island. The party includes lots of food, drink, socializing and evening concerts of local and international artists.
PENTECOST/WHIT MONDAY - A day to get together with family and friends and maybe bring a picnic or barbeque on the beach.
CARNIVAL MONDAY - The first of the two culminating days of Carnival. The day's celebrations begin at 4 a.m. with Jouvert. Carnival Monday is the day where all the mass troupes parade in the streets of St. John's in their costumes. Check out the Carnival schedule for full details
CARNIVAL TUESDAY - The final day of Carnival culminating with 'Last Lap' around St. John's. Check out the Carnival schedule for full details.
INDEPENDENCE DAY - Food fairs, sport competitions, dance festivals, art and craft exhibitions and even kite flying contests are held across Antigua during the month-long run up to Independence Day. Look out for the schools, offices and government buildings festooned in colourful decorations for the occasion and people dressed in the national colours. On Independence Day itself there is always an official address to the nation by the Prime Minister of the island and a gala ceremonial parade at the Antigua Recreational Ground.
NATIONAL HEROES DAY - Day to commemorate the life of the late V.C Bird, first Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda and its other national heroes.
CHRISTMAS DAY - Christmas is a family holiday so locals cook and spend the day at home welcoming visitors. For visitors from far away who don't have family on the island there is a Champagne Party on Nelson's Dockyard. If it falls on a Saturday, the Monday is a Public Holiday. If it falls on a Sunday, then Monday and Tuesday are Public Holidays.
BOXING DAY - The beach is a favourite activity on Boxing Day.